Retail Roundtable with Ontario Brewers

This week is the Craft Brewers Conference in Portland, where there are a significant number of Canadian brewers present. So when the news broke that the Ontario government was making changes to the beer retail system in the province, many brewers and others within the industry were together to discuss its impact.

So, we recorded a “Retail Roundtable” for Bar Towel Radio to chat about the news!  In this episode we’ve got Ben Johnson from Ben’s Beer Blog, Jason Fisher from Indie Alehouse, Dimitri van Kampen from Spearhead and Rob McIsaac and Shane Clark, both from Beyond the Pale.  Give it a listen below or via iTunes:

Episode 17: Retail Roundtable with Ontario Brewers


Bar Towel Radio with Dave McLean of Magnolia Brewing

Inside Magnolia's new Smokestack in San Francisco.

Inside Magnolia’s new Smokestack in San Francisco.

I’ve written fondly in the past about San Francisco, one of my favourite beer cities in North America. This year I was fortunate enough to visit again, and while I was there I recorded an interview with Dave McLean, the founder and brewmaster of Magnolia Brewing Company, now featured in our latest episode of Bar Towel Radio.

In the episode I chat with Dave at Magnolia’s Smokestack, their new production brewery and BBQ restaurant, and highlight some of San Francisco’s top beer destinations. Give it a listen here:

Bar Towel Radio with Dave McLean of Magnolia Brewing Company

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Our Seminar Picks at the 2015 Craft Brewers Conference

The CBC's host venue, the Oregon Convention Center. Photo courtesy travelportland.com.

The CBC’s host venue, the Oregon Convention Center. Photo courtesy travelportland.com.

The Bar Towel is proud to once again present our annual preview of the Craft Brewers Conference and BrewExpo America (CBC), taking place from April 14th to 17th, 2015 in at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, Oregon. Part One of the preview covered our highlights of breweries, bars and other sights of the city, and Part Two covers our picks for the conference seminars.

The Craft Brewers Conference in Portland is only days away, and now’s the time to begin planning to get the most out of your experience. As the largest conference of its kind in the U.S., the CBC can almost be overwhelming nowadays, with non-stop panels, seminars, demonstrations, hospitality events, meetings and vendor showcases. Oh, and the thousands of beer industry folks from all over the world descending on the Oregon Convention Center for three days of camaraderie, connecting and, of course, drinking.

The core schedule format of the CBC is consistent from recent years past, with sponsored demonstrations and hosted seminars occurring throughout the day, and the BrewExpo America trade show running simultaneously, along with various other group meetings, hospitality suites and official nightly events taking place. (See Part One of our preview for a rundown of a number of events happening around Portland, not officially affiliated with the conference itself.)

The big news this year is the addition of an extra half day of BrewExpo America.  (Previously only running on the Wednesday and Thursday, BrewExpo America now runs from 9am-5pm on Wednesday and Thursday, and 8:30am-12pm on Friday.)  This trade show attracts 600 vendors and is a brewery owners’ dream, as suppliers offering everything from basic needs such as equipment and ingredients to neon signs and specialty merchandise are all here. And with over a dozen beer stations throughout the show, it’s easy to stay liquified as you wander up and down the aisles. And speaking of beer, keep your eyes open for the six Symposium Beers produced by Oregon brewers for the CBC.



Craft Brewers Conference Preview, Part One: Portland, Oregon


Portland and Mt. Hood. Photo courtesy travelportland.com.

The Bar Towel is proud to once again present our annual preview of the Craft Brewers Conference and BrewExpo America (CBC), taking place from April 14th to 17th, 2015 in at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, Oregon. Part One of the preview covers our highlights of breweries, bars and other sights of the city, and Part Two covers our picks for the conference seminars.

Portland is a city that you want your city to be like. It’s a city where you envy the things that they do and wish it happened where you live. In Toronto, where food trucks and carts have a persistent struggle for their very existence, Portland has literally hundreds of food carts thriving throughout its neighbourhoods. In a time where everything in life is getting more expensive, Portland has no sales tax. And in cities across North America where small brewing is booming, Portland has been on that for years, with over 50 breweries within the city limits, more than anywhere else in the world.

Welcome to The Bar Towel’s annual Craft Brewers Conference (CBC) preview, this year taking place in Portland, Oregon. Since the Brewers Association (organizer of the CBC) announced Portland as the location of the 2015 conference, the dates have been circled in bright red on the calendars of those across the brewing industry.  Portland is truly a paradise for fans of small brewing and one of the top destinations for beer in the United States.

As with every CBC, the conference is just as much a way to explore the destination city as it is to take in the conference programming, and we wholeheartedly recommend doing both.  Portland is a walkable, discovery friendly city and you’ll enjoy your CBC experience even more by taking some time to check it out. (See our past previews of Denver, Washington DC, San Diego and San Francisco if you’re interested.)

“Local” and “craft” aren’t clichés in Portland, they are part of its DNA. Portland is a city of local food, coffee, beer – just about everything that you’d want to put in your body Portland takes immense pride in. In this Part One of our CBC preview, we’ll outline some of the beer and brewing spots that you might want to check out while in Portland, and Part Two will cover our seminar picks for the conference itself.



Join us at the Brewer’s Backyard on Great Friday!

IMG_7553We’re on the cusp of some real springtime weather, so what better way to celebrate than at the Brewer’s Backyard? On Good Friday, April 3rd the Brewer’s Backyard returns with Great Friday, featuring six awesome brewers and two delicious food vendors.

Participating breweries including a mix of new and familiar: 5 Paddles, Nita Beer, Mill Street, Junction Craft, Grand River and Boshkung, along with food from FeasTO and Urban Carnivore.  The beer lineup will have a wide range of styles available, including IPA, double, IPA, rye beer, maple ale, black IPA, cream ale and more.  Food will include banh mi, dumplings, pulled pork tacos & thai chili.

Great Friday was named one of Toronto’s top 10 beer events for spring 2015 by BlogTO and featured in Indie88‘s guide to spring in Toronto, so it’s not something you should miss!  We’ll also have a limited number of our new 2015 commemorative branded beer mug for sale (pictured here).

The Brewer’s Backyard runs from 12-5pm at the Evergreen Brick Works (550 Bayview Avenue), in the Koerner Gardens and Young Welcome Centre areas.  Admission is free, and the event is all ages and family friendly. We hope to see you then!



Ever Wanted to Tour Goose Island’s Brewpub?


Inside the brewery at Goose Island’s Brewpub in Chicago.

Our previous episode of Bar Towel Radio was a live recording of Goose Island’s Black Friday event at their brewpub in Chicago.  And now we’re thrilled to release the second part of our “Live at Goose Island” series, with a live recording of the Goose Island Brewpub tour!  The tour, recorded in November 2014, includes a visit to the brewhouse, located at 1800 N. Clybourn in Chicago, as well as a tutored tasting of a handful of beers that were available at the pub.

Within this episode I also have outlined a number of can’t-miss beer destinations in Chicago, making it a helpful beery companion when visiting this great city.  You can listen to it below or via iTunes:

Live Brewpub Tour from Chicago’s Goose Island

Stay tuned for the next episode of Bar Towel Radio, where we’ll have a one-on-one interview with a special guest from San Francisco!


Stone in Ontario: A Sign of the ‘Taps’?

footer-logo Next week marks the official launch of famed California brewery Stone into the Ontario market, with a pair of beers arriving on draught: Stone IPA and Arrogant Bastard Ale. Not only are these beers a great addition to the Ontario beer scene, but they continue a recent new strategy with a few U.S. breweries, namely to debut via draught versus bottles.

The draught importation business in Ontario is a web of stickiness, as the LCBO has granted and maintained distribution rights exclusively to three private companies (Premier Brands, Premium Beer & Diageo), all of whom are importers themselves. The Beer Store, by nature of their overarching beer presence in Ontario, also has rights to distribute draught. So that means that any draught beer not made in Ontario must pass through the hands of one of these entities. This makes importing draught beers very complex, challenging and costly – and is a major reason that many of your favourite beers you find on draught elsewhere are not available here.

However, importers and brewers are persevering. As evidenced by the debut of Stone, along with the recent debuts of Sierra Nevada, Atwater and Redhook, these brands are hitting the street first by way of draught, as opposed to a seasonal release at the LCBO, which has usually been the case for the past few years.

Let’s hope this strategy pays off, as it means better beers for Ontario consumers, and hopefully more awareness of how the draught importation game is played in this province. (Side note: we’ll have more to say about the draught game in the future, but for now let’s enjoy some tasty Stone.)

Stone is launching with multiple events across Ontario – see below for details.  More information and times can be found on Stone’s Ontario event page.


  • Monday, February 23rd: Launch Party at Bier Markt Esplanade
  • Tuesday, February 24th: Meet the Brewer at beerbistro
  • Wednesday, February 25th: Beer Feature Menu at Indie Alehouse
  • Friday, February 27th: “Cut Out of Work with Stone” at Bar Hop
  • Friday, February 27th: Beer Dinner at Amsterdam BrewHouse


  • Wednesday, February 25th: Meet the Brewer at Winking Judge


  • Wednesday, February 25th: “Look Who’s Rolling into KTown” at The Brooklyn


  • Tuesday, February 24th: Introduction Party at The Bent Elbow


  • Thursday, February 26th: Meet the Brewer at Hungry Brew Hops


  • Monday, February 23rd: Launch Party at Bier Markt Ottawa
  • Tuesday, February 24th: Introduction Party at Brother’s Beer Bistro

Join us at the Brewer’s Backyard today!

PrintJoin us as the 2015 season of the Brewer’s Backyard kicks off today with our cold-weather event, the Winter Hibeernation.  Today’s breweries include Great Lakes, Beau’s All-Natural and Indie Alehouse, alongside food by Urban Carnivore and Sugar Pie Honey Bunch.  There’s going to be around 15 beers available, including the lineup of Beau’s FeBREWary releases, Great Lakes’ Pompous Ass and Long Dong Pilsner, and Indie’s Rye So Sour, amongst others.  It will definitely be a delicious way to spend this chilly Family Day!

The Brewer’s Backyard runs indoors from 12-5pm in the Young Welcome Centre area of the Brick Works.  The event is all-ages and family friendly, is free admission and no tickets are required.  We hope to see you there!


Trillium Flyer_Spring 2015_RevTrillium Chapter: Brewery Collectables Buy/Sell/Trade show at Great Lakes Brewery on March 28th. 

11am – 2pm ~ Free Admission ~ $5 GLB beers

Booths with brewery items can include labels, coasters, tap handles, growlers, posters, signage, bottles, cans, trays and more. Come out and see Canadian brewing history in person.

Have any interesting old brewery items? Bring them out on the 28th for collectors to see and possibly buy/trade with you. 

Great Lakes will also have an in-depth display of their history, including bottles, tap handles, posters, glassware, packaging, etc

Jordan St. John, author of “The Lost Breweries of Toronto”, will be on-site selling and signing copies of his fascinating look at Toronto’s rich & storied brewing past.

Questions – troy.b@greatlakesbeer.com


Listen to Bar Towel Radio Live from Goose Island

IMG_6583Bar Towel Radio returns with a special episode recorded last November at Goose Island’s Black Friday tasting event, featuring their famed Bourbon County Brand Stout series of beers.

The event, held annually at their brewpub in Chicago to coincide with the launch of Bourbon County Brand Stout, is a live tasting of the BCBS lineup, hosted by brewers and other staff from Goose Island.

This year I was fortunate enough to attend the Black Friday tasting and was permitted to record the event for Bar Towel Radio.  You can listen to the episode below or via iTunes:

Live from Goose Island’s Black Friday BCBS Tasting

This is the first part of a special two-part “Live from Goose Island” series, and our next episode will be a live recording of the brewery tour from Goose Island’s Chicago brewpub.  Stay tuned for that one, and in the meantime enjoy this episode!