Great Lakes Brewing News April/May 2013 : Page 1

By Robert Hughey ILLUSTRATION BY: HANS GRANHEIM I By Robert Hughey George Milbrandt, C’est What?, Toronto, adding hops at Black Oak Brewery for a beer for a tap takeover celebrating 25 years. PHOTO BY ROBERT HUGHEY hen C’est What? opened at 67 Front Street East in 1988 near to the thriving St. Lawrence Market, Toronto, it was the lone voice shouting about the new beers the microbreweries were bringing on stream. “Besides being afflicted with a beer geek’s susceptibility to puns, the name C’est What appealed to me because it embodied the uniquely Canadian aspect of the pub as well as the idea of balance,” explained publican George Milbrandt, on a recent visit. “The kind of balance that I was talk-ing about between beer, wine, food, music, and culture. Legend has it that it was born at a loud party when someone asked what the name of my new (as of yet unfinanced or constructed) pub was and I replied, ‘say what?’” Today the emphasis has shifted from being missionaries about microbrewed beer to trying to choose from among the plethora of beers now available in the fastest grow-ing segment in the beer industry. C’est What? started with 105 seats and eight beers on tap, including Wellington Arkell and County on cask. Today the numbers f there is one person who embod-ies the changes happening on the beer front in Toronto—from the resurgence of cask ales and cask ale events, to the opening of a small, in-house brewery where collab-orative brews are the order of the day—it has to be Ralph Morana, proprietor of barVolo (barvolo. com). House Ales, at barVolo, was the first nano-brewery, and con-sisted of a one-barrel system installed in its kitchen in 2010. This small brewery has been kept very busy brewing a mind numbing number of brews in a vast array of beer styles, many of them in cask form. “At the time it made sense to have a nano brewery and experiment with recipe,” says Morana. “Our space was and still is lim-ited and the one hectolitre system fit right in to the corner of our kitchen. I did not need the same start-up costs that brewpubs or brewer-ies experience. The concept was to make 90% of our beers into cask ales. I did not need con-ditioning or bright tanks. The other 10% were to be served on tap and unfiltered.” Clare and Will Sturm of Brass Taps in Toronto. PHOTO BY ROBERT HUGHEY This system has allowed barVolo to evolve recipes and as a result now some of the better ones will be brewed at Toronto’s Black Oak Brewing Co. It has also led the way for collaborations in the Ontario brewing industry. See C’est What? p. 6 INSIDE Event Calendar ..................... 3 The Beer Queendom ............ 8 Homebrewing ..................... 10 Beer Beacon ....................... 12 Jolly Giant .......................... 17 Map/Directory ................ 18-23 Cooking with Beer ............. 25 STATE BY STATE NEWS Michigan ......... 14 Indiana ............ 24 Illinois ............. 26 Wisconsin ....... 28 Minnesota ....... 30 Ontario ........... 32 New York ........ 33 Pennsylvania .. 36 Ohio ................ 38 See Invade p. 4

Cask Ale And Nanos

Robert Hughey

INVADE TORONTO

If there is one person who embodies the changes happening on the beer front in Toronto—from the resurgence of cask ales and cask ale events, to the opening of a small, in-house brewery where collaborative brews are the order of the day—it has to be Ralph Morana, proprietor of barVolo (barvolo.Com). House Ales, at barVolo, was the first nano-brewery, and consisted of a one-barrel system installed in its kitchen in 2010. This small brewery has been kept very busy brewing a mind numbing number of brews in a vast array of beer styles, many of them in cask form.

“At the time it made sense to have a nano brewery and experiment with recipe,” says Morana. “Our space was and still is limited and the one hectolitre system fit right in to the corner of our kitchen. I did not need the same start-up costs that brewpubs or breweries experience. The concept was to make 90% of our beers into cask ales. I did not need conditioning or bright tanks. The other 10% were to be served on tap and unfiltered.”

This system has allowed barVolo to evolve recipes and as a result now some of the better ones will be brewed at Toronto’s Black Oak Brewing Co. It has also led the way for collaborations in the Ontario brewing industry.

“It has turned out as I expected,” Morana says. “All my goals with our system have been achieved. We have brewed 180 beers. We are starting to brew our better ones more frequently. Our brews on cask or tap at Volo don’t last long. This is a good sign that our customers like what we are doing. Cask ales are a big factor at Volo. The revolution of using pins over firkins has made a big impact. The beer is always fresh and it limits waste. We have six hand pumps and we continuously run out. Customers now come in and ask, ‘what's on cask?’”

There is a new, younger crowd asking for cask ales.

“At the Cask Days at the Brickworks, we had 3,000 people over three sessions with 124 firkins—all finished!” said Morana. “The majority of the people were younger than 25 years of age.”

Meet at The Junction

A nano-brewery is loosely defined as one that produces less than 7 US barrels or about 8.2 hectolitres. These new small breweries see small-scale brewing and cask ale as the way forward, regardless of beer style.

Junction Craft Brewing (junctioncraft.Com), located at 90 Cawthra Avenue, near the junction of four railway lines in the western part of the city, has been brewing beer on a compact three-hectolitre system since 2012. The brewery, which was designed and built inhouse, features an in-line hopback that infuses hop aroma as the beer is transferred from the brewkettle to the fermenter.

Proprietor Tom Patterson and brewer Doug Pengelly have a modest brewery in a warehouse but they have been brewing some fine, unique beers.

They regularly produce four versions of cask conditioned ale: Super Conductor, Hopper Car, which is dry hopped with Galaxy and Amarillo, The ‘A’ Train, dry hopped with Amarillo and Local Option, dry hopped with Saaz and Tettnanger.

Patterson said he was changing careers, and as a musician with a mid-life crisis he wanted to get out of the restaurant business at Paddock Tavern. He felt he was too old and the bar business had lousy hours, but he had made a ton of contacts/ friends and now had experience in the service industry, so he started wondering how he could put all that into use and not have to get a day job somewhere at a desk.

“The Junction is my favorite part of Toronto since I moved here 25 years ago, next to the old Queen Street West area,” said Patterson. “There are amazing old buildings, huge square footage buildings, rich history in manufacturing, and then there’s the ‘Local Option’ thing that tied in to actually making beer where no alcohol was even allowed for so many years. And it’s close to my house. I’ve known Doug Pengelly for 15 years, since he launched St. Andre Vienna Lager. I used to carry it at my bar, The Paddock Tavern. I had a great amount of respect for Doug’s brewing. He was a bit of a purveyor, I thought, kinda like me in the resto business selling micro beers over 20 years ago.”

Both Tom and Doug decide together what beers are to be brewed next. They are still ramping up production as much as they can, whenever they can, with over 30 brews so far. And with over 125 beers planned or in production, plus the new barrel aging Burton system they are building, it is unlimited as to beers that will be available. They plan on having 15 rotating styles at the retail store every week that will be available in bottles and growlers.

They do not anticipate expanding the brewery kettle size or brew length, as they can expand the brew days, and can put out as much beer as any micro, because they have a separate mash mixer and more fermenters are on the horizon. The goal is to improve their environmental systems to better use heat and water, which are cost saving in nature.

“Brewing on a small scale is what I expected. It’s a lot of work—yes!” said Patterson.

Well and Good

Get Well Bar (www.getwellbar.com) at 1181 Dundas Street West, Toronto, launched its nano brewery in late 2012 with Get Well Porter, Pinball Wizard American Pale Ale and Let it Be Bitter English Ale from the hands of head brewer Brad Clifford, a noted home brewer. The 1.5 barrel or 1.8 hectolitre brewery sits in a snug at the back corner of the bar that features a jukebox, vintage games and a fine selection of Ontario draught craft ales to complement their own brews. The brewhouse was manufactured by a supplier in Portland, Oregon, and the fermenters are from Germany; as well, there is a Blichmann RIMS (recirculating infusion mash system) for controlling mash temperatures and clarifying wort preboil.

Partners Jeff Barber, Tim Oakley and Alan Kelley have fashioned a cool bar with a capacity of 125 that has been well received by the local beer hounds.

“We went nano for two reasons,” says Barber. “Physical space and budget. This is a beer bar/brewpub put together by guys with a love and passion for great beer, but with a limited budget. I talked with many microbrewery owners and brewpub owners about starting up a business. They we’re throwing out all kinds of astronomical start up figures. Many of them put together investment groups and what-not. Our philosophy was that with enough creativity and ingenuity we could make it work for a fraction of the price.

“Cask ale is very important to us. Ontario brewers are producing some really interesting cask beers these days. I think it’s the one area in the craft beer movement where we actually have a leg up on the U.S.,” added Barber.

Beer and Burgers

When the Burger Bar opened on Augusta Avenue it was stocked with the usual local suspects, Mill Street, Steam Whistle, Amsterdam, Beau’s and Flying Monkeys, but then the bar started rotating taps and adding a better bottle list.

“I wanted to be a craft beer destination,” says Brock Shepherd, former owner of the Burger Bar and president of the Kensington Brewing Company (kensingtonbrewingcompany. Com) with such offerings as Augusta Ale in can, cask and keg, and Fish EyePA in cask.” Currently, The Kensington Brewing Company brews under license at Wellington County Brewery in Guelph.

Cask ale was introduced when the Great Lakes Brewery had a hand pump for sale and they offered to put it in the Burger Bar. It was, for Shepherd, the next logical addition to the beer line up.

“I saw cask ale as being another way to distinguish ourselves from other bars and burger joints,” says Shepherd.

What made the Burger Bar better than others? Better burgers and better beers. “Quality, too. We put so much extra work into the preparation of our food, why not the same level of focus in the beer program,” says Shepherd.

As for selling the restaurant, Shepherd needed to focus either on the bar or the brewery. He said he wasn’t giving the restaurant the extra attention that it needed. Originally, Shepherd thought he would install a slightly smaller brewery right at the Burger Bar in some space that was sitting empty. But the brewery showed so much more potential and the Burger Bar was starting to drive him nuts, with its many moving parts.

The Kensington Brewery is planned to be at 299 Augusta, just six doors down from the Burger Bar, but the lease has not yet been signed. Kensington Brewery is setting up shop with a 15HL brewhouse, and 15, 30 and 45 hectolitre fermentation tanks.

Brass Taps

“I fell in love with cask ales in Liverpool about four years ago while on vacation,” says Will Sturm, proprietor, who along with his wife, Clare, proprietress, own and operate the Brass Taps Pizza Pub at number 493 on the Danforth. They have a young child so have taken on the roles of publicans in a very traditional English manner.

When Sturm returned to Toronto, he had a hard time finding bars with cask on tap, but he managed to find the Granite Brewery, C’est What? And Volo for sampling real ales.

“We improved the craft lineup and once we felt the timing was right, we took the plunge and put in a hand pump and cask ale,” Sturm says.

The Brass Taps only takes firkins from eight Ontario microbreweries and usually whips through them in the requisite two to three days. There is talk of a second cask line being added and of a cask Sunday once a month with an extra pin or two stillaged on the bar.

“Cask ale has exceeded all our expectations,” says Sturm.

In the near future, Sturm wants to get into brewing one-offs in conjunction with a microbrewery and ultimately open a nano brewery.

Spreading the Word

CASK! Toronto, (casktoronto.wordpress. com), has been influential in the surge of cask ale brewing and in connecting cask ale lovers to the pubs and bars willing to sell real ale, even with its attendant attention to detail in the cellar. CASK! Helped demonstrate there was clearly a pent up demand among this city’s beer drinkers for real ale, which pubs happily linked to with many new places opening with cask ale as a feature of their impressive microbrewery friendly lineups of beer.

“CASK! Has been an integral part of the rapid growth and awareness of cask conditioned ale in Toronto,” says Maz Brereton, one of the founders of CASK! “Using our grass roots approach, such as our regular CASK! Socials, we have demonstrated to good bars and breweries across the city that if they can supply fresh cask conditioned ale, there is a growing crowd of people eager to enjoy it. Thanks to the efforts of consumer groups like CASK!, and of course the vision and commitment of bars and breweries who recognize that the time is ripe for exploiting cask conditioned ale, Toronto’s beer supping community can now find cask conditioned ale available in over 25 bars in this city alone, and this number is growing all the time.”

Read the full article at http://glbnonline.brewingnews.com/article/Cask+Ale+And+Nanos/1376127/155240/article.html.

C'est What?

Robert Hughey

At 25years, 3,170,000 pints, and counting

When C’est What? Opened at 67 Front Street East in 1988 near to the thriving St. Lawrence Market, Toronto, it was the lone voice shouting about the new beers the microbreweries were bringing on stream.

“Besides being afflicted with a beer geek’s susceptibility to puns, the name C’est What appealed to me because it embodied the uniquely Canadian aspect of the pub as well as the idea of balance,” explained publican George Milbrandt, on a recent visit. “The kind of balance that I was talking about between beer, wine, food, music, and culture. Legend has it that it was born at a loud party when someone asked what the name of my new (as of yet unfinanced or constructed) pub was and I replied, ‘say what?’”

Today the emphasis has shifted from being missionaries about microbrewed beer to trying to choose from among the plethora of beers now available in the fastest growing segment in the beer industry. C’est What? Started with 105 seats and eight beers on tap, including Wellington Arkell and County on cask. Today the numbers have risen to 330 seats and 39 beers on tap, five of them being cask ales. The space the pub occupies has risen from 3,000 square feet to 7,200 square feet, all of it below street level in a welcoming but cavernous space devoted to beer.

“It was, and always will be a challenge to get people to invest in walking down the stairs,” said Milbrandt. “On the other hand, it does add to the ‘hidden gem’ aspect of our personality. The ‘I’ve walked by you for years and no idea...’ aha moment when someone first crosses the threshold.”

When Milbrandt opened C’est What? He knew he didn’t want to open another faux English pub, but rather a truly Toronto establishment. “Why pretend to be somebody else?”

He sold shares to anyone and everyone at $100 a pop, quickly finding some 80 investors. He made up the difference with a bridge loan from his parents. His background was in construction, but he knew people in the hospitality industry and relied on them for input as he learned the trade on the fly, on the floor of C’est What?

There wasn’t a lot of beer selection back then. But the big brewers helped the small brewers by bringing in internationally known brands, which helped to open up the eyes of consumers to new flavours in beer. “It was hard to go back once you had tasted more robust beers,” Milbrandt said.

Cask ale was absolutely essential in making C’est What? A beer destination. And while the appeal may initially have been to ex-pat Brits, the uniqueness of cask beer was not lost on others. “Real ale is the real deal. Cask ale sells the same per line as filtered beers,” added Milbrandt, as a staff member arrived to happily announce that Al’s Cask had outsold all beers over the long weekend.

Today the bar staff members are more into steering people to the flavors they want, rather than educating them about beer and its varied tastes. It’s more about fine-tuning.

Toronto has seen a big push in the last year, with new pubs and bars popping up all over town shouting the microbrewery mantra. Milbrandt sees this as a positive thing, as the new places tend to have personality about them.

“With confined living spaces downtown, it forces people to go out and use pubs and restaurants, which is a good thing. It’s a bit of a cultural change,” he said.

Falafel was on the first menu and it remains steadfastly there today, though once a year the menu is reviewed and tweaked. And while C’est What? Has live music, it has never made money from that aspect of the business. Milbrandt sees it as part of the pub’s cultural support program. They use the music to introduce young people to C’est What? And all that it has to offer. “We see ourselves as local cultural ambassadors.”

After 25 years, it is not surprising that he has formed opinions about the state of the industry. He says there are getting to be too many 8% to 10% abv beers and he would love to see a greater appreciation for lower alcohol beers. He also doesn’t like that a little bit of the wine snobbishness is creeping in--that 30 IBUs is frowned upon, when there are beers hitting 90 IBUs. In reality, there are now beer flavors to match any palate.

He says there is no place for the Beer Store, an offshore monopoly, in its current form, while the LCBO is okay. “There should be wholesale pricing to encourage pub culture, so that after markup beer pricing doesn’t become prohibitive. No other industry has to pay retail and then charge on top of it,” said Milbrandt.

As to beer labeling, he asks what is natural or not? Publish what is in your beer and let the consumer decide.

Looking back over the years, Milbrandt says that C’est What? Has never been a trendy place. He recalls that only he and a trusty beer cooler remain from startup. He says the business only had hiccups when the GST (tax) was introduced and when the smoking ban in Toronto came into effect.

As for in-house brewing and nanos: “We got that out of our system 20 years ago,” said Milbrandt. C’est What? Operated for a while under an odd brewpub license that permitted beer to be brewed off-site as long as it was fermented and served at the pub. Today, the house ales are brewed by Bruce Halstead of County Durham, Pickering.

George Milbrandt surveys his domain and reflects on the beer culture he has helped to create. “I’m looking forward to Toronto Beer Week becoming as big as Nuit Blanche!” he said.

Milbrandt says he has no regrets about going into the pub and restaurant business. “My biggest regret is that I am now completely unemployable,” he said jokingly. “I m stuck here after 25 years in the business! Actually, it’s a really neat business to be in. At the end of a day, over a beer, I look around and see all those happy people.”

Read the full article at http://glbnonline.brewingnews.com/article/C%27est+What%3F/1376130/155240/article.html.

Next Page


Publication List
Using a screen reader? Click Here