Sour New England


Somewhat recently I joined the family for a short holiday down to New Hampshire. Naturally, the most exciting prospect of this whole road trip was the opportunity to sample new-to-me beer from the East Coast of the US. On our first stop into a tourist info. centre I picked up a map of the breweries of Vermont so I could strategically let my car companions know when I needed to take a wee break from driving.

It has been a very long time since this West Coast gal has made it down to the New England states and I was blown away with the quantity and quality of craft beer – dare I say it felt almost west coast-like (high praise indeed!). Based on the map of Vermont alone I think I would need months, not days, to hit all the interesting looking beer hot spots. Undeterred I made the best with the time afforded me.

And I have to say I was beyond impressed with the beer I tried. It was a veritable paradise for sour enthusiasts like myself with not only sour beer options but whole breweries, literally, getting their funk on!

Here are a few highlights…


Rock Art Brewery, Vermont 



Schilling Beer Co., New Hampshire



Hermit Thrush Brewery, Vermont Green St. SIPA (Sour IPA)



Allagash Brewing Company, Maine Uncommon Crow



Chutters Candy Counter (world’s longest), New Hampshire Draft Beer Jelly Belly


Mining for treasure at the LCBO

Nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen… well to be fair a great many people share my current beer dilemma, which is the woefully sparse craft beer representation at the provincially run LCBO stores in Ontario. I know there are many reasons (???) behind the logic of having beer stop at provincial borders but seriously folks a beer geek wants to have a vast ocean of choices not simply a rain barrel full. To be fair, there is a good amount of craft beer on the shelf but it’s a bit of a tease when you know there is so much more behind the curtain.

The result of this lack of brew diversity? I have become a bit (more) of an archaeologist when it comes to extracting the best that the LCBO can offer. Being blessed with an insider view means I am now privy to the fact that you can (for a price) get pretty much any beer you want ordered into the LCBO and with the handy-dandy app you can seek out the location of whales – I also happily discovered that a couple of stores even have growler fills and tastings (don’t laugh BC folks it’s just baby steps here). 

What does this look like for me? See below for my current beer companions.

So keep the faith. Together we can work towards eroding the invisible borders that prevent us from creating a veritable garden of craft beer choices. Canada 150? Let’s equally share in what’s brewing across the country and beyond. A truly multicultural nation would embrace all the beer that calls Canada home and welcome beer from around the world where it can happily co-exist on the LCBO shelf and in my fridge ūüćĽ

Kawartha Craft Beer Festival




It is always nice to revisit a beer festival in subsequent years to see how the festival is evolving and to reflect back on one’s thoughts the first time around. This is the second year I have attended the tiny, but enjoyable, festivities at Millennium Park in Peterborough, Ontario. The festival is situated in a small park alongside the river and for the craft beer festival a few food trucks roll in, there is live music and breweries, of course though alas not many – this may be a direct consequence of the choice of venue. Situated as is there is very little space for this event to grow and attract more breweries, which is too bad. Hopefully, as the craft beer scene continues to grow exponentially this festival may have to relocate to really diversify the beer options.

That being said, for those new to the Kawarthas there is good representation by the local (read within easy driving distance) breweries. For those of us revisiting the festival there is not a whole lot new to explore in terms of new kids on the block but luckily a few of the breweries brought some “off-menu” options for sampling. One thing that is markedly different about the craft beer events I have visited in Ontario from those in the Pacific Northwest is the seeming reluctance of breweries to really dazzle with their line-ups; where are the cask beers? the fest exclusives? the vertical tastings? It seems many play it pretty safe bringing the usual suspects you find at the LCBO and at the breweries. I do get the appeal of bringing beer that potential future customers can seek out easily but you got keep your existing fans satiated as well!

Okay, so now that I have that off my chest, I will say it was a really fun festival. The beautiful weather did not hurt and overall a very neat and orderly kind of crowd who sought shade under the massive tented seating area. One new food feature was the addition of beer macarons; a little sweet for my taste but a neat addition. I appreciated that the space was full but not so much so that you could’tn get through a drink line quickly or find a space to park it with your brew. I sampled somewhat selectively, I think this is the downside of being a long-time beer nerd, choosing things I had not tried before or things that seemed a bit “off menu”.

A couple of worth mentions for me included the peach tea beer from Old Flame Brewing Co. and the bourbon barrel aged cider from Empire Cider Co.  There was also a very interesting looking option from Churchkey Brewing Co. that had rosemary and grapefruit but alas by the time I got there they had sold out Рand it was only midday on the Saturday (bring back-up beer next time guys).

Overall, good time had by all but fingers crossed I will be dazzled next year …third time is a charm right?


The Rogue Anthropologist

By now I am sure everyone in the craft beer world has heard about the Smithsonian’s search for a beer historian/scholar. A position that could easily be considered a dream job for many of us beer enthusiasts. While the job posting was painfully clear that the hire will not be paid to travel around drinking craft beer, the details of the job are very interesting for me personally because this opportunity may be the rare unicorn that would allow me to combine my education with my hobby. 

In university and graduate school I studied Anthropology. I love this field because it is diverse and curious. From my education I developed a deep appreciation of culture and history as well as learning to think critically about the role of culture in all facets of the world around us. After graduation I came to realize that I would be continuously trying to show how anthropology would be a good fit with various jobs; rarely have I seen an anthropologist wanted sign hanging from a store window. Sometimes it felt like the degree I had chosen would never really fit and I would not get the chance to do what I trained to do.

When I decided to start writing about craft beer I found it impossible to not turn my anthropologist’s gaze on the topic. Thankfully my background and my hobby dovetailed because the resurgence of craft beer is, by its very nature, cultural. Blogging about beer, for me, is not only about reviews and festivals but it is also about the people, the image, the art, the community and more. It is fun because there is such a wealth of areas to be explored. On my Twitter account I call myself the Rogue Anthropologist and what I hope to convey with this handle is that I am quite literally ‘in the field’ exploring this emergent craft beer culture (that and I really like Rogue Ales).

So back to this dream job.  To put my skills to use showing this incredible culture of craft beer to a wider audience would be an unique opportunity so fingers crossed my application makes it onto someone’s desk. A job posting for a Rogue Anthropologist may not come again in my lifetime…

On Trend

Often craft breweries seem to pick up on a unique flavour, hop, herb, flower etc. and next thing you know there are countless options on the shelf boasting said ingredient du jour. I feel like hibiscus may be a somewhat slow-burning example of this. At first, I recall having one hibiscus craft beer and it was good, then another brewery followed suit and it was good, then… Well you get the picture.
This brings me to the current beer in my glass, Hibiscus Saison from Guelph’s Royal City Brewing Co. This beer pours a rose gold colour, a bit hazy and with tons of airy bright white head. Slightly funky on the nose typical of the saison style and perhaps a bit of fruitiness, this may be the hibiscus influence. First few sips and I would know this is a saison but not sure I can discern the hibiscus flavour. Truth be told, any of the other hibiscus beer I have tried is equally subtle with the star ingredient imparting a tepid, tea-like character or a slight fruity or berry taste but one that is not too sweet. A fairly light-bodied beer with impressive head retention and some carbonation. Finishes on the slightly spicy side. Overall a decent saison but not sure I would say the hibiscus was a crucial factor here. Maybe I need to sample some straight hibiscus tea to get a better handle on what this edible flower is bringing to the bottle.

Hibiscus image from

There’s no taste like home

Recently I received a wonderful gift in the mail, three new beers from Steamworks Brewing Company. It is like somehow the beer gods knew I was feeling quite homesick and bestowed these three offerings upon me – also pretty sure the new Sales and Marketing coordinator may have had her hand in there as well.
The treasures in my mailbox included two limited releases the White Angel IPA and Tropical Tart Ale as well as one seasonal release YVR ISA. timely selections in light of the fact Ontario is in the midst of a heat wave, a tropical heat wave, the temperature is rising, it isn’t surprising that she can, really can-can …. Oops off on a bit of a digression there perhaps the heat has gotten to my brain. Thankfully though my palate has been spared.

YVR India Session Ale is a lightly hopped 4.4% session beer that pours clear straw gold colour with lots of bright white head. Big citrus hop nose, good carbonation and lots of flavour packed into a very accessible beer. All citrus and tropical notes at the front followed by a subtle bitter finish. Light bodied and perfect for a patio pint. I really love session styles, especially in the crazy humid days we have been having. If you think IPA’s are a bit too much this brew is a great segue. As always beautiful bottle artwork.

Tropical Tart Ale is as advertised a 4.9% ale with tons of passionfruit flavour. This beer pours a hazy gold with lots of airy head on the initial pour. Like the YVR, the nose on this beer is all about the tropical fruit, reminds me of papaya, but also a little bit of that sourness that kind of puckers the back of your cheek. Effervescent and a little too easy to sip, light sours are really one of the best summer options out there in my humble opinion. There is also some yeastiness on the finish giving it a subtle hefe quality. A very pleasant surprise. If this beer makes it easy I will be picking up some more.

White Angel IPA is a 6.9% hybrid of IPA meets Hefeweizen. Pours hazy straw gold with lots of thick white head that leaves nice legs on the glass. Lots of carbonation. Spicy almost funky nose, all hefe, with the IPA character coming through after a couple of sips. Not as hop forward as I thought it may have been. At first, White Angel seems like a fairly light beer but the strength really begins to come through the more you sip. Of the three I sampled this one is not my favourite but it is an interesting blend of styles and the slightly higher ABV lets the big flavours -spice and hop- come together nicely.

Thanks Steamworks Brewery for a little taste of home!

Something’s Brewing in Peterborough

Very belated update: so I found this post that somehow managed to get lost in my drafts and never make it to publication … So, I am going to share it with you now with the caveat that Smithworks is now known as Smithhaven and they are no longer new to town lol. 

It is always great to see a new brewery set-up shop in your hometown. You, the always curious beer geek, gets the chance to try something new and the craft beer community gets just a little bit larger and a little bit more diverse. And if you are really lucky and very quiet someone somewhere will put down their Molson product and try craft beer for the first time.

Last week I visited Smithworks Brewing Company in my childhood hometown of Peterborough, Ontario. Smithworks is not located in the trendy(ish) downtown or in the gentrifying East City but unassumingly in a industrial part of town adjacent to the Lays Potato Chip factory.

From the outside the brewery is not much to write home about, a storefront in a brick plaza, but the tasting room inside is spacious, woody and adorned with all the requisite beer trappings i.e. Beer swag, a take-away fridge, a large bar and a smattering of ready-made food stuffs.

Chatting with the guy behind the bar I find out the brewer is Graham Smith and the brewery will be focusing solely on Belgian beer, not craft beers (ouch). The only beer currently being served and bottled is their hefeweizen.

When I hear a brewery is focusing on Belgian beer tiny alarm bells go off and my inner beer critic skeptically ponders why any sane person would try to out Belgian Belgium, I mean you are emulating beer royalty how can you ever hope to measure up?

But hey you gotta swing for the fences right?

The Smithworks hefe poured a nice straw gold colour with lots of white head and the familiar banana and clove nose. First few sips are nice, it is not too yeasty and the fruitiness is subtle without overpowering the beer. Light in body and clean on the finish. I only tried a taster so I can’t get into great detail but I have to say this hefe might be enough to win me back over!









TFOB 2016 … I Love Swedish Beer



This weekend was the 2016 Toronto Festival of Beer and as a belated Birthday present I was treated to the VIP Hoptomized treatment on Friday (a very good friend indeed).

If you have never been to this beer event I have to highly recommend going the VIP route, which buys your early entry, ten tokens, dinner, a private lounge area and the very best part? Access to indoor plumbing!

Seeing that it was pretty much 40 with the humidity every little perk was so appreciated.

It was my second year attending the festival and, truth be told, I was initially thinking it would pretty much be a repeat of the 2014 line-up, which had an awful lot of Big Beer presence and not nearly enough small brewery representation. While Big Beer did loom (with flashy displays, flashy lights and flashy swag) there was also an unequivocal gem …Sample Sweden.

Oh yes I said Sweden and beer festival. Not meatballs, not ABBA, not Volvo (though they were all represented) but Swedish beer! Move over Belgium there is a new beer powerhouse on the horizon and this upstart does beer very, very well. Not just the standards but the near-to-my-heart wild ales and farmhouse styles.


I think it is fair to say, by now, I know my way around a craft beer and, as such, I really know what I like so much so that if I could only sip¬†one style of beer for the rest of eternity it would be wild¬†ale. In order to reach the insufferable heights of self-awareness, I have tried sours from many, many¬†breweries and so when I say I was floored by the offerings from Swedish breweries Brekeriet, Omnipollo and Duggan that is high praise indeed my friends. Saisons, gose, wild ales, barrel aged sours …I was in beer geek heaven so much so that I may have effectively wrecked my palate for the next several weeks.

After my epic sour bender I was not even sure what I was tasting when I moved out of Sample Sweden to tip my glass at some of the other offerings.That is not to say I did not do my due diligence and sample widely just that maybe those post-sour breweries did not get the full attention of my tastebuds.

A few memorable non-sour offerings that stood out included this year’s Unibroue Ephmere Blueberry, Great Lake Brewery’s Imperial Stout and Collingwood’s ESB.

As for the festival itself it was very well organized. Situated at Bandshell Park with easy access to transit the location is pretty well perfect for a beer festival. Lots of trees, close to the water, tons of seating room, varied food options and space for breweries to set-up large displays. There was also live music in the evenings; Friday’s line-up included Jelleestone, Maestro and House of Pain.

For the nerdily inclined, such as myself, beer school was also in sessions offering beer pairings (beer with cheese and beer with chocolate) and beer education (know your colours of beer). Oh and for those easily seduced by swag, me again, you can come home with a goody back chock full of beer mats, temporary tats, sunglasses, key fobs etc.



The not-so highlighty parts? Well, as I alluded to above there is no doubt Big Beer still rules Ontario and there is almost literally no way to get around them (anyone else see Budweiser city-block sized set up?). But maybe the best way to really drive home that craft is where its at is to have this kind of all-inclusive event showcasing the best and the less best that beer has to offer.

Also, painfully aware I am no longer a Left Coast resident when I went to grab my free food and the server asked why a vegetarian would come to beer fest lol – he seemed genuinely confused by my presence – so no fear that I would overeat with all that beer.

Overall an amazing day and now I am diligently sourcing out a Swedish beer connection…





Kawartha Craft Beer Festival


It has been quite some time since I have had the opportunity to put my beer skills to work so when I saw a local beer festival advertised I heard the hoppy siren song…


The Kawartha Craft Beer Festival took place in Peterborough Ontario this weekend. The venue was Millennium Park, which is located alongside the river in the city’s downtown. The park provided a picturesque setting with lots of green space to sit and sip. The organizers had several food options, live music and a total of eleven brewers and one cidery in participation. So while technically it was the smallest beer festival I ever attended they put on a good show nonetheless.


I am still really getting to know the Ontario craft beer scene so there were lots of new-to-me breweries to explore (one of the best things about beer fests) as well as some familiar faces.

A lot of the breweries stepped up on their serving options, maybe to compensate for the smaller size of the festival, with multiple booths pouring from kegs, bottles and cans.


Compared to many other festivals I have attended this was a pretty subdued drinking crowd; I do not recall seeing a single drindl or even a person in costume! To be fair this is only the festival’s second year so give it time for the fanboys and fangirls to come out en masse and I definitely was not the only note-taking, picture-snapping, beer geek in attendance so just a heads up Peterborough.


A few of the standout brews for me were the festival-only option from Port Perry’s Old Flame Brewing Company, a regular line-up beer brewed with stone fruit and the Saison from Bobcaygen Brewing Company based out of, well c’mon guess, Bobcaygen.

I also have to give an honourable mention to Church-Key Brewing Company from Campbellford who brought a Brett beer, which I was so happy to see …for this sour gal it was like finding a long lost friend. Sadly, this Brett brew did not pack the funky, sour wallop I had hoped for¬†but kudos for bringing some sourness to the province.


My gluten-free hubby (who also happens to be my only hubby) made do with the two offerings from County Cider Company, who brought a Ginger Peach Cider and their very nice, dry Waupoos cider. He also indulged in some olfactory appreciation of my selections.

Overall a pleasant evening spent sipping beer alongside the river and a great reminder of what I have been missing as of late. Perhaps I have been away too long, beer my old friend…



A lil’ something new on my grocery list…


After too many years of cross-border shopping while having all kinds of envy at the complete obviousness of selling beer in the grocery store, FINALLY us Ontarians can now pick up our craft beer with the rest of our dietary staples.

Instead of bemoaning the fact that it took us as a province this long to put bottles on the grocery shelves or that the selection is meagre or that the seperate checkout is still working through the kinks rather I am going to simply enjoy the moment.

I knew it was coming, the news alluded to beer in grocery stores being on the horizon for months now but it was not until I saw the sign from above (the Superstore in Oshawa) that I became a believer.


Even better this sign did not deceptively lure me in only to break my heart with a provisio beer soon or beer next year but quite accurately beer was most indeedly-doodly here.

As I alluded to above the actual nuts and bolts of beer in the grocery store are still being revamped. 

While I was in the Superstore that fateful day the very helpful store worker walked me through the process. Beer can only be purchased at the tiny checkout situated between the two aisle end caps where they stock the beer. The initial offerings are somewhat sparse though I was told the shelf space for beer is slated to grow in the near future. Also, when beer is allowed through the regular checkout lanes there will be only a select number of lanes where cashiers are trained in the fine art of deciphering those under 25 (the age under which you will be id’d) and pretty sure you will never be in the self-checkout with your craft beer.

Nonetheless, no whining or complaining on my part, beer is here and we will happily work out the kinks as we grow!

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