Happy International Gruit Day

IGDFebruary 1 is International Gruit Day.

Here is an explaination of what gruit is from www.gruitday.com

What is Gruit Ale?

Centuries ago it would have seemed odd to consider using only one herb to spice beer.  Dozens of plants, such as bog myrtle, yarrow, mugwort, heather, and juniper were commonly used in ancient brewing, providing beer makers with a wide array of aromatic and flavourful options.  These beers were known as Gruit or Grut (German for herb), and a brewers’ spice blend was a proprietary and carefully guarded secret. However, after the Reinheitsgebot (Bavarian Purity Act of 1516) ordered that only hops were to be used to spice beer, and the Bavarian style of brewing took hold in most of Europe, the Gruit Ale gradually faded into obscurity.

Luckily, several craft breweries have rediscovered this ancient form of brewing. Craft brewing is based on the notion that beer should not be limited by the conventional norm – that beer should be about discovery and experimentation, and Gruit Ales are one of the best examples of this pioneering spirit.

The craft brewers who produce Gruit Ales have banded together to mark February 1st as International Gruit Day.  On this day, brewers and beer enthusiasts around the world pay homage to our brewing past and our exciting future as we rediscover the taste and excitement of this ancient libation.

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Looking Back at 2012

So looking back at 2012.

My favorite beers I tried for the first time were (no particular order):

My Favorite beer events were:

Now looking back at my 2012 beer resolutions. Since I wrote them a year ago I never referred back to them and forgot most of them! I only fulfilled 6/13!

New Year 2012 Beer Resolutions

1. Do the Beer Makes History Better Toronto tour *nope

2. Do a Northern Ontario Brewery road trip – Lake of Bays, Muskoka Brewery, Flying Monkeys and Sawdust City. *nope

3. Visit The Blue Monk in Buffalo again. *sadly no

4. Road trip to Southern Tier Brewery. *agh..again no

5. Continue to facilitate corporate beer tastings *yes I did this year! whoot

6. Attend 2 out of province/country beer festivals. *yes – mondial and Great British Beer Festival

7. Read Last Call: Rise and Fall of Prohibition (which I bought 4 months ago!) *crap…no

8. Re-read Hops and Glory. *yes I did in England

9. Brew beer (kind of) – At Black Creek or using a Beer Making Kit. *YES!

10. Attend more beer dinners to expand my knowledge of food and beer pairing. *didn’t attend any in 2012

11. Attend a Cameron’s cask night. *nope

12. Beercation trip to California. *no!!!!!

13. Go to Granite brewery. Believe it or not I’ve never been !!! *yep

14. Blog more often. *yes

15. Drink more beer 🙂 *i want to say yes 🙂

I have some work to do this year…and I’m looking forward to another great year!! Happy new year all!


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Vintage Guinness Christmas Ad

Merry Christmas! Here’s a Guinness ad from the 1930s

Guinness vintage christmas ad

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Westvleteren XII Saga – Was It Worth It?

So was all the drama over getting the rare Westveletern 12, the best beer in the world, worth it? In my opinion YES.

Here’s are my thoughts on the Westy Saga:

  • Is this the best beer I’ve ever tasted in my life – No.  I actually had this at my Prud’homme beer sommelier dinner at Beer Bistro. A great beer, but not the best beer I’ve ever had in my life (actually that’s a difficult question to answer)
  • Could the LCBO have done a better job at selling this? YES. At this day and age I don’t think it’s necessary to make people stand outside in cold for hours. Surely there’s a better way of doing this. And as some people have suggested perhaps an online lottery system. However, once all the waiting and you’re finally in the store, the LCBO was very organized and efficient.
  • Why I did it? As some of you might know I hate line ups! If there is a long line up at the grocery store I forgo the groceries or go somewhere else, this is how short my attention span is for lines. However, the reason why I waiting in line 2 almost 2 hours was for a number of reasons:
    1. My schedule is flexible and didn’t have to take time off work/drive kids to school etc.
    2. Living in Toronto I could easily get to the handful of LCBOs in town, and even considered driving out of town if necessary.
    3. Why wouldn’t I at least try, given the flexibility I have? I don’t plan on going to Belgium anytime soon, so a local LCBO lineup is more feasible than going to a Belgian Monastery.
    4. It comes with 2 glasses – and I love my beer glasses!
    5. Now that I have it I can share with friends, family and fellow beer nerds who were unable to get it. And of course I’ll cellar some for a few years.
    6. The experience was fun! While waiting in line ‘strangers’ would just come up to you and ask you if they can get you a coffee – Seriously, beer people are awesome. One person made cookies and was handing them out! It was also great to talk to other beer people about beer! And the energy and excitement of the crowd was amazing!!westy lineup lcbo
  • What I didn’t like – some people in line we’re talking about how this was their 2nd 6 pack and they were going to try for a 3rd tomorrow (you’re limited to 1 pack per person), then sell it to make some money. I don’t think this is fair as you’re taking the opportunity away for someone (like myself) who just want 1 for themselves. Again some kind of online, lottery, tracking system would prevent/minimize this from happening.
  • Another thing to note is the price. I heard several people commenting on how expensive this was at $76. Really? 2 glasses = $30, which means each bottle is $7.67 each….price isn’t something people should complain about. How much would 3 bottles of good rare wine (equivalent to about 6 beer bottles) sell for that is generally not available outside the country of origin? Surely more than $15/bottle.

So that’s my take on it all. Just really happy I can share 4 bottles with others and give other people the opportunity to try the beer. And in the end I get 2 beautiful glasses and cellar a couple for me to enjoy at a future celebratory moment.

Here is the Toronto Star article about the Saga.


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Homebrewing – why 1 Gallon?

When I told other homebrewers I tried the 1 Gallon Brooklyn Brew Kit and now I plan on only brewing 1 gallon beers they seem to ask me the same question – why are you only brewing 1 gallon beers? Its seems to be more ‘normal’ in the homebrew culture to brew 3-5 gallons. The reasoning, they say, is because for the same amount of time/effort you get more beer.

So here are my common answers to this question:

  • Space – First of all I live in a condo and want to minimize the real estate consumed by my homebrew. Beer takes at least a month for it to be ready.
  • I’m a wimp – I can’t really carry, comfortably, more than 2-3 gallons. Brewing 1 gallon means I need to collect 2.25 gallons of wort pre-boil. This is my weight threshold.
  • Frequency – I like to brew often, about 2 times a week! Than means at one time I can easily have 4 beers fermenting in my condo, again without taking up a lot of space.
  • Waste – I don’t like throwing beer out! So if a beer doesn’t turn out I either cook with it or worse case I’m only throwing out 8 bottles of beer with little expense down the drain. This also allows encourages me to experiment more and take risks, the worse case is again throwing out a small batch.
  • Bottling – bottling 8 beers only is much easier. I don’t need to spend another couple of hours one day bottling beer. I can even do it before work.
  • Quantity – Lastly I have a tough time keeping up drinking what I brew now! Keeping up with my brewing habit and schedule works out to be approximately 2 gallons of homebrew a week! I can’t even imagine any more homebrew than that.

So there you go! For anyone wanting to get into homebrewing and has limited space, wants to experiment frequently I recommend a small batch size. Yes, it is too bad when you brew a great beer and it doesn’t last long, on the other hand you can brew it again, and perhaps find ways to improve it.



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homebrew setup

Here are some pics of my homebrew setup: 

Victory Grain Mill

2 gallon mash tun (in my favorite color – score!)

Collecting wort in my sink.

The Boil using a 2.5 Gallon pot I got from China town.

Chilling wort – using an ice bath.

Wort, once chilled – effect of whirlpooling.


Siphoning to Fermenter.

Fermenter in a plastic bucket of cold water (from my ice bath).

Fermenter setup wrapped in a t-shirt (note GLB devil’s 666 shirt!) blow off tube in sanitizer. The tube is replaced by an airlock after a few days.

A lot of people recommend putting your fermenter in a dark place. However, I’ve chosen to place it by the window because there seems to be a draft in the winter, which helps keeps it cold. This also happens to be the same place where the air conditioning blows, again keeping it cold in the summer. I put a black tea towel over the fermenter to keep it from the light.

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homebrewing – how did I get here?

I’ve always said I have no interest in homebrewing, mainly because 1: I don’t like cooking and brewing is similar, 2: I don’t have the room, 3: I have access to great beer so why bother?

Last year I took the BJCP study group,  and met a ton of homebrewers. I’ve always liked listening to their stories, experiences and homebrew setups. Learning about brewing (which is what half of the study group was focused around) the idea really peaked my interest. Also I was one of the very few people in the group that didn’t homebrew.

I continued being fascinated about homebrewing. I would go to a friend’s house and see him brew beer and it looked so ‘easy’. And his homebrew turned out really nice. Earlier this year, I can’t remember where I specifically saw this, but I saw an advertisement for Brooklyn Brew Kit for $20 at Williams-Sonoma. So I thought, well why not try. The Kit has ‘everything’ you need and was specifically created for people who live in apartments/condos. The worse case is I lose $20 and half a day.

So the result of this experiment was….a disaster. As any homebrewer knows, temperature is one of the most important things about homebrewing. I didn’t hit any of my temperatures. Plus I used only the equipment and instructions they gave me, which was pretty basic. On top of that I didn’t really know what I was doing. Afterwards, the kitchen was a mess and I knew the beer would turn out horrible. Actually what was surprising, the beer turned out to be ‘kinda’ drinkable and not as bad as I thought.

After that experience I was determined to try again, because I hate being conquered! So I spend 2 weeks indulging myself in reading and researching homebrewing, talking to others about homebrewing and upgrading my set up. I bought another 1 Gallon fermenter, a auto siphon (which didn’t come with the kit), a digital fermenter, a 2 gallon mash tun and a hydrometer. I also ended up buying the Brooklyn Brew Shop Beer Making book (which I’ll review in detail in another post). So after buying a few ingredients I was able to try again.

This time….much better. I was much more prepared now that I had researched more about the process!

Since the summer, which is when I started homebrewing, I brew at least once a week. And I have to say I’m addicted! I love experimenting and learning and there are so many homebrewers in Toronto that I can seek advice anytime I want and there are so many people willing to help.

So now I’ve added homebrewing to my beer journey. There will be a few more posts including my setup this week!

Some important resources that I relied on and I recommend all of these for anyone who is planning on going down the homebrewing road:

1. Book – The Complete Joy of Homebrewing

2. Book – How to Brew. You can download a free copy here.

3. Forum – homebrewtalk.com. Basically any question you have about homebrewing, it’s been asked and answered here.

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England – Great British Beer Festival

There is probably only one word to describe my experience at the Great British Beer Festival – overwhelmed.

As we walked in we headed to the Belgium section – mainly because it was right by the entrance. The first thing I saw was a cask of Cantillon!

There were beers from around the world. This year it was helped at The Olympia. The place was huge, but when we were there (during the day), it wasn’t too crowded.

The upper level had seating and we could easily get a seat. The only criticism I have is the food choices were lacking….However we did manage to find a thai food stand that had amazing spring rolls! And another food venue that had samosas.

For anyone wanted to go to the GBBF Festival I would recommend the following:

1. Do your research and select the beers you want to try or focus on a certain country – This is obvious for every beer festival, but I would stress it for this one! I should have done more research. I did ask some people who were more familiar with the European beer scene than I was, but it is still hard to narrow it down. Even the USA section alone was overwhelming for me – tons of breweries I haven’t heard of and sooooo many interesting beers.

2. As soon as you arrive get a drink (cuz it’s hard not to), then save yourself a table upstairs as your docking spot.

3. Similar to Mondial, go in the daytime during the week and leave by 6pm. Then it gets a bit crowded with the after work crowd.

4. Plan for multiple days at the festival – Do to our limited time in England and our busy schedule we only planned for 1 day!

5. Bring change – more samples (1/3 pints) were £1.50-2.50. With exact change you stand in the line for less time!

Definitely have to go back!! Great festival, big space, not too crowded, with so may options.

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England – London

We went back to London for our last few days in England.

We checked out a great pub in covent gardens called The Harp – highly recommend. It is a small pub that serves sausages. Unfortunately when we got there, just after lunch, the food had run out. Fortunately there is a small bakery/store 2 doors down where you can buy anything from fish and chips to several sandwiches and you can bring it back to the pub. And for the record, the steak and kidney pie was amazing!

Afterwards we went to Borough market to The Rake. The Rake is  small pub with a bunch of craft beers on tap mainly from UK and North America including…Sleeman Honey Brown!

Just around the corner they also have an off license called UTO Beer.

We we’re having a party that night so we picked up a few beers.

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England – Blackdown Hills Beer Festival

While out in the country, my husband decided to surprise me with a real ale beer festival! How I was unaware of a beer festival within my vicinity is beyond me!

We went to the Blackdown Hills Beer Festival, which was out in the middle of the countryside. There were 45 cask beers and ciders to choose from! Most from the West part of England, and some of the bigger breweries around England. I was really impressed with the selection!

Oh…and when I refer to countryside I mean the countryside. What festival do you have someone dressed up as a cow serving you beer?





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