19 October 2018

It's not you, It's me - Breaking up is hard to do

Is it really over?

Dear Untappd,

  It's not you, it's me,
  I never thought this day would come. I mean there was a time when I couldn't have imagined not having you front and center in my life while I enjoyed many cold beers and spent time chasing goals and being rewarded for pursuing those dreams. We were a hell of a team.
  But all good things must come to an end.
  It's not that I haven't enjoyed our time together. I really have, you were there for me at the beginning and I wouldn't be here without you. But over time we seem to have grown apart and to be honest it feels like you're barely part of my life any more.
  Where once I couldn't wait to see you and fill you in on my day or night so you could grow and be strong, I now ignore you for weeks on end, almost on purpose and when I do spend time with you it's almost with a heavy sigh and a "let's get this over with" attitude. Neither one of us benefits from that and I can't help but think we could have been so much more.
  I still remember the thrills you would bring me whenever we would go out drinking, adding joy to our growing list of achievements by giving me badges for my various activities and inspiring me to try new and different things to keep that adrenaline going. Where would I be without your encouragement and ever expanding suggestions?
  Why can't we just let things be the same and grow old together, man and app, side by side, phone in hand?
  Truthfully, I know so many other people love you and your addictive rewards based love. they crave to tick and get a badge, add a number and I know that at my most fervent days I was one of them. I couldn't get enough as my number rose and your tendrils of endorphin releasing acknowledgement of my prowess. It felt good to be part of this club and show off all my additions, life became more about the pursuit of quantity over quality and it happened without me even noticing. Chasing flights and samples everywhere we went so we could pop that unique number ever higher and receive accolades we can see in a world that stopped caring a long time ago. Maybe that's why I stayed so long, lingering when I knew I should leave, longing for us to reconnect and fall in sync with each other like it was back in the good old days. I wanted so much to be part of the ticking community when it all began but I have changed and while you have too, some say for the worse, it has become increasingly apparent that we just don't do it for each other anymore.
We all start somewhere...
  I'll be the first one to say that I never thought my life would change so much when we met on that cold February day and I logged my first old Milwaukee. We were young and had no idea the world of beer was on the cusp of changing and nothing would ever be the same again...but it did and so too did we. I ticked with the best of them, downloading festival and taproom lists so I could add them even after I was far too drunk to rate them, it was all about getting the number and the badge...Make me special and make it public baby!  Then came Instagram, Twitter and YouTube and I found a better way to share my love of great beer, albeit without the fancy badges and stats to prove it. The community of people I met started to mean more to me than getting a number and when the day came I realised I was more than a couple of hundred behind in adding to your list, I knew the end was near.
  I'm not here to put down anyone who enjoys using Untappd, sharing beer on social media helps keep me sane so I'm never against you doing you. But for me, now and moving forward, the ticking culture and pursuit of badges has just lost its lustre and shine. Breaking up is hard to do and this goodbye is a long time in coming.
  I will always have the memories of nights spent squinting to focus on trying to type in the 15th sample and cheering badges with my friends as we got hammered with intent to log in our conquests. I will miss some of the times I had at the very beginning of my exposure to Ontario Craft beer and the wider world of what was available but now is the time to say goodbye. I leave the ticking culture to the next generation of beer explorers and can only hope they will to progress to the point where they can let go of their compulsion to tick and acquire badges, freeing themselves and escaping the endless need to acquire more and more.
  But we will always have Old Milwaukee, morning beers and that one glorious time when it was you and me against the world.



15 October 2018

Friday leaving Work (Part 8)

"I'll see you again..."
  As soon as he said those words, he knew he was either lying or hoping and he couldn't figure out which he was wishing for more. Leaving was never easy and for a man who craved routine inside of what appeared to be a chaotic existence, walking away from the normalcy of regular life into the unknown was strange, dangerous and thrilling all at the same time. Drunk or sober, he was never about taking chances and he lingered as he watched this one slip into the oblivion of  what could have been once again.  It wasn't that he wanted to pour his heart out, but he should have at least acknowledged what she had meant to him after all they had been through. Faded images of times gone by filled his mind as he drove away, headed home to an empty apartment save his cat and a fridge full of beer to soothe his empty heart. A little maudlin, but given his penchant for screwing up relationships, perhaps the most apt description of this day.
  She had been a fixture in his daily routine for as long as his faulty memory could allow him to remember. While it had only been a few years, his fuzzy recollection was sure it felt like forever. That smile etched in his brain like a fire brand on his skin and the lilt of her voice lingered long after she said her last words to him that final day, her composure a sure sign he would never see her again in his mind.
  Their relationship had always been above board but he felt more could have been found if he wasn't such a damn coward. They went deep many a night at that chain pub around the corner from work and even though it remained unspoken, they both felt that there were moments left in the past where it could have been so much more. Knee deep into their 5th pitcher of Coors Banquet and trading off the buying of shots of cheap whiskey, they came close but never could make it over the mutual fear of ruining something that meant so much to their day to day existence.
  Driving home, he paused at every stop sign and red light, trying to work up the courage to turn his old truck around and go back to lay it all out for her. Did he think she would agree and run to him with open arms or was that delusion even too much for his cynical mind.  But still he drove slower than usual as he wondered if a grand gesture was indeed what was warranted to turn his rapidly diminishing life around.
  Pulling into the municipal lot his building shared with the surrounding businesses downtown, he made sure his pass was visible on the dash lest he get a ticket he would be too lazy to fight and would end up costing him more than a few pints around the corner. The contents of his now empty desk were in the backseat and while it was probably a good idea to take it all upstairs or even more appropriately to the nearby dumpster, he felt leaving it there meant she existed for a little while longer in his life.
  Many nights he had chosen poorly and this was to be yet another nail in his long and lonely coffin to self immolation at the tap handles. The not so newish brewpub beckoned and as the Friday night traffic swirled beside him, he pushed open the doors and was met with the familiar face of the people who poured happiness by the glass and always had a little extra for the man who had so little.
Greetings and the usual social graces were exchanged and as he headed to his usual corner booth to wallow in what may be yet another poor decision, he noticed a familiar hand raising a pint and realised that she was here, waiting and with that, everything changed...

24 September 2018

That Night in Toronto - Polk and the Golden Tap Awards

What a night!
From the very beginning, it seems, there was always beer. In one form or another, I have been about this libation for helping define who I was and would be. For years that was the party animal, the good time guy who threw parties almost every week and found himself with more blank spaces in his memories than actual memories most nights. Copious and unapologetically a drunk, I careened through life with little regard for myself or those around me, taking stock only to crash once again in a haze of bottles and broken promises.
 And then Craft Beer fell into my life and everything started to change.
  I've chronicled so much of that trip over the last 3 years and always aimed to do so with honesty and an openness I hoped people would understand and appreciate. I wanted the regular drinking folks like me to see that craft beer wasn't for hipsters and snobs, that it was meant for everyone who wanted to change the direction of their lives and be part of something new and special. We are in a movement at it's rise and the excitement and fervent dedication to it is palpable when you talk to anyone who has recently converted. So it is to these friends and fellow travellers I speak to when I sit down to write and on Thursday, September 13th, 2018 I felt that love come back a thousand fold.
3 of my favourite people
  The Golden Tap Awards started 16 years ago as a way to celebrate all that was great about Ontario Craft Beer. Cass Enright of Bartowel.com has been the force behind the only democratically chosen beer awards for that whole time and it is because of the open ballot process that we can all express our love for the best in the province. Five years ago he created a new category for Best beer Writer in Ontario and the very deserving winner for the first 4 years was the talented Ben Johnson of Ben's Beer Blog. Hard hitting and holding back nothing, Ben calls things as he sees them and is not afraid to challenge the status quo with an eye to always being just who he is. I will be honest and say I voted for Ben because he is among a small handful of writers in Ontario that I will stop what I am doing to read their latest release. Jordan St. John (St. John's Wort), Robin Leblanc (The Thirsty Wench) and Don Redmond (BrewHaha) are among the others and I am proud to say that I count them among my dear friends now.
  3 years ago I discovered the Golden Tap Awards and for a lark, I started a tongue in cheek campaign to dethrone the then 2 time champion. I had no illusions as to my place in the world of craft beer writing but I had a lot of fun creating slogans and poking fun at myself as the voting went on. Last year I did much the same, using my Get Polk'd campaign to little effect but having a blast doing it. Once again, I never had any thought to really winning, instead existing as the blue collar guy who wrote his little blog posts and was mildly entertaining on Twitter and Youtube.
  Over the last year or so, things have begun changing on craft beer social media as more people begin to share their love of it on the different platforms and new friendships are forged over the tubes of the internet that result in real life meetups and beer mail flying back and forth across the province. While I didn't create the Drunk Polkaroo to be craft beer specific, I applaud the rise of so many people going to help raise the level of the conversation going forward. It is to these people that I want to give hope and thanks as well.
  Winning the Golden Tap Award for Best Beer Writer meant a lot more to me than I could have ever realised and the cheer I received from the people in attendance at the Ontario Brewing Awards shocked me to my core. I was worried that no one would even notice and maybe a couple of my brewer pals would say congrats but that kind of self doubt was proven baseless as the evening was filled with amazing conversations and mutual applause as so many people were rewarded for their hard work. It was a truly special night that I will never forget and I am learning to accept that maybe I do something good for the beer drinkers of this province after all.
With Sam from Sawdust!
 I hope that my win will spur on those who are hesitant to write and share their thoughts and journey into craft beer with the world. I know that a large part of people who did vote for me was not because I am a better long form writer than any of my friends, in fact, I think it is my relentless pursuit of happiness and open positivity that lead me to this point. My poems, quirky but honest daily beer reviews for over 1000 consecutive days (and counting) on Instagram and my musings on life in the raw that resonated most with people. Talking that muggy September night with friends, old and new, I was struck by the way people were responding to what I thought was just a bunch of stuff I had rattling around in my brain. It is indeed humbling when anyone says they connected with what you wrote or that they enjoy watching your videos, it was never my idea to make it anything but a fun way to distract and enjoy myself.
  So my eternal thanks to anyone who took the time to read or watch and then make the effort to vote for me. I was stunned and even now, almost two weeks later, I struggle to define what this means to me. I went to work the next day and while it was like nothing had changed, for me everything was a little different. I am left with the feeling of overwhelming love and support and I will do my best to help raise up the next generation of writers and dreamers that are just getting started. Winning a Golden tap award means a validation at a time in my life when that rarely happens and when you talk about art, not at all. The boss may tell you you did a good job or you score a bonus or raise but to me, this plaque and the people who voted for me mean more than that ever could.
A couple of award winners with Robin from Descendants!
  Going forward I hope my winning shows people that you can contribute to the conversation, you can make a connection and a difference in the craft beer community and you can do it while remaining true to who and what you are. While I am not just about the beer anymore, it remains a driving force behind my entire philosophy. My life has been irrevocably changed because I chose to share it with the world, it is my duty to make sure I help those who want to do the same to have their voices heard.
Beer stain shirt and a happy Polk
  Thank you once again and know that everything is always a little tongue in cheek but I treasure this moment for as long as I live. There are more stories to tell, more adventures to go on and I can't  to share them with you and read all about yours. May the 2019 Golden Tap award winning beer writer race be filled with more people and I will gladly hand off the torch to a new voice next year.
  But I will not go quietly or gently into that good night so I hope we can enjoy a vigorous campaign next year in the late summer and I look forward to sharing a drink with many more of you at next years awards!

It's a Major Award

6 September 2018

Polk and Pooh - Friends Forever

This tattered and much loved Pooh bear has been with me for more than 4 decades. Through a mostly idyllic childhood to the troubled teen years, marriages, divorce, drugs and alcohol abuse and my recent redemption to this very moment, he has been there always. I experience life as it happens, but often wax nostalgic for a time when it wasn't about bills, problems and work. When life was about playing, imagining the impossible and thinking of a future where life continued at a dream like state long into adulthood.

  Why carry a stuffed bear from house to house, life to life? How did this little fellow manage to never get lost amongst my drunken stumbles and wanderings? I guess it's just my dumb luck that this one touchstone to where I came from and who I always thought I could be still remains by my side every day.
  Or maybe he's here because I need him.

  I had imaginary friends as a kid and while they have faded into memory and tales better told by those who found them amusing, I know Winnie was there. Troubled as a kid meant internalizing the monologue and talking to myself to figure out what was going on, something I continue to do as an adult, only now we call it Twitter.
  I had many conversations that seemed all too real with this tiny stuffed bear and as I moved through life, he came along for each ride. Sometimes stuffed in a box and not seeing the light of day for months, more often on a shelf somewhere close by so I could see him for reassurance when I got low, Pooh just sort of exists in my mind as the one thing I have that holds all those secrets, dreams and hopes in his fading plush stuffiness.

  Seeing the new Christopher Robin movie last week brought all of this back to the forefront of my mind as I sat in a darkened theatre, tears welling and laughter spilling forth at all my favourite characters coming to life once more. The achingly hard scene where Pooh wonders if Christopher Robin had forgotten him too nearly did me in as I remembered leaving behind the things of childhood and rushing headlong into work and being a Woozle. At times a touch sugary, it nevertheless captured what the pressure of what our focus becomes as we chase the dream of more things while missing the really important stuff we keep putting off to make a buck. Tigger's frantic bouncing and exuberance, Piglet's worrying and my other favourite A.A. Milne character, Eeyore giving voice to those days we don't feel so good all exist in this universe as they did in my mind and for that I am grateful. 
  That I cried at so many points in this movie has everything to do with what this little bear brought to me in his many different forms over the years. I will long carry the lessons of friendship, the value of doing nothing and staying true to who you are with me as I continue to try and find my own Hundred Acre Woods to hang out with my pal Pooh and all my other friends.

Thursdays at Home (Part 7)

Languid rises the day.
  The night before stretched into the morning as his head felt heavy from what he hoped was a good time. Empty tall boys, whisky bottles and dirty glasses covered the counters as he or someone else had half heartedly attempted to clean up, piling things into the sink and spraying dishwasher liquid without turning on the water. He filled the sink and looked in the living room to see if anyone was still here, often some would linger days after a party on his largesse, keeping him company during his trips into the darkness. Seeing no one on the couch, he vaguely remembered the cabbie honking his horn as his last remaining guests had staggered into the night, off key singing and carrying something for the road.
  Silently thanking whoever called that cab, he was actually happy to alone for a bit, his headache feeling like a sledgehammer and despite the aspirin he had just taken, he still reached for a can of Caesar, already mixed and ready to go. He knew it would take much more than that to return his balance of not quite sober but not drunk and he flicked on the TV because he couldn't think of anything else to do.
  His days off work were often odd and non consecutive, so benders tended to last weird amounts of time and inevitably he had to learn to cope with being hungover and still productive at work. He was a well practiced drunk who learned the ropes at an early age from venerable masters who helped him shape his future ways with aplomb. Some electrolyte replacement with Pedialyte and copious amounts of water could help end a small one with little effort. Citrus in any form, greasy spoon breakfasts and as much Tylenol as he could manage helped for the heavier days with a little hair of the dog as a last resort, although he hadn't yet sunk as low as that in quite some time. A practiced alcoholic, he planned surprisingly well and had yet to slip up at work, although he rarely saw his family anymore, his evenings taken up with just the sort of stuff you didn't share with those who loved you before you stopped caring.
  Waking with a darkening room, he could see the clouds rolling in for the forecasted thunderstorm and welcomed the relief the cooler weather would bring. Hangovers were even worse when the humidity climbed and your body lost the hydration faster than you could replace it. The fall also signalled bigger and boozier beers from his favourite local craft brewers and of course, the whisky would flow as a the leaves fell. He didn't have a favourite season but when things got cold, he could retreat to his cellar of solitude and drink with the one person he could truly stand to be around...the guy in the mirror.


30 August 2018

Reflections on 1000 Days of Beer

Thinkin' about drinkin'
When I first started writing about my experiences with beer in 2015, chronicling the journey I was taking through the styles and flavours I had never experienced, I was wide eyed and optimistic. I curtailed my internal temptation towards negativity and focused instead on the positive and exciting things happening here in the Ontario Craft beer scene. I wrote about past mistakes and triumphs, rated and reviewed over 2600 beers and filmed more than 700 videos. New friends were made and some old ones lost, jobs have changed and even my outlook on life has been shaped by the liquid in my glass.
The olden days of Brava Light Polk

  It is not merely that I have drank and reviewed at least one beer every day for 1000 days, it is the very fundamental difference this community, it's purveyors and consumers alike, have had on me. I have changed, found solace once again in the expressing of myself through various mediums, all of them art to me on one level or another.  I was a smart kid but I didn't understand how to express myself once I left school. Adults, especially men, just get on with the business of living and providing, leaving behind the notion of sharing your emotions or thoughts with the world. Craft beer changed all that.
One of my first (and still) craft beer loves

  I found an outlet for talking about my past, addressing demons long held at bay by alcohol and poor decisions. I recognized the empty promises I made to myself and others about life and made attempts to change that as I went forward. To create, design or write about beer, sports, history or any of a myriad of subjects that interested me was almost as intoxicating as the beer I was drinking and no doubt the positive feedback and encouragement I found online was a factor in my continued pursuit.
  It hasn't been all sunshine and saisons though. I know drinking a beer everyday isn't a big deal, but the ones where that becomes four or five can come a little too frequent for my liking and I can acknowledge the fact that I am at the very least, a functional sort of alcoholic. Do I need a beer every day? I'd say the yearning to get hammered daily has dissipated somewhat in the last 1000 days and more and more it is but one beer pouring into my world each evening. But still there persists a thirst for the darkness I once had guiding me through life and I will have to stand on guard as long as I continue to use beer as a form of self expression.
  I don't miss any work, excuse myself from events because I can't drink there or use beer to mask anger or fear at the day. I know exactly what I was before this all started and have no desire to return to the days of blackouts, emptiness and the sad existence of a drunk. But still I want to enjoy at least a pint at the end of my day and that is probably not something normal folks do for as long as I have.
  My weight, such as it is, has fluctuated from a low of 270 pounds to the not so impressive 330 I'm packing now. Although I've cut far back from the days of pounding 12 tall boys of Old Milwaukee 5 or 6 days a week, I'm still taking on a lot of empty calories for a man in his mid 40's. No doubt my current job played a little in the weight gain, I've put on 30 pounds in the last year as my dinner hour pushed back the clock until almost 8 p.m. every night, combined with a pint or two a few hours before bed and little exercise. So that will be something I either address within my own sphere or I will have it forced upon me when the inevitable physical breakdowns happen. I've been scared of what my inability to lose weight will do to me as I get older and although I know I need to move more, our old pal anxiety can keep me on the couch longer than any beer could.
  I will say that being able to transform an Instagram account about beer with a funny name attached to it into a forum for mental health and expression has been my biggest surprise about the last 1000 days. I have learned that I am not alone and have built up a fine network of friends in real life and online that helps to prop me up when I cannot stand and leads me to light when I cannot see. This alone has been worth every pint poured or picture taken. The people who have reached out with their own stories and advice have been tremendous and I am grateful for that most of all.
It feels like art to me

  There have been bumps along the way, some people don't like how I rate beer, or talk about my life and the reality of what I am living. Some just don't like me and despite my incredibly insecure need to please everyone, I have learned to let them go. Life is too short to try and be everything to everyone. I will continue to share my beer and my stories with the world, poetry and videos will always make me feel better and I have no doubt in my ability to continue to seek answers for life's questions as I go along.
  I guess the entire 1000 days was a set up, a trip with peaks and valleys, a journey through life with beer as a catalyst to spark my creative side. I write and talk from a place of emotion, heart on my sleeve and a definite lean towards the positive of every situation. I feel the darkness just below the surface but it has weakened over time as I find more ways to express myself and release the emotions I kept bottled up for so long. I'm not sure this is something for everyone, but for me, this has been exactly what I needed to learn to live again.
1000 Days to find this beauty

  Will I not have a beer someday soon? The honest answer is I don't know but to really look hard at myself, I don't see why I should stop enjoying at least one pint a day. Maybe a few less days with more than one is in order, on this I can agree. But for now, I'll keep writing and drinking, sharing my thoughts with the world, one beer at a time.

Here's to another 1000 days!



27 August 2018

Day Drinking

   It's a beautiful morning, the sun is shining and you have the day off. This is an opportune time to get some work done around the house, finish up a few projects and clean up that garage.


  You could settle into your favourite spot and enjoy a few beverages all day long while doing absolutely nothing.
Day drinking is one of those things that few know how to do properly and with society looking on, most avoid. I am not advocating sloppy drunkenness by 10 a.m. but I don't think there is anything wrong with the occasional day spent languidly exploring new beers and catching up on a little time for yourself. 

Here's a schedule for a perfect day spent imbibing and enjoying a little liquid vacation...

9 a.m. - It's time for a porter or stout. Cliché I know, but if your a coffee drinker like I am, that roasty bitterness will help give you a wake up call and a tasty one at that.

10 a.m. - It's time for a little pale ale in your glass as the sun rises a little higher and you want to spread your palate a little. Up the hops and bitterness level for a second pint.

11 a.m. - This is the sweet spot for a good wheat beer in my opinion. Pre lunch and still with the glow of a good night's sleep, the banana and orange notes feel like morning and that peppery backend will wake your palate up for lunch.

Noon - Lunch time! It is important to eat during a day drinking session and I am partial to a nice refreshing pilsner with my midday meal. Clean and crisp, it is perfect for almost anything you'd like to have to eat.

1 p.m. - Full and lounging around under the canopy, you reach for a red or brown ale, something you haven't had in a while and different from what has been in your glass all day. Enjoy a book or a little conversation before that wonderful nap time occurs.

2 p.m. - Nap time! Take a break, close your eyes and set aside your worries for a while. A half hour or so rights any ship and leaves you ready for the rest of the day.

3 p.m. - All the Hops! Time for the first bitter bomb of the day with a classic west coast IPA. It kicks the sleepy thoughts from your mind and pops the taste buds back into shape. Keep it under 7%, still a long way to go.

4 p.m. - That malty hopped up goodness needs a clean follow. Saison time as you prepare dinner. A farmhouse ale, whether funked up with some brett or traditional style will help keep you singing as you head into the back half of your sojourn from reality.

5 p.m. - Dinner time has arrived and as you cook up a feast or a lighter fare, it is time for a sour ale to make its' way into your glass. Tart and kicking up some fruity goodness, find one that suits your mood and enjoy the time spent at the BBQ or stove while your meal cooks.

6 p.m. - Sharing a meal means spending time with people you love. While savouring a fine dinner, why not enjoy a well made lager. Nothing to interfere with the flavours of the food, but rather a refreshing and slightly more flavourful old reliable to wash it all down with.

7 p.m. - Dishes in the dishwasher and a satisfied hunger means it is time to move into the night time. A hazy New England style IPA will do the trick here. Pillowy soft and juicy with a restrained bitterness that sets the stage for a final hurrah of the day.

8 p.m. - As the sun is setting, it is time to break into the cellar for a night cap of epic proportions. Maybe shared with someone close or slow sipped alone in contemplative silence. A big and roasty Bourbon Barrel aged stout or perhaps a barley wine would suit just where you are at this moment. Pour slow, drink slower and let the day end with a smile.

  A list missing a few styles but hey, it's just an idea. Pace your ABV and make sure to hydrate with water all day long. Pause and enjoy each beer for what it is, don't pound and mindlessly reach for another. Spread the joy out the entire day and make sure you have nowhere to go and nothing you need to do.
  Perhaps a little facetious but in all good humour comes a little truth*. Drink responsibly and know your limits.



*relax guys, it's all in good fun...

9 August 2018

On Buck a Beer - It's not about the beer

   If you're reading this, I'm going to assume you fall into one side or the other of the recent government announcement and inducement to Ontario's craft brewers to lower prices to $1. The floor price prior to this was $1.25 and despite that, no one had thought to sell at such a level. There have been many brewers who've come out about the actual costs of making their beer, the commitment to quality ingredients and paying a fair wage to their employees as solid reasons why this will not work. To sell a beer, even a 355ml can, for such a low price is not only a silly idea, it is not viable for any craft brewery to do so without incurring losses.
 That the Conservative government of  Doug Ford wants private business to voluntarily lose money in order to fulfill an ill thought out campaign promise would be laughable if it wasn't so real. The so called inducements of free ads and prime shelf space at the LCBO are not only small and not worth the loss of money and respect, they do take money out of taxpayers pockets through lost revenue. While larger brewers, i.e. Molson's or AB-Inbev, could absorb or even minimally profit from volume sales, there is no indication they desire losing money to help prop up this ridiculous fantasy.
  Some have pointed to some recent government grants to Ontario Craft brewers as the public subsidizing the beer industry as proof that they should play along with this scheme. While it is true that many breweries have accepted grants, they have been used to modernize and expand plants, adding jobs and tax revenue which outweighs the initial investment. There are a myriad of businesses, most much larger and not Canadian owned, that have benefited from government money and intervention with less return to the public purse. We heavily subsidize or control prices in many industries, but never has a government tried to force a business to sell their product for less than they can make it in order to distract the population from the real and present consequences of their policies.
  I am not an economist, just a regular guy who loves his beer and speaks with his hard earned dollars. Paying for quality is what we do when we go to our local craft brewer, pub, restaurant or any other place for a pint. Would I love to pay less? Of course I would, it's always good to see your dollar go further. I'd like to pay less for gas, food and a host of other necessities of daily life too. But this policy announcement wasn't about beer at all. It was about trying to continue the politics of separation, of dividing people and taking eyes and voices away from the other policy decisions this neophyte government has made.  This is bread and circuses at its finest, distracting us away from the 350 million dollar cut to mental Health funding, the reversal on Sex education and the destruction of local democracy in Toronto to name just a few. Buck a beer is nothing more than a smokescreen and any attempt to frame it as greed or being a snob about beer is not only disingenuous but feeding into the class division that is being driven by a rich populist dressed up as a blue collar guy.
  The previous government in Ontario was responsible for some truly terrible decisions, many bordering on dereliction of duty. There is no doubt that trying to cast dispersions of Kathleen Wynne fuels many of the comments and discussions around this policy. But again, this is a distraction from just what is happening in an industry that is providing jobs directly and indirectly, growing every quarter more than the last. Our Craft brewers are important parts of the places they reside in. They fund and participate in local charities and events, they work side by side with each other to promote the entire community and they are, for the most part, committed to creating lasting improvement to where they make and sell beer.
 In small towns and large cities across the province, the taprooms are becoming community hubs, hosting events for everyone and promoting an inclusive and diverse place to get together. While far from perfect, the craft beer people I have met are a caring and genuine group of people who span economic, social and racial divides. We don't agree on everything but we all want our little corner of the world to be a better reflection of who we are. We want to be a big tent for everyone to feel safe and accepted for who they are and as you have seen by the response to this misguided policy, we are united in our passion for good beer and great people.
  So don't be fooled or distracted by the chatter of Buck A Beer. It is politics dressed up in an aluminum can to distract from the real issues of the day. No reputable brewer will attach their names to such a poorly thought out plan and the one's that do will either produce poor beer or lose so much money selling a good product well below profitability that they will suffer the financial consequences. Your dollars matter, vote with your purchasing power and support the large portion of Ontario Craft who have said loud and clear that they are not going to be pawns in this game of musical beers.

I stand with the Boycott of anyone who makes Buck a Beer, because it is about so much more than just beer.



19 July 2018

Don't Give in to Style Fatigue

  The other day I was perusing Twitter, as I do(a lot), and I came across this tweet from the Beer Scribe (@beerscribe) :

  It hit me that I do this unintentionally almost daily and I wanted to explore why. I see so many people who never leave their comfort zone of IPAs, sours or whatever it is they love. They eschew any other style as boring or not for them while what Jordan St. John (@saints_gambit) described as hop creep begins to take hold. 

  Clearly after a month of discount lagers, your taste buds would be more susceptible to intense hop flavours, but what If the opposite is true as well? What if drinking nothing but IPAs, sours or any other style exclusively led to some sort of flavour diminishment or fatigue?
  As a general rule, most people don't keep going to the well once they have decided they don't like a particular style and that's a damn shame if you ask me.  To get stuck in a rut of one or two beer styles seems to me to defeat the true reason we all got into craft beer in the first place, the hatred of homogenous pint after pint. Whether it was an IPA, saison or bitter, I had to learn to appreciate the nuances, flavour profiles and textures that come with each one. Variations on the styles led me down a path of real exploration as the only limit seemed to be the creativity of the brewers who express their art in liquid form. Not everything I've had has been perfect or sometimes even workable, but onward we go in search of the next beer to enjoy.
  It is very easy, however, to get caught up in what you love. I think this happens more with people who subscribe to brand loyalty, even if they won't admit it, when it comes to macro lagers. It used to be you were a Blue or Canadian drinker and that still exists today, albeit in a more diverse way but still with the same downward spiralling results. As a beer drinker, you owe loyalty to nothing but a well made product and an enjoyable experience. Getting caught up in a particular brewery or style of beer makes the whole thing a little reminiscent of our not so distant past and that's a place I for one have no desire to return to.
  Now this is not to say that just because a beer comes from craft brewery that it is automatically the best thing in the world. Indeed, we all have had some beers that completely miss the mark in every way and it's important to be honest about what you are tasting if you choose to share your thoughts with the wider beer world. To not tell the truth because you don't want to rock the boat or you're afraid of some kind of blowback is no reason to pad out a beer that isn't on point. There is no need to be an asshole about not liking something, but it gets tiresome reading that every single beer some people try is awesome, it's just not possible. Want to be taken seriously? Tell the truth. Always and in a way that is productive and open to discussion.
  To return to the initial point of where this was headed, I will refer simply to my own approach to how I drink and share my beer. I look to be as diverse in style as I am in brewery. I want to know about as many different variations on classic and new flavours and I want to experience as many different brewers ideas on those that I can get my hands on. Having visited 135 Ontario Craft breweries in person and having tried a beer from at least 500 different brewers worldwide, my pursuit is wide ranging and never ending. I love big hoppy IPAs, dank and juicy as well as the malty west coast hop bombs. I am a fan of saisons and farmhouse ales, so many directions to go with those that I am surprised almost monthly by what I find. Sours are still relatively new to me and I embrace the opportunity to explore them further. This is to say nothing of the other 20 plus recognized styles and their many, many sub-styles we have access to at any given moment. The only limitation remains the imagination of those who brew and those who drink.
  To find yourself in a never ending loop of one style can only be broken by a conscious effort to diversify what's in your fridge. There's nothing wrong with having a whole whack of your favourite style but try to include something different whenever you are going to enjoy more than one. I usually have the newest beer or the style I am working to understand the most first and then will happily go to whatever suites my fancy next. Sometimes it's Ransack the Universe or Canuck Pale Ale but I always look to find a new beer or brewer to spice up my life.
  Break out of your hop lock, saison straightaway or porter porthole, make the next beer you try something different and let the world into your glass.


17 July 2018

Monday at the Bar (Part 6)

The light is dim in here.
It almost always is, even in daylight.
You can see but the shadows seem to fall on every corner in this place and that feels a little disconcerting.
Sitting at a booth because the bar stools feel a little too familiar and uncomfortable at the same time.
It takes a few minutes longer than you would wait anywhere else to get service but you do it because it would be awkward to leave at this point. The regulars give you a glance as you pour that glistening bottle into a glass you're pretty sure hasn't seen the inside of dishwasher
No one recognizes you. The people you used to drink with here every night have moved on or died and that takes a little bit of you away with it. The bartender looks like she wasn't even born when you started drinking here and you close your eyes to try and remember what was...
The stale smell of a thousand cigarettes and $5 mini pitchers of beer fill your head as that old song plays over the speakers. You open your eyes and see that she's here, a little late and looking at you like you never left. She's the only reason you came back here and it's time
She walks with the confidence of a woman who doesn't take anyone's shit and that was something you always loved about her. Pausing to grab a whisky at the bar, she slides in across from you and for a brief moment, the clock stops and everything goes silent and still...
Do you talk first? Apologize? Does she? Shared silence as you try to find a way to say hello means a few seconds of the look that you both know too well and she smiles as you fumble with your words. She's truly still beautiful and you are glad you came home, even for one day...