Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Fewer models but more 

Mad Tom at Auto Show

The days are long past when I would attend the Canadian International Auto Show to write a General Motors-specific story and perhaps a sidebar of my choosing and actually get paid for it.

The full-time newspaper gigs are history, as all my former employers were squeezed out by the mega corps, and the freelance business - at least in my neck of the woods east of Toronto - has dried up as well, with the remaining newspapers looking inward and taking all those choice assignments in-house.

But I still get my media pass for the auto show each year and I still use it, if only to pretend for a day that I am still a working journalist. Hey - I'm blogging about it, so they are getting a return on their investment.

They treat you right at the show, with free parking right under the convention centre, a free lunch, a media lounge and a refreshment cart that follows you around all day. Pretty good swag, too, if you consider reporter-sized notebooks and data sticks swag. I do.
Yours truly with Jaguar chief designer Wayne
Burgess, who moonlights with Brit metal band
Scattering Ashes

There would also be craft beer at this event, with Muskoka Brewery serving their excellent beers at the convention centre's upscale restaurant. 

Automotive journalists (not me: the real ones) wield enormous power in the business. They can make or break sales with their reviews and car makers actually do a great deal of business at the show, so we are appropriately feted. I help by telling everyone I know the Jaguar XF and other cars I can't afford are absolutely awesome.

(It would have been nice to hear some good news about General Motors jobs in Oshawa at GM's press conference, what with no employment guarantees beyond 2016, but that's a story for another day.)

Anyway, the new models were great, though there was a severe lack of the other models that are usually ubiquitous at auto shows. Perhaps cutbacks in the industry have filtered down to modelling agencies as well. Pity.

Jake guarding my Mad Tom IPA
from beer thieves
I also couldn't get into the Auto Exotica room, which houses supercars like the $1.9 million Pagani Huayra, a Bentley and Masarati or three; Lamborghinis and Ferraris and Rolls Royces. I had to get back to Oshawa so the 4 pm grand opening was too late for me.

A final downer happened when I went looking for the Muskoka  Brewery restaurant and discovered it wouldn't be open until the show's official opening the following day.

Damn. But my pass was good for the entire week so when I learned Jake was game to see all the shiny models we headed downtown on Family Day. I was going to see supercars, and by God I was going to have a Mad Tom IPA.

So we toured the show - including the Auto Exotica room, where I climbed into the cockpit of a Maserati - and the J Man spent more than a few minutes in the X Box One exhibit, which was clearly his favourite spot at the show. We also made it to the Muskoka Brewery restaurant.

I did say it was an posh restaurant, and the menu prices reflected that. Twelve bucks for an appetizer Naan Mini-Pizza? I think we're sharing this, I tell Jake. "What's Naan," he asks. "Will I like it?" I assured him he would. "Trust me. You'll like it." He liked it.

I also got my Mad Tom, and then it time for us to go. After retrieving my car from the underground parking lot (free on media day; $25 this day) we headed home, after stops at the Indie Alehouse (a couple of bombers of Instigator IPA and one bottle of Barnyard Belgian IPA) and finally at my folks house in the city's north-west end for dinner.

A few more models would have been nice and a break on the parking rates would have been cool, too. Some positive news on Oshawa's economic future would have been even better. But in the whole, a few good days playing reporter again was pretty damn good.


Beer Headquarters. Wait...what?
The Beer Store has been getting its share of negative press lately but the LCBO hasn't come away squeaky clean either. Seems like a golden opportunity to show Ontarians how viable an option the liquor store can be is wasted if the employees don't give craft beer respect.

Case in point is found in this picture, which shows a few cases of wine plunked down right in the middle of the craft beer section under the 'Beer Headquarters' sign.

So you had extra wine and you didn't know where to put it. Fine. Just don't fucking put it there. 

On the bright side, I was in the same store the other day in a very long line-up with just one teller open. Within seconds that single checkout mushroomed to four. That's how you do customer service. Now if only they could figure out how to treat craft beer customers properly.

Rant over.


Finally, a few beer reviews:

Mikkeller Green and Gold IPA - A hazy mahogany on the pour with a creamy head, this has plenty of delicious citrus on the nose with some pine as well. There is some sweet caramel and biscuit at the start, then lots of grapefruit and pine with some tropical fruit to give it a sticky bitter finish. Another fine IPA from Northern Europe.
Mikkeller Green and Gold IPA

Spearhead Belgian Stout - Black as a Monks scapular with a thick, frothy head that dissipates quickly. Smoky banana, espresso, dark fruits, Belgian spices and a bit of chocolate. Smooth but also quite light. Could use a bit more oomph but likeable.

Black Oak Pale Ale - Golden with a nice head. Subtle hops and biscuity malts on the nose. A little pine, a touch of citrus and light caramel sweetness. Clean. Very drinkable.

Chimay Blue Trappist Ale - Scored 100 on Rate Beer. Pours very dark with a creamy, almost stout-like head which dissipates quickly. The aroma of Belgian yeast is strong. Tastes of caramel, raisin and more Belgian spices. Very smooth with a slight boozy kick at the finish. Well carbonated. Very nice.


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