Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Celebrating 30 years of Great Lakes beer

Usually when I attend a birthday party there is cake and ice cream.

At Great Lakes Brewery's 30th birthday party, held February 16 at the Antler Room in downtown Toronto, there was none of either. No candles or funny hats either.

None that I noticed anyway.

But there was beer. Lots and lots of glorious beer. And even better than beer (yes, that is possible), there was fabulous company.

Turned out to be an awesome party. I didn't miss the cake at all.

I had heard about GLB's birthday bash a few weeks before and so had a few of my friends, and after a few days of chatting on social media one of us had the brilliant idea that maybe we should attend. And a beer brothers birthday bash was born.

Beer bloggers unite! IPA Tales
(me), Drunk Polkeroo (Robert)
and Brew Ha Ha (Don)
Beer Bro Don was left with a problem, however. His birthday fell two days before the event and he had already booked some time off to celebrate with brewery tours and other stuff normal people do on their birthdays.

(One of his stops was at Great Lakes a few days before this event to deliver a cake to the brewery. Such a considerate fellow.)

What the hell, he said, let's just make it a birthday week.

His boss,  a man named Jeff who is either super awesome or was looking to hold something over my pal, agreed.

Also in for the party was Paul (whose @bigpeezy Twitter handle turned out to be ironic) and Robert and Kathryn, aka Drunk Polkeroo and Mrs. Polkeroo, whose exploits I had been following for months but I had yet to meet.

Throw in my pal Joe from Buster Rhino's in Oshawa and 15 taps of mostly one-off GLB beer, and we had an event I wouldn't have missed for the world. I even booked off a shift at the bar to go, though I smuggled a commemorative glass or two for Darryl, the popular, pugnacious and peerless Buster Rhino's publican, so I'm guessing I am forgiven.

My first stop on the day, however, was the Canadian International Auto Show's Media Day, which thanks to impeccable timing (sometimes things just work out, you know?), was held in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre kinda sorta right across the street from GLB's birthday bash.
My dream car. The Bugatti
Chiron is only $2.5 million.
I'm about $2.5 million short

Lucky, huh?

I arrived late at the show to avoid cooling my heels too long before the main event and missed out on most of the swag usually available at these things. I also missed seeing Joe, an auto union communications guy and Auto Show regular who I was expecting to meet there.

But I did get to see the cars, especially those exotic cars that we can never have but dream about anyway. Like the $2.5 million Bugatti Chiron, a 1500 hp super car that looks like sex on wheels and goes better than 400 kilometres per hour.

But I digress.

Naked News host Natasha
Olensky interviewing some
guy from Ford
I took a bunch of pictures, watched Naked News host Natasha Olensky interview some dude from Ford and finished up with the only perq I could indulge in: a catered affair (breads, cheeses, prosciutto, that sort of thing) held in the Auto Exotica room, home of the Bugatti and the other super cars.

It was licensed as well, so I figured I might as well get the party started.

I enjoyed a couple of glasses of a delicious Merlot (it was either that or macro beer - I made the right choice) and a couple of trips through the buffet line before heading out to the downtown streets to while away an hour or so before the GLB event.

Don had my ticket and I had to wait until he got off the GO Train, so I wandered around the Entertainment District before deciding to hob-knob with the hoity-toitys at the historic Royal York Hotel until my pal arrived.

("Why did you go to the Royal York," Don asked me when we met up. "Comfortable chairs," is what I answered.)

And then we were inside with the throngs of people packed in to the basement bar, all here to celebrate Great Lake's 30 years in the craft beer brewing business.

GLB social media superstar
Troy Burtch with my pal Don
My friends were there - Don, Robert, Kathryn, Paul, Joe (who was at the wine & cheese affair at the Auto Show after all: two ships - sorry, graceful sloops - passing in the night, I guess), Jen (Society of Beer Drinking Ladies) and Ken (Ontario Beer Guy).

Beer writing royalty was in the house as well. While waiting to catch the bartender's eye at the bar I ran into Stephen Beaumont, perhaps the world's foremost authority on beer and the author of about two billion books on the subject, including The World Atlas of Beer (with Tim Webb), which has already been printed in nine languages.

Ben Johnson, the three-time Ontario Beer Writer of the Year, dropped by our table for a chat as well. I chimed in with Don on how much I loved Ben's recent opus on sexism in beer marketing, particularly with the exhaustive research in producing the article.

I promise Ben, I wasn't as drunk as I may have appeared.

The beer was, naturally, amazing, though they ran out of many of the barrel-aged offerings early.

I did try an experimental beer, dubbed #2 Pale Ale (working title: GLB#06927), which was all lemony hops, tartness and deliciousness, as well as Over My Dad Body Pilsner, Harry Porter (Nitro) and Lake Effect IPA.

Robert with the standard for beer writing
in Ontario, Ben Johnson
Actually, I started to go back to Lake Effect, a regular in my glass these days, because the thirsty crowd kept finishing all the kegs. I tried to get a couple of pints of Apocalypse Later Black IPA - one of my favourites - when it was my shout but struck out, and a call for Harry Porter and Complicated Coffee Order was also unanswered.

Oh well. I did meet Stephen when I was up there and came away with a couple of pints of an excellent IPA, so it wasn't all bad.

Our man Polk did get his hands on a special one-off beer, and even though I didn't get to try it it was a great source of amusement anyway.  Seems Robert's lovely bride is not a fan of Sours (to put it mildly), and while Robert enjoyed a glass of Funk'd and Disorderly, a 14.6 per cent Bourbon Barrel-Aged Sour Imperial Porter (first one I've heard of too), Kathryn was busy turning her nose up in disgust.

It certainly smelled funky and even a little disorderly, but Robert gave it the thumbs up.

At the appointed hour we all toasted the brewery with a sample of their 30th Anniversary Ale, an 11.3 per cent Belgian Style Quad aged in Pinot Noir barrels that was rich and delicious.

I need more of that.

The party started breaking up around 11 - our table anyway - as most of us had work the next day and in my case a long train journey (followed by a short cab ride) home.

It was well worth the next day's hangover.

Happy Birthday GLB! May your next 30 years be even more awesome!

And thanks for the glasses.

The Beer Saints hit Durham

Paul Thebeerguy and the Beer Saints.

Sounds like a 60s rock band, but it is actually my pal Paul and a group of his friends who like to visit breweries, swap stories and trade beers.

Paul organized a trip for the Beer Saints last weekend to visit Durham Region, the Next Hot Spot for Craft Beer in Ontario (it's on the internet now, so it must be true), and my home turf.

The itinerary included visits to Brock Street and 5 Paddles in Whitby; Second Wedge in Uxbridge; Old Flame in Port Perry; and Manantler in Bowmanville.

Paul Thebeerguy, Spencer from 5 Paddles
and Robert, aka Drunk Polkeroo
Unfortunately for me, I had my son that day and a work commitment as well so I couldn't join them for the tour but I was able to meet up with them at 5 Paddles, where we enjoyed a bunch of beer samples (including a taste of In Your Face IPA, fresh and un-carbonated, straight from the tank)) and a lesson on local beer history from brewer/co-founder and local legend Spencer McCormack.

The Polkeroos joined Paul for the tour, as did Jen, who was also at the Great Lakes event two days prior.

Other Beer Saints on the fun bus (yes, Paul rented a bus!) included Brett and Danielle, David and Toni, Robin and Michelle.


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