Moving Day

I’m about to start moving this blog from hosting to a self-hosted WordPress install. This will allow me to do more with it – some things that will be noticeable to readers, others more back-end in nature – and will eventually allow for more integration with my other sites, like Canadian Beer News.

(This is the second time I’ve moved the damn thing – the first was a move from Blogger to WordPress back in 2007 – and hopefully, it’ll be the last.)

It should only take a day or two to get all of the DNS transferring and domain redirecting and exporting and importing taken care of. But while the move is happening, there will likely be periods of time where leads to an “Under Construction” page, or some other indicator that things aren’t quite ready. There might be some bouncing emails as well, for those trying to get in touch with me that way.

Wish me luck!

UPDATE: Well, things went much more smoothly than I expected, and while the new site still needs some tweaking, it’s up and running. If you are seeing this post, it means that the domain server changes haven’t yet propagated to your ISP, but that should happen soon.

Canadian Beer News for January 24th to February 6th 2011

Here’s a round-up of my posts for the last two weeks over at Canadian Beer News:

Feb 4th: Labatt Quietly Rolls Out Rolling Rock in Ontario
Feb 4th: Labatt To Distribute and Brew Keith’s in the USA
Feb 4th: CAMRA BC Launches Fraser Valley Branch
Feb 3rd: Welly One Off Series Continues With A Limited Edition Stout
Feb 3rd: Alley Kat Planning New Big Bottle Series
Feb 3rd: Pacific Western To Launch Natureland Organic Black Stout
Feb 1st: Canadian Food Blog Awards 2010 Winners Announced
Jan 28th: RateBeer Best 2011 Includes Some CanCon
Jan 25th: Propeller Continues One-Hit Wonder Series With Double IPA
Jan 25th: CAMRA Vancouver Awards 2011 Announced
Jan 25th: Kichesippi Buys Scotch-Irish Brands
Jan 24th: Dead Frog Chocolate Mint Brown Ale Now Available

A Week of Whisky: Red Stag by Jim Beam

Right. So, my weekend off from writing means that what was supposed to be a week of whisky posts is now extended into a second week. Let’s just pretend, shall we?

I’ll start this one by stating right up front that I don’t hold much truck with flavoured versions of traditionally unflavoured spirits. I make an exception for booze that’s house-infused at fancy bars, since they’re generally working with natural ingredients, and doing interesting things with the end result. But store bought hooch that’s spiked with artificial flavouring? Call me crazy, but when I drink gin or rum or bourbon, I usually want to taste gin or rum or bourbon.

So when a bottle of Red Stag by Jim Beam (LCBO 198200 – $26.95/750 mL) arrived last week, and I saw “Black Cherry Flavoured Bourbon Whiskey” emblazoned on the label, I’ll admit that I was predisposed to dislike it even before I opened it. Seeing “Sugar” and “Artificial Flavour(s)” * on the ingredients list didn’t do much to alleviate my concern.

* Yes, the bottle in the photo above says “Infused with Natural Flavors”. It’s from the U.S. website. So either they’re using a different formula south of the border, or the rules about what’s “Natural” are looser down there.

But as always, I did my best to tamp down my prejudgment so I could approach and review this new-to-Canada product as fairly as possible.

(See what I do for you people? I really hope you appreciate it.)

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Canadian Beer News for January 17th-23rd 2011

Here’s a round-up of my posts for the last week over at Canadian Beer News:

Jan 20th: Barley Days Releases Working Man’s Stout
Jan 20th: Cannery Brewing Expands With New Fermenters
Jan 20th: Driftwood Singularity Russian Imperial Stout Now Available
Jan 19th: Explores the History of Canada’s Brewing Dynasties

A Week of Whisky: Master of Malt – Drinks by the Dram

As I noted a couple of posts back, I’m far from being an expert on whisky, and a lot of that has to do with the limited exposure I’ve had to it.

Sure, I’ve been lucky enough in the past couple of years to attend a fair number of media tastings, and the samples that arrive at my door from time to time are appreciated as well. But even with all of that, I know that I’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s out there in the wide world of whisky (and whiskey, and bourbon, etc.), and quite frankly, the main thing holding me back from becoming a serious whisky nerd is the cost. I’d love to have a cabinet stocked with all my favourite spirits from Scotland and Ireland and the Southern US and beyond – but until I win the lottery or find some other path to wealth, it just ain’t gonna happen.

The folks at Master of Malt, a whisky and spirits mail order service the UK, know that there are a lot of people like me out there. And while they can’t go so far as to start sending us free bottles of anything we want – because as nice as that would be, it’s really not much of a business model – they’ve done the next best thing with an initiative called Drinks by the Dram, in which they’re offering a selection of items from their inventory of 3000+ whiskies and spirits in 30 mL samples that start at £1.95 per cute l’il bottle.

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A Week of Whisky: The Macallan

While I do get around to writing about whisky eventually in this post, there’s a bit of meandering along the way. If you only care about the booze, feel free to skip to the last few paragraphs – but if you do that, you’ll be missing a good rant!

Also, sorry for the crap photos – I forgot my camera and was using my two-years-old-but-already-ancient iPhone.

And yes, I know that I’ve already missed a posting day in this supposed Week of Whisky. No need to rub it in…

Writing for TAPS Magazine, TasteTO, this blog and a few other places has put me in an odd position of being somewhere between a blogger and “real” media in the eyes of many PR firms and others who are looking to pitch stories. And believe me when I say that there can be a big difference between the way that some PR folks approach and treat bloggers versus more traditional or established media outlets.

In the case of blogs, pitches are often filled with loads of mumbo-jumbo about “tastemakers” and “social media outreach” and “influencers” and such. They can  also try to build a false air of mystery around whatever product is being promoted, saying only that we should “save the date” for the launch of an “exciting new high end spirit” at a “trendy downtown location,” or similar nonsense.

Pitches aimed at more traditional media, however, tend to be straightforward and to the point. The PR companies know that people who write for a living generally don’t have the time or the patience to deal with extraneous fluff and bullshit, so they simply say what’s going to be offered, where and when. Easy peasy.

A couple of months back, I was able to make a good comparison of these two approaches when I received invitations to a tasting event for The Macallan whisky from two different sources.

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A Week of Whisky: Gibson’s Finest

I’m not sure if it’s a reaction to my articles on Glenfiddich and Jack Daniel’s posted to TasteTO last fall, or just a general increase in the number of tasting events being held and promo samples being sent out. But whatever the reason, I’ve seen a serious spike in pitches to do stories on whisky recently – so much of a spike that I have quite a backlog of notes and samples to get through and write up.

While it might be a bit optimistic of me given my usual track record with these sort of things, I’m going to attempt to do a series of daily posts this week covering the various whiskies I’ve sipped and savoured in the past couple of months. I’ll note right up front that even though I love the stuff, I’m far from being a whisky expert, but one of the reasons I want to do this series and future articles on the topic is to help myself learn more about wide variety of whiskies and other related spirits that are out there.

First up is the series is Gibson’s Finest, a Canadian whisky that I’d never tried before a tasting a couple of months back. The history of Gibson’s is long and complicated, and rather than trying to recap it here,  I’ll just mention that the brand is currently owned by William Grant & Sons (also owner of Glenfiddich, Balvenie, and many other whisky and spirit brands), and direct those who would like to know more to this post on the excellent website Canadian Whisky that gives the whole story.

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