Wow, nearly a month since my last post. That’s a long time, even for an irregular and inconsistent blogger like myself. Lotsa things have been keeping me busy – in fact, looking back at my social calendar for the last month, you could say that I’ve just been too busy drinking good beer (+ other things) and eating great food to write about any of it…
Fri May 1st: Monthly beer tasting night with my usual crew – Paul, Harry, Jeff and Jer – at Paul’s place. As always, there were a bunch of great beers consumed – plus a few not so good ones – and plenty of shit was shot.
Mon May 5th: Media preview dinner at Grace, which just may be my new favourite restaurant (my only real complaint being the poor beer list). I liked it so much that Sheryl and I went back a couple of weeks later, and she wrote a glowing profile for Taste T.O.
Tue May 6th: Ontario Brewing Awards at Bier Markt. Due to last year’s infamous Steelback incident, even less breweries that usual participated in this year’s edition, with only 57 beers entered into 15 categories. So the results should be taken with a grain or three of salt, but the event itself was the usual good time, a chance to chat with a few local brewers while enjoying some complimentary pours of the gold medal winners.
Wed May 7th: International Wine Tasting at The Carlu. We originally planned to go to several events during the Santé Wine Festival, but this was the only one we were able to make it to. As wine newbies, it was a bit overwhelming – 300 wines from 74 wineries representing 12 countries – but pretty enjoyable once we got into the sampling. I pulled some tasting notes out of my ass for a Taste T.O. write-up.
Thu May 8th: Weihenstephan launch at Bier Markt. New import agents Beer Barons are bringing the beers of Germany’s Weihenstephan Brewery to Ontario for the first time, and they threw a big bash to celebrate the launch, with sampling stations pouring six Weihenstephan brands along with fantastic food pairings. Plus a take-home loot bag with a branded stein and other goodies. One of the Barons hooked me up with bottles of all six brews a couple of days later, and a full review post is forthcoming.
Thu May 15th: LCBO Summer Speciality Beer tasting. For years now, the LCBO has held advance tastings of new wine releases for wine writers, and now they’re finally doing the same for beer writers. “Sensory Evaluation Room B” at LCBO Toronto Warehouse was the venue for this tasting, which featured 9 of the 13 beers from the LCBO’s new Summer Speciality Beer release. A summary of my notes appeared in my weekly beer column on Taste T.O. earlier this week.
Thu May 15th: Great Lakes Orange Peel Ale launch at The Victory. I unfortunately couldn’t make it to this event, but it was apparently quite a good time, and I always like to give the Great Lakes folks a mention.
Sun May 18th: It was a long weekend up here, so Jeff and family (wife Kelly and toddler son Conor) invited a few folks over for a casual gathering. Sheryl and I stopped for a stellar dinner at beerbistro beforehand, and then waddled our overstuffed bellies down to their condo for a couple of hours of beer drinking and Wii playing. I was great at one of these activities, and useless at the other – I’ll let you guess which is which.
Thu May 22nd: Steelback media event at Mirto Restaurant. After a few months of restructuring and recovery from bankruptcy protection, the much-maligned Steelback Brewery is back with new ownership, new branding, and most importantly, NO FRANK D’ANGELO! – uh, I mean, improved beers! A very generous delivery was sent to me by the PR company the following week, and a write-up on the full line will be up here soon.
Fri May 23rd: Spring Festival of Small Brewers at C’est What. This semi-annual tradition is always a great time, with 40ish different craft beers from Ontario and a couple of other provinces available for tasting at a buck per sample. I got in a few tastes, including a couple of new brews, and then headed north a few blocks to meet Sheryl for dinner at Harlem, an upscale soul food restaurant where the beer is crap but the food is incredible.
Sat May 25th: 2nd Annual Summer Saison Tasting at Jan‘s place. Jan is part of my extended circle of beer pals, and after missing last year’s instalment of this now annual event and hearing others rave about it, I had to make it this year. Even with the 40 minute train ride each way, it was soooo worth it: a whack of great saisons and other beers, and a completely decadent spread of food, including an absolutely insane selection of cheese and to-die-for Belgian pastries. This boy knows how to throw down a tasting!
Tue May 27th: Unibroue trade & media tasting at Archeo. After a couple of years of all but ignoring the Ontario market, Unibroue is making a comeback, bringing some of their brands back to the LCBO, and also making a really big push for the bar and restaurant market. This event was to advance the second goal, and featured tasting stations pouring 7 different beers, each paired with canapés, as well as a beer & cheese pairing presentation by Unibroue’s Pascal Robitaille, following which the suggested cheese for each beer was also available for tasting. And let’s not forget the do-it-yourself poutine station featuring such fancy-schmancy toppings as smoked chicken, duck confit and spiced lamb along with the traditional cheese curds and gravy. The turn out was strong, so we should be seeing Unibroue beers appearing at a lot of spots around town soon.
Damn, May was a busy month. And my dance card is already starting to fill up for June…