Brands on the Brain

The summer is almost over and breweries will slowly be ramping down production as their busiest season comes to an end. Fermenters will be freeing up for new seasonals and stronger winter beers. It is a good time for breweries to look at their sales numbers and figure out what beers people are buying a lot of and if there are brands that can should maybe be phased out of production.

The beer industry is dynamic and tastes are always changing. Ontario is undergoing a rapid change right now and the breweries are doing a decent job of keeping up with the evolving demands of the consumer. But one area that breweries could improve is by looking at their core brands and figure out if any of them are under performing. There are a good number of breweries, especially those that have existed for ten or more years, that have brands that are too similar.

I understand that the best-selling beers for most breweries is an easy drinking lager or ale. It sells well and makes money, even if the more adventurous offerings are doing well and likely growing at a larger rate. The best-selling beer can be sold to the greatest amount of bars and is easy to take to summer festivals around the province. People won’t be scared away by it when they come for a brewery tour. It may act as a gateway beer or just be the everyday beer that people in the local community can drink. I’m not advocating getting rid of that beer. It’s that beer you’ve got right beside it, the cream ale or stock ale, that leaves me puzzled.

Two Ontario breweries that I can think of (Muskoka and Cameron’s) have lagers and cream ales. Mill Street has their Organic Lager and a Stock Ale. Wellington has the Special Pale Ale and Best Bitter. (Read the descriptions of the beers and tell me they don’t sound almost exactly the same.) Maybe these beers seemed vastly different they were introduced to the market, but now the breweries are left pushing what seem like very similar beers.  The longer they keep both brands alive, the more time and effort they are wasting in the brand that sells less. (They’re also wasting valuable LCBO shelf space, which will become more important in the coming years.)

This isn’t a judgment on any of the beers. And yes, I am well aware that lagers and ales are very different, nor am I claiming that any of the above beers taste the same. It just seems like a bizarre business move to have beers that are close to being interchangeable. Are reps going into bars and saying, “Well, maybe you don’t like our lager but have you tried our cream ale?” You might as well say, “Here’s a variation of the beer you just turned down.” Why not get rid of the brand that sells less, push more of the better selling beer and use the extra fermenter space to try something new?

A good example of a brewery that does this right is Beau’s. The Lug Tread is their flagship and none of the seasonal beers could be confused with that beer. They realize what their main money maker is and don’t undercut that brand by releasing something similar. The fact that the Lug Tread is also their only year-round beer also helps in that regard.

Stopping production on beers is not unheard of in Ontario. Muskoka tried a Pilsner Light beer but eventually canned it after a couple of years (pun intended). Their Hefe Weiss went from year-round in cans to a seasonal product, so it’s not as if there isn’t a precedent. As the craft beer industry becomes more competitive in the coming years, my theory is that breweries will have to talk a hard look at what they are making and figure out how to distinguish themselves from the competition. Hopefully they will realize that focusing more energy on one or two core brands will help them in the long run. The short-term pains of angering beer drinkers losing their favourite beer will be met by bigger long-term gains.

Movie Review: Drinking Buddies

poster_md2To everyone that is scared away by a romantic comedy set inside a craft brewery, let me say this: Drinking Buddies is not a comedy and, depending on your perspective, may not be all that romantic. Yes, it deals with the subject of love, but in a messy way (and not just because one of the main characters is a brewer caked with sweat and grime). While the trailer is correct with the salient plot points (there are two couples and each person is attracted to the opposite-sex partner in the other couple), do not expect a lighthearted, easy going tone to the film.

The brewer, Luke (played by Jake Johnson of New Girl), is engaged to Jill (Anna Kendrick, who I adore) though they aren’t rushing to set a date. Luke works at the brewery with Kate (Olivia Wilde) and the two have an obvious connection (and good on-screen chemistry). Luke and Kate play the more free-spirited and adventurous part of this love-square, while Jill and Kate’s boyfriend Chris (Ron Livingston) are more intellectual and focused. Everyone is attracted to the similar part of the other couple, which is where things start to get messy.

Except that the film doesn’t lead the characters to the obvious place (the bedroom). The furthest things go is a kiss. We observe from the outside as the characters play around the boundaries of the emotional affair, especially the work spouse dynamic of Luke and Kate. Not a whole lot happens in the film, possibly because most of the dialogue was improvised so there isn’t really any place to go. Drinking Buddies really could have used a subplot to explore its themes a little deeper and to pick up the pace a little.

What’s in the film for a craft beer lover? Not much really, aside from a couple of brewing montages, trying to figure out what beers they are drinking (Founder’s Centennial or Half Acre Daisy Cutter, for instance) and looking at the brewery t-shirts of Kate and Luke. (Jason Sudeikis also name drops 3 Floyds when talking about a staff trip.) There’s also a tracking shot that passes by some barrels being washed, so that happens.

The one subject the movie doesn’t touch on is alcoholism, though it is hard not to watch it and not wonder about the amount that people drink. There are few scenes that don’t involve Kate and Luke having a beer (plus the odd shot or two). Whether they are at a bar, home or work, beer is always being consumed. There are times when it seems like they may be abusing this access to beer, like a late scene where Kate comes into work and heads straight for the taps. The movie doesn’t condone or support the amount they drink, but it’s hard not to question their drinking habits (even for people that work at a brewery).

Drinking Buddies is not a must-see for beer lovers, though an interesting movie choice for those wanting a character-driven film about intimacy and fidelity. The performances from the four main cast members are all very natural and give a sense of verisimilitude to the film. If you like open ended movies that allow for debate and discussion, this fits the bill.

Drinking Buddies is now available to rent online and should be playing in Toronto starting September 6th.

Beer Review: Amsterdam De Wallen

IMG_4283Let me introduce you to the Amsterdam De Wallen, the first Ontario-made barrel aged sour ale available at the LCBO. The De Wallen was announced rather quietly, suddenly appearing on store shelves without much hype other than some social media mentions. The distribution has been fairly limited (mainly Toronto with the odd case popping up elsewhere in the GTA) and quantity is small, which may explain why the De Wallen hasn’t been given a bigger push. While it has been a while since a review has appeared on this blog, it didn’t seem right to let this momentous occasion pass by without some fanfare.

The De Wallen is a framboise that was aged in Flat Rock pinot noir barrels for a year with an assortment of yeasts and bacteria to lend tartness and provide some balance to the sweetness of the fruit. It pours a hazy ruby with tints of auburn and a thin topping of almost-white foam. Big raspberry aroma that contains both the sweet and sour elements of the fruit. A bit of oak and Brettanomyces in the nose as well. The most impressive part of the beer is the taste, which varies from sip to sip. Sometimes a big raspberry flavour jumps out, sweet at first and then fading into a tart, lactic finish. Wood and tannin burst forth at other times with a faint hint of fruit underneath. The fine carbonation is just right for this style and helps make this complex and yet very refreshing at the same time.

The De Wallen reminds me most of a cross between a fruit-infused Belgian lambic and a Flemish Red. This is a big step forward for Amsterdam and hopefully one that leads to even more experiments with sours that see wider distribution. Nothing like the De Wallen has been released by an Ontario brewery before, both in terms of style and quality. This is a world class beer, one that will hopefully appeal to the average Amsterdam fan as much as the beer geeks. Once again, the bar has been raised.

Searching for the Perfect Summer Beer

IMG_4324Everyone remember the beginning of July when it was 40º C and really gross? I looked in my fridge and it was full of all the usual beer geek delights – IPAs and pale ales, a couple of porters and stouts, the odd strong bottle left over from spring and a good chunk of sours that had just returned from Belgium. There were some great beers, but I didn’t want to drink any of them. I wanted something lighter, more refreshing and a beer that wouldn’t challenge my taste buds too drastically on the way down. At the same time, I still desired something with character and a beer that would match well with the lighter foods that constitute summer cooking. (I live in a BBQ-less universe, so my wife makes a lot of delicious grain salads in the summer.) I also wanted a beer that could easily be transported around town (both from the LCBO and to summer gatherings) so I limited my options to cans.

I went shopping to a couple of LCBOs without checking what they had in stock and started picking an assortment of beers. My carts were filled with cans from around the globe – European lagers nestled next to Ontario craft beers and I even threw in some of the retro hipster brands from the Big Boys. Most of the beers I hadn’t tried in years and it seemed only fair to give everyone a chance at being my mainstay for the summer months. My hope was to find something that would be available at most LCBOs in order to maximize convenience, while not giving up taste. Ideally the beer was also going to be 5% ABV or less and available in tall boys, though it didn’t matter if they were lagers or ales.

I used to have a favourite can for summer, back when Muskoka canned the Hefe Weiss. Since then the brand has been changed to Summer Weiss, went to big bottles (then six packs) and lost me along the way. At the time, it seemed like it was going to be a long, hot summer and I knew that my current beer selection would not do. Of course, the summer has turned out to be relatively mild and it has been easy to drink whatever a beer geek fancies, but I kept going through with my quest. The weather is supposed to heat up in Toronto this week, so this may be the last chance to release my findings at an appropriate time.

A couple of early offerings were Ontario beers that hadn’t crossed my palate in some time, but neither the Wellington Best Bitter or Muskoka Cream Ale matched what I was looking for (a little too much malt in the former, while the latter just made no sense to my taste buds). The hipster retro offerings (Molson Old Style Pilsner and Labatt 50) were more exciting than your average industrial beer, but neither would be able to hold my interest over the course of the summer.

Next up were some middle of the road offerings – Cameron’s Lager and the Hogtown Ale (which is of the Kölsch family). Two beers that were easy to drink and with a bit more complexity than the ones listed above, but they didn’t stand out from the pack. The Cameron’s Lager was clean with lots of cereal grains coming though, but too empty in the finish. The Hogtown Ale had some noble hop characteristics that were nice and helped create a dry finish, but the beginning was too sweet and the beer lacked some finesse. It is also only available in Toronto, which isn’t helpful for the rest of the province.

That Pilsner Urquell would be one of the top two choices is probably not a surprise. It is the classic example of a Bohemian lager, well balanced and with a great evolution from start to finish. This is a refreshing beer, while still being very tasty and intriguing. The second beer that will be a mainstay for hot days is the Steam Whistle Pilsner. Most beer geeks relegate Steam Whistle as one of the beers they drink when nothing else is available, which is a disservice to this beer. It won’t do the trick for those times when you’re craving a pale ale, IPA or stout, but works quite nicely when you’re drinking a fresh can on a hot day. It avoids the lager trap of being too sweet and just feels right for those really hot days. Plus, it’s just about impossible to walk into an LCBO and find some cans. I’ll admit that Steam Whistle wouldn’t have been my guess for a beer to come out on top of this exercise, but maybe the beer has slowly worn me down through the years.

So that was my very unscientific experiment of the summer. There will probably be people that say, “I can’t believe you didn’t try (insert beer name)!” but remember that I just went to an LCBO and picked what was available. I also purposefully avoided hoppy beers like Crazy Canuck, because there are enough of those in my fridge and the whole point was to look for something different. If you’ve got a go to summer can for hot days, camping trips or park afternoons, let me know in the comments.

LCBO 2013 Fall and Halloween Releases (Plus the Quebec Brewery Feature)

The LCBO has announced three releases for the autumn, the Fall Beer releases, Halloween and the Quebec brewery feature. No date for when to expect the beers on shelves.

The Fall release:

Sawdust City Long Dark Voyage to Uranus Stout / 650 / $7.95 (RB/BA)
Les Trois Mousquetaires Porter Baltique / 750 / $9.25 (RB/BA)
Charlevoix La Vache Folle Imperial Milk Stout / 500 / $5.65 (RB/BA)
Amager Rye Porter / 500 / $6.25 (RB/BA)
Midtfyns X-Porter / 500 / $5.95 (RB/BA)
Xbeeriment Black Force 1 Imperial Stout / 500 / $5.25 (RB/BA)
8 Wired iStout / 500 / $7.20 (RB/BA)
Box Steam Funnel Blower Porter / 500 / $3.95 (RB/BA)
Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout / 550 / $4.95 (RB/BA)
Deschutes Black Butte Porter / 650 / $5.30 (RB/BA)
Lost Coast 8 Ball Stout / 650 / $4.80 (RB/BA)


Quite the interesting release! I have never seen a release that is completely dominated by two styles and its variations, though apparently there used to be a release only for porter and stouts. Some of these seem like beers that would have been more appropriate for the winter release, but I won’t complain about that. Based on the styles, it is not surprising that the beers have really high ratings. This is a release to get excited for (unless you hate porters and stouts) with lots of interesting beers to try.

The Halloween release:

Howe Sound Pumpkineater Imperial Pumpkin Ale / 1000 / $11.95 (RB/BA)
Grand River Highballer Pumpkin Ale / 500 / $3.95 (RB/BA)
Great Lakes Pumpkin Ale / 650 / $4.95 (RB/BA)
Black Creek Pumpkin Ale / 500 / $3.95 (RB/BA)
St. Ambroise Pumpkin Ale / 4 X 341 / $9.95 (RB/BA)
Renaissance – Enlightenment Pumpkin / 500 / $5.95 (RB/BA)
Le Brasseurs de Montreal Ghosttown Stout / 341 / $2.95 (RB/BA)
Shepherd Neame Spooks Ale / 500 / $3.55 (RB/BA)
Brooklyn Post Road Pumpkin Ale / 355 / $2.50 (RB/BA)
Southern Tier Pumking Ale / 650 / $9.05 (RB/BA)
Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin Ale / 625 / $7.95 (RB/BA)


Meh. Two new beers (the Shepherd Neame and Renaissance) and lots of retreads. The pumpkin fans should be happy once again, but I may avoid buying any of these.

The Quebec feature:

Dieu Du Ciel – Penombre Black IPA / 4 X 341 / $12.25 (RB/BA)
Dunham Belgian IPA / 750 / $6.35 (RB/BA)
Trou Du Diable Le Sang D’Encre / 375 / $3.65 (RB/BA)
Charlevoix Dominus Vobiscum Hibernus / 750 / $14.40 (RB/BA)
Les Trois Mousquetaires Doppelbock / 750 / $10.05 (RB/BA)


While not a bad selection of beers, it is kind of bland for a release featuring Quebec beers. The only new brewery to the LCBO is Dunham and there is nothing exciting for people that make beer trips to Quebec. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Charlevoix and Trois Mousquetaires beers sit on shelves for a while at that price.

Beer Travels: Cleveland, the Mistake on the Lake

DSCN3642The one question that I got the most in the weeks leading up to this trip was, “Why Cleveland?” The answer was simple – five friends going to two Indians games and a Browns practice. It wasn’t our first choice for the sports trip, but it offered the best selection of options on a weekend when everyone was available. Plus, Cleveland has that other Great Lakes brewery, which assured that there would be some excellent beers consumed along the way. Surely Cleveland would have some other attractions to offer up for a fun weekend away from our wives and girlfriends.

While the sports side of things held up fairly well – two nice nights watching baseball outdoors and one afternoon standing on the sidelines while coaches dropped f-bombs at football players – the rest of Cleveland was a little lacking. It’s no surprise that Cleveland is a bedroom community and most of the nightlife was concentrated in a couple of small areas. Luckily it is home to three brewpubs (Great Lakes is obviously the most well known, while Market Garden and Nano Brew are owned by the same folks). These three are all situated within a block of each other, making it very easy to do a pub crawl. (There was also a free shuttle from the stadium to Great Lakes, which was awesome!)

Progressive Field (aka the Jake) passed the ballpark beer test – Great Lakes was on tap at a couple of stands (Dortmunder Gold, Burning River Pale Ale and a third option I forget – maybe the Eliot Ness), one stand that had bottle options from around Ohio and one Budweiser stall that offered up Goose Island IPA. Prices were in line with a can of beer in Toronto, for those who care about that sort of thing. Great Lakes was our first stop after the game and was the best option of a classic brewpub. Not a huge selection or anything too exciting from a beer geek perspective, but Great Lakes beer really has to be fresh for maximum appreciation so that was nice. Nice pub food with a lot of locally sourced ingredients and friendly service.

Nano Brew was next, offering thirty taps that featured some of their own beers, some from Market Garden and the rest from around the States. The selection was phenomenal, but the vibe was not what I expected from a brewpub or craft beer bar. Most of the other people in the bar were dressed for a night out that involved heavy partying and/or the wooing of potential mates. There was only bar service and a DJ booth high above the bar meant that music was given a priority over conversation. On one hand I wanted to be happy that people viewed a brewpub as a  fun and exciting place to go out, but it also occurred to me that there was just nothing else going on in Cleveland. Market Garden was actually worse – the skirts were higher and most of the men were wearing dress shirts and jeans. Then lights suddenly turned on at 2am and the police started kicking everyone out. (The high police presence in the Ohio City area should have been a good clue that people went out more to get drunk than enjoy a couple of nice pints.) The beers were good at both locations, but the atmosphere was not to our taste. We did not return to this area on Saturday night.

The one place I would recommend to anyone visiting Cleveland would be Save On Tobacco and Beverage. It’s not much to look at and the name is sketchy, but it was one of the most impressive bottle shops I have seen in some time. It is in Mentor (about twenty minutes outside of Cleveland), but just off the highway if you’re driving from the east. Give yourself lots of time to look around and make sure you find the Ohio section.

But let’s be honest – I wouldn’t recommend visiting Cleveland. There’s nothing wrong with Cleveland, it just isn’t that exciting. Our guess for the insane amount of police patrolling such a small area of bars was that people had nothing to do other than drink, so trouble was inevitable. The downtown is clean and felt very safe, both at night and during the day. It’s just very, very boring. Almost everything downtown was closed on Sunday, which made me wonder how bad things would be if there wasn’t a baseball game happening. You could do much better in Detroit or Pittsburgh if looking for a long weekend away. Or do a shorter beer run in Buffalo and spend the night in better bars. Unless you want to mix craft beer and clubbing, in which case I have got just the city for you!

2013 Predictions: Update #5

One beer, multiple ticks! Thanks to the Amsterdam De Wallen (a fantastic beer – check LCBO availability) a couple of points have been added to the 2013 Predictions:

  • The De Wallen is barrel aged. That category is almost done.
  • It also contains brett and lacto, giving a second tick. (It also has pediococcus, though that was not a yeast mentioned in the prediction.)

The De Wallen could actually go for a hat trick if it is considered to be Belgian in style. Going to have to check with Amsterdam on that one. With the two points, the current tally is now 14.5 points out of a possible 31.

The Ontario Microbrewery Strategy and the Politics of Craft Beer

There has been a small amount of debate recently over the Ontario Microbrewery Strategy and what involvement the provincial government should have in supporting the craft beer industry in Ontario. The money ($1.2 million/year through 2016) comes from the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment and goes to helping breweries with marketing, training and tourism opportunities, all in the name of job creation (though the fact that craft beer keeps seeing rapid increases in sales at the LCBO probably helps).

Trying to talk about the Ontario Microbrewery Strategy without getting into personal political beliefs is rather hard. There are those who think that government money should not be used to support industries, regardless of size or location. Others will argue that such initiatives are welcome for craft breweries that struggle to compete against the international conglomerates that are able to utilize economies of scale, large marketing budgets and other possible tax incentives that encourage industries to stay within a city/province/country.

Then there is the issue of how the government should support the industry, which is raised in a very interesting article by Porter’s House Beer in the article “How much beer will $2.4 million buy?” To me, the Ontario Microbrewery Strategy is better for larger craft breweries (Muskoka, Mill Street, Beaus are three examples) that have established brands, bigger market share and multiple beers that get distributed throughout the province. That may not seem fair, but these are the breweries that have worked hard to develop the craft market and should be rewarded for their efforts. While the money is not sustainable, it would not be a large hindrance to the breweries should the money even disappear.

Others, such as Junction owner Tom Paterson in this CBC article/video, want grants or loans to assist new breweries. This is an idea I want to support as a craft beer lover until my the logical side of my brain takes over. Craft breweries, just like any business, should be responsible for finding their own investors to front the capital costs. (I was going to mention small business loans – oops, just did – but then realized that the startup costs for a new brewery would mean any loan would probably buy one-tenth of a fermenter). The number of new breweries set to open in the next year or two is astounding, so people are evidently finding sources of money to cover startup costs. I’m sure it’s tough work, but isn’t that what every small business owner/entrepreneur says?

The number of new breweries opening in the province right now is staggering and my fear is that making it easier to find money to open a brewery (or expand production facilities) would lead to a lot more supply than demand. Ontario seems to be blissfully living in a state where any craft beer will sell, but that will definitely not be the case forever. Studies have shown that people will give up larger luxuries during tough economic times (say, vacations or cars) and indulge in less expensive ways (like switching from cheap lagers to craft beer). I wouldn’t be surprised if some of craft beers current growth could be explained by this phenomenon. Simply creating more craft breweries would not help the industry grow in a meaningful and sustainable way.

Ontario microbreweries and brew pubs are already taxed significantly less than the competing beer manufacturers. This is a small measure, but the easiest way to help all Ontario craft brewers regardless of size. It requires no extra provincial money and should the government ever raise the tax, the breweries could simply pass the cost onto the consumer (and hopefully make a big stink about that fact).

If people have their own opinion or other options for how the government could help, please put them in the comments. (Just please don’t mention selling the LCBO or privatization – that’s not going to happen and I’m tired of talking about the possibility.) There is also a good chance I have misremembered information from some of my undergrad Economics courses, so go ahead and refute anything that is incorrect. WordPress doesn’t come with a fact checker.

The Tap List – July/August 2013

As my summer vacation meant missing OCB Week and making it hard to catch up for a Tap List post right after, the lists for July and August are being condensed into one. As a refresher, the Tap List ranks the hottest and most newsworthy Ontario breweries from the past month. No scientific formulae are used and people are more than welcome to debate the order of breweries or any notable exclusions.

1. Bellwoods (Last Month: #5). High profile releases with the Motley Cru and No Sleep Till Brooklyn (their second collab with Evil Twin). Their beer has been spotted in New York City, which might for a first for an Ontario craft beer. Had to close down their bottle shop for a bit because they were running out of beer.

2. Beau’s (Last Month: #6). The Lug-Tread beat out many other great brands (and many ones with large advertising budgets) to win the Brewmaster’s Cup put on by the LCBO. Yes, that just means they had fans that would vote over and over, but it also means their fans are rabid enough to sit at a computer and constantly vote. The Tom Green beer also won best collab at the Session festival.

3. Great Lakes (Last Month: #1). Lots of great patio beers have been coming out from Great Lakes, including Gary (a saison aged in Chardonnay barrels) that was a personal fave. The bottle bonanza two weekends ago was incredible. Golden Child of the LCBO – seems like they have a new beer in stores every month.

4. Creemore (Last Month: Not ranked). The Mad and Noisy side-project continues to spark debate. At least the packaging has got more going on visually than the standard Creemore cans.

5. Collective Arts (Last Month: Not ranked). Ontario has now gone past the contract brewer phase and into the world of “gypsy” brewers. It is an interesting endeavour, one that will hopefully distinguish them from other contract/gypsy brewers.

6. 5 Paddles (Last Month: Not ranked). Early reports out of Whitby are promising for this new nanobrewery. Now if only I could find someone to smuggle some bottles across the city line…

7. Flying Monkeys (Last Month: Not ranked). Now living up to their PR and consistently doing more adventurous beers, including a collab with Central City. Quality and consistency are still missing, though.

8. Amsterdam (Last Month: #3). The Brewhouse was supposed to be the crowning achievement for the venerable brewery, but it has been marred by mediocre service (the downside of opening during the peak of summer). It definitely has been a big topic of conversation for the last month.

9. Nickel Brook (Last Month: #9). That Naughty Neighbour is a damn nice beer for the summer.

10. Radical Road (Last Month: Not ranked). The Wayward Son is another barrel aged beer that doesn’t skimp on packaging, but early reports have people wondering whether they need to spend more time on the product rather than how it is dressed.

Drain Pour: Highlander Twisted Spruce. No spruce flavour, which didn’t help cover up the bland base beer.

A Diatribe Against Toronto’s Festival of Beer

Dear readers,

I apologize if this is reaching you too late and you have already forked out for a ticket to the Festival of Beer. Two of the three days are sold out, so it’s possible. (If you have, maybe this will give you reason to sell your ticket on Craigslist or to that co-worker you don’t like.) You may see tweets on Friday and Saturday that will cause you to debate buying a ticket for Sunday. I’m here to talk you off that ledge.

This festival is worst beer event this city has to offer. I’ve gone the past two years (see my posts for 2012 and 2011) and declined a free media ticket this year because it just wasn’t worth my time and energy. Some people will complain about the obnoxious drunkards, the crowds and/or the frat boys – those are all things I could live with if I was drinking some nice beer and enjoying myself. But that hasn’t happened in two years, so I’ve disregarded the usual articles that make claims that this year will somehow magically be better.

Most of the beer will not be new if you regularly go to bars or have other festivals lined up this summer. A night at one of the cities finer drinking establishments will get you a much better value for money. Tokens are only sold in packs of twenty, which means you have to really commit to drinking lots of beer (or using some on food). Add that $20 on to the ticket price and you’ve already spent $60. Drink somewhere else and you’ll likely hear better music than whatever 90s nostalgia acts the festival has found under a rock.

Maybe you’re itching to try out some beers from the Great Lakes Caskapalooza section. I’m a huge fan of 99% of what Great Lakes does, but this is the 1% that makes me pull out my hair. The beers are often less than stellar, possibly because the casks are sitting out in the July heat. (Presumably there are hidden ice packs, but don’t forget that these are probably delivered the day of and that will mess with the condition of the beer.) The final insult are the rent-a-girls that Great Lakes hires for the weekend. Beer is clearly not their specialty.

Chances are, dear reader, that you will not be attending the Festival of Beer (unless you are one of those media guys also getting a free pass). You have made a wise choice. Here’s a gold star.

If you’re looking for a beer festival, I recommend the far superior Roundhouse Craft Beer Festival. $10 gets you into Saturday and Sunday. All OCB beers, plus some food trucks. Much nicer vibe and still outside. A little easier by public transportation. Thank me later.

Your cantankerous beer blogger,

Mike Warner