Monday, May 13, 2013

How to Survive LCBO Strike as a Craft Beer Drinker

There are a number of strategies to survive the possible strike at the LCBO that may or may not begin on Friday before the May long weekend. This list, coincidentally, also follows the trajectory that many beer nerds follow in their ascent or descent into beerdom. Feel free to stop anywhere along this ladder. There is no shame here.

Level 1: Rookie
Description: Doesn't want to give big beer their beer dollars. May have a penchant for German lagers, Mill St., Hoegaarden or some crafty beers.
1. Go to a bar, any bar. Most will have Mill St. or some type of imported beer.
Drawback: Costs more than drinking at home
2. Beer Store. They'll have limited craft brews of questionable age.
Drawback: Well, big beer owns the Beer Store so you are giving some money to them. Also, a boost in profits might make them think that their model is still viable.

Level 2: Amateur
Description: Has a favourite style and beer region. Generally an ale lover who is aware of all the local breweries. Knows that fresh beer tastes good. Knows what a one-off is.
3. Go to a brew pub or brewery (Toronto, Ottawa, Kingston, Waterloo, ah, just click the link to Mom and Hops. They do a great job of keeping up to date.)
Drawback: They are location based. You have to go to the pub to drink or to buy their stuff and they are only allowed to sell their own. This means that there are a lot of places in Ontario that are out of luck.
4. Visit a beer forward bar. There are a shitload of bars in Toronto and I don't want to slight any of them. So just google it using search terms like best beer selection [insert city name here].
Drawback: See suggestion #1 above.

Level 3: Pro
Description: Knows where every bar that sells cask beer within 30 miles. Drinks to season. Local LCBO knows him on sight and they are on first name basis with at least three different bars. Knows the process for making beer.
5. Bottle Brews. Found these at IGA in the Beach in Toronto. There are several Italian grocers along the Danforth that have these around. I've tried the Mister Beer Brown Ale.
Drawback: It takes time for the brew to ferment and it isn't quite the major leagues. Decent brew for the price but definitely not as good as some of the seasonals.
6. Buy a kit. There are a few quality kits that will give you a chance to brew your own. A friend tried Brooklyn Brew Shop to an okay result.
Drawback: Sometimes you love beer and it doesn't love you back. Kits mileage varies.
7. Homemade Mead. The recipe is dead simple. Take honey, add water, yeast and wait.
Drawback: It's not beer and it takes a month at least.
8. Go to a U-Brew-it. Costs are reasonable. You go in and choose your style. Maybe you mess with the recipe. Takes a couple of weeks. I use Fermentations! but have used others in the past that didn't work out.
Drawback: Gotta have one near you and cede control to someone else. Not really brewing but brewing by proxy.

Level 4: Expert
Description: On first name basis and/or recognizes brewers, beer writers, bloggers and cicerones. Can name a bunch of one offs that later became permanent list items at the LCBO. Probably has a beer fridge and beer cellar. Prepares vertical tastings and thinks that most of the beeradvocate and ratebeer are full of shit.
9. Break out the equipment and books. How to Make Your Own Brewskis and Brooklyn BrewShops Beer Making Book are good ones to look at. I have also found a few at yard sales over the year. They may come in handy. Put places like Toronto Brewing or Brewmonger on speed dial. (Another google search for you. Home brewing supplies [insert your city here]
Drawback: House or garage smells like a brewery and some of the neighbours may be concerned.
10. Start your own nanobrewery, finally. Come on, you know you wanna.
Drawback: You will be committed and might have to be committed. Also, mooching friends.
11. Start growing hops.
Drawback: It will take three years.

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