We've had the good fortune of rubbing elbows with a lot of cool people in Ontario craft beer circles.  Someone we've very recently connected-with is Bill Wittur of Drinky Canada. Bill's already a successful local entrepreneur and he's now delving into the Ontario craft beer world. His new venture is going to open-up access and convenience for many of us who love craft beer. Here's how Bill explains things:

What is Drinky Canada?
Drinky Canada gives suppliers - both domestic and international (through agents) - an opportunity to list products that are not listed with government stores. Enthusiasts seeking unique and unlisted products can shop using the channel. A commission is deducted from the supplier, but we've frozen any cost to the supplier for the first year, to encourage them to participate. Fulfillment is the responsibility of the supplier. The supplier receives the order via Drinky.ca, they charge the client, print the shipping label and then Canada Post takes over.

What got you started on this project?
We operated as a wine agent in Ontario for 5 years, with the vast majority of our product not listed - limiting our ability to generate cash flow. These were/are award-winning products that the LCBO would not list either on their shelves or online. To generate their cash flow, we would sell wine privately (introducing our products at trade shows, parties and other events - a lot of work for a few cases at a time.

What's your goal and what do you hope to accomplish with Drinky Canada?
We want to create digital shelf-space for suppliers. We want to expose the average consumer to the vast universe of products that they're missing out on. From a business standpoint, we hope to always work with and remain on-side with regulators, while pursuing a profitable business focussed on online sales. Ultimately, we want to find industry partners and investors that can help elevate the brand, business and opportunity for everyone. Drinky will also be a social forum. People will be able to review, share, talk and promote their favourite products.

With the recent home-delivery service announced by the LCBO, why would someone still use Drinky.ca?
Most importantly, the LCBO initiative validates our business model. The vast majority of products in Ontario, Canada and beyond, are not listed with the LCBO. A rough estimate suggests there are anywhere from 10 to 12 million products available around the world. The DTC model of the LCBO has only a few thousand products.  We're positioning ourselves as "Canada's beverage solution". We're national - and as provinces/territories agree to eliminate inter-provincial trade barriers - we'll be there to promote Canadian and international products across the country.

When are you launching the site?
We're live now, so that suppliers can add products. However the real live date for the consumer will be mid-September.

How do you see your site - and craft beer - evolving?
Beer is a very "local" product and my expectations of A LOT being shipped province-to-province, or even city-to-city, are low - simply because of the array of competition. We hope to be in a position to sponsor national contests that celebrate the hard work of ALL of these local and unique producers. As we expand the options and barriers come down, Drinky.ca will be a great site for fans and enthusiasts to get their beer-geek on!

We are excited and anticipating Drinky Canada's launch this month. Stay-tuned as we try-out the site and give some user feedback. From what Bill explains, it's exactly what the beer enthusiast has been waiting-for!

~ Tim

Brewvy had the good fortune of receiving an invite to the Bloom Centre media event at Steam Whistle in Toronto, earlier this year.

Bloom Centre focusses on responsible sustainability. They brought media, breweries, and water industry representatives together to present their mission related to helping craft breweries manage their water use. Their approach includes responsible water use/re-use/conservation and opportunities for brewery operational efficiencies.

About 150 people were in attendance at the event, with beer from 3 other breweries available for sample, in addition to Steam Whistle's pilsner. As you can see from the pics below, everyone had a great time networking and making new friendships - all with a passion for the craft beer industry. I personally enjoyed meeting all I spoke with, including Jen And Sara from Magnotta and Brimstone breweries, as well as Sam from Sawdust and all the folks from the Bloom Centre. Not to mention John Hay, president of the Ontario Craft Brewers Association.

For more about Bloom Centre, check out this video, or click the Bloom Centre links in this post. Cheers. Tim   https://vimeo.com/131427187
Visiting a brewery is always a thrill for us, so seeing one in progress was really intriguing. Robin and Lee of Descendants Beer and Beverage Company have stayed in contact with us for several months.  After a couple rescheduled visits due to conflicts on both ends, I was finally able to get to the brewery-in-progress. 

Now, nothing is better for getting to know this family endeavour than the blog posts on the Descendants site - my post here doesn't even compare, so you should check out their site. However, Robin graciously accommodated my visit and took some time to walk though a bit of their journey with me.

Descendants is essentially making the leap from contract brewing elsewhere (Cool Brewing Co) to brewing in/on their own premises, complete with tap room/bar and event room. In addition, if all goes according to plan, they will have an outdoor patio area. For Robin and Lee, this project meant actually selecting a location and then building/renovating. Robin explained that the most important factors to them were: Sufficient parking, patio space, not far from the highway, big enough for events and a unique feel to the space - preferably not in an industrial complex. They certainly found these things with the 319 Victoria St. N., Kitchener, facility. One might argue though, that they are really adding the unique feel as they go, through their own creativity. No spoilers here - I even excluded some unique features from the pics, so you will have to visit the brewery after it opens in Spring 2016. However, even with only the drywall up, and many rough-ins still needing fixtures, I could already sense the warmth and openness of this brewery - high beer-hall ceilings, beautifully polished floors (under which lies the unique drain/piping systems ) and lots of natural light.

After a quick beer swap and leaving behind some German street food called curry wurst, I thanked Robin for his time and wished him the best of luck. They'll likely not need to lean on luck much though, as they already have a backlog of event bookings, before the doors are even open.

I highly recommend checking out Descendants Beer and Beverage Co., high-calibre beer along with high calibre people. Cheers!
After searching as far away as Shelburne, Nova Scotia, Rich and Deborah Hunter laid claim to the King Edward Restaurant and Pub, in Ilderton, Ontario in 2005 - creating a spot for a precisely-selected rotation of craft beer & cider, accompanied by a delicious hand-crafted local-food menu.

Rich and Deborah followed interesting paths, both to create/revitalize the King Eddy and also in their destiny to find each other.

A Chartered Professional Engineer graduate from the University of Salford in the  UK, Rich has an extensive background in electro-acoustics - working for companies such as Marshall and KEF, a famous high-end hifi company which had been purchased by a Hong Kong based technology group. This work ranged from  designing speakers and amplifiers, to project management and teaching speaker design. The teaching portion of Rich's career, came with its rewards, as well as its demands - with the frequent, arduous travel between Hong Kong/China and the UK,  ultimately driving a change to his routine. Deborah herself dedicated 17 years
to a career with A&P as well as being a single mother, at that juncture.

Overseeing a new loudspeaker product manufactured in Mississauga, Rich's eyes opened to Canada and after working with his new supplier (plus a change in UK government), Rich was persuaded to hop-the-pond. Shortly after moving to Canada, he crossed paths with Deborah in an Irish Pub in Port Credit. It wasn't long before they married. It took 5 or 6 years of the hustle-and-bustle of the GTA, plus a few changes in Deborah's career - including 5 years building and painting movie sets - to realize they had to escape the rat-race. They loved cooking and entertaining and Rich had an extensive background in beer - these passions led to the search for a pub/restaurant outside of a major city.

Although the King Eddy may be famous for its fine selection of craft beer,  one suspects that the food is also helping build and sustain its clientele. Both Rich and Deborah are excellent chefs (I can attest to  at least one of Deborah's masterpieces during the interview!). Rich  himself cooked and bartended through university, so you could say they've both "brought their skills to the table", as it were. Originally aiming  to bring their fondness for the UK's Indian food culture, they've certainly broadened their menu beyond that goal - with a long list of unique wings and a menu full of original dishes.

Paired with the food is the meticulous management of the King Eddy's craft beer, with hand-pulled cask-conditioned ale, inclusive of a  custom cellar-system and precise temperature control across all the  taps. It's this attention to detail for which the Hunters are proud.  They've also committed to supporting local for both craft beer and  local cider (ex. Dickens Cider, Thedford, Ontario).

If the above hasn't completely charmed you at this point, the atmosphere and décor of the King Edward Pub certainly will. The walls display sentimental items important to the Hunters' lives, such as the mirror which was affixed to the wall above where they met in that Port Credit pub (which is now closed), salvaged as a memento and now looks over the Eddy Bar. Some custom-designed mats show support for craft beer while also highlighting the light-hearted nature of the King Eddy and its proprietors. Oh, and at least one of these mats attempts to keep the staff in line haha (ask about this when you visit)

The Eddy is a true family business, with Deb's son Tyler managing the front-of-house operations. I got first-hand exposure to the sincerity, commitment and generosity of Rich and  Deborah and I'm sure those traits go far towards continuing the King Eddy's success. A very short drive from London, and one that is essential  if you truly want to experience the culture and good craft beer of the  area.

(An original work submitted to Brewvy.com, by beer sommelier, Kirstie McKinlay)

The quote “He was a wise man who invented beer” is often attributed to the great and famous mind of Plato. Unfortunately, there are 2 problems with this quote.  1. He never said it and 2. It was actually a wise woman who invented beer. To be honest, number 2 is a bit of an over simplification but frankly, I’m looking to shed some light on  women’s often overlooked role in the  thousands of years of brewing history, so forgive some dramatic  license.

Societal conventions (that are completely outdated and foolish) hold that beer is a “man’s drink” and brewing is “man’s work”. Well, at least the modern history of ridiculous and sexist beer campaigns and the hard work of million dollar marketing firms would have you believe that. But the actual story is quite different. Ancient writings let us know that women were the original home brewers and history books tell us that women were actually the first commercial brewers. Take that sexist beer campaigns! Terms such as “ale wives” and “brewsters” were common and inform us of the level of female involvement in the development of the brewing industry. Unfortunately, the dawn of Monastic brewing, religious pressure and the increased demand for commercial brewing muted the female involvement in brewing to the point women were not  involved at all. Thanks guys. Then there was a whole lot of nothing for ladies and the next time we got involved with beer was the early part of the 20th century. But sadly this time, it was to the detriment of the brewers. The
Women’s temperance movement and prohibition in North America threatened the very survival of an industry that women helped create. To say that women’s role in  brewing was slight in the years following the repeal of prohibition would be an understatement. Women were relegated to models in advertisements and had a very limited involvement in the brewing industry as a whole. It wasn’t until the birth of the craft beer movement in the US and yes in Canada too, that women started participating in the brewing industry again in a meaningful way, taking women’s role in brewing full circle and back to brewing that delicious beverage
we call beer.

Women and Brewing in Ancient Cultures

There is not one agreed-upon creation story for the discovery of beer. A popular myth holds that bread was left out in the elements by a woman and the natural yeast present in nature began the fermentation process and the end result was beer, because science! Is it 100% true? Who knows. But it is the generally and popularly accepted story. The larger piece of the impact of women on brewing, specifically in the ancient
world is numerous cultures attribution of the creation of beer to female religious deities. The Sumerians have the earliest recorded mention of beer and the goddess Ninkasi is said to have watched over all brewing activities. In the “Hymn to Ninkasi”, it is said: 

“Ninkasi, you are the one who spreads, the cooked mash on large reed mats, coolness overcomes. You are the one who holds with both hands the great sweet wort, brewing [it] with honey and wine”

That is just a short excerpt from the poem translated by Miguel Civil, but the entire lengthy poem is, in a manner of speaking a beer recipe. Not in the practical sense but in a manner of giving thanks to the goddess for its creation and for the ingredients it contains. Similarly in Ancient Egypt, the goddess Hathor was given
credit for the creation of beer and was called the “inventress of brewing” and the “mistress of intoxication”.  During this time period in Egypt, women were the operators of small taverns that were so common that the Code of Hammurabi actually has 4 specific clauses that refer to women and beer. For example:

(108) If a tavern-keeper (feminine) does not accept corn according to gross weight in payment of drink, but takes money, and the price of the drink is less than that of the corn, she shall be convicted and thrown into the water.

While Sumerian and Egyptian female brewers are most well known, there are other countries that feature women prominently in their brewing history. The Finns credit the creation of ale to three women: Osmotor, Kapo and Kalevatar. The legend is that while they were getting ready for a wedding feast, they combined the saliva from a bear (where did the bear come from?) with wild honey and added it to “beer” and created ale. 
Osmotor is called the “beer preparer” in The Kalevala, the Finnish epic poem:

                                                                  Osmotar, the beer-preparer,
                                                                Brewer of the drink refreshing,
                                                              Takes the golden grains of barley,
                                                                  Taking six of barley-kernels,
                                                                 Taking seven tips of hop-fruit,
                                                                  Filling seven cups with water,
                                                                On the fire she sets the caldron,
                                                               Boils the barley, hops, and water,
                                                         Lets them steep, and seethe, and bubble
                                                                Brewing thus the beer delicious

The shared characteristic in all three of these cultures is that because the process of brewing was similar to
the process of making bread and often occurred in the same place; the family kitchen. Given that making bread and feeding the family was a task that fell under women’s purview the brewing of beer was almost exclusively a role for women. It wasn’t until the middle ages that the notion of small batch brewing for family use began to shift into a more commercial proposition and subsequently women’s roles in brewing began to change with it.

Ale Wives and Brewsters in the Middle Ages

Brewing was a traditionally a household responsibility left to the wives and daughters in the middle ages, using the ale to feed their  families. As women were not generally permitted to seek outside employment, the
ability to turn a profit from work already been done proved brewing to be a desirable trade for women especially given the relative stability and profitability when compared to other few and far between “female” trades of the time. In fact one figure of early 13th century England has the percentage of female brewers (brewsters) at 92%.  A single or married woman (at times in tandem with their husbands) were able to brew and then sell the excess household beer. The villagers would know beer was available when an “ ale stake”  was set out in front of the brewsters home or in the road. However, with monasteries taking up the practice of brewing and distributing beer around 1000AD, the task of brewing moved from something considered women’s work to a legitimate profession for men. Before the Black Plague in 1348, beer production took place mostly in the home. With the hugely increased demand for beer following the plague most female run brewing operations did not have the resources to keep up with the demand. Once men realized that profits could be made, guilds were created and political influence wielded. Women were summarily edged out of the brewing industry. Thanks fellas. In further insult to injury and in keeping with the mores of the time, the ale wife became a gross caricature for the ills of society, often being painted as a woman of ill repute or poor reputation. By the time the industrial revolution began in the late 1700’s women were for all intents and purposes done with the beer industry and would continue to be absent for the next 150 years or so.

The Women’s Temperance Movement 

Women’s relationship with beer and brewing in North America has a much shorter history than the rest of the world, with little female involvement at all until the creation of the The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. In a marked contrast to women’s earlier role in brewing, these were women actively trying to shut down the breweries and bring the industry to a grinding halt.  Many of the WCTU members were also suffragettes and in 1919 the US senate confirmed that the United States Brewers association actively gave money and assistance to  anti-suffrage activities and causes as a way to help block the movement for  prohibition. Despite the brewers efforts Prohibition came into effect in the US in 1920 and lasted until 1933. While bootlegging and illegal brewing still happened the number of brewers had fallen from 1400 to 756 in those 13 years. Those numbers continued to decrease and by 1984 there were 83 breweries operated by 44 brewers in the US.

The Second Coming of the Brewster

Other than as agitators and temperance advocates, women were largely uninvolved in the beer industry for the majority of the 20th century. Relegated to sexist beer ads, the “Swedish bikini team” and all manner of ridiculous marketing moves, it was made clear that women were not welcome in the conversation about beer. The big brewers tried to tempt female consumers into buying strange “feminine” beer-like creations that were flavourless or contained strange combinations of fruit and ultimately did nothing to increase their market share. The advent of craft breweries in the mid to late 80’s in North America opened up some space for women to finally get their foot back in the door. Women like New Belgium Brewing’s Kim Jordan (Founder) and Lauren Salazar (their wood cellar manager and master blender) and Barbara Groom from Lost Coast are highly visible in the US craft community. In Canada, women like Mirella Amato and Crystal Luxmore
are leaders in beer education and groups like Barley’s Angels,  and the Society of Beer Drinking Ladies  are geared to not only women interested in beer but also those who actually work in the brewing industry. Christine Coady at Folly Brewpub host events like an upcoming Brewday for “International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day”. I’m looking forward to that one! Craft brewers like Wellington host events 
like “Queen of the Craft”   to highlight the involvement of women in the industry, to further the education of interested women and to entice a new generation into developing a taste for  beer.

The old Virginia Slims advertisement used to say “You’ve  come a long way, baby” but I say we’ve come full circle and still have a ways to go.

~ an original work, by beer sommelier, Kirstie McKinlay.

Baugher, K. (2013, November 11). Women and Beer: A 4,500-
Year History is Coming Full Circle.
TheAtlantic. Retrieved October 16, 2014 from http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/11/women-and-beer-a-4-500-year-history-is-coming-full-circle/281338/

Bennett, J. M. (1996). Ale,
beer and brewsters in England: women's work in a changing world, 1300-1600
New York: Oxford University Press.

Mittag, R. (n.d.). Thirst For Knowledge. ®
. Retrieved October 18, 2014, fromhttp://www.thirstforknowledge.ca/

Mosher, R. (2009). Tasting beer: an insider's guide to the
world's greatest drink
. North Adams, MA: Storey Pub..

Oliver, G. (2012) The Oxford Companion to beer. New York:
Oxford University Press
"It's the same social occasion, just a different time of the day." explains Dave Cook, owner of The Fire Roasted Coffee Co. in London, Ontario - comparing the company's offerings of both coffee and craft beer.

I got the chance to speak with Dave Cook this week about his plans for the business in 2016 and beyond.  Primarily a roaster and purveyor of a vast selection of international coffees,  FRC also carries wine, as well as beer produced by local craft brewers. Their current line-up includes beer from London's-own Forked River Brewing Co. and Smith Works Brewing Co., out of Peterborough, Ontario. However, the company has big plans to expand the craft beer they serve, via their own production.

Dave himself took-up home-brewing over the past 2 years and will apply that know-how to  the company's commercial brewing endeavours. As far as initial beer styles to be produced, Dave elaborated: "I tend to like hoppy, fruit-based IPA's...these can be gate-way styles for those new to craft beer." 

Concurrent to the construction of the major brewery project, Dave will also be looking to augment the beer selection at the Fire Roasted cafes: "I would like to carry other local products - like beer from Toboggan and London Brewing Co-Op." Indicating support for contemporaries in the London craft beer brewing market.

Fire Roasted's brewery location will operate at 630 Dundas Street.  Launch is  estimated for the end of 2016, possibly early 2017. The roastery is located at 900 King St on the 2nd floor of the Western Fair Farmer's Market. The Wortley Road café location is set to re-open later this year.

PictureHead brewer, Dallas, shoulders-deep in hot grain.
Enthusiasts can relate to the excitement and anticipation of visiting a craft brewery that's been on your bucket-list, for what seems like forever. That was our situation with Refined Fool.  With previous good intentions and multiple failed attempts - cold weather be-damned, we would get to Refined Fool!...and on a sunny day in January, we did...

One of the many nice things about Refined Fool, is that it's easy to get to. A quick drive on the 402, not much traffic, as long as the snow and construction cooperate, you can get there in around an hour from London. Not only did I enjoy the drive, but I enjoyed Sarnia as well. It has significant waterfront and you can visualize how enjoyable summer events - like Bay Fest - would be overlooking Sarnia Bay. I'm sure there's much more to Sarnia, but I was impressed by even the little I saw. Now on to the brewery!...

I pulled up, grabbed by beer bag (aka back pack) and headed in. Completely missing the tap room entrance on the left, I went straight back to the retail/bottle store. Lots of nice merch there, but I looked past most of it trying to see the brewery in action. I was greeted by friendly staff, who - after explanation of our website - let me come in and meet the head brewer. Dallas was nearly head-first into a tank scooping hot grain when we spoke. He explained a bit about himself, the brewery and the beer he was making. This particular production was going to be an East Coast Pale Ale - yep I said East. Dallas explained how he got the inspiration from friends and contacts in the Eastern US. He went into detail about water quality, dry hop and dankness of the beer. Details aside,  if it's anything like the other beers they produce, it will be outstanding. I won't spoil their release of this beer, so more details to come ;)

I let Dallas get back to work and wandered through the brewery to the adjacent tap room, taking pics along the way. Such a warm feeling when you enter the tap room area (and I hadn't even had a sample at this point). A nice blend of industrial, exposed brick, light wood work and some natural light...completed with some boxes, malt bags and kegs, spilling over from the Production area. A true craft brewery! I was greeted by another staff member behind the bar who gave me a run down of all the beers on tap - and there were many. of course I tried them all...extra small tastes as I had to drive (boooo).  After sampling I circled back to the retail area where I grabbed some merch and a ton of beer - Pouch Envy (Australian Pale Ale), Joe Sent Me (Milk Stout) Strike Four (Belgian Quad) and others...sound delicious??? well you have to go to the brewery then! They are not currently available in the LCBO.

I elected to have 1 pint of Pouch Envy before I left. While sitting enjoying that, I decided to bother the guy behind me, who was working on his laptop. Truthfully, I did see him behind the bar earlier so I assumed he was somehow affiliated with Refined Fool. So that's how I met Nathan, one of the owners. He chatted with me for a bit about the brewery. Turns out Refined Fool will be expanding! They have enjoyed success and are looking to both increase production, but will also look to exporting. They also want to create an event centre to add to the brewery experience and offer more for residents and patrons. Exciting stuff! Oh almost forgot, Nathan was very interested in what we knew about roller derby - and that there is a men's league. I bet we can get him to join!

After a few more pics, I left Nathan with some beer jerky and a Brewvy coaster and wished Refined Fool Brewing Co, all the best. This brewery will clearly be on my/our top 10 breweries to return-to...and it could be yours. We completely recommend an extended visit to Sarnia's Refined Fool Brewing Company and their friendly staff, anytime of the year.

Pouch Envy, Australian Pale Ale. Excellent.