Thursday, April 26, 2012

e-Newsletters and Ontario Craft Beer: Who's Doing It Right

Originally when I started this post, it was going to be about how I thought it was about time Ontario craft breweries got more into email marketing. It turned out, they already were; I just hadn't signed up for any of them. So off I went, to brewery and association websites, entering my email address into their newsletter signup forms, eagerly awaiting both my confirmation emails and the first of many promising e-blasts about my favourite beers.

This was April 26th. On May 27th, return here for the 10 day countdown of the not so great, to the best of the best in Ontario craft beer e-newsletters.

Some of you may be asking why I have an image of an InBev e-blast in this post.

Here's why:
  1. It's got a featured beer deal. If you're a customer on a budget, this is the first and most important item you'll be interested in.
  2. It lists multiple other brands and their prices, so before you walk into the beer store, you know exactly what you're looking to buy.
  3. To the same point as above but on the company's side, InBev has the ability to put whichever of its brands it chooses in front of its customers.
  4. It's simply designed, and uses the same layout every time meaning not a whole lot of work goes into populating a new one
  5. It's sent to me every month, so you know when to expect new "Beer Deals", and plan your trips to the beer store accordingly
It's content is different than what a brewery has to offer, but they know who their audience is, and what their goal is with this kind of e-blast.

Content is King
Content is the king of all information companies choose to deliver to their customers.  With fan-bases such as the Ontario craft beer's, we, the customers, are itching for more information from our breweries - always wanting to know more. Craft beer breweries have a fun, main message - "Hey, we have good beer! Here's some information about it, and here's where you can get it!" and with so many events taking place involving craft beer, its fans surely deserve the means to finding out about those too.

Other Tools
There are quite a few online email marketing tools that breweries can use to create e-blast templates; MailChimp or ConstantContact for example. This isn't to say email marketing is the only tool available.  Many breweries are utilizing Facebook and Twitter to connect with their customers. Hopefully they'll keep it up, and continue moving forward with websites such as Pinterest, which can all be great tools for keeping up to date, staying connected with their target audience, and helping to grow both their fan-base and the quality of content they send out.

The Score
These are the newsletters I've signed up for. I obviously haven't signed up for all of the breweries in Ontario, but if there's one missing from this list that you think I should include in my review, let me know.

Amsterdam Brewery
Granite Brewery
Great Lakes Brewery
Lake of Bays Brewing Company
Muskoka Brewery
Nickel Brook Brewing Co.
Ontario Craft Brewers
- Railway City Brewing
Steam Whistle Brewery
Wellington Brewery


Additional MentionsNo newsletter available.

Beau's All Natural Brewing Co.
Reflections: http://www.beaus.ca/ has a lot, but a newsletter signup was not one that I could find. I wanted to mention this website/brewery because I really love what they're doing with "Beau's Points".  By putting point coupons on each 4-pack, they're really helping to build their brand loyalty, because fans will keep buying the 4pack's of Beau's to collect points, and redeem them for Beau's swag (some of which is clothing swag, that of course acts as a promotional tool for them).

Flying Monkey's Craft Brewery
Reflections: If the goal is to get my head to explode, mission accomplished Flying Monkey's website. I love your beer, oh so much, but navigating through your website is like trying to read a child's drawings on a wall as if they were some sort of ancient hieroglyphics.
Right, I couldn't find a newsletter signup.

Mill Street Brewery
Reflections: I scoured http://www.millstreetbrewery.com and for the life of me couldn't find a newsletter sign up anywhere in the pretty, new, flash website.




Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Beer, Served Better

Recently I had an experience at a restaurant in which I was served a beer that had gone bad. Steve Riley of BetterBeer.com commented on my post, and I was ecstatic to learn of the services provided by Better Beer®.

Better Beer® was established by Steve Riley - one of the few Certified Cicerone®'s (beer connoisseurs) in the world. Through the Cicerone® Certification program, one learns of everything one would need to know about beer storage, styles, flavours, flaws, brewing, and food pairings. It takes a dedicated, true beer lover to achieve this certification level, and Riley's dedication is definitely shown through BetterBeer.com.

As a fellow beer drinker who dislikes drinking beer that has gone bad, Steve Riley put together a team of trained beer and restaurant auditors who test and "Better Beer® certify" bars and restaurants in Ontario each month. He is not only helping the good beer cause, but is also training staff, workers, reps, etc in quality draught beer serving, so others can be part of the quality process as well.

The "Better Beer® certified" establishments in Ontario are listed on Better Beer®'s website, which includes a call to action to beer lovers: "Don't see your favourite spot listed? We'll call them."
Asking Better Beer® to contact your fave watering hole to see if they'd like to be Better Beer® certified doesn't necessarily guarantee they'll go for it, but the odds are greatly increased if you do. You never know - if your fave pub hears about Better Beer® and wants nothing more than to learn how to provide proper quality draught beer to you, you win. You can also keep winning by sending back bottles of beer and draught beer that's gone bad when you're out at bars or restaurants. If the bars don't know they're doing something wrong, they'll just continue to do it.

That was a lot of ®'s.
I think I want one...

Linda Lee®.

...Niiice.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Do you Believe in Magic?

I do, but not in the pull-a-rabbit-out-of-a-hat kind of way. I believe in man-made magic.

I believe in The Magic of Beer.

The Blue Economy is an organization that began as a research project in 1994. It was based on using Nature's Design Principles to find sustainable solutions for society. Its purpose now, is to develop and test business models that can be implemented into society with positive affects on the three pillars of sustainability - social, environmental, and economical.

Today, the majority of beer industry sales are contributed to a handful of producers (Anheuser-Busch InBev, SABMiller, etc), where China is the world's largest beer brewing country. So how does this affect Canada?  China is also currently the largest importer of Canadian malt barley. According to the Globe and Mail, China produces more than 43 billion litres of beer a year, and has purchased an average of 386,000 tonnes of Canadian malt barley each year for the past decade. For the last 40 years, The Canadian Wheat Board has had sole rights to sell grains to China, but as of August 1st, 2012, this, and the sole rights to purchasing wheat and barley in Western Canada will end, which could impact local breweries in various ways.

But back to sustainability. With the top producers owning a high percentage of the market share, and sustainability becoming more important to how society uses the world's resources, the onus is on them to develop more sustainable methods to producing their beer - but does sustainability have a place in local, craft breweries too?

Jim Lueders, the main focus of The Blue Economy's Magic of Beer, believes so. He has developed an innovative business model that can build and operate a small brewery for as little as $120 000, use much of its waste as feed for chicken, pigs, algae, mushroom farming, creating bread dough, and veggie sausages, all resulting in craft beer that follows the traditional brewing process of the German Purity Law in which beer is brewed from malt, hops, yeast and water. The Blue Economy's basic ground rules for a sustainable business model are all met - everything that enters the brewing facility generates more food, water, energy and jobs.

If local brewery processes were more along these lines, the resulting economic benefits could be vast. Bridge Brewing, in Halifax, Nova Scotia has taken up The Blue Economy's ZERI philosophy and is building a sustainable brewery while documenting all of its related business decisions in an open sustainability blog. Another example of a local brewery that considers sustainability in its process is Steam Whistle Brewery. As mentioned in a previous post, they use beer bottles that are made of 30% more glass than regular bottles, making them stronger and more re-usable, which has resulted in a large percentage of bottle returns. In regards to waste, local farmers are able to pick up their used barley husks to be used for animal feed.

What will it take for other local breweries to follow suit, and adopt Jim Lueders' Blue Economy, sustainable brewing process? Will the Canadian Wheat Board's ending monopoly have an impact? Are other local, Ontario breweries working towards higher sustainability? Doing so is a very real opportunity to help local, economic development.


Pinterest - What It's Good For: Online Dating, Contests, Beer!

As more people are accepted into the social media platform, Pinterest's popularity grows by the day.

Pinterest, one of the newer social media platforms to hit the mainstream, allows users to create category boards, and place images from around the web into their boards by "pinning" them - a method of seeing a photo on a website, clicking the "Pin It" button in their browser, and choosing which board the image will belong in.  The result is a visual representation of the categories and elements of a user's interests in an organized and easy to consume manner.

Where Pinterest could go next? Where or how might one use such information on so many people?

Online Dating
For the record, I've never used an online dating website, so they may be fantastic places to meet your one and only, but either way, consider what Pinterest could do to this scene.

People are connecting Pinterest to their Facebook and Twitter accounts, linking to their websites, and can show their geographical location.  It's remarkably easy to come across another person with similar interests just by searching for things you're interested in pinning.  So what happens next? You can then find that person on one of their listed social media sites and send a direct message "Hey, saw your boards on Pinterest, think we've got a lot in common..." and take it from there.

Think about the boards these relationships could generate:
- Our Pinteresting First Date
- Our Pinniversary
- Our Wedding Plinning (Wedding planning. I know, I'm reaching.)

OK, then what?

Pinterest will hold a contest to find a Pinterest Power Couple!  The Pinterest Power Couple account will be created, and people will pin their stories and photos, tagging each with a certain #hashtag.  The ultimate prize will be a Pinterest Perfect Wedding!

(This is what my mind does when I take time off work).

You may ask yourself what this has to do with beer.  Absolutely nothing, but everything all at the same time.
How else do you traditionally meet someone?  Why, sitting at the bar, and both ordering the same type of beer of course...

(No, I'm not holding out for that to happen.)


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Where for art thou, Pale Ale?

Today I found myself dreaming of having a cold, crisp, and refeshing pale ale.

Ahh, the perfect pale ale.  My favourite style of beer.  So clear, crisp, and refreshing that it's the epitome of the "session beer" to me, because it not only has the drinkability, but its just so darn tasty.

Dreaming of this refreshing taste, I started to think about getting a gorgeous pale ale.  One that was about 5%, isn't crazy-IPA-in-disguise-hoppy, and one that's not too dark that it's .. well, really a red-head, trying to be a blonde (as a noirette, I'll never be a blonde, so I'm a huge fan of not trying to be blonde when you're clearly not).  Of course, my initial thoughts go to Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale, but since the only place I've been able to get that in Toronto has been the Beer Bistro, here are a few other pale ale's I dreamt of today that are locally accessible. (No.. I'm still not able to drink because of my concussion... Yes... I lay around dreaming about pale ales).

1. Lake of Bays Pale Ale - I remember having my first Lake of Bays Pale Ale in a bottle at the Grindhouse. It was when I realized that something was brewing in Canada... something that I thought I could only get in the States... solid tasting, proper beer.

2. Great Lakes Brewing Crazy Canuck Pale Ale - I'm seeing this one more and more on tap in Toronto bars, and no word of a lie, I don't think I've ever had it. Seriously, I can't think back to a single place where I ordered a Crazy Canuck. I have a feeling I'm going to remedy that the day I'm cleared to start drinking again.

3. Black Creek Pale Ale - Again, I haven't had this.. I'm starting to get worried.

*EDIT*
4. St. Ambroise Pale Ale - This is a BEAUTIFUL pale ale that I somehow totally forgot to add to this list. It's just so.. so darn good.

Which ones did I miss?  I must have missed a few..

Coming to the realization that I haven't had many of the pale ale's which are accessible to me, I'm now quite sad. But this has brought upon an idea: When I'm able to drink again - I'm going to have a pale ale & pairing party.

Sweet dreams, dear ... lightly golden... cool.. clean... rejuvenating... friends.  I wish you many a pale ale dream tonight.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

And the winners are...

As a follow up to my last post about the Legislative Assembly's craft beer selection event, here are the winners!

Turns out there's a winner in each category, and a special Speaker's Selection (although, Hon. Dave Levac, the current Speaker, does not drink.....)

Here are the winners that will be part of the 2012-2013 Legislative Assembly meetings (I wish my meetings all featured beer):

Golden Lagers, Pilsners & Light Beer
King Pilsner, King Brewery

Refreshing Ales
Neustadt Scottish Ale, Neustadt Springs Brewery, Ltd.

Amber Lagers, Ales & Honey Beer
A tie:
Cameron's Auburn Ale, Cameron's Brewing Company and
Old Credit Amber Ale, Old Credit Brewing Company, Ltd.

Malty Dark Lager or Ale
Cameron's Dark 266, Cameron's Brewing Company

Bold Flavored Ale, Stout or Porter
Dead Elephant Ale, Railway City Brewing Company

Wheat Beer & Specialty
Nickel Brook Green Apple Pilsner, Nickel Brook Beers

Speaker’s Selection
Muskoka Mad Tom IPA, Muskoka Brewery


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

So That's Why They're Called Political "Parties"

Guess what I did today?  Well, got up, did nothing, baked a prune cake, did some more nothing, then crashed the Ontario Craft Beer sampling at Queen's Park for the Legislative Assembly.

A friend of mine works for... the person who... someone in a party... they definitely work for the government... the Canadian government for sure... and she brought me along to this annual Ontario craft beer tasting and selection.

The Ontario Craft Brewers (OCB) and The Alliance of Ontario Food Processors put on this event for the selection of an Ontario craft beer as the 2012-2012 Legislative Assembly beer of choice.

After being at this event, and talking to a lot of the people who work in and around Queen's Park, it seems that such receptions are quite common... meaning, whichever beer wins this is getting a pretty nice purchase order!

Now, because of my current concussed-state, I wasn't able to sample nearly as much as I wanted to.  I did however have 4 sips from my friend's samples!

1. Barley Days Brewery's Harvest Gold Pale Ale
I'd never heard of this brewery before, and I got really excited at seeing the words "Pale Ale" right in front of me.

2. Muskoka Brewery's Spring Oddity
What Twitter tells me was the first sampling of it! I feel lucky, and can't wait to get it on tap - thanks Muskoka Mike!

3. Cameron's Brewing Dark 266
Newly met acquaintances kept coming up and telling my friend and I how great this dark brew was.  I loved that it was super dark, but a light beer of 4.5%.

4. Great Lakes Brewery Orange Peel Ale
I spotted Troy Burtch (Hi Troy!!) from across the room and we had a super nice chat.  I will definitely send you that email when I'm all better!

The picture of the two guys at the podium is the current and former Speaker of the House.  The former Speaker, Steve Peters, started this tradition a few years back, and spoke to the room about how his hops broke ground yesterday.  He was pretty excited about them sprouting!

Not that my vote should count, but I voted anyway, haha.  I voted for Amsterdam's Boneshaker Unfiltered IPA.  I figured, it's one of my favourite Amsterdam beers on tap, and wouldn't it be cool if the Legislative Assembly decided to drink BONESHAKER all year? Might get them in the mood to rattle a few bones.

Special thanks to my long-time friend Monika for bringing me along. I can't wait until I'm able to be out and about for more than 1-2h, and actually drink some of this beer.

Enjoy the rest of the photos.  One of my favourites from today is the last one - whenever I've seen that guy from Beau's, he always looks so happy!!







How to Drink 18 Beers in One Day

Someone happened upon To Love and to Drink by typing the words "It's my 18 today and I don't want to drink" into Google, which spawned this post, and possibly me re-watching Spawn..

How to Drink 18 Beers in One Day

Tip #1: Sample sizes count.
They allow you just enough to get a good gauge on the beer, and spend the time enjoying it.  Unless you're a trained drinker, don't go from 10-120kph on this.  I once had 24 bottles of beer in one full day, but if I tried that now, there would be no future posts to tell you about it.

Tip #2: Start out light, transition to dark, then go back to light.  
Just like Darth Vader did with the Force, you'll want to move up and down the scale so you're not throwing up all over the place by beer #14.  Darker coloured beers tend to pack more flavour in, and can often have higher percentages.  You'll want to start off with a few lighter coloured, 3-5% ales so that you still have the strength to make your way through the stronger ones.  Ending off with a couple of lighter ones will put you back into that starting-line state of mind, and you'll feel as though you have enough Midi-chlorians to reach 18.

Tip #3: Think like a camel
Drink water.  You'll probably want to remember which of the 18 you liked, what you liked about them, and which ones you didn't - water will help.

---

I know, now you must be thinking, "All right, Yoda, just hold on.  How am I supposed to find 18 different sample sized beers in one day?" To help you on your journey, here are a few places in Toronto that serve ample samples:

Amsterdam Brewery - They don't do full tours of the brewery, but you can get over 10 different kinds of beer during their tasting sessions.  That's more than half your quota right there.

Beer Bistro - You can get sample trays of 3 glasses for $6.  This place has the best selection of rare and delicious beer in Toronto.

Granite Brewery - The brewpub sells smaller, 3oz samples, in trays of 3 to 9 glasses.

Mill Street Brewery - The brewpub sells trays of 4 6oz glasses.  Complimentary tours are also available to help you walk off a few of those samples.

Challenge: Write them down
If you decide to try this, write down where you went, what beer you tried, and which you liked.  It's a fun way to get your friends out to try new and awesome beer.