Toronto Beer Week

It might seem unnecessary for me to say that it was a beer-filled weekend, but it was. More so than usual.

It started a few weeks ago when beer writer Crystal Luxmore held a contest, offering tickets to a Toronto Beer Week event called The Beer Experience for whoever tweeted her the best picture of themselves enjoying a local craft beer. This picture of a Muskoka Detour on the dock at Bat Lake took the prize. As if it was even close.

The event itself was last Thursday at the beautiful Berkeley Church. The usual lineup of local craft breweries was there, but each brought something special: a brew not generally available, or even a one-off made specifically for this event. We bought ten tickets each and made the rounds. Here’s what I had; Nellie had ten completely different ones since our tastes don’t overlap much.

  1. Amsterdam Downtown Brown
  2. Side Launch Pale
  3. Sawdust City Coconut Lime Kolsch
  4. Beau’s Dark Helmet Imperial Black Lager
  5. Oast House Dark Chocolate Cherry
  6. Wellington Cocoa Beware Cocoa Husk Baltic Porter (on cask)
  7. King Monster Mash Dubbelbock
  8. Junction All Aboard Harvest Ale
  9. Beer Academy Vanilla Coconut Chocolate Imperial Stout
  10. Double Trouble Vanilla Stout

All of them were pretty good except the Junction, and that makes two beer festivals in a row where I drank a terrible beer from Junction…I think they’re on my shit list now. The Side Launch, Wellington, and Amsterdam (which wasn’t even a special…not sure why I got that, honestly) were all terrific, but the Oast House dark chocolate cherry was absolutely spectacular. Definitely my favourite of the night. And how about that venue?


On Saturday, following TIFF film #3 we met a friend for a(nother) mini pub crawl with her, starting at Bar Hop (Sawdust City Golden Beach Pale, Left Field Prospect: Kohatu, and Block Three After Market Mild), then trying to get in at Wvrst but being turned away by the very long (and very fucked) lines before retiring to Beerbistro (samples of Rodenbach Grand Cru, Publican House Square Nail Pale Ale, and Unibroue Maudite, and a glass of Unibroue Fin du Monde) before heading to C’est What for some food. Or so we thought.

We arrived to find C’est What in the throes of its own Beer Week event, with 5 stations set up around the bar pouring dozens of samples, many of which I’d never tried. I’d love to be able to tell you what I drank but somebody threw out the paper we’d used to keep track. However, based on the list I found on twitter and my rather fuzzy memory I think these were the samples I picked:

  1. Ontario 100 Mile Pale Ale (cask)
  2. Garden Piperales smoked/spiced Amber Ale
  3. 5 Paddles Uncle Kev’s Milk Stout
  4. Nickel Brook Pumpkin Porter (cask)
  5. Oast House Old Town Drunkel chocolate/cherry porter
  6. St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout (nitro)
  7. Sawdust City Skinny Dipping with Chipotle Stout (cask)

Beer week!

TIFF #4: Corbo

Today was the end of our stunted TIFF14 adventure: a subtitled film from Quebec called Corbo (imdb | rotten tomatoes | tiff). Turns out I actually know very little about the early days of the FLQ, so I found it fascinating. And beautifully shot too — it had a texture to it and evoked the 60s so well. Uh, at least, what I imagine the 60s looked like. It didn’t always move quickly, but it never seemed to drag either.


Cover photo from the TIFF website

TIFF #3: The Drop

I don’t know what we were thinking, really. One of the TIFF picks we made this year was for a screening of The Drop (imdb | rotten tomatoes | tiff) on the day it went into wide release around North America. At least it was in the Princess of Wales theatre (our first time there) so it felt like a big deal.

And hey, the movie was really good. James Gandolfini was terrific, but Tom Hardy — as usual — stole the movie. He’s the new Marlon Brando.


Cover photo from the TIFF website

TIFF #2: Ned Rifle

A week-long hiatus in the middle of TIFF has made it feel like the festival s barely happening. I’d almost have forgotten if my news feeds hadn’t been filled with exact details of celebrities ambling down carpeted sidewalks.

Last night we kicked off our lone festival-y weekend by seeing Hal Hartley’s closer to the Henry FoolFay Grim trilogy, Ned Rifle (imdb | rotten tomatoes | tiff). We saw Fay Grim at the festival eight years ago and expected more of the same. While it lacked the off-kilter camera shots it certainly had the same wry humour and subtle film-long wink to the audience. Parker Posey played a much smaller role here than in her character’s namesake movie, but she was replaced by a equally-if-differently disturbed Aubrey Plaza. Who I’m slowly becoming infatuated with, by the way.

The only things which marred the experience were outside of the movie itself: first, we picked some odd seats at the Winter Garden, such that I sat on a slope which became weirdly uncomfortable after a while. Second, the two women sitting behind us were the kind of people who feel the need to “OH!” loudly at every other scene, or simply say aloud whatever is happening on the screen. “Oh, she’s going to follow him.” “Oh, there’s no more bullets.” “Oh, that’s his uncle.” Ladies, some advice: stay home and watch movies where no one cares about your soundtrack. Or just shut the fucking fuck up. Either way.


Cover photo from the TIFF website

Cover photo by Juha Uitto, used under Creative Commons license

TIFF #1: Ruth & Alex

Despite our light TIFF lineup this year, we did manage a first on Friday night: attending a gala presentation. We were the guests of one of the festival’s main sponsors, so we assembled in the near-tropical heat of Friday evening for drinks, dinner, and Ruth & Alex (imdb | rotten tomatoes | tiff).

Dinner was very good, but we felt bad for everyone trapped outside on King Street during the sudden massive thunderstorm which rolled through. People huddled under whatever cover they could find, including a doorway right next to our table. We felt a little guilty eating our steak and drinking our wine while families huddled outside and fended off blowing debris. I guess if we’d been outside we’d have been the ones wringing wet, so it was all just down to lucky timing.

The film itself was just okay. I love Morgan Freeman but Diane Keaton has settled into Jack Nicholson mode, playing the same character (herself) over and over again. The film seemed a little precious, I guess, kind of like it had been written in the 50s with that kind of stage-ish, stilted dialogue, and simply updated for modern-day trends like terrorist scares and real estate frenzies.

There was no Q&A after the film, and it was a very different kind of crowd in attendance (mostly corporate sponsors and industry people) so it felt very different than any TIFF event we were used to. But it was fun to try once, and at least made us feel like we were part of TIFF in the early, buzzy days of the festival. Our next screening isn’t until Friday.

When we left the rain was still pounding down, so we walked underground through the PATH as far as we could, but still got soaked during the two minutes of uncovered walk home.


Cover photo by Juha Uitto, used under Creative Commons license

Cover photo by James McCauley, used under Creative Commons license

“It’s not a cursed op. There’s no curses. It’s just Afghanistan, that’s all.”

We watched two movies this past weekend, one surprisingly good, the other shockingly bad.

First up was Devil’s Knot (imdb | rotten tomatoes), Atom Egoyan’s adaptation of Mara Leveritt’s book of the same name about the West Memphis Three. I read that book, and watched all three HBO documentaries, and watched Peter Jackson’s documentary, and pretty much everything else. Not only was this movie unnecessary, it was fumbled from the start. I don’t know what Egoyan was trying to accomplish by messing with Pam Hobbs’ timeline, and the could-have-been-interesting focus on Ron Lax was blown by a wholly ineffective Colin Firth. The movie was stilted and painful and anaemic compared to what came before. Do yourself a favour and read the book; it’s dated, but it’s still the definitive read on the WM3 for me.

Much better, to our surprise, was Lone Survivor (imdb | rotten tomatoes). I didn’t know much about it; the subway posters just mentioned Mark Wahlberg and Taylor Kitsch and so I didn’t have much faith that it would be anything other than a standard war movie. Then, last night, I noticed it was directed by Peter Berg, so that got my attention. A 75% Rotten Tomatoes score didn’t hurt either, so we took a chance. It was actually quite good. Can’t describe it much without giving away important plot points, but now I want to buy the book on which this movie was based.


Cover photo by James McCauley, used under Creative Commons license

TIFF 2014 picks

It’s a light, light year for us at this upcoming TIFF. Because of weddings, business travel, and house guests we’re limiting ourselves to three films this year, not counting a gala which I sort of stumbled into. We chose the back-half pack (actually, I thought we chose two, but discovered during the selection process that we’d only bought one…some hasty prioritizing took place with a drowsy wife in tow) which might as well have been the back-quarter pack. Except for said gala, all three screenings take place on the final weekend.

  1. Ned Rifle
  2. The Drop
  3. Corbo
Cover photo by fabalv, used under Creative Commons license


This past Wednesday I, along with a whole slew of other work-related people, had dinner at Patria. The organizer had asked my opinion on where to go; I somewhat-selfishly suggested Patria as it had been on my want-to-try list for some time.

We sat in a private area and the food was all brought out family style, which is a great way to try lots of stuff, but makes it tough to really get a read on what the place would be like for a typical meal. Still, there was plenty in the meal which impressed: the jamon iberico; the piquilo peppers stuffed with braised oxtail; the wood fire roasted ribeyes; the churros; the chocolate pudding with sea salt and olive oil. And while I was completely out of my depth in the Spanish wine list, the Navarro Cab I lucked into was a hit.

We’ll definitely be going back, perhaps around TIFF time.


Cover photo by fabalv, used under Creative Commons license