As Ben Johnson reported earlier this week, Bar Volo will close this fall. What a shame. Volo, more than any other place (except maybe the original Smokeless Joe) is where I learned to love great beer after first walking in ten years ago. It’s where I tried Péché Mortel for the first time. Bartenders in Amsterdam asked me about it.

Like Robin Leblanc said in her excellent “An Ode To Bar Volo“, I take comfort in knowing that they’ll re-open in some form or another. For all the great beer joints in this city, it wouldn’t feel right without Volo.

Photo by Doug Kerr, used under Creative Commons license

“Not since Hall and Oates has there been such a team.”

I thought about doing a whole long sappy blog post about how thankful I am for this and that, but figured the whole fact that I can write a blog post while the place smells like turkey pretty much denotes how good my life is. So I’ll just point out the highlights of our weekend so far:

First of all, it’s always a good weekend when your colleague starts it off with a gift of some 1er Cru burgundy:

We took it easy Friday night, sneaking a spot at Richmond Station’s bar for some excellent food. Nellie had oysters and flank steak; I had beet salad and crispy duck. A bottle of Norm Hardie Cab Franc went perfectly with it all. We then just watched The Sessions (imdb | rotten tomatoes) at home, which was excellent. Lots of ex-Deadwood representation too.

Saturday morning we got up early and gathered all we needed from St. Lawrence Market for Thanksgiving dinner, traded in some old speakers for a pair of outdoor Sonance speakers that look like fake rocks, picked up some interesting beer, then walked to Volo where we enjoyed some pumpkin beer and ploughman’s lunch and quite possibly the last hot, sunny patio day of the year.

After that we picked up our Thanksgiving turkey (who we named Carl, in honor of The Walking Dead re-starting tonight) at Cumbrae’s, then watched The Place Beyond The Pines (imdb | rotten tomatoes) which I’m still having a bit of trouble sorting out and a hockey game (mostly me).

Sunday was a day-long exercise in relaxing and cooking, then eating, Carl.

We also slammed through half the first season of Orange Is The New Black, which is pretty good. We’ll likely finish it today, along with the rest of Carl.

It was a perfect, relaxing weekend — just what I needed with the week I have coming up.


Photo by Doug Kerr, used under Creative Commons license

Photo from BiblioArchives, used under Creative Commons license

“If Spock were here, and I were there, what would he do?” “He’d let you die.”

I really do love staying in town on May 2-4 weekend. It seems like everyone else in Toronto drives to a cottage somewhere, leaving the downtown core downright civilized for the entire weekend. You can get dinner reservations. Movies aren’t sold out (more on that in a minute). Patios have elbow room. We almost always spend this weekend in the city, and we always love it when we do.

Friday night I grabbed drinks with a few work people on the back patio at The Oxley, which was somehow all but empty. On the way home I stopped for a few more at Volo, which incredibly was not rammed full on a Friday night.

St. Lawrence Market was busy when I got there around 11 on Saturday, but nothing like it’s normal levels of craziness at that time. The Scotiabank theatre — which I’d expect to be a mad house on the opening weekend of a big movie like Star Trek: Into Darkness (imdb | rotten tomatoes) — was fairly sensible. The movie was very good too…I can’t say much without giving away important plot points, but the audience loved. It maybe wasn’t quite on the same level as its predecessor (perhaps because that one was such a surprise) but it was still highly entertaining.

Then a few flights at the Beer Academy (almost empty!), then home, then grilled steaks and a bottle of Tawse 2010 Laundry Cab Franc.

Thanks, Queen Victoria.


Photo from BiblioArchives, used under Creative Commons license

In the home, hoppy stretch

During my long radio silence (I’m pretty sure this is the longest I’ve ever gone without blogging…sorry!) there’s been much progress made on Project FiftyBrew:

  • I have now officially knocked off 39 of 50
  • I have six at home in my fridge, courtesy of friends driving them here from Kentucky and Montreal:
    • Dieu Du Ciel Fumisterie
    • Dieu Du Ciel Solstice D’hiver
    • Unibroue Éphémère Cassis
    • Unibroue La Terrible
    • Unibroue Quelque Chose
    • Unibroue Raftman
  • There is a bottle of Propellor London Style Porter waiting for me at my brother’s house in Nova Scotia
  • I can get the Wellington Iron Duke at a local beer store, and last time I checked Volo still has the Alley Kat Olde Deuteronomy in stock.

That leaves two problem children: the Alley Kat Full Moon Pale Ale (which Volo seems to be out of at the moment) and the Unibroue Eau Benite. So if anyone living in Alberta happens to come across a bottle of the Full Moon, mail it to me, ‘kay? Likewise anyone living in Quebec if they seen an Eau Benite at their local dep.

Right, where's that key to the gym?

It’s been a week of long hours punctuated by extravagant eating. Nellie kicked off the week with a test dinner (she likes to test out potential dinner-party meals on me, which I’m just fine with) consisting of salad, prosciutto-wrapped shrimp and gnocchi in a pancetta tomato-cream sauce, paired with bottles of Riesling and Pinot Grigio.

On Monday I had a work thing at North 44, still one of Toronto’s most consistent & solid restaurants. I didn’t realize it at the time but I ended up ordering the same meal I’d had there almost exactly a year earlier: butternut squash ravioli with oxtail ragout and sage, and the 12 oz. USDA rib eye. And then some kind of coconut thing for dessert.

On Wednesday night I met M2 at Volo to do some catching up. They have a particularly good tap list on right now; I had a Denison’s Dunkel and a Great Lakes Winter Ale, as well as the 38th beer on my Project FiftyBrew list: a Wellington Russian Imperial Stout. Most important, though, was a few hours spent with an old friend and, let’s face it, mentor. It happens far too infrequently for my liking.

Last night was another catch-up with old friends, this time with two old mates from university, including CBJ, briefly in town from Cincinnati with his wife. The other friend and his wife made beef bourguignon and poured us copious amounts of wine and port and limoncello as we sat in their beautiful apartment and talked into the wee hours. And to top the evening off, CBJ had smuggled three more Project FiftyBrew beers across the border — and the fact that I have to import Quebec beer from northern Kentucky tells you all you need to know about inter-provincial liquor import laws. Anyway, I now have bottles of La Terrible, Quelque Chose and Ephemere Pomme in my fridge. So…win.


Over the past few nights I’ve knocked off six (!) Project FiftyBrew entries. Volo has been, as expected, a goldmine of Canadian beer. Over two visits I had:

  • Dieu du Ciel Route des Epices
  • Scotch Irish Sgt Major IPA
  • Scotch Irish John By Imperial Stout
  • Dieu du Ciel Dernière Volonté
  • Central City Red Racer IPA
  • St. Ambroise 20th Anniversary Vintage Ale

Lots of interesting stuff in there. I don’t like IPAs that much, but I’m developing a taste for them, and especially liked the Sgt Major. The Route des Epices was as advertised (like there was cayenne in it) and the Dernière Volonté was pretty normal (but tasty) by comparison. The St. Ambroise Vintage Ale was, unfortunately, a barley wine and not to my liking. But I have a job to do, so I drank it down. Hopefully I’ll gain some kind of taste for them; I believe there are two or three more on the list.

Happily, I’ll be back at Volo this Monday. They have at least six more that I have to hit.

Corne du Diable / Noire de Chambly

I’m making a surprising amount of progress on Project FiftyBrew. Last night I met some colleagues in town from Chicago and took them to Volo. Both big beer fans, luckily for me, as that place is a FiftyBrew gold mine.

I started with a Noire de Chambly, #39 on the list. A nice light dark (if that makes any sense), if not quite the equal of their Blanche.

My second glass was a Dieu du Ciel Corne du Diable, #10 on the list. As I’ve said before, I’m not the biggest fan of IPAs, and this one was no different. Drinkable, but not something I’d order again.

Project FiftyBrew

About a month ago Troy Burtch — author of the Great Canadian Beer Blog — reposted a speech by Steve Beauchesne, the co-founder of Beau’s Brewery entitled “What If Ontario Had A Beer Revolution?“.

What if Ontario had a beer revolution?

What do I mean by a beer revolution? Well revolutions usually involve overthrowing tyrants, and instituting a new form of governance, but my revolution is maybe a little less violent than that, although by no means is it less radical.

Right now in Ontario, 1 out of every 20 beers drank came from an independent, Ontario brewery. By beer revolution, I mean, what would happen if Ontarians chose to drink an Ontario-made independent beer 1 out of every 2 times they drank beer?

Mr. Beauchesne goes on to make an economic argument for Ontario craft beer which doesn’t actually work all that well, but no matter: there are benefits to supporting local — if not necessarily independently owned — brewers. Besides, no living human should be made to drink the likes of MolsonCoors CanadianLight or its ilk. I felt, after reading the transcript of his speech, that I should try to drink primarily local beers. But it was the summer, and it was boiling hot, and goddammit I love me some German weissbier.

Then, this past Thursday, Nellie and I ducked into Smokeless Joe on our way home from the TIFF box office. There we met the charming and gracious Kaylea from WineNotOntario who recommended the Dieu du Ciel foursome on feature. I was no stranger to DdC, having enjoyed their Rosée D’hibiscus and struggled through their Péché Mortel (seriously, man…it tasted like a peach fucking ashtray) but I wouldn’t have noticed them all tucked away down there on Joe’s chalkboard had she not pointed them out. So I tried. I liked. And I decided: I should do with beer what we’ve been trying to do with wine: drink Canadian whenever possible. Uh, this October trip to SanFran/Napa/Sonoma notwithstanding…vacations don’t count. Aaaaaaaaanyloophole, I needed a plan. It wouldn’t do to swear off all non-Canadian beer, that’s just too drastic. But I figured I should make an effort to at least try the best local stuff, especially those I might not normally try. Hence: Project FiftyBrew.

Here’s the project plan:

  1. Go to BeerAdvocate.com and download the list of what, according to their users, constitute the top 50 Canadian beers (DONE!);
  2. Mark off the ones I’ve already tried (DONE!);
  3. Vow to try the remaining 33 (subject to availability) over the next…oh, I don’t know. Whenever. No rush, right?

I’m looking forward to scouring the LCBO, Volo, Smokeless Joe, Beerbistro and C’est What for the unconquered bottles. I’m sure we’ll also plan a trip to Quebec ’cause, uh, they’re nearly all from there…Unibroue, Dieu du Ciel and McAuslan alone make  up more than half the list.

Also, by the time I finish these fifty I’m sure the list will have changed, but I look forward to trying the new entrants too. I may be coming at this from a somewhat different angle than Mr. Beauchesne, but I do hope one of his bottles of Beau’s climbs into the top tier.

Wish me luck.


I’m getting too old for this.

Last night wasn’t a late finisher so much as it was an early starter. Dinner at Fieramosca (with a bottle of wine), then drinks with co-workers at The Pilot, then more co-worker drinks at Volo, and finally dinner at Origin. I think our meal was good. I know it was long. The ending gets a little fuzzy. The next morning was even fuzzier.

How fortunate, then, that we were scheduled to get on a boat and cruise around in the hot sun for most of Saturday afternoon. Our friend CB had arranged a little celebration for husband GB’s birthday, so nine of us piled on a catamaran and prepared to enjoy the weather. My stomach wasn’t quite ready for that, though; the first few minutes while we were tied up made me queasy, but as soon as we were underway I felt better. A little nap below decks helped.

We reached Centre Island, had a bit of a stroll and (somewhat inadvertently) took in the sights at Hanlon’s Point Beach. Then the skipper cooked lunch, which we ate on the grass, by the water, in the sun…pretty awesome. Back on board and birthday cake in hand we set back out, cruising through the harbor and all the way around the islands. It gave me a look at parts of Toronto I’d not seen before, like the north side of Ward’s Island and a bird colony on the Leslie Street Spit. I got to relax on the deck of a boat for a few hours, a cool breeze tempering the hot summer sun. Shaky start and a little sunburn aside, it was a brilliant day.

Yeeeeeaaaaah, I need a rich friend with a boat.

"Could you go a bit slower with the clicks there?"


Here’s what we’ve done with our last 24 hours:

  • Went to work. Okay, well, this was mostly me. Just needed to catch up from last week and get a head start on the coming one.
  • Saw District 9 (imdb | rotten tomatoes) at the Varsity, which was excellent. Good film all around, but what blew me away was how not-fake everything looked. Tons of social, racial and economic commentary too. Highly recommended if you’re into that sort of thing.
  • Had dinner at Volo, quaffed a couple of beers (two of which you can see above, including my Delirium Tremens) and watched the parade of interesting up and down Yonge Street.
  • Dropped our TIFF picks in box #30. We switched our picks at the (almost) last minute, ditching the Peter Berg documentary and adding Valhalla Rising. Watch the trailer and you’ll see why. It looks like Braveheart, but more violent and less cheesy. And Danish.
  • Scooted out to Liberty Village and bought (well, ordered) a new couch at West Elm, then had lunch at The Brazen Head.

Now, happily, we’re done for the day and can relax with bad movies (Nellie’s watching Hallowe’en 6 as I type this) and France planning.