Some collected work.

In Toronto Pubs, Breweries Battle for Beer Taps With Persuasion and Cash

This post originally appeared on Torontoist on January 2, 2013.

Beer industry insiders say big breweries spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year trying to influence what your bartender decides to put in the fridge.

Photo by The Nexus, from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

Photo by The Nexus, from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

You may think, when you go to a bar, that your choice of beer is entirely yours. But that decision may have been made well before you even put on your drinking pants—and not by the bar owners. According to industry insiders, it’s often the brewers who dictate what’s on tap.

In fact, insiders say, sometimes it’s brewers, not bar owners, who cover the expense of putting in those very tap lines. Because in Toronto, and across Ontario, keg-fridge space is expensive real estate. Read the rest of this entry »


Dear Toronto Sun

August 8, 2012

Mr. James Wallace
Toronto Sun
c/o Sun Media Corporation
333 King Street East
Toronto, Ontario
M5A 3X5

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I am long-time, loyal reader of your great publication and the reasons behind my writing you today are two-fold: Firstly, I’d like to congratulate you on your tireless dedication to the sort of journalism that real Torontonians like me need and appreciate, and secondly, I’d like to ask you for a favour.

I read The Sun daily because I appreciate your devotion to unbiased coverage of those politicians currently bringing some much-needed straight talk to city council. Your refusal to join ranks with Toronto’s more liberal media outlets who continue to slander the likes of the brothers Ford and Councillor Mammoliti just because they frequently speak without thinking and don’t kowtow to the wishes of their own constituency is refreshing. Too often Toronto’s other papers lazily use facts and quotes just to paint an unflattering picture of those politicians with whom their beliefs don’t align. The Sun, on the other hand, never lets facts and quotes dictate the story. Read the rest of this entry »


Since about November, I’ve been part of The Second City Training Centre’s comedy writing program. As we come to the end of the program, we’re shaping scenes we’ve written in order to build toward a final show on August 19 in which actors will bring our brilliance to the stage of the Second City. 

Because so many students in my class actually lasted through the entire program (nine of us in total) we’ll each have just 7 minutes of showtime in August dedicated to our individual scenes. Accordingly, a large amount of the scenes we’ve written likely won’t see the light of day–which is a shame since I think some of them were at least mildly amusing.

Some of the other writers and I are considering how to give life to a few of our scenes in the future but in the meantime, to serve as a break from all the beer writing on here, here’s a scene I wrote in March which I think has some merit. 

by Ben Johnson
Draft #1
March 13, 2012


BABU and AKIL are pushing a massive rectangular block. Read the rest of this entry »

A brief history of the first brewery in Toronto

Originally published on blogTO June 27, 2012

Henderson Brewery Toronto

The history of Toronto is closely tied to beer, and while there are varying stories about the exact date and location of the city’s first brewery (and a requisite bit of mystery), virtually all are in agreement that there was a brewery very early in the city’s history.

As the population in Ontario began to spread from early settlements such as the one in Kingston, beer was initially brought over with other supplies like pork and butter on ships from Kingston, the Bay of Quinte, and Niagara.

A letter dated 1801 from a Reverend John Stuart to the Bishop of Nova Scotia, however, makes reference to a brewer from Kingston “removed to York lately” who had obtained a vessel to “transport wheat and other Grain from Kingston and the Bay of Quinte, before beer could be made.”

Who that brewer may have been, and where he may have been plying his trade, however, is not clear. Read the rest of this entry »

Inside Still Waters Distillery

This post originally appeared on BlogTO on May 2, 2012

Still Waters Distillery

Barry Stein and Barry Bernstein, co-founders of Still Waters Distillery, are playing a waiting game. Because Canadian liquor laws require that Canadian whisky is aged at least three years before it can be sold, the duo, operating a small micro-distillery in Concord, Ontario, are patiently waiting for the day that their single malt, rye, and corn whiskies will be ready for sale.

Their oldest whiskies, casked in late 2009, won’t be ready until the end of this year, so until then, they wait. In the meantime, however, the duo has hardly been sitting around twiddling their thumbs.

While they’ve been waiting on their whiskies, they’ve distilled an award-winning single malt vodka. Unique in that it’s essentially distilled from the same spirits they use to make their whisky (then put through the still once more and filtered), Still Waters’ malt vodka is incredibly smooth and retains a semi-sweet malt flavour. I had no problem sampling the product early in the afternoon on an empty stomach, but you don’t have to take my word for it: Still Waters Single Malt Vodka was awarded a gold medal at the 2011 Spirits International Prestige (SIP) Awards competition in San Diego, California — a blind tasting judged by consumers.

Read the rest of this entry »

It Would Be Weirder if Rob Ford Attended Pride

This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post Canada on April 19, 2012.

Wednesday morning, once again citing an obligation to attend his family’s own annual gathering at his cottage in Muskoka, mayor Rob Ford stated he will not be attending Toronto’s Pride Parade.

While much has already been said this and last year about the mayor’s obligation to attend given that the event is a huge financial boost to the city and celebrates the city’s considerable gay population, there are in fact considerable benefits to having RoFo skip the festivities.

I can think of at least seven.

Read the rest of this entry »

How Toronto craft beers get on LCBO shelves

An edited version of this post originally appeared on blogTO on March 6, 2012.


The LCBO is about to increase its stock of Toronto craft beer. Coming soon to a liquor store shelves are cans of Kensington Brewing Company’s Augusta Ale and Double Trouble’s Hops and Robbers.

While Toronto beer fans should be excited that we’ll now have a chance to take home a little more local variety from the city’s burgeoning craft beer scene, the accomplishment is all the more admirable when one has a little knowledge of just how daunting the LCBO’s process can be.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mill Street Brew Pub’s Robbie Burns Dinner

This post was originally written as a proposed submission to blogTO to cover the event. Sadly, due to circumstances beyond my control, it was never actually published. 

Given that I went to the trouble of writing it and that the folks at Mill Street were good enough to cover the cost of my ticket, I thought I’d post it here so that at least someone might read it. 

The pictures were snapped by my friend, Leon. 

“And on my birthday, drink a ton of beer.”
~Robbie Burns

Read the rest of this entry »

A Letter From The One Per Cent

This was originally published in The Huffington Post on January 5th, 2011.

I’ve been asked by a representative from the infamous one per cent to deliver this letter to the 99 per cent and the Occupy movement protesters.


Dear 99 per cent,

On behalf of the one per cent, we just wanted to send you a sincere and heartfelt thank you for your recent efforts at the “Occupy” protests.

We, the wealthiest people in the world, are extremely grateful you took to the streets to get the word out about the insane lack of parity in wealth distribution in the United States and Canada, and we are glad that you gave the issue of corruption in the world’s financial markets a global stage.

No really, we are.

Read the rest of this entry »

Realistic Resolutions