Monday, March 12, 2012

Cossab - Brew Pubs of Buenos Aires

Cossab deserves more prominence on the online lists you tend to find when searching for English info on beer in Buenos Aires. Sadly, it doesn’t always make an appearance. Sometimes I suspect that they might not have even gone and tried any of the beer they are writing about!

Boedo is not as famous as Palermo or as busy as the Microcentro, but it isn’t a neighbourhod that is hard to find. It is easily accessible by bus and subway. Beer is the best reason to go on an adventure if you have never been to Boedo or didn’t have plans to go already. Boedo is well known for the Abasto shopping center (it used to be the city’s main market and is now a gigantic mall) and as an area with many high quality tango shows.

The beer is very good and is definitely worth the trip. Cossab has been making beer for 9 years in Boedo and opened a second location in Urquiza that is less than a year old at the time of this writing.

I went with my brother and a friend and I really liked the Scotch ale. I promise to go back and update this post with more info on the beers. 

Here is an interview I did with the boss himself, Juan Ignacio Sabeckis. [note: the interview is translated from Spanish]

When was Cossab founded?

October 11th 2003.
My brother, making shit up and waving his hands

Why does Cossab sell a variety of beers and not just the beers you brew?

We have the mentality where we are open about everything because we are lovers of artisanal beer and we want to defend this ancient drink. There is a lot of great beer to try, not just the ones we make. If you don’t like the ones I make you can try something from the big variety that we have that will fit with your taste.

This is how it has been for years at the bar. People who didn’t like beer end up trying a honey beer or a fruit beer or something else.

For you, what are some example of some great Argentine beers and Breweries?

Buko, Berserker, Buller, Gambrinus, Pampa, Guillon, Antares, Stone (now closed), Berlina, La Cruz, Zepellin, Otro Mundo (before they were sole to the Heinekin group), Buena Birra Social Club. And many more!
What is your favourite Cossab beer?

I.P.A., and a bitter that we made.
Maudite! A little piece of Canada :)
In a month, how much beer do you make?

Around 2500 liters a month in the two bars. When the Urquiza location grows I guess it will be over 3000 liters.

What are your favourite beer styles?

I like all beers, but I prefer IPAs and APAs, bitters, robust touts and wheat beers.

What is your inspiration? Why did you start Cossab?

It all started almost by chance. Here in Argentina around 2002 things were really bad and with a little bit of money that we had saved with my brother we decided to set up a beer bar with beer we made ourselves. Little by little we introduced ourselves to the beer world and we got training to get to the place we are now. This year I’m going to start a beer sommelier course to keep perfecting myself and perhaps next year I will do another one. The idea is to always keep moving and to not stay still.

What time is your happy hour? How much does beer cost?

We don’t work with a happy hour. The idea is that people will come for the beers and not for an offer or a deal. It is for this reason that people come back regularly. Equally, we have prices that are very fair and competitive with other pubs. We are about 20% cheaper than the process you see in other locations.

The pints are between $22 and $24.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Meet Troy Burtch of Great Lakes Brewing & A Great Canadian Beer Blog

What kind of crazy person leaves a job at a beer magazine where you get sent beer samples in the mail? 

Troy Burtch is that man. Don't worry. He hasn't lost his marbles. He is just making a move to a role that is equally cool. Troy recently sent out an email announcing his move but didn't say exactly where he would be moving to -- just that it would all be revealed soon. I decided to ask Troy if he'd be cool with spilling the beans and letting me pick his brain.

Mr. Troy Burtch

Who are you and what do you do?
I’ve been asking myself that question for years! J Well, obviously my name is Troy Burtch. I live in Toronto, Ontario where I publish the GreatCanadian Beer Blog and co-founded and help organize the annual Toronto BeerWeek. I just recently changed careers, joining the folks at Etobicoke’s GreatLakes Brewing Co. after working for TAPS Media, the parent company of TAPS TheBeer Magazine and the Canadian Brewing Awards. My life is beer…well, selling it, marketing it, and preaching it!

We first met at Bryden’s over xmas at a TAPS-organized meet and greet – lots of fun! – can you tell the readers a little about the nature of those events?
Well, that was something that I came up with a couple of years ago. This past Christmas was the third annual social. I thought it was a good idea to bring a number of people who work in the beer industry together for a holiday pint (or three) at a local Toronto craft beer supporter. You know, get together, share stories, taste new beers, talk about the industry etc. This year we held it at Bryden’s (Jane and Bloor) and had an incredible turn-out. The industry is so close and everyone gets along so well, so that makes it a lot of fun. I’m already looking forward to the 4th annual this Christmas.

Do you have any styles you tend to gravitate towards?
No, I really don’t. It all depends on the time of day, the weather, the people I’m around, the food I’m eating etc. I jump around quite a bit. We don’t have a lot of them in Ontario, but I’m a sucker for a well-made Mild. Cheshire Valley Brewing makes a great one and if it’s on tap somewhere I tend to get two!

What do you do when you’re not working or drinking beer?
I get asked this question a lot, and to tell you the truth – I talk about beer when I’m not working or drinking. I collect breweriana: Growlers, old brewery ashtrays, beer books, tap handles and bottle openers. Other than that, I play hockey, snowshoe at our cottage up north, cook and entertain. I also like to get out and walk around Toronto. There are so many unique neighbourhoods and parks in Toronto and I like to do the whole Urban Explore thing.

Can you give a quick overview of your role in the Canadian Brewing Awards? What are they all about and how did they get started?
The Canadian Brewing Awards started 10 years ago by the former, former owners of TAPS Magazine. They allow breweries of all shapes and sizes from across the nation to submit beers for judging (blindly). Medals are awarded in Gold, Silver and Bronze and there are two big awards in the Canadian Brewery of the Year and the Canadian Beer of the Year. In 2011, the 9th annual, we received over 450 beers from over 80 breweries, making it the largest to date.

I was one of the Brewery Liaisons. I was part of a team that organized the judging and the Awards Presentation Gala. I was also the individual who poured all the samples for the judges, catalogued the score sheets and talked to breweries across Canada on a daily basis leading up to the competition. It was a lot of hard work to help organize a competition the size of the Canadian Brewing Awards, but I loved working so closely with all the great Canadian breweries!

What is your proudest moment at TAPS?
There were many, many proud moments! When I joined the magazine it was in the middle of a re-birth of sorts. There was a lot of work that went into changing the tone, the look and the past indiscretions. Our social media accounts needed a lot of work. Our website needed updating and more information. These things were all changed for the better during my time there. We strengthened the TAPS brand(s), getting the magazine out to more establishments and into the hands of beer drinkers. This generated talk amongst the brewing industry and helped solidify the magazine as a great publication within the industry.

I’m also really proud of the work we did with the Canadian Brewing Awards. When I joined TAPS in 2010 one of my goals was to increase participation in the competition, attracting more and more breweries from coast to coast. The last two years witnessed a tremendous growth and the marketing of the awards has skyrocketed, attracting hundreds of new beers for judging. The Canadian Brewing Awards logo is now a recognized symbol of brewing excellence.

Where are you moving to and what will your new role be?
After much thought and consideration, I decided to leave TAPS to go to Etobicoke’s Great Lakes Brewing Co. I’ve been following this brewery for a number of years and I really respect and believe in their direction. I truly believe in the beers that they brew and I think more Ontario residents deserve to try the various brands.

What is one change you’d like to see in the industry in Canada or the industry in general?
There has been so much change since I first started following the Canadian beer industry when I launched Great Canadian Beer Blog (then known as the Great Canadian Pubs and Beer Blog).  The educational component of craft brewing is evolving everyday to the point where people are curious to try these wonderful beers based on what they’ve learned on websites, social media, newspapers, etc. It will only get better and it will only help the industry moving forward.

There are more collaboration brews taking place, more seasonal and obscure styles being produced, and more brewpubs are opening. The biggest change, and I think I’m not alone in thinking this, is there needs to be a change in the way beer is distributed in Canada. It’s mind boggling sometimes to think that a beer brewed in Quebec, and readily available there, is just as hard to get in Ontario as it is to get a beer brewed in Belgium or Germany even though they are right next door. Canada’s alcohol rules and regulations, across all provinces, need a closer examination and legislation needs to be updated to reflect today’s society.

What is one thing you hope doesn’t change?
More government interference… 
The camaraderie amongst the craft brewing industry

Tell us about three great beers you’ve tried this month and why you liked them.
That is a tough one. While working with TAPS Media, I would get beers delivered to the office with great regularity from breweries across Canada. I just received and thoroughly enjoyed the Green Dragon Double IPA I had from Edmonton’s AlleyKat Brewing Co. It was delicious. Another great one that I recently enjoyed (on more than one occasion) was MacKroken Flower from Le Bilboquet inSaint-Hyacinthe, QC. It’s a scotch ale brewed with honey and it clocks in at 10.8%, but it is so smooth, full bodied, rich, and has a great nose. And the third, well, I do a lot of my beer drinking at the pub and I have to say that I’ve been drinking a lot of beers from Great Lakes. I also managed to snag a bunch of Beau’s Bog Water before it disappeared from store shelves so I’ve been knocking them back one by one.

Name three Toronto hangouts that you enjoy.
Right off the bat, I have to say that Toronto is home to SO many great local beer bars/pubs. As I mentioned, I do a lot of my drinking out with friends at the pub, so choosing just three is pretty tough.

I am a regular at Bryden’s. It’s located at Jane and Bloor and offers a number of different styles and flavours from a number of different Ontario breweries. They have a number of rotating lines that keep things interesting, their food is always great, and the service is awesome. I have my own unofficial “office” there…

barVolo has always been, and will always be, one of my favourite places to go for a beer – not just in Toronto. I’m great friends with the Morana family who own and operate it and I love everything that they do there. From their diverse selection of bottles and taps, to their House Ales brands, to the atmosphere and layout, barVolo is a great place and an institution in Toronto. You can learn a lot about the Ontario brewing industry there.

And the third? Hmm… Very tough. How about this – I always enjoy visiting the following establishments due to their selection of beer, their service, atmosphere, food offerings, location, etc. Dominion on Queen, Monk’s Table, TheOnly CafĂ©, Castro’s Lounge, C’est What?, and the Granite Brewery. Like I said, I could go on and on. Toronto has so many GREAT beer spots. Check out the listof Toronto Beer Week locations.