A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of spending the weekend with the folks at Mill Street Brewery for #BeerDays. I was one of 30 media invited to this awesome event, from the GTA, Ottawa and Montreal areas.

mill street Gooderham Worts sign

It wasn’t my first time to the Distillery District, but it was my first time to the Mill Street Brewpub and Beerhall.

Mill Street made sure that all of us were well taken care of during our time with them. Meaning, they didn’t want any of us to indulge, and then get behind the wheel of a vehicle. So, they partnered with Uber to make sure we got around town, to and from the various events, all without any worry or risk. This was my first experience with Uber, and I have to say, I was quite impressed – with the service, and the app. Being able to know who my driver is, where they are, and how long it will take them to get to my location is pretty cool. I shared a few Uber rides with Erin Blaskie, Andrea Tomkins and Danny Brown over the weekend.

What I didn’t realize until the Q&A session with Founder Steve Abrams and Brewmaster Joel Manning, was that it wasn’t just fellow bloggers/influencers invited. There were also beer critics, beer enthusiasts (which I also fall into), and people who voiced their concern at the acquisition by Labatt. Needless to say, the Q&A session was insightful, and quite interesting. But we’ll get more into that a bit later.

A Warm Welcome

Once I checked in at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto, I went up to my room. A few minutes later, there was a knock at my door. Mill Street had sent me a care package, to get my weekend started.



The care package contained a Mill Street branded touque, mini beer mug (shot glass), bottle opener and beer glass, a can of Mill Street Cobblestone Stout and Vanilla Porter, and a Spring Mix 6 pack (including Don Valley Bench, Big League IPA, and Madawaska Maple Ale)… all delivered in a Mill Street backpack. What a way to start off the weekend!

However, I decided that since I was going to be indulging all weekend, I was taking the beer in this package home for Wendy – she loves Mill Street beer as much as I do.

mill street wall art

Labatt acquires Mill Street Brewery

Back in October of 2015, Labatt Breweries (a subsidiary of Belgian-based Anheuser-Busch InBev) announced it had acquired Mill Street Brewery. Founded in 2002, Mill Street grew from a brew pub to Canada’s largest producer of certified organic beer. So you can imagine the uproar by die-hard craft beer enthusiasts when they saw this tweet…

What does this mean for Mill Street Brewery?

Well… that is the $10 million dollar question. That is the amount that Labatt will invest into Mill Street’s brewery operations, which will help to purchase new tanks to increase capacity, and expand into other markets.

The downside? The LCBO has moved Mill Street products from the highlighted “Ontario Craft Beer” section.

The upside? Mill Street Brewery now has the funds to expand into other markets, and have more people experience what we have enjoyed for over a decade here in Ontario.

Other than that, the culture is the same, the beer is the same, and the people are all still there. And you know what? All of them are happy. You can tell by watching them, and you can certainly tell after talking with them over a pint.

mill street craig with steve

Is Mill Street still considered a Craft Brewery?

Well, that depends on who you ask. One of the things that attracted Labatt to the Mill Street brand was their awesome culture. The people are who make this great company, and produce these great beers. Is it still craft beer? If you ask anyone at Mill Street, they will likely hand you one of their signature Organic lagers and ask, “can you taste a difference? We can’t.”

I agree.

Nothing has changed. Can it or will it? Of course. Time will tell. But from my observation over my time with them, everything is status quo, and the folks at Mill Street Brewery are pretty damn happy about it.

mill street craig with joel

Brewmaster Dinner

Our first stop was the Beerhall for some appetizers and a few pints. Once everyone was settled, we moved over to the Brewpub to get settled in for a four course meal with Brewmaster, Joel Manning.

Salad

Hearts on Fire: Baby arugula, roasted beets, local burrata, and micro greens
Paired with: Master Class Amber Abbey Ale

Style: Belgian Amber Abbey
ABV: 4.6%
IBU: 25
Brewed at: Ottawa Brewpub
Ingredient Origins: All Canadian hops and malts

Tasting Notes:
A refreshing Belgian Amber Abbey made with a unique trappist yeast that gives subtle fruit aromas and flavours. The special blend of caramel and 2 row malt, balanced with santiam and wild turkey hops. A delicious blend gives added citrus aroma and flavour. The beer can be enjoyed anytime.

Appetizer

Black N’ Yellow Hop: Sea scallops, saffron coconut broth, and basil
Paired with: Don Valley Bench

Style: Wheat Beer
ABV: 4.8%
IBU: 11
Brewed at: Mill St. Brewhouse
Special Treatment: Sour mash and oak contact

Tasting Notes:
Light apple and pear aromas on the nose with a crisp dry palate and subtle vanilla oak notes and a dry finish without any husky tannin or hop bitterness.

Main

Smoked Beef Rib Roast: Balsamic Rauchbier steak sauce, heirloom carrots and parsnips, and roasted garlic whipped potatoes
Paired with: Rauchbier

Style: German Rauchbier
ABV: 5%
IBU: 18
Brewed at: Ottawa Brewpub
Smoked In-house: Beechwood pale malt barley

Tasting Notes:
Hardwood smoke/campfire aroma coupled with sweet caramel malt aroma and fresh yeast tones. Palate is caramel and more smoke. The finish is drying with a kiss of hops, malt and long lingering wood smoke.

Dessert

Sweet N’ Salty: Weizenbock ice cream, salted caramel, and banana chocolate tuile
Paired with: Weizenbock

Style: Weizenbock
ABV: 7.5%
IBU: 22
Brewed at: Toronto Brewpub
Ingredient Origins: German hops & yeast

Tasting Notes:
Weizenbock means “strong German dark hefe weizen”. Very sweet, fruity aroma and first taste. Rich chocolate malt palate overlaid with banana/bubblegum esters from yeast. Slightly acidic. Drying finish.

So how was it?

Simply amazing! The salad was unique, the scallops were perfectly cooked in the saffron coconut sauce and were extremely tasty, the “smoked for 15 hours” beef rib roast just melted in your mouth, and the dessert was sinfully delicious! All paired with some of Mill Street’s finest selections. Head Chef, Jeremy Eidt, and his stellar team did a phenomenal job with this one.

If you have never been to the Brewmaster dinner at Mill Street Brewpub, I highly recommend it. The food was amazing!

Noshing at Mill Street Brewpub

Prior to our tour of the brewery, we enjoyed brunch with Brewmaster Joel Manning, Vice President of Marketing Jeffrey Zietlow, and Marketing Manager Catherine Oppedisano.

mill street lunch menu

Our choices were:

Fried Chicken & Biscuits
White cheddar & jalapeño biscuits, jicama slaw, mustard greens, honey & white sausage gravy.

Flammkuchen
A stone oven flatbread with bacon, caramelized onions, crème fraîche and a sunny side up egg.

Beer Hall Benny
Poached eggs on top of fried green tomatoes, wilted spinach, english muffins and fried cabbage hash Topped with hollandaise and a drizzle of sriracha.

Distiller’s Cassoulet
Chorizo, double cut bacon, baked beans, root vegetable hash, topped with free run eggs. Served with focaccia.

Huevos Divorciados
Corn tortillas, free run eggs, spicy black beans, salsa verde, tomato salsa and guacamole. Served with focaccia, habanero preserves and smashed potatoes.

Wildberry Strata
Individually baked with strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, ricotta cheese and challah. Served with fresh fruit and Canadian maple syrup.

mill street chicken lunch

Are you drooling yet? Talk about tough choices! Catherine is a “Huevos Divorciados” aficionado, and highly recommended them. A few others went for the Beer Hall Benny, and the Distiller’s Cassoulet was quite popular. All three of these are dishes I want to go back and try.

I selected the Fried Chicken & Biscuits… and damn were they good! The biscuits were tender inside and crunchy outside, the juicy chicken was tender and perfectly fried, the slaw was very flavourful, and I mixed the sausage gravy and honey together for a thicker and sweeter gravy to dip the chicken. Amazing!

mill street equipment

A Tour of the Brewery

Shortly after arriving at the Beerhall on the firstly, I was introduced to Jeffrey Zietlow, Vice President Marketing for Mill Street Brewery. We had a great chat. He offered to take me on an advance tour of the brewery, which I gladly accepted.

mill street jeff at stills

Walking into the room where all traction happens was unreal. Even though you can see the beer stills through the windows in the hallway and Brewpub, it is still pretty overwhelming standing right there where the magic happens.

The next afternoon was the official tour with Brewmaster Joel Manning.

mill street joel tour

Joel gave us some background on the equipment in the room, and showed us each step of the beer-making process.

mill street ingredients

He talked about the ingredients – water, malted barley, yeast, and hops – used in Mill Street beers. I asked about the water sources, for both the Toronto and Ottawa brewpubs, and the challenges in dealing with different types of water. The Ottawa region has much softer water than we do here in the Toronto area. There are beers made specifically for the Ottawa region, and visa versa.

mill street group tour

Joel took the time to explain every step of the process, show us which piece of equipment held the beer during each step of that process, when ingredients were added, and how long the beer took to make. As well, he thoroughly answered all of our questions. There is no rushing the “Doctor of Beeronomics”.

mill street craig in onsite brewery

Want to experience a tour for yourself?

The Mill Street Brewpub/Beerhall is located at 21 Tankhouse Lane (formerly 55 Mill Street), in the heart of the historic Distillery District in Toronto. There are daily tours of the Mill Street on-site brewery. I would recommend becoming a Mill Street Insider.

mill street group on tour

Why become a Mill Street Insider?

• You are first to know and try. Special invitations to be the first to experience new beers.
• Be part of the Mill Street beer panel
• Meet the makers
• Exclusive contests, event privileges, ticket access and beer tastings
• Free tour and tasting
• 10% off merchandise in the Brewery retail store

The Perfect Pour

How do you pour your beer? Here is Mill Street Brewery Beermaster, Joel Manning, showing you how to do “the perfect pour”:



This pretty much crushed everything I had ever been shown about how to pour a beer. I would always tilt the glass at the same angle as the beer, and pour slowly, ensuring as minimal amount of foam as possible. If I was able to pour the beer, and only have a small amount of foam, I felt I had succeeded. Well… I was wrong.

Q & A with co-founder Steve Abrams and Brewmaster Joel Manning

Steve and Joel handled themselves well. They answered all of the questions, and didn’t dodge away from any of them, whether it was about the future of Mill Street Brewery, or if anything at Mill Street would change under the Labatt umbrella.

Question for Joel Manning: “Why did Labatt buy Mill Street Brewery?”

Question for Steve Abrams: “Are you still going to operate as a craft brewery, even though you are now owned by Labatt?”

Question for Joel Manning: “What if they ask you to change a recipe?”

Question for Joel Manning: “What if they TELL you to change a recipe?”

Question for Joel Manning: “Are there plans for expansion across Canada?”

The Q & A session was great. They addressed every question, whether it was positive or negative, and answered everyone exactly the same: with passion.

I really liked Catherine’s input on one of the questions…

Having the option of enjoying a craft beer while watching the Blue Jays work their way to the World Series this year sounds amazing!



A Great Experience!

It was a fantastic couple of days, filled with great food, awesome beer, increased knowledge of craft beer production, and friends both old and new.

Chatting with Erin and Duri

Having a beer with Casie

Sharing an Uber with Andrea

Seeing Tyler again, who I still maintain had the best t-shirt of the weekend…



And being able to chat with and learn from Brewmaster Joel Manning…

A big thank you to Mill Street Brewery team for this amazing experience. I appreciate all the hard work that went into putting this event together, and am grateful I was selected to participate.

mill street team

From left: Owen Gazel (Sponsorship & Event Coordinator, Mill Street Brewery); Joanna Britton (Events Manager, Milk Street Restaurants); Jeffrey Zietlow (Vice President, Marketing, Mill Street Brewery); Joel Manning (Brewmaster, Mill Street Brewery); Catherine Oppedisano (Marketing Manager, Mill Street Brewery); Alex Lanthier (Marketing Manager, Mill Street Brewery); and Steve Abrams (Co-Founder, Mill Street Brewery)

Get Social with Mill Street

Connect with Mill Street on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Cheers,
Big Daddy

Disclaimer: I was invited to participate in #BeerDays with Mill Street Brewery. I was not compensated for my time. All opinions are my own.

If you would like me to review your service, product, or travel destination, send me an email at craig@bigdaddykreativ.ca or find me on “the twitter” at @BigDaddyKreativ

Craig is a husband, a father, team leader, senior youth group coordinator, designer, brander, community builder, volunteer, blogger, and the senior community manager for Ford of Canada. He likes to go camping, travel, go on road trips, watch movies, read with his girls, build stuff, operate the grill, and play bass guitar. Known as Big Daddy Kreativ, his blog specializes in parenting, lifestyle, automotive, events, travel, movies, recipes, health, reviews and giveaways.

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