Actual alcohol history: U.S. company tries to sell scotch in a can

(Originally written January 9, 2012)

Have you ever thought “Man, I just can’t finish this 40 in one sitting—if only they sold scotch in can!”?  Well young drinker, your wish is about to come true!  According to the Toronto Star, a company called Scottish Spirits intends on selling 3-year-old blended scotch whiskey in 355 ml containers for five bucks a pop.

There is some cause for concern, however.  First of all, there are still some design issues to iron out—they’re apparently still working on a re-sealable top for those who don’t intend on consuming 12 ounces in one sitting.  But perhaps more ominously is the fact that this canned beverage might not be real Scotch at all.  Well bugger me bagpipes, laddie!

The Scotch industry, enshrined in British legislation, has a clear definition of what is or isn’t Scotch whiskey.  And apparently Scottish Spirits doesn’t cut the haggis.  There is no evidence, the Scotch Whisky Association said in 2010, of a distilling plant in Scotland. “I can’t find anybody who is standing up and saying they’re making it,” a dedicated Scotch blogger told The Star.

Apparently, the product is being bottled and canned in Orlando, which only seems fitting for such a Mickey Mouse outfit.  No word as to when we might see it in stores…

Actual alcohol history: Toronto hipster steals $26,000 scotch

(Originally written April 23, 2013)

True story: On my 19th birthday, I walked into my nearest LCBO to buy some birthday booze.  I was somewhat surprised when the clerk didn’t ask to see my ID—and immediately disappointed that I hadn’t started shopping there at the beginning of my freshman year.  As it turns out, I only walked away with an unverified ID and a six-pack of Labatt Blue…  which pales in comparison to the $26,000 bottle of scotch some middle-aged hipster pilfered without paying.

As the CBC reports, “According to police, a man went into a downtown Toronto LCBO store earlier this month and pulled a rare 50-year-old Glenfiddich Single Malt scotch out of a glass case in the vintage section.”  You’d think that a bottle worth more than a secretary’s starting salary wouldn’t be kept out in the open—but wait, it gets better.  “Police said the man also selected a bottle of wine, which he took the counter and paid for, but left the store without settling up for the scotch.”  Hey, is that a rare bottle of 50-year-old scotch in your pants, or are you just happy to see me?

How rare are we talking?  The CBC states there are only 50 bottles of this stuff in the world, 15 of which happen to be in Ontario.  My guess is that 12 of those 15 are located at either their Bay St or King St locations…

Well, make that 11.  Police are on the lookout for a white male “35 to 45 years old, 5’10”, clean-shaven with black-framed glasses,” who “was last seen leaving the store wearing a Burberry plaid shirt, brown hat, brown trench coat, and black jeans” as per the CBC—suspiciously wearing the trenchcoat over his right arm.  I’m guessing it wasn’t a Burberry trench, though; unless he stole the jacket, too!

Actual alcohol history: Russian vodka saves elephants’ lives

(Originally written December 14, 2012)

Vodka may be shortening the lifespan of the typical Russian male, but when it comes to a couple circus elephants stranded in Siberia, it’s actually a lifesaver.  As RIA Novosti reports, “the two Indian elephants, owed by a traveling Polish circus, were transported from Novokuznetsk to Omsk on late Thursday” when the “hay in the truck caught fire from the diesel engine heating the cargo section.”  With their transport going down in flames, the southbound pachyderms were left to hitch a ride in the middle of the highway.

Fortunately, liquid relief was on the way.  The two animals were taken to a nearby garage, where “As an added precaution, the elephants were served two cases of vodka mixed with warm water,” according to the Russian news agency.  Apparently, that really hit the spot.  “They roared like it was the jungle…Must have been happy,” the district official told RIA Novosti.

Mind you, they weren’t necessarily warmer; it’s just that the booze turned all their bad feelings into good feelings.  As the BBC reports, “alcohol can make animals feel warmer but it actually lowers their core body temperature, scientists say.”  But despite the objections of these unnamed scientists, the BBC notes that “Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper quoted Novosibirsk zoo director Rostislav Shilo as saying that the elephants were not harmed or intoxicated by the vodka, and that without it they would have died of hypothermia or pneumonia.”  Note to self: Pack bottle of Russian Standard in outdoor survival kit!

Actual alcohol history: Russia bans beer in convenience stores

(Originally written January 2, 2013)

In an international news story that will surely have the Ontario government raising a toast of approval, Russia has banned the sale of beer at roadside kiosks, the post-Soviet equivalent to convenience stores.  As The Associated Press reports, “new laws could deal a finishing blow to a symbol of the country’s lively and disorderly post-communist free market,” with alcohol sales reportedly accounting for up to 40 per cent of kiosk revenues.  Now, in order to buy alcohol, Russians will actually have to go to a restaurant or a store “of at least 50 square meters.”  No word as to whether the latter are run by a government-controlled monopoly, mind you.😉

And on a related note, Putin has announced that beer will no longer be considered food, officially classifying it as an alcoholic beverage.  I guess it’s not for breakfast anymore; according to the AP, “it can’t be sold in any store from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m.”  Of course, none of the LCBO stores in Toronto stay open until 11…

Putin, who can hardly be confused with Premier Dad (unless your father’s an ex-KGB, semi-supreme leader), apparently passed the policies to address an ongoing national health concern.  As per the AP, “Heavy drinking and smoking are cited as two of the main factors in Russia’s high mortality rate — average life expectancy for males born in 2006 was 60-61, according to a UN Development Program report.”  In response to the latter factor, he’s even considering banning cigarette sales from those same kiosks, a measure that would, according to Russia’s Ministry for Economic Development, force 175,000 kiosks to close at a cost of 500,000 jobs.

Hey, I’d like to think that the Ontario Liberals wouldn’t go that far, eh?

Actual alcohol history: Sapporo-sponsored study suggests beer cures colds

(Originally written December 12, 2012)

Call me crazy, but I’ve always found the best way to cure a cough was to take some Cold FX in the morning and go out drinking at night.  As it turns out, my method has just been scientifically proven—well, sort of.  Agence France Presse is reporting that “Consuming large quantities of a key ingredient in beer can protect against winter sniffles and even some serious illnesses in small children,” according to a study by Sapporo Medical University.

And when it comes to cold prevention, the hoppier the beer, the better.  The research study, funded by Sapporo Breweries, discovered that humulone, a chemical compound in hops, “was found to be effective in curbing the respiratory syncytial (RS) virus.”  However, Sapporo researcher Jun Fuchimoto told AFP that “such small quantities of humulone were present in beer that someone would have to drink around 30 cans, each of 350 millilitres (12 oz), for it to have any virus-fighting effect.”  Or, as Keith Richards would call it, breakfast.

Alas, Sapporo is looking for ways to add humulone to other foods and beverages, but there are a few obstacles to overcome.  “The challenge really is that the bitter taste is going to be difficult for children,” Fuchimoto says.  Don’t worry kids, you’ll get used to it!😉

Actual alcohol history: NHL lockout causes Canadian drinking record

(Originally written December 7, 2012)

Canadians may be none the richer, but we’ve been 500-million dollars drunker this year, according to a new report by the Bank of Montreal.  As per the CBC, “Bank of Montreal said Friday that booze sales rose by $500 million, or more than 3.6 per cent, in the first nine months of the year.”  And it doesn’t stop there—BMO predicts that we’re headed for a record year of drunkenness!

“If this healthy growth holds up through the holiday season, that would set the stage for record retail sales of more than $19 billion in 2012,” CMO (LOL @ CBC typo!) Capital Markets economist Aaron Goertzen said.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, the report notes that “Quebecers spend the most, with their monthly budget for alcohol increasing 65 per cent in December,” which happens to be around the time the Habs tend to be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.

Speaking of which, is it any coincidence that this record year for Canadian alcoholic consumption comes in the midst of another NHL lockout?  I think not…

TORONTO BEER WEEK: Heeeere, piggy piggy!

Now, it’s been a little while since I’ve had some real-deal BBQ, so when I heard that Great Lakes Brewery was serving up some pulled pork and beef brisket, along with five-dollar craft beers, I took the subway almost all the way out to the end of the line, then got on a bus, son!

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The brewery is just north of the Gardiner, on the way out to the airport. And today they’ve got some BBQ, craft beers on tap, and a roots-rock cover band, to boot! Not that I needed an excuse to get afternoon drunk, or anything…

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I think I had at least one of all of these. Nice pumpkiny flavour on the Saison, the Chill was pretty chill, and the Canuck IPA was famously bitter. I will say that the Karma Citra tasted very similar to the Canuck, cept with a bit more citrus and a lot more alcohol. But of course, I’m mostly here for the food…

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Now, the pulled pork was pretty legit. Nice chewy tang, cooled off by the coleslaw, and the BBQ sauce was on point. But the hush puppies were definitely the star of the show. You take some deep-fried falafel balls and throw some tartar sauce on top, and that’s more country than Aaron Lewis, bro! Pretty sure I could eat eight or 10 of these, and hey, they’re serving ’em up till 6, so I just might go back for seconds…