Interview: Beer Reviewer Robert Arsenault

Hello beer-lovers!

We are back with another special interview edition of the Growler. This week, I’m thrilled to welcome beer reviewer Robert Arsenault. Under the guise of the “Drunk Polkaroo,” he’s been brightening up my Instagram feed for a while! I’m stoked to have had the chance to catch up with him. 🙂

Photo de Drunk Polkaroo.

KT: It’s clear that you’re very passionate about craft beer—how did you get into it?

DP: To be honest, a few years ago I was a dedicated macro beer pounder. I was in a really bad place and drinking a lot when a friend introduced me to an app for my phone called Untappd. It tracked your beers and gave you badges for trying different ones. We started to compete on finding new beers and I started to drift into craft beer as a result. It didn’t happen overnight, but when I started doing short reviews on Instagram, it became a bigger part of my life.

KT: We love your vibrant Instagram with its daily beer reviews. Do you feel that social media has helped boost the craft beer movement?

DP: I think Social Media and the people who do it well at the breweries help to boost not only the profile of that brewery but the industry as  a whole. Interacting, commenting and sharing their fans’ photos has given rise to a whole host of people who are trying to catch the eyes of the managers, and it makes the beer drinking even more fun. Feeling connected to the brewers, even online, encourages people to take their time, appreciate the beer and share it with others.

KT: Your pictures are beautiful, and we love how they show each brew to its best. What goes into setting up your shots?

DP: If I have the time, I do try to find a beautiful way to showcase the beer, or the reason I am enjoying it. Sometimes it’s an outdoor shot, which is great for natural colour and light, or I add some props from around my house for a little fun. For every one though, I am taking pictures when I drink the beer and that dictates a lot of the shots. I was not a great student of art in school, but craft beer has inspired me to look for beauty I didn’t know existed.

Photo de Drunk Polkaroo.
Gorgeous – check out Drunk Polkaroo’s Instagram for more!

KT: Lead us through one of your tastings—what do you look for, in a beer?

DP: The first thing I do when I choose a beer is think about what I am doing that day or night. Is it a social gathering, or a quiet night in? Slow sipping Imperial or crushable session beer? Once I pick from the fridge or cellar, I get a clean glass, hopefully the proper style of glassware for the beer to be consumed, as it does matter to a degree. Rinsing it always before I open the beer, to remove any dust or residue. When I pour it, I take my time, watching it build the head, cascading the carbonation down and finally lifting it up to the light to gauge the colour and consistency. Smelling, swirling and smelling again, I want to get the aroma before I try it.

I leave room at the top specifically so I can get a good sniff of what is going on in there. Almost as important as the beer itself. Finally, I take a small sip and let it swirl around, trying to capture the first impression and nuances of the first sip. I try to close my eyes and block out all distractions to be present and mindful inside the texture and flavours of the beer. Another small sip and then I begin to pick out the subtle and not-so-subtle notes. It can change as it warms and depending on the style, a tasting can take anywhere from a half hour to 2 or 3. I like to enjoy every moment as much as I can, especially with beers I may only try once. It is also a way to try and curb my old habits of overindulgence. I appreciate everything that each beer brings to my glass and I try to convey that in my reviews.


And he certainly does! The Drunk Polkaroo’s thoughtful, passionate reviews always brighten my day – and remind me why we write this blog in the first place…

For the love of beer. 🙂

You can follow the Drunk Polkaroo at the links below:




Until next time!



Interview: Toronto Booze Hound

Hello beer-lovers! Today, we bring you a very special edition of the Growler. Toronto Booze Hound is a wise, insightful voice on the Toronto beer review scene. Run by Kole McRae and Shawna O’Flaherty, they’ve been sharing brews and news for over two years! I recently caught up with Shawna to chat about our favourite topic.

KT: We’re always interested in origin stories! Can you tell us how you got into craft beer?

S: I got into craft beer pretty early, when I was probably 18-19 (the legal age in Quebec is 18 and I lived there till I was 27). Brutopia was near my university and they had $4 pints on Mondays so it was a popular hangout in 2002-2004, when I was in university. Before that I had tried Molson and Sleeman products and it never really clicked. Dieu Du Ciel was in my neighbourhood and a francophone friend brought me there to try a smoked beer for the first time. I was hooked. There was a huge linguistic divide in the beer options in Montreal back then – even now you’ll get radically different results from Google in Montreal depending on your search language.

I got Kole into craft beer. Actually a Sawdust City beer was a test on a very early date at Bar Volo, and Kole was man enough to drink a beer named Princess Wears Girl Pants with me.

We’re getting married at Beer Bistro this spring.

KT: What do you, personally, look for in your beer?

S: Oh boy, that’s tough. In the winter I want something full bodied, rich in flavour like a stout. In the summer a sour really cuts the heat. I like beers that are true to style, I like beers that push the boundaries. I like balanced beers. I like light sessionable beers and I like heavyweight boozy beers. I particularly like when they pair well with food and compliment the flavours. I don’t really go for pilsners, lagers or wheat beers unless it’s very humid out.

KT: Toronto Booze Hound has been running for over two years now! Have you found that your reviewing style and/or palate have evolved?

S: I think I’m more in tune with style guides for beer and can offer a more balanced criticism. I’ve taken many classes now on beer and wine at George Brown College and that helps me develop my palate and interests. When we started, I would not drink sour beers and now I love them! Brettomyces has grown on me too. The beer scene has changed a lot since October 2014 in Toronto.

KT: And finally, you have an impressive array of badges on Untappd. Which is your favourite?

S: Any of the travel badges, or the “from the source”. Apparently we recently untapped our 50th from the source beer so that’s 50 distinct beers at their brewery or brewpub. We always seek out breweries or vineyards when we travel.


Thank you very much to Shawna for chatting with us! You can follow Toronto Booze Hound here, and across various social media platforms (links below). Check them out!

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BadWolf Brewing Company: Part 1

As I continue to spend the off-season roaming the wilds of Virginia, I have thoroughly enjoyed acquainting myself with some of the breweries down here. One amazing brewery has been the BadWolf Brewery, located in Manassas. On my visit, I was able to try some beer and see their set-up…and owners Sarah and Jeremy Meyers were kind enough to sit down with me for a follow-up chat!


Like Ed, Jeremy started as a homebrewer. Friends joked that he should start his own brewery, but he “laughed it off” until 2009, when his wife Sarah enrolled in an entrepreneurial course. The course’s final project entailed submitting a business plan. Together, Sarah and Jeremy put together plans for a brewpub. To cap it all off, Jeremy brewed some beer for the presentation.

Needless to say, it was a runaway success. Besides the well-deserved A, they received much interest from fellow students and entrepreneurs.

And then, a case of impeccable timing:

Previously, Virginia law only permitted restaurants to sell their beer. But then, on July 1, 2012, a new law was introduced, under which “…brewers [would] be able to operate more like a Virginia farm winery, with on- and off-premises sales privileges combined into the brewery license” (Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control).

Under the new law, BadWolf no longer had to be a restaurant. It could brew, sell, and serve beer as a brewery.

BadWolf’s bar

Doors opened on June 19, 2013. Sarah and Jeremy recall lines stretching across the parking lot. When I ask about the challenges they faced in those early months, Sarah laughs. “We kept running out of beer.”

“We really had to budget our beer,” Jeremy adds. “We didn’t anticipate the demand—we went from brewing two times per week to five times.”

And I’m very glad that they’ve built up their stocks of beer. In many ways, it is quite similar to the beer we make at the Black Creek Historic Brewery. BadWolf is a “green brewery” (no extracts) and only 1.5 barrels are brewed at a time. Each keg in the back is shaken by hand to encourage carbonation. The beer is unfiltered and unpasteurized (no wonder it tasted so familiar!).

The set-up behind the bar.
Fermenting beer: excess CO2 bubbles into the Coke bottle.
Fermenting beer: excess CO2 bubbles into the Coke bottle.
Kegs, all ready to go.
Kegs, all ready to go.

And like Black Creek, BadWolf is focused on quality.

“There’s a growing minority who go after beer the same way people go after wine or coffee,” Sarah says.

They also discussed the advantages of breweries that are actually owned by the brewers. When brewers are owners, they know their product in an incredibly intimate way, from concept to aftertaste. “If I have a subpar beer,” Jeremy says. “I’m not going to put it out just because I want to sell beer. If it’s unsatisfying, I’ll dump it.”

It’s an exciting time for BadWolf in general, because Virginia’s craft beer scene is just starting to take off, thanks in part to the aforementioned law change. And where does BadWolf fit in this burgeoning scene?

“We make good beer,” Jeremy says. While BadWolf has plans for expansion, their focus remains on high-quality ingredients, superb recipes, and a high-quality product.

And the take-home message for beer-drinkers up in Ontario?

“Come visit!”

I know I’ll be back! In the meantime, tune in next post for my take on the beers I sampled.

For more information:

BadWolf Brewing Company

9776 Center St.,

Manassas, VA 20110