Tag Archives: Interviews

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




Filed under Other Breweries