Tag Archives: Guelph

Last call

Summer is gone and gone with it is my taste for summer drinks.  It’s an odd time of year.  I’m not quite ready for big red wines or stout ale, and yet I don’t want a cider, pilsner, or crisp riesling anymore either.

This is what happened last week on the patio formerly known as OX.


My wife tried the cider, I had the Stonehammer harvest ale, and my daughter the Stonehammer dark ale.

It was a nice autumnal experience. A leaf or two dropped into our pints …


…a beautiful wasp stopped in for a visit …


And then the teenagers took over the “nature in a pint glass” game and made their big sister M’s drink a little over the top nature crazy.  She drank it unfazed at her sisters’ tomfoolery. We do have fun.  And round 2 … was the Stonehammer Dark. It became the official pint of the Oke family’s “patio and reading afternoon”.




I was enjoying a Wellington SPA on the patio at the Wooly with my good friend R.  “There’s a fly, or wasp, in your pint” I commented.  “That’s the least of my concerns” was his reply. And he proceeded to keep the not-so-little insect in his drink.


“What a good attitude”, i thought to myself. Why squabble over something as innocuous as an insect that just wants some slightly hoppy pale ale today. We can certainly coexist. This little bee is certainly not ruining my day in any respect – maybe we can just get along.  R gets his pint and the wasp gets his fermented sugar.

A couple of days later i found myself in 20 degree weather sitting on the OX patio. There wasn’t much space but 4 women were very nice and allowed me to share their table. I assured them that i was there to read and have a pint and wouldn’t bother them. They allowed me to coexist in their space in that little oasis in downtown Guelph. That’s when this happened.


Yes, a black fly in my “chardonnay” [Alannis], or rather Royal City dry hopped IPA.  My first instinct was to remove the little pest.  Then i remember the kindness of others. My friend R allowing the wasp to stay, my new writer friends allowing me to sit with them in the sunshine.  Monsieur la mouche [french] wasn’t really bothering anyone. Earlier in the week my daughter M and i had the “killing one fly doesn’t change the world for the better so why not let him live” conversation. So i let him coexist.  If i’ve learned anything from M, R, and my new patio friends at OX, it’s that maybe we can all get along and that makes for a better world.

IMG_9815Maybe you find that a little uncomfortable to think about drinking a pint with a fly in it – but i decided to coexist and it felt good.  Try it yourself sometime this week.

PS – i realize that it looks like i was writing about coexisting and friends and learning stuff from my daughter, but i did recommend two excellent patio beer that you might want to try. See what i did there?

First in Space

Sometimes a man [which I’m] needs to do something noteworthy and daring – to bleed to know he’s alive.  And since my bridge jumping days are over this is what i came up with.

I’ve done my part to get spring kickstarted by being the first person on two different patios in Guelph already. Some people are comparing it to Neil Armstrong’s giant leap for mankind – admittedly it’s not “some people”, it’s only me. Yet the servers at both establishments were suitably impressed. So this blog post is really a guide to being first in space [opening patios] after a ridiculously cold [i.e. nobody believes in global warming anymore] winter.

OX was the first up in early March. I picked OX because it’s sheltered from the wind and a bit of an oasis in downtown Guelph. My adventure opening the patio at the Wooly came later.

  • Step 1 – bring a blanket, metal chairs are cold on the bum. Bring a friend so that you can both convince yourself this was a good idea when you get numb.
  • Step 2- walk up to the bar and order a stout or brown ale, something that has roasted malts.  An hoppy IPA will do if you can’t find a brown ale suitable to your tastes.
  • Step 3 – walk through the bar, open the patio door like you know what you’re doing, and set up camp. Beer in the snow, blanket protecting your gluteals
  • Step 4 – be a little smug


IMG_9292One small step for man …

Bob’s Book

Wednesday I went to a book launch by local author, and Guelph celebrity in his own right, Bob Desautels – who most of us know as the owner of The Wooly [or the Woolwich Arrow as nobody calls it], or as I call it, “The Home Court”, as it is the closest pub to my house.  As usual I’m already not talking about what meant to talk about – Bob’s book.  I went to the launch, got a copy of Bob’s book, got it signed,  then sold it on eBay two hours later for a profit.  First edition? Author’s signature? eBay gold!

WineSense is the name of Bob’s first book. Subtitled “the three keys to understanding wine” it reads like a series of lecture notes on the topic of wine. Lecture notes interspersed with witty anecdotes and clever quotes.  I appreciated it both as an educator and somebody who knows just enough about wine to consider myself interesting in a wine conversation [I can hear brother-in-Spain shouting, “interesting to who?”].

Three weeks ago my daughter, wife, and I were sampling ales at the Wooly when Bob came over very excited to have had the first books delivered to him that very day. He brought one over like a new grandchild and gave us an introduction.  I have been anticipating getting a copy ever since.

Three favourite quotes for from the introduction of WineSense …

  • The one indisputable thing about wine is that it will cheer you up [agreed Bob, unless it’s mulled wine – i’ve got nothing good to say about mulled wine]
  • Wine just helps to bring people closer together [true, i pack 50 people in a space designed to seat 8 at my Beaujolais Nouveau party]
  • Champagne is known to be the only drink or food that a person who is seasick can digest without vomiting [after my bout with the flu I wish I’d know that 5 days ago]

I think you can learn a lot about the authors intentions from the introduction. Bob is unpretentious, knowledgeable, and his  good guy-ness comes through.  It’s an easy read and a great course in wine education.  Well done Bob.  You can order the book from Friesen Press, but don’t – buying at the Wooly seems only proper.


From the Friesen website …

Wine is a muse for poets and ordinary folks alike, a great seducer and lifelong friend to many. It’s integral to some of the finest cultures on earth. But as simple and lovely as wine may be, the wine world can be intimidating. Many so-called experts perpetuate an elitist approach to wine, with their explanations so jargon-filled that the wine gets lost in the analysis.

WineSense cuts through the jargon and complexities wine can present. In this common-sense guide, Bob Desautels offers straightforward information on types of wine, tasting, wine history, grape varieties, approaches to winemaking, and more. His Three Keys to Understanding Wine allow the everyday wine enthusiast and the beginner to truly grasp the subject while increasing their appreciation of wine.

The ultimate purpose of this book is to teach you how to find good and consistent styles of wine that suit your palate. You’ll be able to look beyond the safe choices and search for local wines that have the best qualities of your international favourites. With a deeper understanding of wine, you’ll gain true WineSense, offering you a newfound confidence in choosing the right wine for the right time.


Royal City Brewing is NANO

Nano is small. Really small. But don’t underestimate the power of nano – especially when it’s in your back yard. Royal City Brewery is a nano-brewery [that means tiny] right here in Guelph. They opened up on Saturday with sample tastings, a tour, and sales.

So I sampled


 And I toured

[Local coffee roaster Joe Harrison’s Grizzly Bear coffee is used in this über-local stout – click here for my exposé on Grizzly Bear Coffee]


And they sold me a Growler of Gateway IPA


The best thing about buying a growler [2 litres] of IPA is that you bring it back and then they refill it for you.  199 Victoria Rd S – GO NOW!


Phone a Friend

I had somebody text me the other day to find out if I knew where Newcastle Brown Ale was on tap in Guelph.  She referred to me as her “phone a friend” – a reference to the Who Wants to be a Millionaire game show.

It got me to thinking – how do you find out stuff like that in your city. I think Twitter is the answer to the modern “phone a friend”.  It certainly casts a wide “friend” net.  I tweeted at a local beer guy who got back to me within minutes.  Sadly there wasn’t any on tap here in Guelph.  But I thought that Mill Street Tankhouse Ale at the Wooly was a close second.

I think I would be okay if somebody tweeted me about where to find a wine.  So go ahead – “tweet a friend” @TravisOke

#Hashtag, whatever you want it to be.


Guelph Wine Tasting

Guelph has a wine tasting venue again!  And we owe a debt of gratitude to the good taste of the folks at 39 Carden St. who put out some $$ and bought an Enomatic wine serving system [sounds very 60’s doesn’t it]. What does it mean? It means I can try an oz of Stags Leap Artemis for $4! I can also try Sequillo – a GSM blend from S.Africa for $2!

I’m telling you this is great news for wine lovers. Also, I ate steak tartare and it all counted as a date with my wife.






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