Magnotta Brewery:Featuring Peaches En Regalia and Dungeons and Flagons ESB

This new feature column, Community Brews, aims to celebrate the small breweries in our community, sharing not only the tasting notes of their latest feature beer, but also telling their story and describing their history in our local area. 

In this edition, we introduce Magnotta Brewery.  Gabe and Rossana Magnotta founded its Winery business in 1990, producing 100% Ontario vintages from grapes grown at 180 acres of family-owned and operated vineyards.  The story of this winery business, which is now the third largest in Ontario, is familiar to many local consumers.  A lesser-known part of its history began in 1996 with the formation of Magnotta Brewery, which a location in the heart of North York at Yonge and Finch.

It introduced traditionally brewed craft lagers and ales that would win awards at national and international competitions including Brewery of the Year.  More recently, rotating experimental brews have been added to the classic lineup, expanding the repertoire of available tastes for beer lovers.  These specialty brews were created by staff members who work at the brewery and are interested in honing their skills as an apprentice under the watchful eye of the head brewer.

Barbara Ziola is a seasoned veteran of the Canada brewing industry who takes her role as head brewer seriously when it comes to safety, sanitation, and quality yet always has a smile and time to take a curious person on a tour of the brewery, teaching as she goes.  “I love what I do,” she told me as she described how a large tank known as a “sparge” extracts the sweet sugary liquid, known as “wort” from the crushed barley and hot water mixture known as “mash”.  Later in the process hops are added to impart flavour and then yeast is used to ferment the sugars into alcohol.  While I was learning about brewing, I also learned about Magnotta’s community involvement.

The brewery hires people of all ages and backgrounds whether they have a formal education or not, including people with disabilities.  I saw many smiling faces going about their tasks, chatting casually with one another as they filled a box with the latest brews.   I was not surprised to learn the company was recognized as one of Canada’s 50 best managed for over 10 consecutive years.

Its annual Art on the Bottle competition and scholarship, which was won by 4th year arts student Kelly Baskin this past year, promotes the work of art students by featuring it on the bottle of a new release.  It is also a strong supporter of medical research through its G. Magnotta Foundation that works closely with local medical institutions including the Humber River Hospital.

A family business with deep community ties is a good fit for the growing craft beer culture in our city, but only sets the stage for the brews themselves to shine.  Originally only available at the Vaughn head office, all of the classic beers can now be ordered and picked up at any Magnotta location, including in North York.


After my tour, I had the pleasure of sampling one of the exclusive new brews that make the trek up to Vaughn a worthwhile treat: Peaches En Regalia.  Made in the traditional Belgian wheat beer style, this honey-coloured ale has a sour nose, smooth body, and a crisp finish that lingers pleasantly with hints of Ontario peaches sourced from P.G. Enns Farms.  Its 4.8% alcohol and low bitterness make it a great complement to a light meal of chicken and pasta.

Next, I sampled Dungeons and Flagons ESB, the creation of employee and amateur brewer Dean.  “I wanted to create something with a bit more bitterness and boldness than our classic beers,” he explained as he walked me through his creative process.  With some experimentation and healthy competition between employees, he succeeded in melding the tradition of English extra special bitter ales with Ontario hops to create a lighter, honey bodied brew with a crisp bitter finish.  At 5.5% alcohol and around 20 International Bitterness Units (IBUs), the hops and malt are well-balanced.  Enjoy it beside a roaring fire with steak-frites and let your imagination soar!


Door-to-Door Furnace Inspection Scams

No, You Don’t Need to Inspect My Furnace!

If you live in a residence that is street-accessible, odds are that you have received a visit from a person who claims to be “from the energy company”, holding up some form of “identification” hanging around their neck and who says they “need to inspect your furnace”.  Sounds harmless, right?

Except it’s a scam.

Here’s how it works: the “inspector” is actually from a company that takes advantage of the deregulation of electricity and gas supply that happened in the 1990s that was intended to allow consumers to purchase their energy from suppliers other than their local utility in a competitive market.  The goal of the deregulation was to help consumers save money.  Unfortunately, most of the companies that emerged offered “deals” to consumers that were not at all to customers’ advantage.  When homeowners began realizing that they were paying more to the “alternative” companies than they were paying to their local utility before deregulation, these other companies started using aggressive sales tactics to try to trick the unaware into signing up for their services.

That’s where the fake “inspector” comes in.  When a trusting homeowner allows this person into their home, what the scammer looks for is the identification number for the local utility account that is located on the furnace and/or water heater.  They then ask the homeowner to sign a document that they claim is “confirmation that the inspection was done”.  In reality, the document is a contract authorizing the shady company to switch the homeowner’s account over to them, often locking them in to a multi-year energy supply agreement.

The best defense against this scam is knowledge.  The Ontario government is in the process of drafting new legislation to outlaw this practice.  However, at present, nothing prevents these door-to-door visits.  The employees are paid with commission for every homeowner they sign up, incentivizing them to ignore “no soliciting” signs and refuse to leave private property when asked.  Unfortunately, legacy laws still on the books don’t clearly define “legitimate” business, so door-to-door soliciting is still permitted by default despite the frequent misrepresentation and ongoing shady practices.

I asked a helpful police officer from the 31 Division what local residents in the Downsview area can do to reduce the harm from this type of scam.  He advised that condominiums and local homeowners’ associations hold meetings to inform their members about this type of scam.  Until the new laws come into effect, education is the best way to avoid these scams.  No matter what the person at your door promises, be it “savings programs”, “removing toxins from your water”, or “safety inspections”, don’t be swayed.  No legitimate energy company will ever visit your house unscheduled.  If you’re unsure about someone’s legitimacy, just say “No! You don’t need to inspect my furnace!” and close the door.


Access to Healthcare Services Is Everyone’s Problem

“Cancer patients have been complaining about the lack of parking all day”, the compassionate and understanding admin said to me as I arrived 30 minutes late for my appointment in the Cancer Clinic at the Humber River Regional Hospital.  I had arrived at the campus in time for my appointment but then found myself driving around from parking lot to parking lot, along with dozens of other cars carrying sick people to the hospital, only to discover that every single lot was completely full.  There was literally no patient parking anywhere on the multi-billion-dollar complex.  Again.  The same thing had happened on the day of my previous appointment.  I had paid $120 for a parking pass that was completely useless.  What was I going to do?

As I exited the rear of the complex, I drove past three giant, passive-aggressive signs at the entrances of the three, large, half-full City of Toronto building parking lots that said, “PRIVATE PROPERTY!” and “NO HOSPITAL PARKING!” in bold red letters.  Clearly the city was aware of the problem.  Clearly the city felt it wasn’t its problem.  Driving back around to the front of the complex, I noticed a tow truck on stand-by, waiting like a vulture for a patient to become sick enough or desperate enough to leave an unattended vehicle.

I drove North of the hospital until the city’s unnecessary “no parking signs” in the adjacent residential area ceased to bloom. I passed dozens of cars, many of which had parking tickets for daring to park on a city street near a hospital for too long.  The city was not only aware of the problem; it was also actively profiting from it through parking fines.  When I eventually found a legal place to park my vehicle, the walk back to the hospital took 20 minutes.  I’m able-bodied and in good health.  Most hospital patients cannot walk for 20 minutes to go to and from their chemotherapy sessions.  It’s unthinkable.

The CEO of the Humber River Regional Hospital, Barb Collins, is very proud of the many awards it has received.  It’s unfortunate that none of these awards are related to the very real, lived, patient experiences that have repeatedly been brought to her attention, like this one.  Imagine the negative impact on the health of a cancer patient who has to deal with the frustration and expense of recovering a towed vehicle at the same time as chemotherapy, all because of “not my problem” finger pointing and poor planning for patient parking!  Perhaps if a “fewest patients’ cars towed” award were created the Hospital would actually address the problem and add it to its list of “achievements”, since awards, not patient care, seem to be the executive priority.