Thursday, 23 October 2014

Win Tickets to The Gentlemen's Expo in Toronto

The Gentlemen’s Expo is back for 2014 and is giving you the chance to win two weekend passes, including drink tokens! Our readers also receive discounted admissions. The expo is November 14-16 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

The lads from Real Man Travels checked out the expo last year and were thoroughly impressed. It truly is a celebration of the finer things men love, like food, fashion, drinks, cigars, tech, sports, cars… etc.! Learn all about the event on the TGE website.

Highlights of this year’s expo include Canadian Tire’s Ultimate Garage; sport simulators, a vintage arcade and a casino; 102.1 The Edge Soundstage with bands like Hollerado and Born Ruffians; beer, wine and spirit sampling from 25 purveyors of potent potables; a KPMG business start-up spotlight; a rock climbing wall; cooking demonstrations and so much more. You can even grab a free straight shave from Dove Men+Care (manly factor x10!). All that plus loads of shopping, food and gadgets.

Enough talk! What this about free and discounted tickets? It’s true! We’re giving away two weekend passes to the expo that include five drink tokens per day – that’s 30 drink samples! The tickets are valued at $130 for the pair. Here’s how you can win:
  1. If you haven’t already (really?), like Real Man Travels on Facebook.
  2. Find one of the Gentlemen’s Expo posts and like or share it.
That’s it, you’re entered to win! We’ll announce the winner on November 1.

The Gentlemen’s Expo has also kindly extended discounted tickets to Real Man Travels readers. Enter the code REALTGE when purchasing your tickets and receive a 10% discount.

We’ll be checking out the event again this year along with some of the contributors from (yes, we’re told there’s plenty to love at the expo for ladies as well) and hope to see you there.

Remember, enter before November 1 for your chance to win!

Monday, 20 October 2014

Real Girls Go Rock Climbing

Anyone who knows me, knows I'm usually up for almost any sort of adventure. Naturally, when the opportunity to try rock climbing came up, I didn't even bat an eyelash . I met up with Chase, an experienced rock climber (and Honda Fit lifestyle ambassador) on a crisp fall Sunday morning and we set off in the all new 2015 Honda Fit! For such a little car I was surprised by the amount of pep and power it had on the highway! I was even more impressed with the super cool technology in this sweet little ride. It has blind spot cameras so when you changed lanes it showed a display of what was beside you. The dash had a very modern look with a fully integrated touch screen for all your entertainment needs and it even had a handy USB port so I could educate Chase on the finer points of quality country music! With lots of room for our climbing gear, and some sweet tunes, we were ready for the adventure ahead!

First stop was a great hike through the hills of Mount Nemo. Mount Nemo is part of Halton Parks, and I'll tell you, this hike proved to have some of the best views I've seen. It was a wonderfully clear day and I swear I could see my house from up there! It amazes me how very lucky I am to live in such a beautiful province. 

After our hike at Mount Nemo, we jumped back in the Fit and were on our way to Rattlesnake Point. Yes, the name is terrifying and makes one think of the dark area you can see from Pride Rock in the Lion King. "You must never go there Simba," yeah, well Moufasa, I went there. I would say this place is not quite as scary as the name implies. After a VERY twisty, turny (don't underline that in red spell check, I know that's not a word, but I'm using it anyway) and again twisty drive up, we arrived at Rattlesnake Point!

It was at this point the real fun began! We met up with our climbing guides, Dan and Karen from Zen Climb. They were very patient with me and helped me get my gear situated. My partner in climb, Karen, was very patient and extremely encouraging. There are a couple fantastic videos you can check out on my instagram @hmac158 The long and short of this is that I discovered 2 things on this beautiful crisp fall morning: 1 - rock climbing is hard! 2 - I have a fear of heights. Thanks to Karen I was able to work through some of that fear - at one point when I was really, really high up, (okay, it was only about 6 ft up a large rock face) I asked her "Has anyone got to this point and just said, "Ya know what? I'm good with this, I'm done.'" She simply responded, "Nobody." "Okay cool... I'm just gonna keep going." I made it to a ledge about 40 ft up and only had one other minor freak out when it was time to head back down (again video is on my instagram @hmac158). 

After completing my great Ontario rock climb, I decided to call it a day. Chase continued to climb a bit longer, as it appears he may had done it once or twice before. Despite my minor little freak outs, I had an incredible time and am so happy I had the opportunity to take part in this adventure. I love this beautiful province I call home and it was amazing to have this adventure to see it in a completely new and wonderful way! I definitely need to give a shout out and a great big THANK YOU to the people at Zen Climb! They were fantastic and they never let me give up. If you too are up for any adventure, I highly recommend braving the rock faces of Rattlesnake Point. 

Now what kind of post would this be of mine without a few selfies? After all that climbing and hiking we definitely built up quite the appetite, lucky for us a Beavertail food truck was in the park that day! Mmmm Beavertails! Thanks for being a great guide that day Chase, and thanks for putting up with all my picture taking!

If you're interested in rock climbing, or even just checking out these beautiful spots for hiking, picnics or camping, you can visit the links below:

Special thanks for Honda Canada for sending Chase and his fancy Honda Fit and organizing the day!

Monday, 13 October 2014

5 Tips For Starting a Succesful Homebrew

Our kettle, home made wort chiller and a couple frothy glasses of Lower Thompsonville Rouge (LTR).
The line between passion and obsession is often blurred. Never has that been more true than when I dove into homebrewing. What started as a weekend hobby to brew a couple of cases has occupied most of my down time this past few weeks. Now that things in the Real Man Travels brewery are operating smoothly, its time to drop some knowledge on the would-be brewmasters amoung the Real Man Travels faithful.

But first, a short quiz to see if homebrewing is for you:

1: Do you like beer?
YES - you should brew beer!
NO- see question 2

2: Do you you like cooking/baking?
YES - you should brew beer!
NO- see question 3

3: Do you enjoy science experiments?
YES- you should brew beer!
NO- see question 4

4: What the hell is wrong is wrong with you? In truth, I should have asked this after you said NO to question 1.

Taking a gravity reading before fermentation can help determine alcohol content.
Now that we've weeded out those who cannot be trusted, I'm going to be using some brew lingo in these tips (yes, brewing has its own special language to make things more complicated fun.) Luckily, the internet is smarter than us all. I recommend John Palmer's How To Brew to help you make sense of it all. Now that we are all ready, here's my five tips for starting a successful homebrew

Tip 1: Do yourself a favour and buy a starter kit. The fine people over at Toronto Brewing and Ontario Beer Kegs have several packages to choose from ranging from a simple extract brewing set up to the more advanced "all grain" set ups. Basically you wind up with everything you need to get your new obsession rolling.

A cold water bath is a primitive way to bring the wort down to "pitching" temperature.
Tip 2: Buy the biggest brew kettle you can find/afford. Fact: you can boil five gallons of water in a 10 gallon pot, but you cant boil 10 gallons of water in a five gallon pot. The last thing you want to do is out grow your kettle (its really just a big pot) shortly after your purchase. That said, you also don't need to drop a g-note on a 55 gallon kettle when you are only making five gallons of beer. If you decide five gallon extract brewing is for you, then get a six gallon kettle (20% extra to prevent boil over).

The wort chiller at work in Sir Fredericks' Ale.
Tip 3: Clean like your life depends on it. If there's one thing that will crush your homebrew dreams it will be poor sanitation. Everything needs to be cleaned and sanitized to hospital standards to ensure your beer's success. I can't stress this enough. no cutting corners. Use a high quality sanitizer like Star San.

Tip 4: Know your yeast. Yeast plays a very important roll in your beer's journey from boiling water to delicious nectar of the gods. Each variety of yeast may shape your beer's flavour differently, but it will also require a certain optimal condition to "get things moving." Temperature is an important factor to take into consideration. Some yeasts require 55 -71 degrees Fahrenheit where others can be happy right up to 100 degrees. You can "start" your yeast to ensure everything is alive and kicking before adding it to your wort. To do this add a table spoon of sugar to a cup of water and boil it. When it has cooled to "pitching" temperature (65F-100F depending on the yeast you've chosen) add half of your yeast package and cover. in 5-10 minutes you should see some activity. three days into fermentation add the remainder of the yeast. This will help prevent coming home to an awful mess, as well as ensure you have plenty of active yeast for bottle carbonation.

Fermenting a batch. A blow off tube can prevent an awful mess.
Tip 5: Patience, young grasshopper. After you brew you will want to try your beer - that's only natural. However, make sure your fermentation has finished before moving onto bottling (or kegging!). Then of course you will want to pop a top on one of your creations as soon as you feel its ready to go. This will again test your patience as every day of carbonation adds more flavour to your beer. As a rule of thumb give your beer a minimum of two weeks from bottling day you sample it. This should allow for adequate carbonation. If it doesn't taste quite right, leave it for another week.

There you have it. Just enough information to make you dangerous at your local home brew supply shop. If you have any questions please feel free to ask; if you've got some tips for us, we'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Camping with an Infant: Let's Go RVing!

A post by Scott F

After an awesome experience camping with our infant son utilizing Ontario Parks’ roofed accommodations, my wife and I were excited to try another alternative to tent camping that would allow us to keep our outdoor lifestyle alive while maintaining our baby boy’s comfort, and thus our sanity.

Yup, this guy.
This time we connected with Go RVing Canada - the definitive source for all things motorhome, camper, trailer, hauler and park model recreational vehicle-related in our fair land - to try our hand at RVing. Our destination: the beautiful Bruce Peninsula.

I spoke with Chris Mahony, Executive Director at Go RVing Canada about camping with an infant in an RV: "My wife and I are big travelers and we love to camp. As we got older and kids came along, RVing made so much sense. It's a perfect choice for those who have a propensity for the outdoors, but also have to consider all the needs of their kids." 

We picked up our rig in Hamilton at Outdoor Travel. The guys took us through every utility, gadget, tool and convenience of our Class C 23 foot Forest River Sunseeker motorhome (the first option on Outdoor Travel's rental webpage), of which there were many. They had us feeling very comfortable by the time we embarked. When packing up we quickly realized the first huge perk of RVing with a baby: storage! The living areas offer plenty of cabinets and closets for everything you regularly need, while the storage areas at the back and side of the motorhome allow you to keep everything else out of the way. Any parents know that playpens, feeding chairs and car seats can leave you feeling claustrophobic in small spaces, so being able to pack them away was absolutely perfect.

Our rig!
The motorhome provided convenient anchor points for our car seat as well, allowing us to quickly affix our seat and remove it when not required. Fighting with a car seat can be frustrating - particularly when only the seat belt options are available - so having these anchors was a huge relief.  

Car seat in motorhome
The car seat buckles right into the RVs bench seat.

I went ahead and broke one of my key rules for camping with an infant from my first article: travelling farther than four hours away. My wife had never been to Bruce Peninsula National Park and my eagerness to share it with her bested my better judgement. Wesley did okay on the long drive, sleeping in fits, but the distance got the better of him and an extended crying tirade forced us to make an extended stop on route, delaying our arrival.

We arrived at our destination after dark and were thankful for the minimal set-up that the RV required. All we needed to do was plug in the power cord, attach the water hose and we had a fully functional house on wheels. We used the complete kitchen, equipped with fridge, stove, sink and microwave to prepare dinner for ourselves and Wes, and were able to grab a shower in the RV’s three piece bathroom! How perfect is that!

The next day we checked out the park. We stayed for three nights at Summer House Park, located 20 minutes south of Tobermory on Miller Lake. This immensely picturesque and tranquil park offers 235 campsites including full services sites for RVs. We got the chance to speak with Darcy, whose family has owned the park since it opened over 60 years ago. She explained the family orientation of the park, mentioning the many kids programs and activities including inflatable water toys on the lake, organized and drop in games, guided hikes, evening entertainment, boat rentals and a full playground. Most of the activities only run during the summer but Darcy’s explanation got us pumped to bring Wes back when he’s a little older.

We packed up the RV and spent the day in Tobermory, capping off our visit off with a glass bottomed boat tour of Fathom Five Marine Park and Flowerpot Island with Blue Heron Tours.

Ship wreck near Tobermory

The famous flowerpots of Flowerpot Island

We got back to Summer House in the late afternoon and spent the waning daylight hours at the beautiful beach.

With one night in the RV under our belt we were becoming more confident with the set-up. The 23 foot unit we were provided didn’t leave a lot of room for the playpen that we brought for Wes to sleep in. With a little ingenuity, we were able to lower the kitchen table and place the playpen on the benches, keeping the walkway to our bed clear. This allowed us to put Wes to bed and have a campfire without worrying about waking him when we retired for the evening. We would still recommend a larger motorhome to provide additional room for a playpen for those camping with an infant.

Our bed, we were shocked to find, was one of the most comfortable we had ever slept in! Better than an air mattress any day.

The next day we made our way to Cyprus Lake Campground in Bruce Peninsula National Park to check out the astounding rock formations. We were blown away by the crystal clear blue water. Cyprus Lake Campground accesses one of the most beautiful natural sites in all of Ontario: the grotto. Pictures are the only way to tell this story.

Check out that water!

The Grotto!

We hiked the full loop of trails that join the Bruce Trail, stretching along the Georgian Bay coastline. Steph found the Horse Lake side trail to be a little treacherous with Wes strapped to her, but she pushed through, carefully.

We spent another night by the campfire enjoying the peaceful park as Wes slept soundly. We had intended to embark early the next morning but got held up by an over-tightened flange on our sewer line (pure newb RVer move). We received eager help from some of our fellow RVers and from the park staff.

When I mention the help we received, Chris said it was par for the course when it comes to RVers. "RV parks are amazing communities," he explained. "RVers seem to always be approachable and willing to help."

The only downfall of RVing, we found, is cost. Rentals usually come with limited kilometers which restrict the ability to go very far without paying extra fees. As expected, the rig also went through a fair bit of gas. That said, the combination of convenience, comfort and features, I think, make the cost worth every penny. I’m told a tow behind option may be an even more economical way to go.

An RV is another excellent option for new parents who don’t want to give up their outdoor lifestyles. The ability to maintain temperature (RVs have both air conditioning and heat), bring everything you need, control light, prepare food and bottles, and provide a safe environment for baby to play all add up to a peaceful relaxing vacation.

"There are so many reasons why people choose RVs," explains Chris. "Once you have the RV travel costs are quite low, up to 76 per cent less than other trips! You also have increased freedom and flexibility and are able to pick up at a moment's notice and go wherever you want. That's something you don't get with a cottage."

If you are considering RV for rent or purchase check out Go RVing Canada's website. They have a variety of tools to help choose the right option for your situation. They also provide trip planning information including campground listings, routes and packing lists.

Big thanks to Chris and everyone at Go RVing Canada for setting us up on this trip. We can't wait to go again!

Friday, 3 October 2014

This Week in Beer - Ale-induced Anecdotals Part Three

A post by Scott F

Continuing our tradition of bringing you all that's weird and wonderful in the world of beer; check out the stories below to find out what's new with the true nectar of the gods. 

Delirium Tremens Finds its Way onto Ontario shelves

Once there was an absolutely fantastic beer with an absolutely terrible name. That beer was Delirium Tremens, and until last week Ontario’s beer retail monopoly, The Beer Store, had refused to allow it on store shelves. Delirium Tremens refers to the shaking symptoms alcoholics get during withdrawal. To further the analogy, the bottle also features a pink elephant reminiscent of the hallucinations that may be experienced alongside “the shakes.”

Naming a substance after the symptoms one who is addicted to that substance might experience when trying to kick that substance, is a little offside. Sadly, it’s a beer that’s tough to hate. Stuart Kallen gave it the number one spot in his book The 50 Greatest Beers in the World, and yes, it is that good. I found a glass at Pauper’s Pub a couple weeks back and this bold, toweringly fruity Belgian strong ale packs flavours of honey, clove and plum into its 8.5 ABV frame.

Paying Alcoholics with Beer… Why Didn’t I Think of That! Oh Wait...

Those cleaver Germans have devised to pay homeless alcoholics in food, beer and cigarettes to clean up their cities. Okay, I’ve perhaps overplayed how ridiculous this sounds, as it’s actually a pretty sound project. In exchange for sweeping streets, these folks receive a structured environment which allows for modest alcohol intake. 

Does Your Beer-making Kit include Volcanic Rocks?

Garage Project out of New Zealand is redefining extreme brewing with every batch. Pushing boundaries is the name of the game, and they do that in spades. One of their beers needs the purest seawater requiring a submarine and professional diver to collect it. Another uses volcanic rocks to flash boil the wort. The wort is then poured through the rocks to caramelizes the sugars and give the beer distinction.

Beer Makes You Smarter… I Knew It!

Scientists in Oregano State University  have identified a flavonoid found in hops and beer that increases brain function. Mice given large doses of this flavonoid (it’s just fun to say, flavonoid!) showed marked improvements in adapting to changes in their environments. I knew it! I knew it all along! 

One small caveat the study mentioned is that a human would be required to drink 2000 litres of beer a day to see benefits… well darn.

Ten to the power of five times more information.

The Great Beer Pipeline

A brewery in Belgium is planning to build a two mile beer pipeline under the cobblestone streets of Bruges. No, this isn’t a glorious smuggling operation, nor does it end in a magical beer waterfall. The pipeline will deliver the beer from the brewery to the bottling facility and will eliminate about 85 per cent of the town’s truck traffic.

Know a cool story in the world of beer? Post it in the comments below.