Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Drinking Beer in Collingwood

Once strictly viewed as a winter destination on account of the incredible Blue Mountain ski resort, Collingwood, Ontario has transformed itself into a haven for day-trippers and vacationers alike during all four seasons. Home to attractions like the Blue Mountain Village (complete with shopping, restaurants, hotels and an adventure park featuring the Ridge Runner mountain roller coaster, a ropes course with zip lines, the Apex Bagjump, and gondolas to the top of Blue Mountain), Scenic Caves, Scandinave Spa and a variety of other attractions, there is no shortage of ways to fill you days.

The town also features an incredible trail system. During our stay we trekked along the Heather Pathway which does a loop through the better part of the town and starts and ends at two magnificent lookouts over Collingwood Harbour.

With the development of four season tourism along with a strong community of both seasonal and full time residents, an array of beer, wine and spirit manufacturers have also found their homes in Collingwood. The town is home to three breweries; Canadian Mist Distillery, makers of the excellent Collingwood rye whiskey; and an array of wineries.

Never missing the chance to try local beer, I visited two of the three local breweries during my visit and found the following gems. I look forward to checking out Collingwood Brewery on my next visit.

Formally known as Denison’s, the brewery re-branded and are now named for the method of launching ships used in Collingwood for generations. Side Launch has experienced impressive success in the Ontario beer market. Their lineup is focused and features mainstays that are quality approaches to traditional beer styles, along with a revolving selection of seasonals.


One of the brewery’s three mainstay beers, and likely their most popular, Side Launch’s wheat is a German Hefeweizen, and likely one of the better efforts at the style amoung Ontario breweries. Banana predominates on both nose and flavour and is backed with strong yeast character. Coriander and other mild spices round out the flavour.

Dark Lager

I’ve been drawn to this style (traditionally called German Dunkel), of late. The beer is pure malt on the nose with the flavour of light caramel, bready malt and a little bit of brown sugar. The beer leaves you smacking your lips long after your sip.

A brand new entry into the Ontario beer market, Northwinds opened a little over a year ago and offers a great selection of food and beer at their brewhouse. You won’t find these beers in major retailers, but the variety of beers on tap is astounding. While there were a few misses, the following beers really grabbed my attention.

Brew Mountain SMaSH Series (Centennial)

A great entry in the American Pale Ale category. Thin body with plenty of citrus on nose and flavour. Grapefruit and floral/piney notes predominate with the centennial hops really coming through as advertised. Great for summer.

Old Baldy Farmhouse Ale

With so many saisons on tap I feel brewmaster Andrew Bartle must have been a homebrewer. While lacking the usually yeast forward character of many saisons, this entry brings the hops to the forefront with the hot taste of rye malt coming through. Unique and tasty.

Side note! If you are looking for a truly unique place to eat while around the Collingwood area, check out Hai Sai in Singhampton (20 minutes south of Collingwood). Managed by restaurant legend Michael Stadtländer, Hai Sai is completely and utterly surprising. Both food and décor are out of the ordinary and definitely worth the trip off the beaten path.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Bad Axe Summer Nights with the Ford #Fusion

When Ford Canada asked if we wanted to spend one of our summer nights throwing sharp objects across a room, and putting the Ford Fusion Energi through the rounds of Toronto life, I had to think about it for an entire second before a simple "Yup" fell from my mouth. I will, however, admit that I had to ponder the connection between throwing axes with the fine folks at Bad Axe Throwing and the 2015 Ford Fusion Energi. It came to me later that Gamification was the key. More on that later.

First let's get to the axe throwing. Axe throwing is a hot new activity sweeping the nation like the next One Direction song (or the Backstreet Boys if you're over 25), and its brilliance lies in its simplicity. Take a sharp axe and throw it at a piece of wood. Then naturally it progresses to: "Take a sharp axe and try to hit the centre of a piece of wood. Suddenly, it's a game, a competition, a sport.

Toronto Axe Throwing
We here at Real Man Travels excel at throwing sharp objects. It is known.
That's me. Capturing a quick selfie with one of many bulls eyes our crew mustered over the hours we spent hurling objects of destruction towards unsuspecting plywood. You might be thinking: "How did you spend hours simply throwing axes and still look so happy about it?" The answer, again, is gamification. Our hostess led us threw a few quick lessons on the proper technique. Once all of our members had a handle on the sweet science we were lead through various games with different scoring methods. Each game rewarded a slightly different skill, and this kept the evening enjoyable for the members of the group that found the bulls eye on a much less frequent basis than our Real Girl Travels team member Alison (she beat me, I will own that).

Bad Axe Throwing Toronto
Our friend Dante was a natural. He seems destined for a career in the pros.
When our time was up we ventured back downstairs to our Ford Fusion. As a car guy at heart I always look for what makes a car stand out from the crowd. It sat parked in a long line of cars hugging the curb that night in the Junction of Toronto, yet the sporty lines stood out amongst the sea of bland mid sized sedans. A quick press of the remote start button brought the first stand out moment.....there was silence. No "vroom" noise, just the lighting system awakening as we walked towards it.

ford fusion interior
The stylish space aged cockpit.
After adjusting the controls and finding The Highway on Sirius/XM, I was ready to see how the Energi system adapted to my driving style. A brief pause for the technical jargon: The Fusion Energi offers the best of both worlds, providing the capability to be driven as an electric vehicle for short trips and as a hybrid for longer trips, boasts Ford. I found it did one better; it made me a better driver. It was only a few short blocks before I found myself watching the SmartGauge measure my driving efficiency. Within minutes I was growing new leaves (a smart way of showing the driver how well they are doing) and finding the right times to let off the gas to maximize my regenerative braking power (the car captures energy every time you coast, and stores it in the on-board battery pack). My competitive nature had taken over... I needed to own the high score!

A few sweet benefits to the green vehicle: Free reign of the HOV lanes and being able to plug in to any household outlet to charge using the supplied charging cord.
Thanks to gamification this Ford taught me how to win at the gas pumps, and how to survive the pending zombie apocalypse with my newly discovered axe throwing skills. Women still like guys with skills right?