Friday, August 31, 2012

Photo Friday: Touching Up

Last Sunday, I led a group of Ottawa photographers through Centretown on a photo walk. They are all a great bunch of people who have a keen eye for the subtleties that make the world interesting. I think that you should all go to the Flickr page that we've set up to share our photos.

Go often, because I think that some of us are still adding photos.

One of my personal favourites that I shot was of two buildings on O'Connor street. If you've seen my photos from Wordless Wednesday, you've already seen it. I was standing near the Dominion-Chalmers United Church, looking north, when the natural contrast of the buildings caught my eye. The office tower in the background dominated the apartment building in the foreground; the simple striped pattern of its exterior was striking from the uniform balconies.

I shot this photo with my Nikon D80, with my 70-300mm lens set at 100mm; I used a shutter speed of 1/640 and an aperture of f/8.0. I also adjusted the EV to +0.33. The ISO was 640.

Is that enough technical jargon for you?

The photo, as it is displayed on the Flickr page, was touched up as I sat at the Mill Street Tweetup, after the walk. I downloaded the photo directly from my camera to my iPod, and then did some basic touching up with Snapseed.

But I wasn't entirely happy with the result. I didn't like the edge of the apartment building on the right-hand side of the photo. The buildings were a shade crooked.

And so I started again.

I went back to the original file, before any post-shooting edits, and went about touching it up again. This time, I did my editing on my laptop and used a photo-editing tool that I'm beta testing. I straightened the buildings and cropped away the unwanted bits of the apartment building. I adjusted the brightness and contrast, increased the vibrancy, and applied a colour fade correction tool.

Now, I'm happy with this shot.

What do you think?

Happy Friday!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Gammon, Part 4

For part 1 of this post, see Gammon. Or go to Part 2 or Part 3.

The following post is a fictionalization of the story about how I created a character and then became him in order to make him as believable as possible for my novel, Songsaengnim: A Korea Diary. The following recount is based on actual events, though some of the details have been altered to protect identities. Most of the dialog is almost word for word.


"Roland, we're so glad you're here. There's someone we want you to meet." It had been several weeks since I had last been in the pub and the enthusiasm from the regulars piqued my curiosity.

And then brought on a moment of sheer panic.

"There's a guy here that we want you to meet. He's from Scotland."

I had been speaking as Roland in the pub for a couple of years at this point. I had Roland's voice down pat. Roland speaks more softly than I; he chooses his words carefully. He uses a vocabulary that is much more formal than mine. He had a sense of humour of which I was envious—he said things that my shyness keeps me from uttering everything I think.

Not Roland.

And I was comfortable using a Scottish accent. It would take me a couple of minutes to get up to speed: I'd practice on my way to the pub, damn what people thought of me—there were plenty of crazies in the Byward Market. Once I had Roland's voice and accent, I could speak with it for hours. So much so that it was hard for me to switch back to my own voice.

But speaking with a Scottish accent to a bunch of Canadians who had never stepped outside their home country was one thing: using Roland's voice with another Scot was quite another.

I fought the knot in the pit of my stomach, tried to breathe evenly. This was going to be the night I was discovered for the fraud that I was. The game was up. I figured that from the moment I opened my mouth, Roland would have a life expectancy of 10 to 30 seconds.

I knew this day would come. I just wasn't prepared, wasn't ready to say goodbye.

The gentleman was portly, with grey hair and a long, bushy white beard. His nose declared to all around that he enjoyed a drink. The measure of Teacher's and the Rickard's Red told me it didn't matter to him what kind of drink was in front of him.

Being late summer, and a cool, wet one, he wore a knitted sweater; a faded-blue wind breaker was draped over the back of his chair. He was sitting at the bar: everyone sat at the bar. Seldom would tables begin to fill before the worn, faux-leather-backed high chairs at the long bar. Luckily, for me, he was sitting on the corner, closest to my seat. I liked sitting at the end of the bar, on the short end that looked down the bartender's side of the bar. A consummate, dirty-old man, I liked to see the bartender's butt, the bartender always being an attractive woman.

"Roland, this is Connor. Connor, Roland." We exchanged handshakes.

"Folks tell me you're from North Berwick," said Connor. I knew that their pronunciation had a harsher R, more like Berrick with no rolls.

"Aye," I replied, determined to hold the charade as long as possible, to speak with absolute minimalism. "And you?"


"Ah." I knew this town, had been to it. When I had flown to Scotland in 1988, I landed at the Prestwick Airport. It wasn't far from Ayr: Robert Burns territory.

"When were you last home?" asked Connor.

"A month." Lie: when I needed to take a break from visiting the pub, I explained that I was travelling back to Scotland. Roland often commuted between his home, which was now his parents' old cottage on Big Rideau Lake, and North Berwick. He had a good friend who worked in the Byward Market, and after A) having a late lunch with his "friend" or B) meeting him for drinks, Roland would swing by the pub for a drink or two before either A) driving back to the cottage or B) crashing at his friend's place (Roland never drove after having more than a couple of beers, even though I always took the bus from the pub to my house).

The last time I had been to the pub, I told them I was visiting my sister, Siobhan, who lived in Edinburgh. This was my first time back at the pub since my "trip."

"You go there often?"

"Often enough."

"Roland has his sister in Edinburgh," explained Tanya, who was behind the bar this time, "but he also has a house in North Berwick."

"North Berwick," repeated Connor, "lots of money in North Berwick."

"Uh," I grunted, careful to sound acknowledging without sounding rude.

"Owned the house long?" quizzed Connor.

"It belonged to my parents. They held onto it when we came to Canada, and I bought it from them about 15 years ago." I was sure that Connor would see through my fake accent, but he said nothing.

"I wonder how much it's worth."

I eyed him suspiciously. What was it to him? Perhaps it was a cultural difference that I wasn't aware of. I shrugged. "Never thought of it." My pint of Keith's came to me. I never had to ask. Even though I loathed the stuff, I drank it. Roland was never the beer snob that I was. Or am. "What brings you here?" I asked.

"Family," he said. "Daughter lives here. I'm a new grand da'."

"Congratulations." We raised glasses to one another.

"Slainte," said Connor.

"Slainte Mhath," I responded in kind. We sipped.

"Where d'ye say you were from?" he asked, one eyebrow raised, the opposite eye squinting. He was on to me.

"North Berwick," I repeated. I knew my pronunciation was spot-on. When I had gone to Scotland, I had made the mistake of mispronouncing the town. A native corrected me, and then had me repeat it until I had it right. "East Lothian."

"I know where it is," he said, sounding perturbed. "You just don't sound like you're from there."

"I've lived in Canada a long time," I offered, vying for more time. Any second, now, he'd call "bullshit."

"Aye, just so," he said, "just so." He took a sip of the cheap whisky.

He stayed another hour or so. I listened to his accent and tried to remember his inflections. His voice was nasal, more so than mine. As we drank and talked, he seemed less critical of my accent, was more accepting. We talked about the Scottish lowlands, the area around his town. I told him I had been to Culzean, but that the castle was too modern for my liking. It lacked the history and rustic charm of Tantallon (the pronunciation of which I was also made to repeat and repeat until I said it right).

We talked about Siobhan and how she had returned to Scotland to attend Glasgow University. How she met her true love, her husband, and how they moved to Edinburgh. He was an architect, she was an administrative assistant who worked for the Lord Provost (luckily, Connor didn't talk about names, didn't seem keen on talking about the new Scottish parliament).

I made my family's background up as I went along, making mental notes to remember it so that I could add it to my story. My friends at the bar were learning something more about Roland. As was I.

I wasn't exposed that night. Somehow, I had convinced a native Scot that I was one too. The experience had given me the confidence to freely speak with Roland's softened brogue.

A couple of years later, I met Ian Rankin and heard him speak. And I was amazed at the sound of his accent: he's from Fife but lives in Edinburgh, and his accent closely matched Roland's (Ian's was better).

I have an ear for languages. When I was in Korea, teaching in Chŏnju, I once walked through the halls of my language institute and was trying to get past a crowd of my students. I came behind one of them and said "shillye-habnidaexcuse me," and when the student turned to face me she screamed out in surprise, explaining that when she turned she expected to see a Korean: my accent was that convincing.

I fooled a Scot. For years, I fooled a handful of people in a Byward Market pub. That was the plan.

But what I hadn't intended was that I was going to hurt people. And yet, that's exactly what happened.

To be continued...

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Open Letter to Mill Street Brew Pub

Dear Mill Street (and you know who you are),

When I go to a restaurant or pub, I have certain expectations: I expect to be seated (or find a seat by myself); I expect to be served in a courteous manner; I expect that what I order will be correctly served to me.

When I leave that restaurant or pub, I expect to leave satisfied. If I don't leave satisfied, I never return. I tell everybody about it.

And so, today, I want to tell everyone about you. In the seven months that I have been visiting your establishment, not once have you met my expectations.

You've exceeded them.

This weekend, I organized my fourth tweetup at the Mill Street Brew Pub. When I have chosen a date for my event, I don't call and make reservations: I talk to the manager, suggesting a date. If he doesn't object, there's nothing else I need to do. It gets done.

I expect a table that will seat the estimated number of guests. That's all I expect. A table, and chairs. Each and every time, you have gone to great lengths to decorate our table. Balloons: red and white helium balloons. The other day, you added swag: Mill Street pint glasses and bottle openers.

I never expect this level of hospitality. But you deliver.

When we are sitting at our table, I expect to have a server who will see to our needs and will take our orders for food and drink. That's all I expect. For the past four tweetups, we have been served by the same person. She greets us warmly, ensures that we're comfortable, and sees that we are promptly served our drinks. She brings us appetizers and informs us that they're complimentary.

No one at our table expects this. We are happy to order and pay for everything that is brought to us. Our server not only serves us in a courteous manner, she sincerely makes us feel as though she's happy to be there for us. She treats us like friends. She treats us like family.

Dear Mill Street: my expectations are simple. There's not much that I want: a seat, simple, accurate service, and courtesy. In every one of my expectations, you have exceeded those points.

Words cannot express my gratitude for all that you do to make the tweetups the most wonderful social gatherings I've experienced. Not only do you deliver, you have me leaving in the genuine belief that you enjoyed looking after me and my friends.

You are set apart from other restaurants in Ottawa. Over the past seven months, you have proven time and time again that you have what this city needs.

More than a week ago, during the Craft Beer Week festival, I made a video at your booth, stating why I love Mill Street. You can see it here. (And if you vote for it, I would be even more grateful than I am.) Once again, at this past tweetup, you have justified my words.

I will continue to hold tweetups at your establishment for as long as you'll host them. For as long as you continue to meet my expectations (not exceed them, as you do; just meet them).

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Beer O'Clock: Cross-Border Shopping... Sort Of

I love living on the border of Ontario and Québec: not only do I have exposure to Canada's two official languages, I get to sample beer from both sides. And because I live in Ontario but work in Québec, I cross the border several times each week.

Both Ontario and La belle province have a thriving beer industry, as was evidenced at last weekend's Craft Beer Week festival. While the majority of the breweries that attended the nine-day event were from Ontario, one brewery is based in Montréal: McAuslan.

I've been drinking McAuslan's beer for years. Their St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout is my all-time favourite stout. I love the smokey flavour and hints of dark chocolate intertwined. It's not a creamy, smooth-drinking stout, but I'm not known for consuming easy-drinking beer. I love that in-your-face flavour. I guess that's why I also love the smokey, peatiness of a good Islay single-malt scotch (FYI: Laphroaig and St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout are an excellent combination).

When I saw the McAuslan tent at the beer festival, I went straight up to it, said hello to their lovely rep, Hollisha Francis, and was quick to let her know of my love for her company's dark ale. She, in return, poured me a sample to enjoy while we chatted.

McAuslan had three taps on offer at the festival: the oatmeal stout and their pale ale (which I've had once before: it's a nice, easy-drinking, medium-bodied ale. I've already told you I prefer more flavour in my beer, so it should be no surprise that I haven't gone back for more), but I saw a green tap that I didn't recognize.

"I didn't know you made an IPA," I said, showing a keen interest.

"It's a seasonal," Hollisha informed me. With my stout finished, I was eager to try the IPA.

And as soon as I had it, I wanted more. Much more. I asked her where I could obtain some for my personal collection. Sadly, Hollisha dashed my hopes, saying it wasn't at the LCBO, that it would only be available on tap at select pubs. The only one she knew of in the Ottawa area was the Arrow & Loon.

I love the Arrow & Loon, but unfortunately I don't get out to it very often. Not nearly often enough to take advantage of a seasonal.

Fortunately, for me, I don't give up easily. Especially, since I live on the border with Québec. Sure, it wasn't available at the LCBO, but maybe a dépanneur would have it*.

Not only did I find the St-Ambroise IPA in a Gatineau store (McAuslan's Web site shows who carries their beer), it was an awesome store, and it was only a two-minute drive from my office.

La trappe à fromage (The Cheese Trap) is a gorgeous épicerie that offers (obviously) cheeses of every ilk plus deli meats, specialty jams, jellies, and spreads, and more. And it has a great beer selection.

It's beer heaven. There are lots of microbreweries: from Unibroue to Gatineau's microbrewery, BDT. There were labels that I didn't recognize but am eager to try. And I found McAuslan's IPA.

So I cleared the store out of their supply.

Here is the low-down on this ale.
St-Ambroise India Pale Ale
Brasserie McAuslan
Montréal, QC
La trappe à fromage: $9.99, 4 x 341 ml; 6.2% ABV
Made with pale, Crystal, and Munich malts, and with both Willamette and Golding hops, this is a traditional English IPA. The colour is a brilliant copper-amber; the head, a white foam that dissipates shortly after the pour. The nose is aromatic: I could sit and breathe the fresh citrus bouquet all day, but I really wanted to get to the drinking part.

On the palate, you are hit immediately with intense hops, but the flavour of bold, fresh orange and spice almost instantly washes the tannin-like taste away in a clean, short finish. I was reminded of a cold orange pekoe tea as I drank. This IPA is immensely refreshing. The flavour hits you, goes away, and has you craving more.

St-Ambroise IPA may very well be the best IPA I've ever had. There is a nice balance between the flavours and alcohol. Though it is a strong beer, it doesn't drink like one.

I'm hoping that even though this beer is a seasonal that it sticks around for a while. And I hope that La trappe à fromage gets more.

But if you want to get some, you'd better act fast: as I said, I'm only a two-minute drive from one of Gatineau's two locations. Maybe you'd be best to try the Arrow & Loon.

* I know, I know. It's currently unlawful to transport alcohol over provincial borders. But the law will be changing soon and I'm counting on the belief that authorities have bigger fish to fry. So shh... 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Rewind: August 20-24, 2012

As this post goes out, I'm not enjoying today. My family had gone off to camp and I'm stuck at work, slogging it out to meet a deadline.

It's not that I'm upset because I'm missing out on some camping. That's not it: I lost my interest in camping a few years ago and haven't seen it since. No, I'm upset because this is the second-last weekend for the summer holidays, before my kids return to school, and I'm not sharing it with them.

Sucks to be me.

But do you know what will make me happy? If you would take some time to sit back and read my blog posts of the past week. Maybe leave me a comment or two.

That'd be great. Thanks.

Here's what happened this week on The Brown Knowser:
  • Beer O'Clock: The Accidental Photographer—I was going to be there anyway, so I was happy to help. As for the second accident, that wasn't so good.
  • LinkedOut—stepping back from one of my first social networks. It's not you, it's me. I don't have time to give full attention to you, so I'm cutting you loose. Well, some of you, anyway.
  • Wordless Wednesday: Candid—more photos from Craft Beer Week. The best shots are the ones they don't see coming.
  • Gammon, Part 3—the continuing story of the making of Roland Axam and Songsaengnim. I'm planning to wrap this story up next week.
  • Photo Friday: Adding Drama—I do it in my writing; why not in my photography?
Have a great weekend! And if you're going to be in Ottawa tomorrow, why not check out two events that I've organized: the Summer Photo Walk, where other area photogs and I will prowl the downtown core, and the Mill Street Tweetup, where said photogs and I will refresh ourselves after a good walk and will meet up with some other social-media types.

For information and to sign up (you must at least sign up for the tweetup, as there is limited seating), go to the following sites:
I hope to see you there. If I can't be with my family, I'll be with you.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Photo Friday: Adding Drama

Sometimes, nature can be dramatic; other times, it needs a little help.

On Sunday, I was in my back yard, catching up on some much-needed gardening, when I felt the winds pick up and the temperature cooled. Looking up, I saw some clouds moving in and two unusual columns were building out of the top of it, almost like the antennae of an insect, or two heads of turtles, or of two dinosaurs. Or two columns of fear.

I had my iPhone in my back pocket, my ear buds plugged in, music flowing into my brain. Pulling it out, I tried to capture the image as it was quickly changing shape.

It was a pretty dramatic sky, warning my of the impending storm that hit us a short time later. But in my mind, these clouds needed more drama.

Enter: Camera+ and about three effects...

My wife accuses me of adding drama to everything. I think she may be right.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Gammon, Part 3

For part 1 of this post, click here.

As you may have figured by now, the following post is a fictionalization of the story of how I created a character and then became him in order to make him as believable as possible for my novel, Songsaengnim: A Korea Diary. The following recount is based on actual events, though some of the details have been altered to protect identities.


I returned a couple of days later. I didn't want Shannon to think she had offended me. I wanted her to feel that she hadn't done anything wrong: after all, it was I who was doing something underhanded, was about to deceive in every possible way. To gammon. Everything I was going to say and do was not going to be me.

Everything I was going to say and do was going to come from Roland Axam.

When I returned to the pub, Michelle and John were in their usual seats. Michelle was laughing uncontrollably: she had an infectious laugh and John, always a twisted wit, had a talent for bringing it out of her. She faced away from me, but John saw me as soon as I walked in, made eye contact, and gave a solemn nod. Michelle turned her head, recognized me, and her laugh dissolved.

They knew.

Shannon wasn't in the room, but the sound of empty bottles ringing as they were being disposed of in a recycle bin told me that she wasn't far.

I nodded to the two regulars and took my seat at the far end of the bar. It seemed strange to lay claim to this seat at such an early stage. I had only been there a handful of times and there was no guarantee that this charade would work, that I would be able to return much longer. Perhaps, after sharing the news that my wife, child, and father had perished in an automobile accident would be exposed as bulllshit, hard to swallow.

Shannon emerged from the back room. Time to tell.

As soon as she spotted me, she gave a sheepish smile, seemed shy to approach me. I maintained eye contact, tried to show her with my face that it was okay, we were on good terms.

"How are you, Shannon?" I asked, my Scottish lilt soft, comforting, yet solid.

"Good," she replied, "you? A pint of Keith's?"

"Yes, please. I'm fine. I hear the weather is going to improve."

"We could use a break."

"Aye, that's for sure." I smiled at her. Awkwardness had become a memory. Her own smile almost made me cry. It was so sincere. It didn't deserve the emotional headgame I was about to inflict.

When my pint arrived, I thanked Shannon and then nodded towards the other patrons. "So, they know."

"They told you?"

"It doesn't take a mind reader. Their faces, and now the subdued voices speak volumes. It's okay. I need to move forward. It's been a long time."

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"It's not something I talk about much. Of course, my friends all know. My former coworkers. A handful of others."

"What happened?"

"As I said: car accident. Freakish. A bad storm. Obscured the road's visibility as my dad was approaching a transport truck. He clipped it and his vehicle was pulled under the trailer. They were all killed instantly."

Shannon's hand was over her mouth, as though she was holding back an emotion that would spill out if she took it away. Her eyes were teary.

I saw Michelle and John across the length of the bar. They could hear. Their heads were bowed. There was no chance of Michelle sharing her laugh.

My story evolved over the months. I gave details in pieces: I wasn't in a rush to spill it all. When questions were asked, I answered frankly.

And it took more than a year to get all of the details out. Once, when I told them that my child, Laura, died instantly, didn't make a sound, but looked like she was asleep in her car seat, I was asked how I knew this. "When I said that they all died instantly," I said, "that wasn't exactly true. Kristen was crushed by the dashboard. She was conscious, but she had suffered massive internal damage. She hemorrhaged internally, but before she died she was able to talk to the driver of the truck and to the firefighters who were trying to cut her free. She kept asking the rescuers when our baby would wake up. 'She's just sleeping, isn't she,' she asked. But she knew."

More terrifying details emerged as I made them up. "We were all at the family cottage--slash--my parents' retirement retreat. Kristen, Laura, and Dad went into town for errands while my mum and I relaxed at the dock, looking out onto the lake."

"Which lake?"

"Big Rideau," I made up on the spot. I had just been there the weekend before, visiting friends. Real friends. I had to be careful: I couldn't give any details that were associated with Ross Brown. I was Roland Axam. But it was a big enough lake; the cottage could be anywhere.

"You must have been worried when they didn't come back."

"Very worried. The storm also hit the lake, had caught my mum and me by surprise."

"How did you find out about the accident? Did the police come to the cottage?"

"I went looking for them. There's only one direct way from the cottage to Westport. I came across the accident scene after they were all extracted from the wreck."

"Oh my God, Roland, what a nightmare."


I told them of the five stages of grief and how they affected me. Almost word for word, I rewrote what I said in Chapter 9 of my novel. I had an audience: Shannon, Michelle, John, Paul, and Tanya. When I was finished, there wasn't a dry eye or drawn face among them. I wrote that account down and then gave it again as a Toastmaster speech, as part of a dramatic speaking objective I had (the dramatic monologue): again, there were tears shed that evening too, and everybody in the room knew who I really was.

Over the years, I created my story and even told my friends at the pub that I had decided to write my story, that I had created a blog in which I was going to write the rough draft. They were welcome to read it. (I had no links to my personal blog on this site: I was anonymous to any stranger who happened upon it.)

And so became my Songsaengnim blog.

In 2006, Shannon left the pub and Tanya worked the bar and the floor (there were too few customers to replace her). In 2008, Tanya left, to be replaced by Naomi.

Naomi heard Roland's story almost immediately. She was eager to meet and make friends with her new-found regulars, who had existed long before her.

And she and Roland hit it off immediately.

To be continued...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Sometimes, being too connected is too much.

For a couple of years, now, I've had a LinkedIn account and have met some really fabulous people. I've read many, many articles and have joined and started several discussions about writing and photography. It's been great.

To date, I have 632 connections that link me to more than 6.6-million "professionals."

That's a helluva lotta people.

Too many, I think, and not just the 6.6-million LinkedIn people. I mean the 632.

When I connected to the first hundred people, they were mostly friends and people I had worked with at past jobs, and people I currently work with. But then I joined some writers and photographer groups, and I connected with individuals from those groups, mostly those who started interesting discussions or participated in them. When my number of connections was a couple of hundred, I still felt I knew these people (knew them enough to want to converse with them). Many of those folks became my Twitter "friends," and I still follow them.

But after about 300 or so connections, I started losing track of who was who. I would reach out to connect with people who shared group affiliations or who wrote; I would accept invitations with almost anyone who wanted to connect with me. The only time I refused an invitation was when it seemed like we had nothing in common. If someone's profile held grammatical or spelling errors, or looked like little effort was put into it, I declined the invitation. And if the person lacked a photo, I passed (I like putting a face to a professional connection).

I'm now connected to so many people that I don't really have the time to start a rapport, to read any of their posts, or to engage in a discussion.

For a couple of months, I've only used LinkedIn to gain more connections. Sure, I place my blog posts in LinkedIn, but I don't actually go into LinkedIn to do it. As with Facebook, I announce my new blog posts through HootSuite. So LinkedIn is becoming more and more a one-way street.

And that's not fair to people who connect with me. It's really not fair to people with whom I've established an online friendship.

And so, over time, I'm going to start culling my connections. Don't get me wrong: it's nothing personal, it's just that I don't have time to pay attention to all of you. Some of you must go.

I'm going to keep everyone with whom I've interacted. I'm going to keep everyone that I've actually met. But if we've never shared anything beyond a "thanks for following me" message, I'm going to say goodbye. It's not you; it's me.

Because saying that we're connected isn't exactly true. If you've become a follower of my blog because of LinkedIn, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. If you enjoy reading it, I hope that you continue to do so. But I'm no longer announcing new blog posts through LinkedIn. And, until I get my numbers down, I won't be participating in discussions.

For the next little while, I'm LinkedOut.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Beer O'Clock: The Accidental Photographer

I first met JP Fournier, president of the National Capital Craft Beer Week, at the opening party at D'Arcy McGee's. You may remember that event from last week's post. At that event, we exchanged business cards and pleasantries, and I got up close for photos with him, other festival organizers, and the mayor.

The next time I ran into JP was just inside the grounds of this weekend's beer festival, at Marion Dewar Plaza at city hall. It was a serendipitous meeting: I was just entering the festival grounds, he was just heading out. We shook hands and he saw my camera equipment. And then he asked: "Are you going to be at the event for both days?"

"Yes," I replied. I was really looking forward to meeting the brewers and checking out their brews. But JP was not simply making conversation. I noticed that he was still glancing at my camera bag. JP had a problem, and it appeared that I was going to be his solution.

Apparently, the photographer he had booked to cover the event had a conflict, and as a result he cancelled on JP. "Would you be my photographer for the event?" he asked me.

This was great: I was planning to take some shots of the event for today's post anyway. By helping out JP, I could maybe draw more people towards my blog. And when JP handed me a VIP pass (I had already paid for a two-day event pass), it made my presence feel even more official. (The fact that the VIP pass also meant I didn't have to buy tickets for food and drink was just icing on the cake.)

It was an accidental meeting, but it couldn't have been better timed.

The festival was extremely well-organized. All of the area's craft brewers were well-represented, and even some other Ontario craft breweries were on hand, such as Flying Monkeys, Muskoka, Steam Whistle, Nickel Brook, King, Wellington, and, one of my favourites, McAuslan. The keynote speaker, beer guru and author Steve Beaumont informed the crowds on the flavours of the different styles of beer. There were forums with the brewmasters. There was live entertainment. Rock radio station, CHEZ 106, broadcast live all Friday afternoon.

The festival ran without a hitch. While crowd numbers were not very high on Friday afternoon (people were working, after all), the crowds came out in droves on Friday evening and all day Saturday.

Because I was originally there to try the beer and meet the people responsible for the beer, I did sample quite a few samples. While I can't get into detail about everything I tried, I want to highlight some that I thought stood out.
  • Muskoka Spring Oddity: this Belgian-styled ale had great herbal notes (basil and coriander) and spice. It was strong, at 8 percent ABV but was well-balanced and didn't taste heady.
  • Ashton Brewing Company Brown: this unfiltered brew tasted of creamy caramel and was wonderfully malty, with a hoppy finish (a happy ending).
  • Flying Monkeys Netherworld Black IPA: these guys have some of the most intense hops in an Ontario craft beer. This cask-conditioned IPA looked like mud in a glass: no light was getting through my sample glass. There was excellent hops and fruit combined in this special offering. Made with Galaxy dry hops, which give it a kick.
  • Nickel Brook Naughtiest Neighbour Cask-Conditioned XAPA: I first tried the Naughty Neighbour at the Arrow & Loon during Blog Out Loud. Back then, I said it was "fucking awesome." The Naughtiest Neighbour is even more fucking awesome. Clear, bright orange in colour, the hops really come through on the nose and carry right through to the finish. Flavours of orange zest and grapefruit are prominent on the palate.
  • Mill Street White Cap Ale: made at the Ottawa brewery, this is a mellow drinking cask-conditioned ale with lovely hops.
  • Beau's Pan Ontario: this was an unusual blend of mystery beers from Wellington, Flying Monkeys, Grand River, and Great Lakes breweries. Beau's blends the four beers in a bourbon cask to make a black concoction that is heavy in coffee, licorice, and bourbon flavours. I loved it.
  • St-Ambroise IPA: this was my favourite IPA of the festival, and I'd really like to get my hands on some again really soon. It is a traditional English IPA made with Goldings hops, and I felt that I was drinking orange pekoe tea. It was wonderfully refreshing.
  • Muskoka Brewery Mad Summer: this wasn't an official offering from the brewery but a blend of two beers that they had on tap, both that I have reviewed in the past: Mad Tom IPA and Summer Weiss. I love Mad Tom and I enjoyed the Summer Weiss, and together they make a special combination. A lemony citrus ale with plenty of hops and a clove finish.
There were so many other beers that I enjoyed, including the brown ale from one of the newest local breweries, Cassel.

My friends at Mill Street
I meant to stay to the end of the festival on Saturday, but a second accident befell me early in the afternoon. I was shooting photos of people lined up at the front gate when I tripped on a barrier stand while looking through my viewfinder. In an effort to protect my camera above all else and in failing miserably to regain my balance without my arms, I crashed to the ground in spectacular fashion. With security guarding the gates, I had to explain that I wasn't drunk, that I was the official photographer protecting his equipment.

Unfortunately, I had twisted my ankle in the fall but continued wandering the grounds, getting great shots. I'd climb up on picnic tables and shoot from above and would hop down when I was done. And by dinnertime, my ankle had had enough, and I began to limp. I took a few more shots and then had to tell JP that I was going home. I hobbled to the bus stop, and by the time I reached my end of town, I could barely walk. I called my wife to pick me up.

I refused to let my ankle ruin my time at the festival. It was an accidental meeting that got me the honour of being the official photographer and a dumb accident that shortened my stay.

But it was a great festival. I'm definitely looking forward to next year.

And to JP: next year, if you want me to shoot pictures for you again, I'll be there. For hire!

Here are some shots of the event. More are on my Picasa Web album, and more will be available on the Craft Beer Week site.

Mill Street Co-Founder, Steve Abrams, gone mad
Wellington Brewery
Grammatically speaking, it's "them"
D'Arcy McGee GM, Jeff O'Reilly and comedienne, Christina Walkinshaw
Steve Beaumont
Festival president, JP Fournier
Lots of great food
Ashton Brewing Company
Those goofy gals at Kichesippi


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Rewind: August 13-17, 2012

Where did this week go?

I don't know about you, but time flew for me this week. It seems like only the other day, I was giving you the low-down on last week's posts. Now, here we are again.

For those of you who save up all of your Brown Knowser reading for the weekend, here's where my mind was this week:
Have a great weekend!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Photo Friday: Paint it! Now

My iPhone has lots of photo apps that I like to play with from time to time when I'm bored or just want to use for a photo that isn't that great but is also something I'm not yet ready to delete.

A long time ago, I wrote about one of these apps: ColorSplash. I still use that app every once and awhile; most recently to try and reproduce a picture that I shot in Edinburgh—the pint of Belhaven Best from that same post.

This new shot isn't as good as the old photo, but I'm considering using it for an upcoming beer review.

Another app that I've had for about a year or so is one by Corel: Paint it! Now. This app allows you to render a photo to look like a painting. If you follow me on Instagram, you've seen some of these photos used with this app. (Actually, I'm sure I've used some of those photos in The Brown Knowser, but I'm not going to search for an example.)

There are various painting styles that you can apply with Paint it! Now: Modern, Oil, Illustration, Impressionist, and Pen & Ink. My favourite styles are Oil and Impressionist, but for this post I'm going to show all except Pen & Ink. I'm sure that this style would work best for photos of cityscapes, of skyscrapers and buildings with lots of lines. So far, I haven't found any of my photos that are suitable for this artistic style.

In keeping with my marine theme from this week's Wordless Wednesday, I've chosen another photo from our vacation this summer.

No, this photo was not taken with the underwater camera in Key Largo. It was shot with my Nikon D80, at the Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, DC. Because I was shooting moving fish through glass, the photo is not sharp enough for my liking. But with Paint it! Now, I can give the photo an artistic look that masks the fuzziness.

Illustration effect
Impressionist effect
Oil effect
Modern effect

In all of the photos, I love what the program does to the coral in the background. I like how the blue fish was rendered in Illustration mode the best.

I wish that this app had more styles to choose from. I would also like to see the rendering process faster. When you choose the style that you want to use, the app presents a fresh, white workspace, on which brush strokes appear. You can tap the screen at any time to stop the process and accept the appearance at that stage of the rendering. I wish that there was a button that could bypass the interim rendering and just produce the final result.

Sometimes, I don't like to wait.

But because Paint it! Now is a free app, if you like experimenting with your photos to get all artsy-fartsy on them, Paint it! Now is worth adding to your iPhone or iPod (it's not optimized for the iPad).

Happy Friday!