Student Life

Bartender Banter: “Hop” into spring with beer

Ale versus lager, and some Montreal hot spots and picks for beer

Craft beer is trendier than ever. If you’re a lover of beer and all its types, flavours and colours, you are definitely in the right province. There are over 100 different microbreweries in Quebec, producing thousands of varieties of beer. In Montreal alone, dozens of locations offer a taste of these great brews.

Before I recommend different beers, breweries and pubs, I feel it’s important to make one basic yet vital distinction between two beer types.

Ale vs. lager

The difference between an ale and a lager comes down to the brewing process and the way the yeast ferments. Ales include pale ales, India pale ales (IPA), stouts, porters and wheat ales. Ale-brewing is typically done in warmer temperatures, which make the yeast ferment faster, and ultimately makes for a richer, more flavourful and complex beer.

Lagers usually have fresher, crisper flavours. While ales are top-fermenting, meaning the yeast brews at the top of the barrel or cask, the yeast in lagers brews at the bottom of the barrel. Lagers brew in colder temperatures, which explains their simpler and lighter flavour. Lager styles include pilsners and amber beers.

Now that that’s all settled, let’s get to the goods.

A taste of great Quebec microbreweries in Montreal

Brasserie Dunham

Dunham’s Saison du Pinnacle (left), Helm’s Bernard Pale Ale (centre) and Pit Caribou’s La Bonne Aventure (right).
Photo by Danielle Gasher

Located in the small town of Dunham, Que., this brewery is award-winning. While a bit more on the expensive side, Dunham beer is the perfect purchase for any cinq à sept or celebration because the ingredients are often more refined. What’s great with beer is that, even if you’re getting the fanciest brew, you never come close to spending as much as you would for the fanciest bottle of wine. Many of their 750 ml bottles sell between $13 and $30.

From this microbrewery, I highly recommend their award-winning Saison du Pinnacle. The beer is light and summery, while keeping a strong bitterness. It has undertones of peach and lemon.

Other great beers from the brewery include the Saison Framboise, their Black Imperial IPA and my personal favourite, their Leo’s Early Breakfast IPA. The latter has a subtle Earl Grey tea taste—a flavour that complements many alcohols.

  • You can buy Dunham beers at a variety of specialty stores and bars, including Marché Station 54, Au Coin Duluth, and the bar Vices et Versa.

Dieu du Ciel

If you’re adventurous, this is your brewery. From a beer brewed with cocoa and vanilla bean, to a delicious espresso stout, to an intense, dark, smoky amber beer, this place does it all. But don’t worry, they’re not all play. They have well-crafted basics, from a blonde to a white beer, and a classic, crisp pale ale.

  • The microbrewery is located in Montreal’s Mile End neighbourhood, at 29 Laurier Ave. East.

Pit Caribou

This Gaspésie-based microbrewery opened their Montreal location last summer. This brewery’s beer is simple yet full of flavour. The beer that peaked my interest at this spot is their red beer, La Bonne Aventure. The beer is light but has the caramel and nutty undertones I absolutely love in any darker beer.

Their Montreal location serves a sample beer platter, perfect for first timers who want to taste a bit of everything.

  • Pit Caribou’s Montreal location is at 951 Rachel St. East in the Plateau.

Happy beer belly!

Student Life

Textbooks down, summer reads up!

Concordia students recommend some good summer reads

Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw: Travels in Search of Canada by Will Ferguson
Press photo

This book is part humorous travelogue, part personal memoir, part cultural history—and overall, undeniably Canadian. Based on three years of cross-country travel and a lifetime of exploring his native country, author and travel writer Will Ferguson showcases Canada’s deeply-ingrained diversity and uncovers dozens of tales that have slipped through the cracks of Canadian history textbooks. The author’s undeniable passion and respect for history is infused in his historical accounts, which are given colour and intrigue by his witty narrative voice and travel anecdotes. History has never been more entertaining and digestible. Each chapter in this book could be its own short story, which makes this book ideal for stop-and-go readers, and allowed Ferguson to pack a wide variety of content into 332 pages.

Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw is a fitting read heading into the summer of Canada’s 150th anniversary—it is nostalgic, amusing and emanates a feeling of unity. “Canada is more than just a country,” Ferguson writes. “It is a sum of its stories.”

By Katya Teague (head copy editor)

Best in Travel 2017  by Lonely Planet

Yes, you read correctly. I am reviewing a Lonely Planet book. That can only mean one thing—it’s really, really good. I was still trying to overcome a severe case of wanderlust when I stumbled upon this book. Twenty bucks later, it was mine. I devoured it—and not just the food porn and the listicles. The whole, entire thing. With summer fast approaching, this book is perfect if you’re planning on jetting off, but have no clue where to. The book offers up unique ideas for up-and-coming destinations that aren’t (yet) overcome by tourism and over-priced expeditions. The book is divided into sections, going in-depth on 10 countries, 10 regions and finally, 10 cities that are must-sees in 2017. Supported by beautiful photographs, maps, itineraries and snippets of history, the detail and honesty in the guide is impressive.

By Danielle Gasher (life editor)

Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín
Press photo

Set in the 1950s, Tóibín’s novel follows Eilis Lacey’s journey to America from Ireland. With no job or marital prospect for her in her hometown, the young woman accepts an offer to move to Brooklyn, New York. There, a department store job and bookkeeping classes keep her busy. With so many stories about emigrating to America, Tóibín does nothing to sensationalize the experience. Although she does meet a love interest along the way, Eilis has an independence and strong spark to her throughout the novel that is charming and empowering. This is part of what makes her such a realistic and relatable character. Brooklyn gives insight on the reluctance and the struggles of moving away from home. Brooklyn is a slow-paced yet emotional coming-of-age story that explores Eilis’ move into womanhood and simultaneous move to a new country. Tóibín does not waste words—the story is simple, but with profound emotion.

By Mehanaz Yakub (staff writer)

Student Life

Bartender Banter: The scoop on gin

The director of Montreal’s only gin pub gives the rundown on what’s good

This week, we are talking gin. I could talk about my love of gin for hours. Its bitterness, its versatility, its oomph. As a bartender, I have a lot of fun creating and mixing with gin. Anything that vodka can do, gin can do better, in my opinion.

When I found out a gin bar existed in Montreal a few years ago, I quickly became a frequent visitor.

Inside of Le Pourvoyeur. Photo by Danielle Gasher

Le Pourvoyeur, located at 184 Jean Talon St. East, in the Jean Talon market, offers over 125 different kinds of gin to drink on the rocks or in your favourite cocktail.

Stéphane Bernard is the associate director of the gin pub, which opened six years ago. Bernard and I talked cocktails and favourite gins. But before I give you all the scoop, let’s go through some basics.

What is gin?

Gin is a spirit derived primarily from juniper berries. Gins usually include other botanicals, such as coriander, lemon peel, orange peel, cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg. The difference in flavour from one kind of gin to another largely depends on the balance between botanicals.

How is it made?

Gin, funnily enough, is technically flavoured vodka. Gin is made from the distillation of a neutral grain alcohol, the botanicals mentioned added after. Vodka is just made from distilled grain like wheat, rye or potatoes. In other words, gin is way more awesome. Technically speaking, gin has a more complex flavour.

Some recommendations

As with any drink, people have their favourites. For gin lovers who prefer coarser, more bitter gins, Bernard recommends the Filliers Dry Gin 28, a Belgian gin barrel-aged in a bourbon barrel for added depth and intensity. The gin takes its name from the 28 botanicals used to distill the alcohol, including Belgian hops, angelica root, allspice and fresh oranges. Le Pourvoyeur uses this gin to make one of Bernard’s favourite cocktails: the gin old-fashioned. The drink is made the same way as the classic old-fashioned, but with gin instead of bourbon.

Alternatively, Bernard recommends Juniper Green gin. This London gin is organic, and has a dominating pine flavour.

The pub has more than 100 options of gin to choose from. Photo by Danielle Gasher

For the lover of softer, more subtle-tasting gins, Bernard recommends Brockmans gin. It is subtly bitter with light floral notes. Bernard says it’s the perfect gin to drink on its own, over ice.

Bernard also says to take advantage of all the awesome Quebec gins available at the SAQ, and at his pub, of course. These include Ungava, Saint-Laurent, Piger Henricus, Romeo’s gin and Neige.

Mixing it up

The pub’s cocktail menu includes all the classics, from a Negroni to a Pimm’s Cup. But it also has some funkier, delicious options to try, such as the Earl Grey G&T or the cocktail of the month, the Gold n’ Ginger. This special drink is a mix of Botanivore gin, cognac, ginger syrup, thyme, an egg white and fresh lemon. One of Bernard’s favourites is the Piger Bloody Caesar. The classic bloody is made with a Quebec gin, the Piger Henricus, instead of plain ol’ vodka. The gin flavour really elevates the clamato flavour and the spiciness of the drink.

Student Life

Bartender Banter: Getting to know the glamorous grape

A sommelier shares some tips on getting into wine tasting and pairing

There’s something about wine that feels elitist. Intimidating even. People have been making the drink for over 4,000 years. Families have fallen out over its production. The wine industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. In the United States alone, the wine industry contributes over $160 billion to the American economy, according to the research firm MKF Research.

Some are willing to wait 20 years to open a bottle to taste it at its full potential. For a newbie, wine can feel like abstract art—unattainable and overpriced.

Photo by Danielle Gasher

But Le Majestique’s sommelier, Benoit Saint-Hilaire, says while there is an element of prestige to wine, no one should be intimidated by it. After all, “people have been drinking it for over 4,000 years to party and have fun,” he says.

I sat down with Saint-Hilaire to discuss the basics of tasting, pairing, and to get the scoop on some budget-friendly wines students should get their hands on.

Saint-Hilaire became interested in wine thanks to his family. His parents would host dinners, and that’s when he started developing his taste. Saint-Hilaire stresses that the wine tasting experience is extremely subjective. He believes it is important to remain humble when discovering different wines, and to respect different tastes. “Remember, the wine isn’t bad, it’s just not your taste,” he says with a laugh.

Getting into it

Saint-Hilaire says the best way to get into wine, and to develop your taste, is to… well… taste! So if the expert says it, drink away, fellow Concordians! By tasting a lot, he explains, you learn to pick up different subtleties, odours, flavours and notes. He recommends taking it by region, focusing on one at a time. By tasting different wines from a specific region, he explains, it enables you to make connections between the subtleties of different grapes and different estates. He also recommends reading up on the producer. “When I buy a wine, I always go on the estate’s website—I see how they work,” Saint-Hilaire says.

Photo by Danielle Gasher


Saint-Hilaire says he is no purist, and believes people should just pair to their taste. That being said, he likes to implement a balance between the flavours of the meal and his wine. For example, for a richer, greasier meal, he would recommend a lighter, fresher wine with some acidity to balance the flavours.

Some recommendations

When asked to recommend a few wines and regions for students to try, Saint-Hilaire’s eyes shoot open. “There are too many!” he exclaims. But for students and beginners, the sommelier says you can’t go wrong with adventuring into the Côtes du Rhône wines. He says you can get good ones starting at $25.

Still in France, he also recommends wines from the Alsace region because they’re accessible, balanced and “easy to drink,” as Saint-Hilaire puts it. He also recommends drinking wines from Spain and Portugal because they are cheap and flavourful. “Drink Spanish wine my friends!” Saint-Hilaire exclaims. He assures a good bottle can easily cost under $20.Surprisingly, Saint-Hilaire also recommends checking out Greek wines. While he admits you have to seek out the good ones, he says you can find good value for your money. Saint-Hilaire recommends trying Greek wines from the Tetramythos estate. Their red wine is the Kalavryta, which he says is comparable to a Pinot Noir.  For white wine lovers, he recommends the Roditis, which he describes as crisp and fresh. Both the red and white are currently available at the SAQ, as well as on Le Majestique’s wine list.

So if you value your wino education, it’s time to start tasting everything, pairing as you wish, and checking out those wines from Spain and Portugal! Cheers, folks!


Is it time for a home economics comeback?

Why a class on basic personal finance and cooking might be a good idea

Tax-free savings account. RRSPs. Writing a cheque. Credit score. Credit debt. Cooking. Buying. Saving. Being healthy. Is five dollars for a pint of strawberries pricey or a steal? As students in our 20s, these are things we should know about, but many of us don’t.

While the “live and learn” philosophy is all well and good, I believe there is an underrated beauty in learning before living… for certain situations, that is. I feel that burning a few shepherd’s pies before learning what “broil” means is a live and learn lesson, but I’m sure many young adults would have preferred to learn how to use a credit card before living a life ridden with debt. I think certain passages into adulthood we laugh about should perhaps be taken more seriously.

The title “Home Economics” may transport many to an outdated, sexist concept that no longer has a place in 2017. This is where I disagree. I myself have been quick to snub home ec. A class to learn how to make a grocery list? C’mon.

But it’s only as outdated as we deem it. Do we snub it because of the stigma attached to it? Is it the word “home” in the title that reminds us all too much of the home-maker penchant the class once had? Eventually, we will all need to take care of ourselves, to “adult,” as it has commonly become known amongst millennials. So, is home economics actually outdated? Or has our country just pushed basic life skills down too many notches on our societal list of priorities?

Burnouts have become normal. People hate Mondays. “Not having it together,” or being “a hot mess” are trends. Sites and blogs like Buzzfeed and Elite Daily curate humoristic, relatable lists to make us feel better about our binge drinking, spending and bad eating habits, cajoling us in our laziness and indulgent habits.

I’m not saying I’m above those lists—I love those lists. Ever seen the meme of The Office’s Kevin Malone spilling a big pot of chili with the caption, “Me trying to get my life together”? Hilarious. Relatable. But isn’t it kind of worrying just how relatable it is?

According to Credit Cards Canada’s website, in 2016, the average credit card debt per Canadian was $3,954. According to the Canadian Federation of Students, the collective student loan debt in Canada is estimated at $15 billion. Credit card companies and banks can start soliciting customers as soon as they turn 18 in all provinces except New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, where the minimum age is 19.

According to a 2016 survey conducted by Manulife Financial, “31 per cent of millennial respondents feel it’s not a ‘big deal’ if they carry a balance on their credit cards.” Additionally, the survey found that millennial homeowners are least prepared in terms of emergency funds.

In addition to debts and financial stresses that young adults are increasingly being faced with, studies show that millennials are increasingly stressed and miserable. According to the 2015 Global News Ipsos Reid poll, which surveyed 2,010 Canadians between April 16 and 20, 2015, more than half of Canadian millennials have a high risk of developing mental health issues. “Wright pointed to societal issues, such as a low employment rate and rising living costs, as pressures that weigh on millennials,” wrote Global News journalist Carmen Chai, citing senior vice-president of Ipsos, John Wright. Ipsos is a Canadian market research company.

While these findings are worrying, things are changing, and a public conversation is happening in Canada. Quebec’s education minister, Sébastien Proulx, plans to introduce mandatory economics classes in Quebec high schools as of September 2017, according to CBC News. Additionally, the conversation on the topic is becoming more widespread. Publications like the Globe and Mail and The Huffington Post have featured opinion pieces on the importance of home economics and financial literacy for teenagers and young adults in Canada.

I moved out at 17. I had some money saved up, I was always independent—I felt ready. I grew up in a household where I had to be responsible. I would clean and cook. I knew how to do laundry. But when you actually get your own place, when you become financially independent, you’re alone. There’s a shift, and it’s hard. Learning to pay rent, finding roommates, being a good neighbour, being a good tenant, writing a cheque, managing my finances, knowing my rights as an employee, feeding myself correctly… all while turning 18 and trying to have fun, go to school and come into my own as an adult—it’s tough. When you’re not prepared, it can bring you down.

Now, at 21, I feel confident in my adulthood, but it took a burnout to get there. While I know I have a lot to learn, I know how to manage my personal finances and I am not scared to stand up for my tenant, student and employee rights. I know what a pint of strawberries on sale should cost. I am not sharing my experience to complain about natural adjustments to adult life, but rather to  shed light on the fact that a lot of emotional turmoil I faced in my transition to adulthood could have been prevented had I had some kind of “adulting” training.


Why I value my journalism degree

My response to the large amount of hate on my program of study

I have come to the realization that having to defend journalism on a daily basis comes with the territory of studying journalism.

“Good luck getting a job” and “What do you plan on doing with that?” are things I hear regularly. I can handle that. But perhaps the comment I get the most, and the comment that irks me the most, is “You’re studying journalism? That’s kind of a useless degree.” Or even, “Just be a journalist, you don’t need a degree for that.”

Society seems increasingly distrustful of “the media.” I put “the media” in quotation marks because the term, although commonly used, doesn’t really mean anything. As senior editor for The Atlantic James Hamblin wrote last month, “the term has been weaponized.”

The Atlantic senior editor Derek Thompson writes, “‘the media,’ like ‘technology,’ is not a single, tangible object but rather an information galaxy, a vast and complex star system composed of diverse and opposing organizations, which are themselves composed of a motley group of people, each of whom are neither all good nor all bad, but mostly flawed media merchants with individual strengths, weaknesses, biases and blindspots.”

To summarize briefly, “the media” is too much of an all-encompassing term that muddles the individuality of journalists and organizations.

I believe this homogenizing of individual journalists and news organizations is toxic for the understanding of a complex industry and profession. Being a journalist is no less important than it was two decades ago—it is just easier to mimic today.

A distrust in news organizations is understandable. With the ever-increasing importance of social media and speed in people’s lives, clickbait and fake news weasel their way to the top of our newsfeeds.

But as renowned journalist Christiane Amanpour said at the 2016 meeting for the Committee to Protect Journalists, “we must fight for the truth in a post-truth world.” I am grateful for my journalism degree because I believe a good, balanced training, including lessons on ethics, law, image, sound, writing and history, is an important part of succeeding in the fight for “truth in a post-truth world.” I believe journalism schools are the light of hope for the next generation of aspiring journalists, who are being increasingly exposed to lazy publishing and public relations painted as journalism.

Concordia has one of the best journalism schools in the country. The program is known for training honest and professional journalists who have moved on to work for reputable organizations like the Montreal Gazette, the Globe and Mail, CBC, CTV and the New York Times.

The hands-on training I have been receiving since the beginning of my studies blows me away. Our teachers have us going out, conducting interviews, gathering sound and images—the same way producers or editors at CBC expect their journalists to gather a story. Professors have been throwing us into scrums, crowds, conferences, courtrooms, protests, and expect excellence from us in return.

Journalism school has consistently ranked at the top of “Most Useless Major” lists on blogs and websites like Business Insider and the Huffington Post. Its value has also been questioned in articles from The Guardian, Complex magazine and Forbes. While the hate or disdain for journalism school has been discussed over the years, there is simultaneously a common desire for more truthful, honest journalism.

CBC’s The Sunday Edition host Michael Enright once said, “citizen journalism is like citizen dentists… I’d rather not.”  So for those who complain or criticize this “useless degree,” but also complain about “sloppy journalism,” it may be time to think about the importance of proper journalistic training for the next generation of storytellers and for the future of news.

Student Life

The fight against black gendered racism in Canada

Why this side of the border shouldn’t be patting itself on the back

Three prominent black Montreal-based activists came together on the evening of Feb. 28 to discuss the history of anti-black racism in Canada, contemporary issues for people of colour in the country, as well as issues faced by the black LGBTQ+ community.

The panel was organized by Concordia’s Centre for Gender Advocacy, and was part of the Centre’s Thick Skin speakers series—a series of curated discussions on race, gender and political resistance. The event was moderated by Jada Joseph, a peer support training and drop-in co-coordinator for the Centre.

“I will attempt to do a synopsis of anti-black racism in Canada in 10 minutes,” panelist Robin Maynard said with a small laugh. Maynard is a Montreal-based feminist activist and writer. She is currently working on her first book, Policing Black Bodies: State Violence and Black Lives, which will be released this year.

Maynard said the idea for her book came from her work with Stella, a Montreal non-profit organization that offers support and information for sex workers in the city. For almost 10 years, Maynard did street-based outreach with sex workers in the city—providing them with psychological and emotional support, as well as health services.  She said this work raised her awareness about deeply-rooted racism and violence against black women in Canada.

“The level of extremely vindictive racialized targeting… like calling people monkeys, pointing guns at their heads… extremely horrific violence that was [happening] almost daily, often including sexual assault, which was not being reported anywhere,” Maynard said about what she saw and heard about in her work. She wasn’t seeing these issues reflected in media outlets, so she took it upon herself to explore black women’s issues in a larger historical and socio-political context.

Maynard gave the audience some historical context on anti-black racism in Canada. She said many Canadians assume black slavery was only present in the United States. The first black slave was brought to Quebec in 1628. While Canada didn’t have plantation-based slavery, Maynard said people bought and exploited black people for various types of labour, reducing them, as slavery does, to mere commodities.

Maynard stressed that Canada was not transparent about its involvement in slavery. “In the 18th century, even as slavery is being practiced, you see the beginning of Canada’s self-representation as this benevolent state,” Maynard said. She said evidence of slavery in Canada was cast aside with its abolition in 1834. Following 1834, textbooks in Canadian schools made no mention of any black slavery in Canada’s history. In Canada, Maynard explained the history of black people being viewed and treated as criminal, as dangerous or as unwanted can actually be traced back to the 17th and 18th centuries.

Panelist Marlihan Lopez delved further into these deep-rooted stereotypes, and how they influence the way black people are treated today in Canada and abroad. Lopez has a master’s degree in international development and has over a decade of experience in community organizing, feminist activism and cultural education.

“We carry on these stereotypes of sexual deviancy. So when we report [sexual violence], there’s a tendency of not being believed because we’re not associated with the ‘perfect victim’ which is white, which is middle-class,” said Lopez about the phenomenon of hypersexualization of the black woman.

According to a 2009 report by the American Bureau of Justice Statistics, one in 15 black women report sexual violence. The same is true in Canada. According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, “studies show that when women of colour report violence, their experiences are often taken less seriously within the criminal justice system and their perpetrators routinely receive less harsh punishments.”

Lopez linked this back to the expectations of strength and resilience from black women. “The matriarch stereotype, the strong black women, auto-sufficient, ‘we don’t need to ask for help.’”

Lopez said the fight against racism needs to be an intersectional fight—that is, a fight that considers gender identity, ability, sexual orientation, class in addition to race. Intersectionality is the idea that we cannot consider social action on race issues independent from other connected issues regarding gender and class, for example. “We have to fight for the liberation of all our peoples. It’s necessary for our movements to be intersectional because, if not, we are going to keep perpetuating the same oppressive systems that we’re trying to combat,” said Lopez.

“I’ve always felt that intersectionality multiplies itself exponentially,” said Montreal-based singer-songwriter and LGBTQ+ rights activist J. Elise Barbara. Barbara explained that there are so many different elements of one’s identity that need to be considered when fighting for race equality.

Barbara said while piercing the milieu wasn’t easy at first, they felt being a transgender black musician helped them thrive in the music industry in Montreal. “I initially felt a lot of resistance coming from people. And through the years, I’ve felt a shift in how open-minded people seem to be,” Barbara said.

They felt there has been a shift in recent years in Montreal for transgender acceptance—a kind of left-leaning trend, especially present in the city’s music industry. “I initially felt a lot of resistance, coming from people.  And through the years, I’ve felt a shift in how open-minded people seem to be,” said Barbara. However, they said they felt cynical about this acceptance, because “it might not last.”

The next Thick Skin speakers series event will take place on Thursday, March 9 at 11:30 a.m. in H-760. The discussion will explore Indigenous “feminisms and womanisms.”

Erratum: an earlier version of this piece mis-paraphrased panelist Marlihan Lopez on the link between the worldwide hypersexualization of the black woman to sex slavery in Cuba and Brazil.  We sincerely apologize for the mistake. O.E.

Student Life

Bartender Banter: A guide to enjoying whisky

What it is, how to drink it, how to mix it, how to like it

The first time I tried to like whisky, I was 13. I had just finished watching the Godfather. I wanted more than anything to be as badass as those mobsters, a cigar in one hand and a glass of scotch in the other. Needless to say, it didn’t work out as well as I thought it would. I took a swig of Canadian Club, and thought I had burned my tongue and throat to the point of never tasting again.

I gave up on the dream, but tried again when I was 16, this time with some bourbon over a single ice cube.  Since then, it’s been nothin’ but love for whisky.

Here is my guide to enjoying whisky.

So what is whisky?

Whisky is a distilled alcohol made from fermented grain mash. Sounds tasty right? Different varieties of whisky depend on the grain used and whether or not the grain is malted.

What are the different kinds of whisky?

There are many kinds of whisky, and different variations within each kind. You can get malt whisky, grain whisky, blended whisky, single pot still whisky, bourbon whisky, rye whisky and corn whisky.

Tell me about scotch

Scottish whiskies, also known as scotch, are made from grain or malt. If you want to explore scotch but are just starting out, I recommend trying a good glass of Macallan Amber or Gold. The Gold is a little lighter and fruitier than the Amber, but both are good and good-quality options for starting out. That being said, I prefer smokier, heavier options like a Lagavulin 16 Years or a Laphroaig.

Experts believe in drinking scotch ‘neat’, which means sipping it straight, without ice or water.  Some use a few drops of water to “open up the flavour.” Personally, I drink my scotch with whisky stones—stone cubes that keep the drink cold without diluting it.

Tell me about bourbon

Bourbon is an American whisky. While scotch is made mostly from malted barley, bourbon is made from corn. In my opinion, bourbon is a good starting point for whisky beginners. Steer clear of Knob Creek in the beginning, it’s intense. I recommend going straight for a bottle or glass of Woodford Reserve. It’s smooth but still has that woody taste I love. Bulleit Bourbon is versatile, and has a bit of a spicier taste. Bourbon is lovely straight or over ice.

What cocktails can I make with whisky?

If you’re less into the sweet stuff, a classic whisky cocktail is an Old Fashioned.

  •         1 ½ ounces of your favourite whisky
  •         One sugar cube
  •         A few dashes of Angostura bitters
  •         A few drops of water

Shake the mix dry and pour it over ice, an orange slice and a maraschino cherry in a rock glass.

If that sounds a little too rough for your taste buds, a whisky sour is another great option.

  •         1 ½ ounces of your favourite whisky
  •         ½ lemon, squeezed
  •         Sugar or simple syrup to taste
  •         One egg white

Shake the ingredients vigorously in a shaker with ice. Rim a rock glass. Pour over ice and a slice of lemon.


Wray Downes: Not just a music man

Jazz pianist Downes talks about his many careers and his love of teaching

“It’s cold out there!” exclaims Wray Downes, as he settles into a chair in the music department’s large conference room, located in Concordia’s GM building.  “At least it’s not raining,” he adds, with genuine relief, as he takes off his cloth bucket hat and unzips his jacket.  On the table, he sets down the only item he is carrying: a copy of Ted Gioia’s book, History of Jazz.  Downes pulls a small parking ticket out of his big winter jacket. “Oh, we’ve got plenty of time,” he says, before tucking it safely back into his jacket pocket.

Looking across the table at one of the most famous Canadian jazz musicians of all time, it is charming and unnerving to see that, at the end of the day, Downes is just another 86-year-old man who will just as happily discuss the weather and parking as he will his career.

Downes, born Rupert Arnold Downes, is a celebrated jazz pianist, composer and conductor.  The musician was born in Toronto on Jan. 14, 1931. With racial discrimination present in Toronto in the 30s and 40s, Downes says life was hard growing up, but his character made it easier. “I had a big mouth, I could run fast and I also had a big fist. So, I could fight my way,” he says.

Downes recalls life was also hard because his parents didn’t have much money. He says they had to make a lot of sacrifices for him to take piano lessons for the first few years. His father was a porter. Downes says, back then, it was considered a good job at $125 to $150 a week. But with piano lessons costing $10 a week and the paycheck rolling in every two weeks, he says it wasn’t easy. So when Downes’ mother found out he could play in piano competitions for money and scholarships, the game started to change.

At 13, Downes started participating in music competitions. Quickly, he started winning… a lot. Downes recalls giving his father attitude when he would get scolded for not practicing. “When my father said… ‘Well you didn’t practice today!’ I’d say, ‘Yeah, but I just won 700 bucks for a scholarship, man!’” Downes said, leaning back in his chair theatrically and folding his hands behind his head. “I was mouthy and cheeky,” he says with a smile, and a glimmer of pride.

At just 18 years old, in 1949, Downes became the first Canadian to win the prestigious British Empire Scholarship to the Trinity College of Music in London. There, Downes recalls, there was “subtle prejudice,” which he first experienced while searching for a place to live.

He says he would see nice-looking rooms for board in the paper, give the owners a call and set up a time to visit. But then, when he arrived, the owners had magically found someone who better suited their needs. Downes started to understand what was going on. “I thought, ‘this crap is over here too.’” Luckily, he eventually found a room to call home, at Mrs. Stanley’s home.  He recalls the small elderly British lady giving him quite a different welcome than the other landlords had.

“She said, ‘oh you’re the first one! Come in!’ and she gave me a big hug.  And I just about swallowed my face.”

After his time in London, Downes would go on to study at other prestigious music schools, including the Paris Conservatory and, eventually, Oscar Peterson’s Advanced School of Contemporary Music in Toronto. Peterson, one of Downes’ many mentors, was the one who suggested Downes try out jazz. Downes recalls the switch to jazz first happening when a London recruiting agency refused him because he was black. “He said, ‘I don’t think we can do anything for a black person.’ And I looked at him and said, ‘I don’t quite understand.’  And he just said, ‘What I am going to do with you?’”

Downes’ and Dave Young’s Juno award-winning album, Au Privave. Press Photo

While Downes had to deal with similar situations throughout his life and career, he said he eventually learned not to give into anger. “Anger doesn’t do anything. Anger only affects you, because the other person doesn’t know that you’re angry, you know? Don’t let [yourself] do this to yourself. I learned that lesson a long time ago,” he says.

Downes’ jazz career kicked off in the mid-50s, when he toured all over France and Spain with Bill Coleman, a world renowned jazz trumpeter.  He would go on to work with other big jazz musicians like Buck Clayton, Annie Ross, Milt Jackson, Coleman Jackson and Lester Young, to name a few. He would eventually lead his own trios and quartets and release albums. In 1982, Downes won the Juno award for Best Jazz Album for his and Dave Young’s album, Au Privave.

Although music was always an important part of Downes’ life and career, it was never the only part.

On top of being a jazz pianist, Downes took breaks from piano to be a short-order chef, a chauffeur and a drapery installer. He finally turned to teaching in 1990. “I always did want to teach. I always did want to give back somehow, somewhere. And then, Concordia came calling.”  Downes says he enjoys teaching and mentoring students, and is joyful in helping them find their own style and success.

Downes says he likes to reinforce to his students that, as a musician, it is always important to keep the audience in mind. “I say this to my students: you got to get out there and understand the people that you’re playing to. Because, no people in the club, and you’re out of work.”  Downes says he learnt this lesson a long time ago, when he was told he couldn’t just play his bebop, because some want to hear the standards.

Downes’s 1995 album, For You, E.
Press Photo

“You’re playing for those folks, because they’re the ones who put the money in your pocket and the bread and butter on your table. And, if you adhere to that, then success, hopefully, will come your way. But don’t look down on those people,” says Downes, his tone serious, and his respect for his audience apparent.

Downes is an extremely respected figure in the Canadian jazz scene. However, he is equally respected within academia. “Wray represents a vital link to the past,” says Joshua Ranger, an assistant professor in Concordia’s department of jazz studies. “It’s said that jazz music advances while standing on the shoulders of giants—and Wray is one of our giants.”  He says that Downes teaches jazz in the way of Oscar Peterson and Phineas Newborn Jr.—two jazz moguls. “Sadly, Wray is one of the last such teachers, and the fact that he is still at it after so many years really is a testament to his energy and tenacity.”

These days, Downes contents himself with teaching, cooking, spending time with his wife and kids and playing piano when he wants to. “Been there, done that,” says Downes with a laugh about his jet-setting and musically-busy past.

As he gets up to leave, Downes zips up his winter coat and secures his cloth bucket hat back on his head.  He tucks his book back under his arm before walking out the door to go house to play with his dog, play some piano or maybe cook.

Student Life

Enough with the self-censorship

Béatrice Media and Imago Theatre organize a panel on women and self-censorship

On the mild and rainy evening of Jan. 11, in Montreal’s Centre-Sud neighbourhood, some two or three dozens of people met to talk about women, self-censorship and change.

The event, titled “Women Talk About Self-Censorship,” was organized in partnership with Béatrice Media, an independent media production company, and Imago Theatre, a theatre company whose mandate is equal representation and feminist storytelling.

The conversation, which took place at Café Sfouf, welcomed three panelists and CJLO radio broadcaster Rebecca Munroe as the host. The event was recorded for Béatrice Media’s podcast, Béacast.

Host Rebecca Munroe (far left) and panelists Dominique Pirolo (left), Tracey Steer (center) and Christina Vroom (right).
Photo by Danielle Gasher.

“Helpless.” “Weak.” “Small.” “Unempowered.” The evening’s three strong and successful panelists were asked by the host to remember a time when they felt they censored their words. They had to recount how it made them feel in that moment. Luckily for these women, they now rarely feel helpless, weak, small or unempowered.

“10, 15 years ago, I don’t think you were taught to speak about your opinion, empower yourself,” said one panelist, Dominique Pirolo, about her childhood experiences with speaking up. Today, Pirolo is a talent acquisition specialist for a software company in Montreal. She explained her assertiveness developed over time.

The panelists talked about this self-censorship tendency among women, and where they felt it came from. Panelist Tracey Steer, a self-employed writer whose work has appeared in Today’s Parent and Reader’s Digest, believes a lot of it has to do with women’s need to be people-pleasers. “It’s not always a bad thing. But, it’s not always a good thing,” said Steer. “And it takes a while, I think, to undo—not just being pleasing, and not just trying to keep everyone else around you happy.”

For panelist Christina Vroom, the associate director of university advancement for McGill University’s faculty of dentistry, assertiveness came in her adult life.

“I grew up with two brothers and a mother who was very opinionated,” she said. “She was my hero. I wanted to be like her, but I often felt I couldn’t contribute on the same level. There was a feeling of, ‘I’m going to disappoint.’” Vroom explained she used to feel the need to keep the peace and balance out the big opinions and personalities already present in her household.  Today, Vroom says she has “no problem rocking the boat.”

The panelists addressed the double-standard they feel is present when women demonstrate assertiveness.  

“When I became much more assertive with myself and not shy, a friend of mine said to me, ‘You’ve become very aggressive.’ I said, ‘I think you mean assertive.’ And he said, ‘No, no, aggressive,’” Vroom recounted, as the crowd ooh-ed and ahh-ed in disbelief .  “He said to me, ‘I think that’s why you’re single.’ I said, ‘I think that’s why we’re not going to be friends anymore.’”

Steer addressed how people tie the identifier “bitch” to women who are simply demonstrating confidence.  “That’s the thing, you know, because you don’t want to be seen as a bitch. Men are assertive and women are bitchy,” said Steer.

Béatrice Media co-founder, Adriana Palanca.
Photo by Danielle Gasher.

In the “talk-back” period of the discussion, the period when the podcast stopped recording and the discussion opened to the audience, a larger conversation about action and change took place. Audience members brought into question larger societal problems, such as the patriarchy organization in North America and gender inequality in the workplace. Together, the audience, panelists, host and Béatrice Media co-founder, Adriana Palanca, brainstormed ideas for promoting change and being the change. “It can start with education and really teaching younger people about it. And empowering young girls. And teaching men that it’s okay that women have a voice,” said Munroe.

Pirolo, who hires people as a large part of her job, had some advice for women seeking employment. “I noticed that when I’m hiring and interviewing individuals, and I interview men and I interview women, the women are not selling themselves the way they should,” said Pirolo.

According to a 2012 study conducted by Brigham Young University and Princeton University researchers, men dominate conversations during business meetings. The study found women only spoke 25 per cent of the time in meetings, with men speaking 75 per cent of the time. According to research conducted in 2013 by a data tool called Twee-Q, women make up 62 per cent of Twitter users.  However, Twee-Q’s stats found that men are retweeted almost twice as often as women, with almost 63 per cent of all retweets belonging to men.

Palanca said she and Mireille St-Pierre founded Béatrice Media to reinforce feminism in media organizations and to start conversations about women, equality, social progress and empowerment.

“[Béatrice Media’s] version of feminism, at its most basic, is: ‘I want to be able to do what a dude does and not get judged for it.’ That’s it, right? And, for us, we weren’t seeing that reflected in a lot of the media that we saw around us. And we said, ‘This is what we feel, this is what we want to see reflected,’” Palanca told The Concordian.

Palanca said she was happy with how the evening unfolded and looks forward to doing similar events in the future. She described the talk as a test-run. For Palanca, good, progressive conversation is about “cutting through the judgement, cutting through the habitual behaviour, cutting through the bullshit.”

Student Life

Relearning what it means to be Cree

Cree storyteller discusses his return to Indigenous culture and ways of learning

Cree storyteller, actor, musician and residential school survivor Joseph Naytowhow discussed his approach to “Cree ways of knowing” during a lecture held at Concordia on Nov. 2.

The lecture was organized by the university’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture, and was moderated by David Howes, a professor of anthropology and co-director of Concordia’s Centre for Sensory Studies.

In a packed conference room on the Hall building’s seventh floor, Howes introduced Naytowhow to the sea of attendees with warmth and pride. “One of our purposes this afternoon is to explore what it might mean to indigenize a university education,” said Howes.  “It’s precisely that idea of bridging the distance between the academy, Concordia University, and Cree ways of knowing that we are here to explore this afternoon.”

Naytowhow, who was born in Sturgeon Lake First Nation in Saskatchewan, discussed his past and personal experiences of embracing and relearning his Cree culture. When Naytowhow got out of the residential school system after 13 years, he felt he had to relearn how to be Cree. “I was empty. There was nothing… I was basically Canadian,” said Naytowhow.

Residential schools were introduced in Canada as a means of assimilation.  The school system was put in place by the Canadian government in 1880, and the last residential school closed in 1986. The Catholic Church ran these schools, which aimed to assimilate aboriginal children into mainstream Canadian society, into the English language and into the Christian faith.

Naytowhow attended All Saints residential school in Saskatchewan. There, Naytowhow said he faced different forms of abuse, which made him feel detached from his culture and language.  The experience also affected his confidence and sense of self-worth.

“I’m still working on forgiving the Anglicans,” he said. “They really did a number on me and my people, my relatives, my family.”

Naytowhow said it was an elder he met at the University of Saskatchewan, where he was pursuing an undergraduate degree in education, who reintroduced him to what he lost during his time at All Saints. The elder, Solomon Mosquito, inspired him to re-embrace  his culture and language and to begin a healing process using the Cree way of seeing life.

Photo by Danielle Gasher

“Something tweaked inside of me that I had to go and spend time with him. So I missed classes,” he said. Naytowhow described the Cree way of learning as experiencing things with all senses, with open-mindedness, with forgiveness and with an appreciation for the elements, living beings and nature.

Naytowhow recalled a comparison Mosquito made that helped him understand how expansive the Cree way of thinking, learning and being is. He said Mosquito compared the Cree way of knowing to the pharmaceutical aisles in a drugstore, because of how vast and diverse it is.  “It just totally placed that image right in my mind…What a great way to explain it,” said Naytowhow, laughing.

While Naytowhow didn’t directly address what universities can do to bring Indigenous knowledge to school curriculums, he said that “learning is about observation, insight,” and that schools could benefit from using that approach in classrooms across Canada.

Universities across Canada are starting to introduce ways to further bridge the gap between Indigenous ways of learning and universities.  According to a University Affairs 2016 article, “Indigenizing the academy,” the University of Regina, Brock University, Lakehead University and the University of Winnipeg, among others, have introduced measures to better include and represent Indigenous culture in their teaching.

Naytowhow said that relearning his Cree culture has helped and still helps him heal from his past in the residential school system. “I can’t hang on to this grudge forever—it’s going to kill me. I’m working on that.”

Indeed, Naytowhow still heavily works on healing and put a lot of importance on forgiveness once he started getting back in touch with his “Cree side.” “There’s still some debris,” he said. “I call them my little demons.”

Photo by Danielle Gasher

“I had to go to high mountains; I had to go to the valley; I had to go to sweats; I had to go to ceremonies. I went into Buddhist communities. I went through therapy, life skills; I went to the University of Regina. I got married, [at a] pretty young age—20 years old. I didn’t have a clue of what marriage was about,” he said, laughing again.

Above all, Naytowhow said he couldn’t have gotten through his healing journey without music.  “It’s hard to stop, I just want to keep on going,” said Naytowhow with a laugh as he ended a song he performed during the lecture. “Drumming saved my life,” said Naytowhow, with his drum still in hand. “It’s like a primal scream.”

While Naytowhow still has his demons, he will never forget the day a nun apologized to him for all the harm the Catholic Church caused Indigenous peoples in Canada. “At the time, I was still angry. I didn’t really respond in a compassionate way,” he said. Today, Naytowhow said he would have.

Student Life

Tasting history: A 200-year-old beer recipe brought to life

The Museum of Jewish Montreal hosts a celebration and tasting of the famous Hart family beer

The Museum of Jewish Montreal hosted a lecture and tasting to celebrate the recreation of a 200-year-old traditional beer recipe from the famous Jewish Hart family brewery, on Oct. 26.

Nearly 100 people gathered in the bright main room of the museum, which opened only eight months ago. At 7:30 p.m. sharp, the room, already filled with displays of famous Jewish literature, historic maps and archival photos, was packed with eager and thirsty attendees.

beer blogger and business lawyer, Gary Gillman. Photo by Danielle Gasher

The almost illegible manuscript of the beer recipe was displayed at the front of the room, in front of rows of chairs, for everyone to see and attempt to read.

The Museum organized the event in collaboration with Fletcher’s Espace Culinaire and Le Réservoir microbrewery.  Fletcher’s, a Jewish-Québécois fusion café, offered their space on the main floor of the Museum, for the event to take place.

Julia Dubé, the event and financial development coordinator for the museum, said the team first discovered the beer recipe when one of their research fellows stumbled upon a beer blog talking about it.

“When she found this article, she shared it with the team, and we immediately wanted to do something with it,” said Dubé. “We had the idea to recreate the beer, using local ingredients and trying to follow the recipe from the manuscript. So we approached our neighbour, Le Réservoir.”

Le Réservoir, a microbrewery on Duluth Avenue, just a street corner away from the museum, accepted the challenge to recreate the beer.  

Concordia graduate and master brewer at Le Réservoir, Nathan McNutt, made it his mission to follow the recipe and the methods used as closely as possible. “We are all very excited to taste the beer for the first time,” said Dubé.

The museum is dedicated to sharing Jewish stories in Montreal. Since the Hart family is such an important name in Montreal’s Jewish community, this was a story the museum couldn’t pass up on.

“Part of these stories relate to food, relate to beer. When we found this story, we thought it would be a very contemporary and interesting thing to share,” Dubé told The Concordian.

Photo by Danielle Gasher

The Hart family are known to be the first Jews to have arrived in North America. They settled in Trois-Rivières in 1761. The entire family is celebrated for their contributions and devotion to Quebec’s Jewish community. The family created the first synagogue in Canada and were active in the fight for Jewish political rights during the 18th century, according to an article on Canada’s History’s website by author and historian, Denis Vaugeois.

That’s why, Montreal-native beer blogger and business lawyer, Gary Gillman, was surprised to stumble on the Hart name when researching early Quebec breweries.

“Growing up here in the Jewish community, we all had known of the Harts and were very proud of them … but we knew their political history, particularly Ezekiel’s situation with respect to trying to set a legislative assembly in the early 19th century. I had no idea that they operated a brewery,” said Gillman.

Gillman found the recipe through public provincial records. In fact, it was so easy to access, he continued digging to see if anyone else had published or at least found the manuscript. “As far as I could tell, nobody actually found it and published it, much less analyzed it from a brewing point of view,” said Gillman. He published a blog post about the beer in February 2016.

Photo by Danielle Gasher

To Gillman, the recipe represents traditional English brewing. “That means things like its alcoholic strength, which is over eight per cent, its use of hops … a substantial quantity of hops. They also used the first mash, the first run off the malted barley, which is the richest extract and produces the strongest beer.”

The brewer of the beer, McNutt, said, “For the most part, we kept very true to the style, very true to the ingredients. We made sure that [the beer] was Quebec-grown, that it was organic.” He explained he had to make certain adaptations to stay true to the original recipe, techniques and style of the brew. He said he used smoke malt, with the help of wood chips, to replicate a taste that was common in 18th century beer. He also added wild yeast to the beer, and aged it in an oak wood barrel, which he said added complexity to the beer’s taste.

Among the guest speakers at the event was Vaugeois, who was particularly touched by the recreation of the recipe. Vaugeois, who wrote a book about the Hart family, imparted his knowledge about the Harts to the crowd.

“Since I don’t drink beer, I focused on the brewery, on the will of Aaron Hart to bring his sons together so they could create a dynasty. He created an enterprise for his sons, like Molson,” said Vaugeois about his book.


Vaugeois said that upon researching and writing so much about the family, he felt like he had a special connection to them. “I feel like I am myself a Hart,” he said.

Once the presentation from guest speakers was over, guests were invited, with their free beer coupon in hand, to the next street corner to taste the celebrated beer for themselves at Le Réservoir.

As the speakers hinted, the flavour of the beer was beautifully complex.  From the balanced smokiness, to a nice spiciness and subtle yet satisfying bitterness, this beer’s taste was a nice surprise.  

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