Spirits Untapped

Investigating the spirits of both the living & the non-living that inhabit bars and breweries



Posts about specific locations and locales

Pizza Heaven And Beer Magic

Earlier this week, Liz took me to a “new” pizza place she had recently discovered. (I say “new” because it has been there for a while now, but it is still new to us). I’ve already returned there a second time earlier today and it took almost everything in me not to eat lunch there every day this week.

It’s called Urban Bricks Pizza Co. and it’s at University Plaza at 160 University Avenue in Waterloo (pretty much adjacent to the University of Waterloo campus.

Liz originally described their “one price, unlimited toppings” pizza assembly process by saying “it’s like Subway for pizza” – and that is pretty much what it is. You choose your crust, your sauce, your cheeses and then you get to add as many of the meat, veggie, and spice toppings as you want before they slide the pizza into an oven. After it comes out there’s an additional option to add a “dressings and drizzles” topping.

Tweet from Mark Whaley (@WhaleyWaterloo), Waterloo City Councillor showing the front of Urban Bricks Pizza Co.

Of course, on top of the absolutely delicious custom and quick made pizzas, the Urban Bricks Pizza in Waterloo is licensed to serve beer and has half a dozen taps, including a selection from local brewery Abe Erb.

And, in the same quick & efficient style that they create delicious and unforgettable pizza, they have a Bottoms Up Draft Beer System.

If you’ve never seen one in action, prepare to be amazed.

I often shed a small tear for every single drop of beer that is wasted, and, over the years, I have certainly seen more than a fair share of that happening. But the ingenious draft beer system that Bottoms Up is likely one that saves bar owners countless dollars in spillage, not to mention the hands-free operation that allows for staff multi-tasking.

Is there a Nobel Prize for beer? And if so, shouldn’t the people behind Bottoms Up be nominated for it?

It also, of course, inspires one to think about the special magic of a self-filling beer glass, perhaps not unlike that hilarious scene in Thor: Ragnarok where Thor, sitting down with Dr. Strange, quickly downs a large mug of beer in a single gulp, only to have it magically re-fill itself.

It’s the type of thing that might bring tears to the eye of an avid beer lover.

So, for this perfect marriage of awesomeness with pizza and awesomeness in beer, if you happen to get yourself near Waterloo this is a MUST-VISIT location.

Chances are, I might just be there, ordering yet another custom-built delicious pizza or giggling madly while watching the Bottoms Up Draft Beer System in action.

The Cross Brewery House

The building that is now known as the Rouge Restaurant and was designated as a Municipal and Provincial Heritage Site in 1973 was originally built in 1891 by A.E. Cross in a Calgary neighborhood now known as Inglewood.

Originally from Montreal, Cross who became one of the West’s most prominent cattlemen, founded the Calgary Brewing and Malting Co. (the first brewing company in western Canada) in 1892.

Legend has it that two of Cross’s children died of diphtheria in 1904 just minutes before Cross had received the critical medicine required to bring them back to health. Paranormal investigators and psychics have visited the home, with several of them reporting the presence of at least two spirits. One, the spirit of a little girl, believed to be Nellie, one of the children who died so tragically. The other is believed to be an adult, and there are conflicting reports of whether it might be the ghost of A.E. Cross, who was a dedicated father, or of his wife Helen Cross, a similarly dedicated mother.

One of the stories, as reported on Creepy Canada, involved a waiter who was working upstairs and heard what he thought was the sound of a child’s laughter from one of the upstairs rooms. He went to peer in, finding the room empty, when the sound of laughter seemed to be coming from down the hall. He continued to follow the elusive laughter down the stairs to the main floor and then, further, to the basement.

When he arrived in the basement, he spotted, standing in the open doorway of a walk-in freezer a young girl, who immediately moved into the freezer. He walked across the room and stepped into the freezer to find that she had vanished. That was when the freezer door sung closed on its own.

Paul Rogalski, Chef and restaurant co-owner, says that when he first came to the house he would have described himself as “agnostic” towards the belief of ghost, but that after two years there, he found himself believing in ghosts, having seen and heard about enough strange and in-explainable incidents, such as frying pans traveling on their own across a set of burners in the kitchen and the ghostly image of a man seen sitting quietly at a table and then getting up and walking towards the door while flickering in and out of the visible spectrum.

When Liz and I arrived at the restaurant one summer afternoon, we were dressed in our typical “long walking day” attire. Running shoes, shorts and t-shirts; well below the standard dress for such a beautiful and elegant establishment. However, the hostess, learning of the reason for our visit, was gracious enough to give us a tour and point out the various locations where eerie and odd sightings had occurred, such as the mantle in the main dining room . . .

. . . the upstairs closet at the back of the hallway near the restrooms . . . (where staff have to reach into, behind the curtain, which was pulled back for this photo, to turn the lights on for this area of the second floor) . . .

. . . and the second floor front window where there have been reports of people seeing the spectral image of a woman looking forlornly out, who some believe is the ghost of Cross’s wife, Helen, as she might have been while waiting in pained silence for the medicine, which didn’t arrive in time.

We didn’t get a chance to enjoy the fine dining, nor the wonderfully extensive wine list of this elegant restaurant in a beautiful historic building, but we did get to sample the friendly, kind and generous spirit of the staff who work there.

Because Beer 2017

Because Beer is an annual summertime beer festival that takes place in Hamilton at Pier 4 Park (64 Leander Drive). It is a wonderful opportunity for people to discover beers from a selection of hundreds of different taps and dozens of breweries. Not to mention an opportunity to mingle with other beer aficionados, listen to some great live music and grab food from a dozen or more delicious food trucks.

This is our third Because Beer festival and it’s one of those beer fests that is always a priority to attend (and not just because it’s only a 3 KM walk from my place – NO DRIVING INVOLVED! Bonus!)

There were a good number of delightful new beers to enjoy as well as a number of classic favorites to consume as well.

While I enjoyed many of the beers, some of my personal highlights from this year included Space Invader (Single Hop Pale Ale) from Amsterdam Brewing Company . . . .

. . . Upper Reaches (Pale Ale) from Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company . . .

. . . Juicy Ass (IPA) by Flying Monkeys . . .

. . . Collective Project: IPA No 3 (IPA) from Collective Arts Brewing  . . .

. . . and Bongo (Shandy/Radler) from Big Rig Brewery.

Of course, those are based on my ratings on Untappd from the afternoon and night. I was so busy enjoying the taste (it was a delightfully hot day after all) to pause to make any notes. I just sipped the beer, took a quick pic and gave a rating, likely verbalizing what I liked, but any notes I might have made have escaped me.

Liz and I realized we were wearing the same shirts we’d worn at our first Because Beer festival so tried to re-create the “selfie booth” picture that’s still one of my favorite pictures of the two of us.

But it was much funnier when our buddy Pierre borrowed her shirt and tried to re-create it with me . . . .

(Pierre is pretty and all, but I’m a bit partial to Liz). Liz and I settled on going for a NEW pose instead . . .

The only one thing we perhaps did wrong this year (a mistake we did NOT make last year), is we neglected to hydrate with water on a regular basis throughout the afternoon and evening. (Technically, we didn’t hydrate with water at ALL). Meaning that Sunday morning was nowhere near as enjoyable as Saturday afternoon and night.

But, in all, Because Beer pulled off another spectacular weekend event that was enjoyed thoroughly.

Already looking forward to Because Beer 2018!

Nique: A Unique Hamilton Spot

Their website says that NIQUE is not just a restaurant.

We’d agree with that. It’s far more.

They also talk about their delicious food in a comfortable environment with a strong sense of community.

Image from an I Heart Hamilton website review of NIQUE

We’re also 100% behind that.

There’s a delightful sense of open and welcome to the space, powerfully enhanced by the intriguing murals that reflect Hamilton’s culture, sports and people.

But one thing their website and marketing doesn’t give them proper credit for is their knowledge and passion for great beer.

Liz and I popped in to check NIQUE out the other night and were delighted not only with the incredible selection of delicious craft beers from many different Hamilton and Southern Ontario area breweries (Collective Arts, The Hamilton Brewery, Nickle Brook, Bellwoods, Half Hours on Earth, just to name a few of our favourites), but we were also extremely impressed with our server. He not only could speak comprehensively about the beers on their menu but was also, quite obviously, a craft beer fan himself.

Liz went for a couple of beers by Half Hours on Earth, one of her new favourite breweries for incredible sour beer (we’re really looking forward to getting out there for a visit this summer) as well as Nickel Brook‘s Ceres Cucumber Lime Gose (one of her overall faves lately) while I enjoyed a Ghost Orchid and a Monogamy Double Dry Hop from Bellwoods. (And, admittedly, I kept dipping into the delicious sour Control Bored from Half Hours on Earth every time Liz was distracted looking at the interesting artwork murals)

We look forward to returning and enjoying the atmosphere, the great food and the wonderful selection of craft beer at NIQUE.

Photo by John Rennison from a Hamilton Spectator review of NIQUE

And, while our forte tends to be beer rather than food, I have to make a point that you HAVE to try their Sushi Nachos. They were absolutely delicious and weren’t long for the world once they arrived at our table. Again, we’re not food critiques, so about the best we can say is that they tasted a little bit like “More Please!” with a bit of a side of “Got to have these again!”

Skulls and Passion for Beer

In our frequent visits to various breweries and great beer locales, Liz and I discovered 5 Paddles Brewing Company in img_9728Whitby. It was immediately apparent, almost from the moment we walked in, that we were stepping into a place where the passion for brewing and consuming great beers was strong.

Once we started talking to one of the 5 Paddles (the nickname the owners of the brewery have given themselves, since they all have a “mash paddle” in both the operation and the brewing of the beers), the pure raw passion came through loud and clear.

When you’re speaking with someone at that brewery, you’re not speaking with a part-time casual employee who might only be there to serve customers. You’re speaking with one of the owners who are all deeply ingrained in the brewing and operations of the business.


Throughout the mini-tour we were offered as part of our discussion, (including hearing intriguing and delightful stories about virtually every single piece of equipment that was cobbled together through hard-earned acquisitions via Mike, the brewery’s “Kijiji Whisperer”) as well as in the simple yet friendly and inviting decor of the place, it immediately felt like home to us.

We learned that these guys call themselves a Nano-brewery (smaller than a micro-brewery) and that, regardless of how many additional tanks and equipment they might eventually acquire, they’ll always be Nano in spirit and approach. They met through a local home-brewers network and their common passion for brewing and drinking great beers are what led to the start of this amazing business which continues to be a labour of love.


But, better than that all the great sentiment and passion, beyond their friendliness and enthusiasm for what they do, their beer itself was amazing. Would you expect anything less?

We tried a “canoe flight” of all the beers they had on tap and ended up taking a few home to enjoy later. In Your Face (IPA) and Home Sweet Home (Pale Wheat Ale) and Midnight Paddler (Stout) were three of my absolute favourites — although, admittedly, I can’t say I didn’t love all the ones I tried.


A fun side-perk of the trip for me was the affinity that one of the brewers had to skulls (much like my own). And the decor of the brewery reflected that in a fun and playful manner. (Not to mention the cool label on their core IPA)

Hmm, with Halloween coming up, I should get myself some more bottles of In Your Face that delightfully refreshing IPA.

Chores Turned Into Beer Tours

I love it when you can turn a simple chore into something more.

A few weeks ago, Liz agreed to pick up a good friend near midnight at Pearson airport in Toronto. Since I work in Toronto, we thought it might be more fun for Liz and I to meet just a little bit west of Toronto shortly after work and do some exploring for a few hours before picking up her friend.

And that’s just one way that a simple chore or favour for a friend can turn into something fun.

We rendezvoused in Mississauga, having determined a few key locations we wanted to visit in the Streetsville area. And, as often happens in our touring, we found an additional spot to check out.

The night brought us first to The Franklin House, which is allegedly haunted by a young woman by the name of Jessie. We had a great time and enjoyed the rib special and a couple of beers while chatting with a wonderfully personable waitress who had been working there for thirty years. She shared many great stories about the ghostly legends surrounding the building, and we got a quick tour of the upstairs area which is where most of the supernatural activity has occurred. (I won’t get into the details of that here, as I’ll be saving those for a full future post about The Franklin House – so stay tuned).

If you look at this pic of the stairs at The Franklin House just right, you might be able to make out the spectral shape of Jessie standing at the top of the stairs, her head & shoulders visible above the picture on the wall. (Of course, it’s REALLY just the overhead pot light casting a beam onto the wall. But still neat, isn’t it?)

The Franklin House had a busy patio and main floor of people that night and was bustling in an interesting way for a Tuesday night. But we were most uplifted by the spirited and enthusiastic friendliness of the people who worked there. And, even though the beer selection there isn’t as broad as we would prefer (yes, we can be real beer snobs sometimes – so what can be a decent selection for most people might be something we see as “the usual” due to our quest to always be seeking out new beers to try), it’s definitely a place we’ll be returning to because of the ambiance, the delicious food and the great staff.

We next walked up the street to Cuchulainn’s Irish Pub (another haunted location we wanted to check out) where we enjoyed another beer and fun conversation, including hearing some eerie tales from our waitress about the time she knew she wasn’t alone in the basement when she was down there changing kegs, even though the rest of the staff were all upstairs.

Cuchulainn’s Irish Pub is also supposedly haunted. We know for sure that Zaddy haunts the place on Tuesdays with great live music.

This pub had a decent selection of the Irish beer classics as well as a couple on tap from some smaller Canadian breweries. And though it started off relatively quiet, it was Open Mic night and the host for the evening, Zaddy, was a talented musician. Despite the fun entertainment offering, we needed to move on and get ourselves closer to the airport.

The last stop that we made before heading up to the airport was Tracks Brewpub in Brampton. We didn’t visit there as part of our ghostly investigations; this one was more for the investigation of one of our favourite kinds of spirit: the real live people who hang out there. It was a quiet, mid-week night when we entered, but even though it was quiet you could certainly felt the spirit of a group of regulars hanging out at the bar and chatting with the bartender and with one another.

We tried a couple of their own unique and refreshing beers, their Tracks Light Lager and an Old Mill Dark Lager. Then we realized it was time to move along to the airport.

A Tracks Brew Pub Cool Light Lager

Again, it was a simple evening where we needed to be at a particular spot at a particular time and so we added on a mini little MLA (Mark & Liz Adventure) to turn the evening into something even more memorable.


Whitewater Friendly Fun

The other week, when Liz and I took off on an MLA (Mark & Liz Adventure), the destination for the end of our first day of travel was Whitewater Brewing Company in Forester’s Falls, Ontario.

The Brew Pub, which is inside of an old renovated barn, is located about 10 minutes off of Highway 17 near Cobden, Ontario (about 90 minutes West of Ottawa). I discovered it when traveling through the area earlier in the summer and just knew that Liz and I would have to return to enjoy it together.

IMG_8972The atmosphere of the pub/restaurant and patio is absolutely down to earth, rustic and fun. (Their patio even has a series of hammocks set up for serious relaxing) And the menu of food is a short but delicious list of items. Whitewater Brewing Company offers a large, comfortable
and relaxed atmosphere for gathering with friends. We settled in on one of the oversized comfy seats in an intimate little corner not far from the bar to enjoy a few beers and items off the menu.

One of the mixed blessings of an MLA adventure is that we’re willing to take tangential paths on a day’s journey, completely open to things we perhaps hadn’t planned. And we had some of those side-explorations on this fun day. Which meant we hadn’t arrived until close to 8 PM and thus ended up having only about an hour to enjoy the brewpub before it closed for the night.

IMG_8973Our plan, since Waterwater Brewing Company makes this available, was to put up our tent in one of the fields adjacent to the main building. They charge a mere $10 per person to set up a tent on the grounds and, after the pub closes, they leave an outside door to the men’s room unlocked so that overnight campers can use the facilities.

It’s not surprising that this brewpub offers this option, particularly when you hear the story about its origin that involved three good friends who bonded over whitewater adventures, good beer and good times. If you want to hear about the story behind the brewery, their website has a great video on the Our Story section where the co-owners (The Thompson Twins – #notrealtwins #notevenrelated) share their fun story of how it all came to be.

So, after enjoying some fun and a few fun beverages (I found myself returning to the very first beer I’d ever had from them: Their Farmer’s Daughter, a light, refreshing and easy-drinking blonde ale that’s perfect for the end of a hot summer day of traveling), we ended up setting up the tent in the dark.

IMG_8976Correction: Liz set the tent up in the dark while I held an electric lantern and a flashlight. (After all, we must each stick to what we’re best at)  There were at least three other couples camping there in the large fields beside the barn, but they were far enough away that it felt like we had the whole field to ourselves (ie, not the “almost on top of one another” experience you sometimes get when camping at certain locations of Ontario Provincial Parks – or when setting up a tent at a place like Woodstock)

After the pub had closed, Liz and I sat in a couple of chairs outside our tent, with just the light from the nearby barn casting a soft pale glow, and looked up at the night stars, losing ourselves to the constellations, the conversation and the beers that we shared. The perfect way to end a fun-filled day of exploration.

When it was finally time to call it a night, we found the setting peaceful, dark and comfortable. We could occasionally hear cows from a nearby field and saw the lights of one of our fellow campers who returned some time during the wee hours. (I won’t share, of course, details regarding the moment I woke suddenly at about 3 in the morning, hearing a rustling from the wind and was convinced, based on the sound and shadows of the tent cover that flitted in the wind, that there was somebody walking around the outside of our tent. I am a writer of horror fiction and true ghost stories, after all, so my mind ALWAYS goes to the darkest places. But let’s not talk about my little over-reaction, shall we?)

A flight from my first visit to Whitewater Brewing Company. Yeah, I know, I couldn’t even wait before taking the picture to drink the Farmer’s Daughter

In all, Whitewater Brewing Company makes some fine beers, has a beautiful destination brewpub location and I adore the fact that there’s an affordable option for those who wish to have a few drinks and then not drive. Brilliant. Comfortable. Fun. You very much get the sense that this is a place that matches their slogan: Brewed by friends, for friends.

Even Barnaby (my horror-author mascot companion) had no bones about the experience.

Barnaby relaxing outside our tent on the Whitewater Brewing Company grounds

Doing One Thing Really Really Well

I’ve long been a fan of Steam Whistle, and promise to write a longer post about the great relationship I’ve had with the good folks there over the years, including the direct delivery of kegs to my house that I had maintained when I lived on the mountain in Hamilton. But that’s another story.

I wanted to talk about pilsners and the concept that Steam Whistle idealized in their slogan, “do one thing really, really well” and how we’ve seen that same ideology work really well for start-up breweries.


On a recent 5 day MLA (Our short term for a Mark/Liz Adventure) camping and beer tour across various parts of Southeastern, South central and Southwestern Ontario, we encountered a relatively new brewery that followed the same mantra.

Stone House Brewing Company was not part of the original tour stop plans, but the brewery popped up on an ad hoc Google Map search on my phone when we were traveling towards Goderich.

So, naturally, we had to stop in.

The skies might look angry, but the people and beer inside were definitely welcoming

A beautiful stone building easily visible from the highway, the brewery was inviting and charming looking. Stepping through the front door brought even more personable welcomes from the people inside.

Using Canadian two-row malted barley, SAAZ hops (A type of Czech hop popular in brewing pilsner) and their own local well water, they have created a simple, crisp and delightfully refreshing pilsner.

As a smaller brewery, they mentioned wanting to take their time, work out a great recipe and then produce enough of it to meet the ever-growing demand from the locals who have been flocking in to check out their first beer. Because, early in their production cycles they’d found the desire from locals for more beer than they could produce their first main challenge. (A wonderful challenge to have, of course, but a challenge and issue to deal with just the same)

Fortunately, we were lucky the day we arrived, as they had both growler refills as well as bottles to go available. Their pricing was delightfully affordable and the taste that we had in their large open tasting room at the front of the building was satisfying and refreshing.


I liked that fact that they were crafting a good beer and establishing a market (or taste) for it, before moving on to experiment with other flavors. It reminded me, of course (especially since since it’s a pilsner, like Steam Whistle), of the concept of doing a single thing, but doing it really well. And they’ve done a brilliant job of that.

I also like the fact that a pilsner, being a lighter, easier drinking beer, can often be used as a nice “gateway beer” for those who haven’t ventured far from larger, international brewery offerings. (IE, someone who doesn’t venture far from the standard “top 10” lagers that dominate the Ontario/Canadian market). A great pilsner like this allows those less venturous beer drinkers to give a local craft brewery a try, and, perhaps, something that’s good for all the smaller brewers out there, become willing to reach out for something beyond the “common” multi-national beers that most restaurants and pubs have on tap.

Someone willing to venture to a great local beer like this is that one more step closer to enjoying a craft beer with a little more dynamic flavor to it — because venturing from a light lager right into a hearty and hoppy IPA could be far too much for a typical Coors Light drinker. You have to ease them into the land of flavour, after all. You can’t force them into the deep waters right away.

In my opinion, the craft beer world needs great places like Stone House Brewing Company creating great “gateway” beers that offer just that. The more gateway beers, the more likely the masses who aren’t part of craft beer culture can experience a bit more flavour and variety in their brew. So long live brewers like Stone House – and we say to them: “Keep up the excellent, and flavourful work!

After a fun conversation with the folks at Stone House, Liz and I ended up purchasing a few bottles to bring home and realized, soon enough, that, it being a simple and refreshing beer, it was the first one we reached for the next couple of days when, after work, we wanted to pour and share our first day’s beer together. (IE, our very small local “well” of it went dry quickly)

Oh well, we’ll need to return to get more. The perfect excuse for another mini weekend MLA.

Three Ghosts on Tap at Calgary’s Rose & Crown Pub

Originally a funeral home that was built in the 1920’s the Rose & Crown Pub is now a large neighbourhood pub with a bustling outdoor patio that overlooks 4th Street Southwest in downtown Calgary, multiple rooms and levels to enjoy good times and great conversation with friends and live acoustic performances every week.


With a selection of both local beer as well as the standard fun selection of stouts that you’d expect at a traditionally styled pub, this pub is an attractive destination for those who love good beer and good times.

But there are a few extra surprises on tap at this particular bar that make it even more compelling for those who desire a little extra thrill, or even chill, in their day: Three ghosts.

I recently had the pleasure of getting a special tour of the building with the bar’s General Manager Dennis Madden. He shared several stories and showed me around the bar to areas that are normally not accessible to most patrons: the third floor attic and the basement.

The Little Boy

The first of the ghosts is that of a little boy, and his story goes back to the time that the building was a funeral home. When the building was a funeral home, a family responsible as caretakers of the building, lived on the third floor. The spectral image of the little boy, seen throughout the pub at various times, including stories of being spotted lurking behind the furnace in the pub’d basement (where staff believe the cremations likely took place during the building’s time as a funeral home), is believed to be that of the unnamed little boy who allegedly haunts the building.


The Lady in the Big White Dress & The Middle Aged Man

A second ghost, who has been described as a middle-aged woman often seen wearing a large white and billowing dress, has also been reported over the years as having been spotted in the pub. And a third one had been described as a similarly aged nondescript man.

While the little boy is the most often seen of the three ghosts, all three are believed to be responsible for the odd sounds of people walking around upstairs when that floor is completely vacant and of neighbours reporting seeing lights flickering on and off in the middle of the night long after staff have vacated the building.

Eerie Photograph

During my visit, General Manager Dennis Madden shared with me both the picture and the tale of a pair of women who were traveling from the United Kingdom and stopped in at Rose & Crown because it reminded them of so many of the pubs back home, even one that had the same name.

They took several photos of themselves there, eager to share with local friends the fun atmosphere of a Canadian pub that mirrored ones they so enjoyed back home. This was in an era prior to digital photography, so it wasn’t until almost a month later when they returned back overseas and developed their photos that they spotted something odd in one of them: what looked like the spectral image of a little boy standing beside them.

An eerie small image of what appears to be a little boy beside two women in this photograph

They thought it was eerie and sent a copy of the photograph in a letter to the staff, asking them if the pub might perhaps be haunted. When Dennis wrote back to them, he relayed the story of the little boy. And the two women were convinced that they had inadvertently captured his image on film.

The staff and management of Rose & Crown have embraced the eerie spirit of the legends surrounding the building, hosting Halloween-themed events and offering seasonal tours of the ghost.

In a nod to the creepy tales shared about the pub, General Manager Dennis Madden even mischievously placed a skeleton in the third story window, looking down onto the street. Laughing, he said that folks from the neighbourhood have been startled to see it when they look up.

A cheeky nod to the ghostly tales, a skeleton peeks out onto the street from the third floor storage area of the pub

There are many more tales that we’re collecting regarding this location, so you can be certain it will be a chapter in the forthcoming book which will bear the same name as the Spirits Untapped website/blog.

Fun and eerie ghostly tales, a decent selection of international and local beers, great food and a wonderfully friendly and personable staff. What more could you ask for in a pub?


Powered by

Up ↑