One might say craft beer is really taking off these days — but that would be a massive understatement.
Alberta alone has more than 50 breweries slated to open within the next 18 months, and that doesn’t count those already open. This is truly exciting, though it is not solely an Alberta phenomenon. British Columbia and Ontario have both been experiencing a craft beer boom, and Quebec has had a well-established craft beer scene for years.
The Maritimes are also experiencing growth approaching Alberta’s level. Even Saskatchewan and Manitoba are entering a beer renaissance of their own, with a number of new breweries popping up over the past few years. Overall, Canada is definitely coming into its own. What better way to celebrate the vast and diverse nature of the nation we call home than to take a virtual journey through each of Canada’s beer regions.
Despite my love for Alberta beer, I felt choosing just one to feature would be akin to deciding which one of my children is my favourite — please forgive me! Let’s start in the Yukon. One of Canada’s most sparsely populated areas; it’s no surprise that the north has the fewest number of breweries.
That being said, one well-established brewery has been a Yukon mainstay for more than a decade. Yukon Brewing has always championed themselves as a supplier of quality beers for the north, and along the way they’ve provided us “southerners” with some great quality beer.
A favourite from Yukon Brewing is their Midnight Sun Espresso Stout (CSPC +777142 $18 per six pack). Rich roasted malt, chocolate and a considerable coffee character with the addition of locally roasted coffee, make for a beer perfectly suited for staying awake all night in the summer when the sun refuses to set.
We now travel south toward Victoria, B.C., and Driftwood Brewery. Since 2008, Driftwood has played no small role in helping define Victoria’s already deep-rooted beer scene. Driftwood brews a wide variety of beer styles, but a great choice is their delicious Farmhand Saison (CSPC +770722 $9 650 mL bottle), which is modelled after the rustic farmhouse brews of southern Belgium. Farmhand comes close to being a classic example, showcasing the characteristic Belgian yeast that creates a fruity yet spicy character, which is further enhanced with the addition of black pepper.
Travelling eastward past Alberta, we hit the province of my birth, Saskatchewan. Stopping in Swift Current, the relatively new Black Bridge Brewery is quickly gaining well-earned respect by producing exceptional beer. They have a small, but ever-growing line-up of well-crafted beers, including a great Rye Ale (CSPC +769216 $16 per 6 pack). Ideal combinations of toasty malt, pine, citrus, and a bit of rye spiciness make this beer a delight. To me, a rye-based beer is a perfect reflection of the prairies, and by extension, Black Bridge itself is a fantastic representative of the region.
We now head further east to Ontario toward a rural area just east of Ottawa. For Canada’s birthday, there may be no better choice than the beer recently named the official beer for the Canada 150 Celebrations: Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company’s Lug Tread Lagered Ale (CSPC +169334 $25 per 4 (600 mL) pack). As with all of Beau’s beers, Lug Tread is organic. Quite simply, it’s an extremely refreshing, cold conditioned blonde ale, similar to German Kolsch-style beers. A great choice for the big celebration!
About 100 kilometres east of Beau’s brewery across the Ottawa River, lies a staple of the Quebec craft beer scene, Montreal’s Brasserie Dieu du Ciel. They have been crafting award-winning beers for well over a decade, never being afraid of brewing risky beers, with unique ingredients. For our journey, we’ll go with one of the fantastic IPAs they produce — Moralité (CSPC +765733 $23 per 6 pack). Although perhaps not exactly a New England-Style IPA, Moralité was originally created as a collaboration with legendary Vermont brewery, The Alchemist. It definitely stands on its own, in any case, as one of Canada’s best IPAs.
Finally, we head to Fredericton, New Brunswick and to an east coast favourite, Picaroons, which has been producing solid British-inspired ales since 1995. I know a number of Maritimers that were very excited when Picaroons made its way to Alberta a few years ago. For me, the Irish Red (CSPC +766398 $5 per 500 mL bottle) is a great choice — a nice combination of sweet caramel and roasty malt with a mild hop bitterness.
Canada is an incredibly vast country, and with the ever-increasing number of craft breweries coming online, it’s not easy to sample everything that Canada has to offer. Luckily, here in Alberta, we are fortunate to be able to have a great selection of beer from all across the country. Be sure to give some a try this summer while celebrating Canada’s birthday!