Brewery Tour ‘around the World – Microbrewery La Castor

Scottish cask ale was the inspirations from where Le Castor sprung and now this Canadian brewery is creating their own footprint.
Here are the four beers I would put on my first taster tray….

“The India Pale Ale is without a doubt the most popular craft beer style in the world. But sometimes we want all those hops, without so much alcohol. Sometimes the night is young, the conversation is great, and we want to have more than just one. The India Session Ale was born out of this unsatisfied thirst. This is our interpretation of the fledgling style – an unbridled level of hop-thusiasm, in a package that lets you get on with your day, or night.”

“English Bitter was a major beer style in the 19th century. Brewed and packaged very quickly, it was a type of “running beer”. Before the widespread adoption of stainless steel tanks, this beer almost certainly had Brettanomyces yeast in it. But there simply wasn’t enough time for Brett character to develop before it was served in pubs. What if the publican accidentally left a cask to age for a few months before serving..? You might have a beer that tastes just like this one.”

“New Zealand isn’t just famous for its Maori culture, rugby team, and a cute little flightless bird. To beer lovers – it’s revered for its unique hop varieties. This beer is a marriage between the fruitiness of the New Zealand hops, and the floral character of the saison yeast strain.”

“What you have in your hands is our 2015 American Barleywine, that we brewed with a considerable amount of organic malt and American hops. Strong, malty, super-hoppy, and a bit unruly, the beer has had a nine month slumber in El Dorado rum barrels from Guyana. And it appears to have been time well spent! Alcoholic heat has mellowed, while assertive hops have melded with brown spirit and oak, creating layered fruitiness with a dry oaken finish.”

Canadian Brewery # 3 – Blindman Brewing

Lacombe (ravine) in Alberta is the home to our last new Canadian brewery tour, Blindman Brewing.

Who have helpfully labeled all of their beers thusly:
batch 010 2015-november-21 longshadows ipa
batch 009 2015-november-7 blindman river session ale
batch 008 2015-october-30 to-be-named imperial stout
batch 007 2015-october-23 saison lacombe: automne
batch 006 2015-october-17 robust porter
batch 005 2015-october-9 longshadows ipa
batch 004 2015-october-8 blindman river session ale
batch 003 2015-september-17 blindman river session ale
batch 002 2015-september-14 saison lacombe: automne
batch 001 2015-september-13 blindman river session ale

When you are small you can add this much detail to your beer releases and I think it is super cool for this brewery that if Twitter is to be believed, opened this very month.

Canadian Brewery # 2 – Twin Sails Brewing

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I could not point out Port Moody on a map if I had to save my life but that is where Twin Sails Brewing has set up shop under the leadership of twin brothers Clay and Cody Allmin, who have been home brewing for more than three years.

Out of the gate and with a new head brewer on board they have started with a line-up that consists of a hefeweizen, a marzen, a pilsner and a roggenweizen like a good like German brewery except in Canada.

Considering that the town is also home to Yellow Dog Brewing and Moody Ales, this might just be a destination all by itself.



Canadian Brewery # 1 – County Road Beer Co.

This month, we are scanning for new breweries all across the country of Canada to mark the return of a Trudeau to power in government. We start…

…in the town of Wellington in Ontario, County Road Beer Co. opened their new brewery this year tied with an already established winery, Hinterland Wine.

The brewery opened with two beers – County Road 1 Blonde Ale and County Road 12 Farmhouse Saison which are available in bottles. Those were followed by a Red ale and an IPA. All bottles adorned with the appropriate road number.

BC Brewery # 2 – Four Mile Brewing


The middle stop in British Columbia is in Victoria and Four Mile Brewery.

They brew on a Peter Austin system which according to their website “is a direct-fired, brick clad, copper whirlpool and hop percolator, and you cannot buy it at Costco when you get a Vitamix.”

They also enlisted Alan Pugsley to be the brewmaster. Pugsley has come in and brought his expertise to a few breweries, Shipyard being the most known, then he leaves the brewing to a resident brewer. In this case Doug White who has UC-Davis learning in his past.

Without further ado, here are the British style ales that I would have in my first taster tray…

Best British Beer

The 4 Mile crew call this their “Stiff Upper Sip.” A cask conditioned beer that they deem a true session beer. Comes in at a low 4.25% ABV.

Golden Ale

A golden blond Canadian style ale with a crisp dry clean finish. Plus, “Just a flash of sweet.” And another low ABV at 4.6%.

Brown Ale

5 malts including crystal, chocolate & roasted barley are used to bring out “notes of caramel, mocha and coffee and chocolate.” Comes in at 5.3% ABV.

English Strong Ale

A style that is overlooked as people go to barley wines but the ESA is a more subtle dance of malt and hops and despite the Strong in the title it still clocks in under 7% ABV.


Book Review – The Perfect Keg


Perhaps word has gotten out that I love books about beer.  Because every twice-in-a-while, I will get  a new book to read and I was glad to get The Perfect Keg by Ian Coutts.  With the appended longer title of “Sowing, scythng, malting and brewing my to the best-ever pint of beer.”

What I liked most about this book was the honesty.  This isn’t a book about going from point A to B in a straight and unerring line.  This is a book with fits and starts.  There are learning curves and mishaps.  Two steps forward and one back.  But it is written in such a go-get’em tone that you are rooting for Coutts to make that Perfect Keg a reality.

There are home-brew recipes sprinkled throughout the book but not being a brewer home or otherwise, I was more interested by the the process of really doing a “local” beer.  There is a lot of lip service paid to local and community driven beer whilst deliveries from across the world come in the back of the brewery.  And I think it is very important to be more transparent about the whole affair.  If brewery A can only afford malt from a certain place then so be it.  There is no dishonor there.

And this book, though ostensibly only about brewing one special batch at home with local malt, yeast and hops really brings the point to a sharper point.  What do you do if the malt isn’t coming out of the ground in enough quantity?  How do you coax hops to grow in an area not conducive to hop bines?  What is the history of brewing in the area?

There are trips to professors of Agriculture.  Talks with brewers and farmers here that will add to the craft beer fan’s knowledge of brewing.  My favorite section of the book though is about the whole malting process and all of the conflicting advice and wisdom that is out there.  And trying to cobble together a Rube Goldberg malting set-up is one of the funnier (now, probably not then) parts of the book.

This is an easy and fun read that has a lot more going on than the typical craft beer book.

I also got the opportunity to ask the author Ian, a few questions.  Some will appear right now (others in Beer Paper LA in the future)….

1. How do you compare the beer scenes in Canada and the US?

We are a) catching up and b) slightly ahead. Let me explain. I think in most of English Canada, we are playing catch-up with the U.S. Despite all the jokes that Canadians traditionally made about American beer, honest Canadians have known for a decade or more that the Americans were way out there in terms of imaginative craft brewing – think of those West Coast Pale Ales that have conquered the world, for example. To my mind, craft brewing here for the longest time was still stuck back in the early days when a slightly hopped brownish ale could occasion utter hysteria. But I think we’re catching up.

But then there’s the slightly ahead part. And that’s Quebec. Beer-wise, they don’t just march to the beat of a different drum, it’s a completely different band. When craft beer started to take off in the 1980s, they were in there with live yeast beers, decades before anyone else. Belgian styles, French styles, beers made with spruce needles or hibiscus – even without any malted grains at all — craft brewers there will try anything and the audience is always up for something new.

2.  What Canadian breweries do you suggest Americans get to know?

That’s a tough one because, as in the U.S., craft brewing is highly regional. I am sure there are fantastic beers in British Columbia or Nova Scotia that I have never heard of here in Ontario. But I can recommend a few from my part of the world. Beau’s does neat beers – one-offs, seasonals, they keep mixing it up. I like Church Key’s Holy Smoke – made with smoked malt, there is nothing else quite like it up here. And then there’s Quebec. Three firms there that do daring beers are Les Trois Mousquetaires, Le Castor and Grimoire. Unibroue was one of the first Quebec craft brewers. They were bought out, but still do good stuff. And if you ever find yourself in the Ottawa region, cross the river and head for a shop called Bieres du Monde in Aylmer, Quebec. This guy stocks 300 different beers – all from Quebec.


Vices & Versa

Craft beer and clever names go hand in hand. And thanks to the Beer Advocate magazine, I found another great one for a Canadian beer bar.

Vices & Versa is in Montreal and has 33 Canadian craft beers on tap from places like Hopfenstark, 3 Musketeers, Brasserie Dunham and more!

Whenever your beer travel takes you to Montreal, this should be a required stop.