Canadian Brewery # 1 – County Road Beer Co.

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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

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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

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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.

2500 IBU’s

Now that the highest ABV battle is pausing (thankfully) a new battle front is opening with Alpha-fornication.

This is what the brewer, Peter Chiodo has to say about it, “Clocking in at 2500 IBUs and 13.3% ABV, Alpha-fornication proves that sometimes people climb mountains just because they’re there. And sometimes, Beer Geeks will try anything on a dare. The hoppiest beer we know of was a meager 2007 IBUs, so we bested that and then some. We Flying Monkeys see extreme beers as the continuing evolution of Craft Brewing and the expansion of Ontario beers. It’s not just a contest of bravado to see who can make the world’s strongest beer (even though now we’ve got the world’s hoppiest one covered); it’s a movement – a movement to showcase the craft and how complex and versatile beer can actually be.”

Named for the alpha acids, or the compounds in the hop plant that are the source of hop bitterness, Alpha-fornication is brewed through highly creative and complex manipulation of the high alpha acid hop varieties, Warrior (17% AAU) and Centennial (11.5% AAU). A hop-steeped wort re-circulated through an additional “Hop Vorlauf” punches up the insane intensity of this brew to a stupefying 2500 IBUs. Keeping with the concepts of extreme brewing, the 13.3% ABV of Alpha-fornication adds bigness to this beer.”

I am not so sure about this one. Maybe a small taster will be enough but I do like the end of the press release that talks about the series that Alpha-F is part of, “Created as part of the Flying Monkeys’ Everest Experiments, a series of extreme beers showcasing the complexity and versatility of artisan brewing, the Flying Monkeys are actively engaging the expanding minds and palates of Ontario’s craft beer drinkers.”

O’ Canada – Crannog Ales

Out last Canadian stop is Crannog Ales in British Columbia.

All of their brews are certified organic, unfiltered and unpasteurized. And here are a couple to look for:

Gael’s Blood Potato Ale
“This rich Irish red ale is made with organic potatoes for an exceptionally smooth, rich body. It is extraordinarily rich in malt flavour, with just the right amount of hop finish. It’s an immigrant ale, uniting the staple food of Ireland with plenty of new world hops.”

Back Hand of God Stout
“Lean in body and powerful in flavour, Back Hand of God Stout has won many consumers’ choice awards. This dry stout is easy to drink, rich and inviting. It is extraordinarily smooth and mildly hopped with a distinct coffee/chocolate presence.”

O’ Canada – Dieu Du Ciel

Don’t be scared off by the labels on the Dieu Du Ciel beers. Yes, they are a little freaky but they match the beers quite well.

Here a couple to whet your appetite…

“Corne du diable aka Horn of the Devil IPA is a contemporary interpretation of the classic English India Pale Ale. This new style, born on the west coast of North America, is characterized by stronger and hoppier beers. The result is a red ale expressing caramel flavours coming from the malt, sharp bitterness and powerful hop aromas, thanks to dry hopping”

“La Rescousse (To The Rescue) is a noble Altbier that celebrates life in all its diversity. Malty up front with accents of toasted bread, the well-balanced hops provide a tongue-tingling finish and give this copper ale with mahogany highlights its freshness, complexity and unique character. Dieu du Ciel! Brewers will donate 11 cents for every bottle sold to Fondation de la faune du Québec, in support of efforts to save endangered species such as the wolverine, the copper redhorse, and the western chorus frog. “Liberté, égalité, biodiversité !”