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The Burnabarians are at the Tafel!

dageraad burnabarianI have noticed recently that a few of the latest wave of B.C. breweries have snuck their way into the Alberta market. I have been sampling them in dribs and drabs, just to get a sense of things. One that caught my attention fairly early on is Dageraad Brewing from Burnaby. They have been open just over a year, so I am a bit surprised to see them here to quickly.

The beer that caught my eye was their Burnabarian. The name was the first thing I noticed – odd and clever (it actually is a made-up word to describe residents of Burnaby). Then I noticed its intended style – Tafelbier. Tafelbier (table beer in Flemish) is a low alcohol Belgian style ale. No one – and I mean no one – in Canada has admitted to attempting a tafelbier before, so naturally I stood up and took notice. I picked up a bottle and tried it. And that sample turned into my most recent Vue Weekly review (which you can read here).

The first thing I note is that it isn’t a true tafelbier, mostly because the alcohol is too big. It hits 4.5%, enough to be a nice light session ale, but traditional tafelbier were between 1.5 and 3.5 percent. However, I can forgive them that deviation given the realities of the Canadian market. Still, I am hoping for a light bodied beer that accents Belgian peppery yeast spicing.

The beer looks like a Witbier, dark straw and hazy. The aroma is light, grainy with a touch of pear and peach sprinkled with white pepper. The taste starts fruity – I get light berry and pear – with an accent of honey and a grainy, pilsner malt. The middle brings out some citrus. The spicy yeast character is slow to build but by the end is the foremost feature of the beer, bringing in pepper and earthy tones.

In the Vue review I suggested it was something like a little sister to a Tripel, with its light, refreshing body and noted Belgian character. Upon reflection I am not sure that is entirely the best description. It lacks the complexity of a good tripel. However, the comparison is okay, broadly speaking.

I am intrigued by this particular beer and it makes me want to seek out other tafelbier to see how that rare style plays out. So, consider my curiousity piqued.





Alberta Beer Week in Review

beer week 003

A beautiful sight – only Alberta taps to be found at Beer Revolution.

Alberta’s first official craft beer week is now over. I imagine exhausted brewery salespeople and brewers are looking forward to a return to a normal work week after the frenetic activities of last week. Not to mention giving beer fan’s livers a bit of a break.

I attended a few of the Edmonton-based events and spoke with people about events around the province. So, I can’t speak for everything that happened, but feel I have a general sense of how the week unfolded. Overall, I think Alberta beer consumers and the Alberta Small Brewers Association should be relatively pleased with how it went. It can be hard to discern just  how much of a mark the week made on consumers’ awareness of Alberta beer. Plus we have to consider that it is the first year of the week, meaning there will be hiccups, disappointments and some struggle to get noticed among the white noise of other things (Oilers/Flames training camp, federal election, SpiderMable to name just three).

For me the highlight (aside from the beer history tour – but I hosted it, so I am biased) was walking into the Edmonton Beer Revolution on a random afternoon and seeing nothing but Alberta tap handles behind the bar (Beer Rev devoted all of its taps during the week to Alberta product). It was a sweet sight to behold! It felt like you could get a cask ale any day of the week, which was also fun, even if, as usual, the end results were hit and miss. Some other observations:

  • All reports were that the Big Rock 30th anniversary party was a rocking good time. I think it was a good touch that Big Rock chose to open Alberta Beer Week with their anniversary. They could have easily done it in the summer or at a time where they would have had the weekend all to themselves. Classy.
  • Events in Red Deer and Camrose were quite popular, and organizers were pleased with the turnout.
  • The two Oktoberfests bookending the week were larger and seemed more festive than previous years – at least to my eye.
Two Sergeant's Kevin Moore and yours truly pose before a cask of our historical collaboration beer - Dampfbuster Dampfbier.

Two Sergeant’s Kevin Moore and yours truly pose before a cask of our historical collaboration beer – Dampfbuster Dampfbier.

I think for a first-go-round, it was relatively successful. However, I wonder about some things that might make it better next year.

  • I think more events hosted by the breweries themselves would add an interesting dimension. It would draw people to the actual location of the beer. I appreciate the breweries are stretched pretty thin with all the other events, I just found that was a missing element I would have appreciated.
  • I still think more  beer dinners and food pairings would be an added value. They need not be ticketed, closed events, but could be built into the flow of the restaurant. I recently did that at one of my monthly Sugar Bowl tastings – in addition to beer samples, we included a taste of food to match it.
  • That said, I also think some ticketed events with limited seating would add a formal component to the week. I know the main goal is to get Alberta beer into as many hands as possible, but I think we also need to show the diversity of beer in the province.
  • If they started thinking about it now, I bet the various breweries could come up with some fun collaborations, one-offs and special beer for the week. The casks were fun, but I think it could be cool to have an evening where everyone brought a one-off exlusive to the beer week.
  • Maybe some formal education as well – like a beer school. Brewsters tried that this year (I don’t know how well it went), but, again, formalizing the component of educating about beer would add value.

These are mostly random thoughts as I contemplate the week that was and what it could be. Anybody else have ideas? What was your experience of the week?




A Fall Kaleidoscope of Beer News

NWTbrewing_logoI haven ‘t done a news round up in a while, so it might be time to get to one. The news has piled up a bit in the round-up’s absence.

Keep in mind there are still the last couple Alberta Beer Week events ongoing in the next day or two, including the Edmonton Beer History Tour, which may have a couple tickets left.

In any event, here is the latest scuttlebutt from around the prairies.

  • This may be old news by now (I doubt there is any of it left), but it is noteworthy enough to mention here. Earlier in September Dandy Brewing Company and Village Brewing paired up to create a collaborative beer, The Village Dandy, which was served exclusively at Craft Beer Market in Calgary. Brewed  on Dandy’s brewhouse by brewers from both companies is/was a tart Saison style. Anyone who had it can feel free to comment their thoughts.
  • NWT Brewing, the planned start-up in Yellowknife, has had to delay the opening of the brewery due to regulatory problems with the Territorial government. Inexperienced with breweries, it appears the NWT has some distance to go to figure out how to streamline the approval process. In the meantime, they will open the pub side of the brewery, called The Woodyard Brewhouse & Eatery, which will offer a range of quality craft beer to sate impatient Yellowknifers.
  • In other planned brewery news, Lethbridge soon-to-be Brewery WildCraft Brewing is changing its name to Coulee Brew Co. No official reason has been stated, but there is some speculation it is due to a dispute with Wild Rose Brewing over the original name. Coulee’s website is projecting the brewery (or at least the restaurant portion) will be up and running in early December (the website is still a bit sparse).
  • Over in Manitoba, Farmery Estate Brewery, which has been contract brewing for the past three years, has announced it has secured a

    The new Coulee Brew Co. Logo. Lettering is in white, so doesn’t show up well.

    location for its brewery and tap room in Neepawa, a small town outside Winnipeg. Close to the family’s farm, which is growing barley and hops aimed for the future brewery. They hope to have the brewery operational sometime next spring.

  • While still in Manitoba, Half Pints, Farmery and Fort Garry have jointly been named the official beer of the Grey Cup Festival this November in Winnipeg. No, their beer will not be served during the big game – the stadium has an exclusive contract with AB-Inbev, but at all other CFL-sanctioned events during Grey Cup their beer will be flowing. A baby step, but one in an excellent direction. Reports indicate the Manitoba government fronted the money to secure the sponsorship.
  • Calgary upstart, Tool Shed Brewing, has released, just earlier this week, its latest seasonal. Called Belgian Dip, it is something of a hop-oriented Belgian blonde ale. The Tool Shed guys say it is rather style-bending, as it is more about hop aroma than bitterness. Belgian Dip will be around for a couple months.
  • Wild Rose released Big Dipa (get it?) as their fall seasonal. The Imperial IPA will be sold in bombers for the next three months or so.
  • Big Rock, celebrating its 30th anniversary during Alberta Beer Week, has released a six-pack of its original line-up of beer. Two bottles each of its first beer will be available in what they are calling the 1985 Pack. Traditional Ale is one most will be familiar with. The other two are Porter and Bitter. Neither beer lasted very long in their initial incarnation – they were likely ahead of their time in terms of the market. I am told all three are using the original recipes, although there is no way to confirm this. They made only one batch of the two discontinued beer so will be gone soon.
  • I have also heard that Calgary Tourism is partnering with the various Calgary craft brewers to create a couple of beer bus tours across the city. One will focus on Big Rock’s facility and the other will travel around to Village, Tool Shed and Last Best. Dandy is still operating part-time so not yet suited for this venture and no word on Wild Rose. No official launch date has been announced by they hope to have the first one up and running this fall.
  • brewsters bomber series fall 15Alley Kat, fresh off their fall releases of Pumpkin Pie and Ein Prosit, will be releasing their latest in the Dragon Series in the coming days. They named it Alberta Dragon because of its generous use of fresh hops (a.k.a. wet hops) from the new northern Alberta hop farm, Northern Girls. I am told they picked the hops less than 24 hours before using it in the brew – so about as fresh as you can get. There are three varieties in the beer, but I neglected to take notes and don’t remember (my bad!).
  • Brewsters is releasing the latest beer in its Brewer’s Bomber series. There are four new beer in all. Three will be available both in the brewpubs and in retail stores: Oktoberfest Märzen Style Lager, Hawaiian Coconut Porter and Blue Monk Barley Wine, which notably makes its 24th annual return. A fourth bomber beer will only be available at the pubs. Blue Monk Bourbon Barley Wine is, as the name implies, the Blue Monk aged for three months in oak bourbon barrels
  • Finally, there is news that breweries in both Saskatchewan and Manitoba have banded together to create a craft brewers association in their respective provinces. Still in their infancy, the Saskatchewan Craft Brewers Association and the Manitoba Craft Brewers Association will be mandated to advocate for regulation changes and promote local beer among consumers. More word on these as it becomes available.

I told you there was a lot of news to report. I will try not to go so long next time.









Wanna Learn about Edmonton’s Beer History?

One of the more obvious stops on the Edmonton beer history tour.

One of the more obvious stops on the Edmonton beer history tour.

I mentioned the other day (read here) that this coming Saturday (October 3) I am being tour guide for a bus of enthusiastic beer and history fans. It is the second installment of the Edmonton Heritage Council’s Beer History Tour. The first installment was a huge hit so they decided to try it again. This time it is linked with Alberta Beer Week.

As it turns out there are some tickets left, so if you are curious about what Edmonton’s beer past is like, go here to purchase some tickets.

This is what I can tell you about the event:

  • Stops at some of Edmonton’s most notable historic sites with a beer connection. Trust me, we will stop at places you had no idea were beer history locations. They include spots you have driven by every day and have no idea about their historical significance.
  • We will also stop by Alley Kat and Brewsters for some modern-day beer, brewery tours and a linkage between the past and the present.
  • We have once again brewed a one-time, exclusive historical beer for attendees. This time it is a collaboration between myself and Kevin Moore from new brewery Two Sergeants Brewing. Can’t tell you what the beer is – which is why you need to buy a ticket.
  • There will also be a breakfast/brunch offering to start the day.
  • And to top it all off, the ticket price includes entrance to the Edmonton Oktoberfest. The bus will, if you wish, drive you to the festival at Northlands.

It will all be hosted by yours truly (which may or may not be a selling feature).

I am involved because I think it is a really cool project. The Heritage Council is a non-profit with a mandate to share Edmonton’s history so you can also feel good supporting a needed organization.

The tour runs from 10 to about 4 on Saturday, with the Oktoberfest after (which is optional). Sure, it takes a while, but it will be action packed. Consider it a day well spent.

You can get tickets here. Having done this event this past spring, I can say with honesty that it is worth every penny. It is fun, educational and you get to drink beer. What could be better than that?






What Your Beer Tasted Like a Century Ago

beer101logoMy Beer 101 column for September takes a look at three fairly well known styles and contemplates what they might have tasted like in the time of their origin. You can read the colmun here. The impetus for the article was my experience in the spring brewing up an historical stout with Neil at Alley Kat for the beer history tour (read about that here – and a reminder there is a second installment of the tour coming up this weekend with another historical beer). I found the process of researching historic stout recipes to be quite illuminating and it got my brain whirring about what longstanding styles might have tasted like originally. Of course we can never really be sure since none of us were there, but it is a fun game to contemplate the possibilities.

For the examination I chose Porter, Stout and Scotch Ale (Wee Heavy), as I stumbled across all three in my spring research. I find there are two elements to understanding what they might have tasted like. First is what processes were they using at the time? How was the kettle heated? What were they fermented in? Second, what ingredients did they use? How did they malt their grain (brewers historically made their own malt)? What varieties of hops? How bitter, strong or malty was the beer?

Some of the answers are hard to find. Hops, for example, is nearly impossible. Brewers’ records don’t offer much detail. They didn’t know about alpha acids, so we can’t calculate IBUs. Often they wouldn’t even identify the variety and just say “hops”. We know more about grain and process, however, so if we make a few assumptions, we can come up with a pretty good guess.

As I discuss in the column, porters were likely lighter in body with fewer of the features we come to recognize them today. They also would have a noted sour tang that would develop over time. Stouts would be less rounded and complex as they are today, given the much simpler malt bill in the 1800s. Wee Heavy would be even bigger and sweeter and, I suspect, have a more pronounced smoky, peat-y character.

At the time I wrote it I intended the column to be a one-off, but I have become somewhat enamoured with the game. Thus I think I will do one or two others and make it a series. Stay tuned.




Testing Stone’s “Enjoy By” Theory

stoneenjoybylogoLast year I wrote a post querying whether Stone Brewing’s Enjoy By… IPA series was a legitimate attempt to have their product consumed at peak flavour or a bit of marketing spin. I offered a fairly positive review of the version at the time – and I was enjoying it before the end date. In hindsight I realized I should have brought back (I had just been to San Diego) two bottles for tasting before and after.

Well, now that Enjoy By can be found in Alberta (proving I am lousy at predictions – see my prognostication in the original posts comments section), I got a second chance to explore the question of the need for a enjoy-by date.

Over the summer I picked up two bottles of their Enjoy By, dated July 4, 2015. I drank the first bottle on June 30 and put the second away in my beer cellar (a cool, dark corner of the house). I opened the second bottle on September 16, about 9 weeks after the suggested date, and about 14 weeks after bottling – well within most breweries’ freshness timeline. I did not refer to my first set of notes when creating the second set – so the two descriptions are independently created (short of any lingering memory of the first bottle).

On June 30, I described the beer in this fashion:

Dark gold with great clarity. A thick white head lasts, offering a tight blanket with pocked craters. The aroma is big with resin and pine. Some soft malt lays behind but it really serves as a counter. This aroma is about hops. Accents of light fruitiness, some citrus of lemon and grapefruit, and a touch of earthy woodiness complement. The  start has a light toffee, toasted bread malt, but quickly overtaken by a resiny, piney, grapefruit hop. It is a multi-layered hop that offers fruitiness, sharpness, earthiness all in one. Some alcohol warming is clear, as is a sharp graininess in the background. The linger is complex. Resin, citrus, both sharp like grapefruit and softer like passionfruit. and a piny-ness dominate. The hops don’t get overpowering, but they are noticeable and clearly this beer is for hopheads only. The linger grows and grows and creates a sizable pine and resin hop character. I consider this a strong, assertive DIPA. Dry complexion over all but bitter and hoppy.

I then described the September 16 tasting like this.

Pours dark gold with slightest of haze. Forms a big, thick white head that hands around and offers good lacing. I get a strong piney, resiny aroma, with traces of citrus in the background. Some fruit esters and an earthy, almost musty malt balances the strong hop aroma. The beer starts with a light toffee, toast and a bit of biscuit combined with a light fruitiness and an earthy character at first. The hops rushes in fairly fast. It is piney, grapefruit and some earthiness. There is a resin linger to it as well. The hops still take charge, but the malt never fully goes away, creating a bitter, hoppy yet drinkable beer. Alcohol warming comes through at the end. This is a strong, assertive, formidable DIPA. It is not too sweet, but doesn’t lose balance overall.

So, from my reading, it is, in its broad strokes, the same beer. However it underwent some significant changes over those weeks. What I notice first is that an earthiness arises in the beer that rounds out some of the flavours. The hops lose some of their complexity, in particular the fruitier aspects. There may be a bit of bitterness loss, allowing some of the quieter malt characteristics to come through. Yet, it remains big and hoppy.

The beer held up well but it is clear to me it changed noticeably. Is the fresher one better? Hard to say. If I were forced to say, I think my preferred version would be the June 30 tasting, but memory can play funny tricks on someone so I don’t entirely trust that thought.

I must also acknowledge that the results may have been different had I stored the second bottle in the fridge rather than my cellar – a decision made entirely for practical reasons (fridge space). However, I argue that would have just slowed the process, not altered the fundamental point being demonstrated.

Ultimately I think for big, hop-accented beer, Stone might be on to something. It most certainly is also marketing spin, but that does not mean the brewery doesn’t have a point. At a minimum it is a reminder that beer is designed to be consumed fresh. It also tells us that a big, hoppy IPA or DIPA from New Zealand or even Europe sent to Alberta is simply not going to be in its best condition.





Alberta Beer Week Is Coming!

albertabeerweek logoSo ladies and gents, get ready for Alberta’s first official Alberta Beer Week (my preference would be to call it Alberta Craft Beer Week, but I will let go of that for now). The fun begins this Friday in Calgary and spreads its way through the province over the course of 9 days.

Craft beer weeks have become a big thing in Canada and the U.S. over the last few years. They are useful tools for spotlighting and growing locally produced craft beer. It is a positive sign that Alberta finally has one. They provide a way to link producers with other champions in the industry, such as restaurants, beer bars and liquor stores.

The week is book-ended by the Calgary and Edmonton versions of Alberta Beer Festival’s Oktoberfest (the group that also organizes the Edmonton/Calgary Craft Beer Festival in June). Their Oktoberfest is a bit smaller (or at least was last year) but has the same format with some added German touches. Calgary runs September 25/26 and Edmonton closes on October 2/3. Details here.

Most of the week’s events are in Edmonton and Calgary, but I note there are scheduled happenings in Fort McMurray, Jasper, Banff, Red Deer and even Camrose (which is hosting its first ever beer festival on October 3). there are also a large number of events where the entry price is free. You can find the entire schedule here, but allow me to offer a few highlights that jump out for me.

  • Big Rock has chosen to celebrate its 30th Anniversary during the week, with a full-day party at the brewery, offering tours, a farmers’ market, food trucks, and sales of their three original beer (not sure if they are the original recipes or not).
  • Last Best Brewpub in Calgary will be holding an Alberta IPA Tap Takeover on October 1. Only IPAs made in Alberta. I am insanely curious about this one to see what the range might be.
  • A number of beer-oriented pubs are devoting some or all of their taps to Alberta beer. Most notable are both locations of Beer Revolution, which will be converting their entire tap menu to Alberta beer for the entire week – just imagine how much Alberta beer will move that week! Local Pub in Edmonton, Underground Tap and Grill, and National in Calgary also plan on partial Alberta tap takeovers.
  • There will be a variety of cask events across the province, including at Alley Kat (October 1), Craft (September 29), and Midtown Pub (every day).
  • There are fewer beer dinners than I would have liked but, Craft Calgary is doing one with Village on September 29. They are also, the same day, hosting one in Edmonton with Tool Shed Brewing although that event is not an official Beer Week event due to the fact Tool Shed are not ASBA members (something I will get into another day as it is rather complicated and unfortunate).
  • By far the most curious event of the week is the Bubble Soccer event on the afternoon of September 29 in Calgary. Alberta brewers will face off with each other, wrapped in a big personal bubble, to play soccer. Huh?? I don’t get it either. However, there will be one-off casks served from many of Calgary’s breweries. So, go for the cask, stay for the mockery of the bubble soccer players.

One final significant event of note – mostly because it is the one event I am involved with (and I know it was/is quite popular). Many of you may remember that last April the Edmonton Heritage Council organized an Edmonton Beer History Tour (see here). Well, the event was so popular they decided to do it again. It will be a bit smaller this time (one bus instead of two) and we have tweaked the itinerary but I can tell you that I will be the guide for the tour (if that matters).

The tour will again offer an exclusive historical beer, this time designed by me and Kevin Moore of Two Sergeants Brewing. As an added bonus, attendees will be given a free pass to the Saturday Edmonton Oktoberfest (and likely a free ride to the event – or at least the LRT). Tickets will be available on Wednesday here.

As for beer week as a whole, part of me would have liked a few more formal, ticketed events to anchor the week. Some more beer dinners and beer/food pairings would have been nice too. But I completely get this is the first attempt and they are building what they can. And I know I was rather absent in offering to host anything other than the beer history tour (for personal reasons). Still, there is lots for beer fans to do that week. We should all rejoice that this has finally happened.

I personally plan to be busy next week, even if I don’t choose to put on a bubble to play soccer.




New ESB Commemorates Fallen Police Officer

Two sgt 007Last night I popped in on the official launch of a new collaboration beer at Craft Beer Market. Soon-to-open Two Sergeants Brewing partnered up with D Woodall Family Fund to produce Patrolman’s ESB. A dollar of every pint sold will go to the Fund, which has been set up to assist the family of Constable Daniel Woodall who was shot while on duty earlier this year.

It was not your usual beer launch, as you can likely appreciate. A bit more sombre and respectful than usual. And with all the cops in the room, no one was going to get too rowdy. The Edmonton Police Service Drum and Pipe Band performed in his honour and, in what I thought was a nice touch, a pint of the beer was placed on the bar by an empty chair for Const. Woodall.

The link between a police officer and Two Sergeants is appropriate in my mind, given that both founders are former armed forces personnel. The two occupations are marked by similar risks and dangers, and I can understand the personal feelings of Two Sergeants at the news of his murder.

I am respectful that a beer to commemorate a killed officer, one must be careful not to be too frivolous. However, this is a beer website and – if I am entirely honest – the main reason I attended the launch was to try the beer. So, let’s talk about the beer.

Two sgt 017It looked like a classic ESB, with a medium orange hue and a decent, tight white head on top. The aroma was a bit subdued – I simply didn’t get very much from it. The front part of the sip was lighter than I hoped and offered a sharp graininess and edge that seemed a bit out of whack for the style. However, in the latter half of the sip, the beer really hits its stride. A rich toffee and soft caramel builds alongside an earthy hop bitterness. The bitterness comes out quite a bit in this version, but is held in balance by the growing malt body.

I find it interesting how even the malt character is back loaded in this beer. It finishes more assertively than it begins. The balance reminds me a bit of Fuller’s ESB, but not quite with that classic’s finesse (really, it is hard to make an ESB better than Fuller’s), but it is in the zone.

In chatting with the beer’s designer, we pinpointed the front sharpness to the yeast choice. I opined (but could be wrong) that a more traditional British Ale yeast would soften the front and also bring out more fruity notes to give the beer a more complete flavour. It is SO easy for a homebrewing armchair beer writer to identify what would make a beer better, eh?

Partolman’s was an enjoyable and nicely crafted beer and a fitting commemoration for Const. Woodall. On tap it will be served exclusively at Craft, but they have also bottled a portion of it and they will be available around the city soon.

And, as I like to say with these kind of project, go and buy a pint. Not only will you get a good beer, you can feel good about yourself for contributing to something worthy.





Another Year of Casking Festivities

Real Ale Festival-Goers chat about the beer. (How many brewers can you spot in this photo?)

Real Ale Festival-Goers chat about the beer. (How many brewers can you spot in this photo?)

The 4th Annual Edmonton Beer Geeks Anonymous Real Ale Festival took place on Saturday. This edition was bigger (double the attendees) and held outdoors in a skating rink (sans ice). With some weather luck, the festival had an even more festive air due to the sunny afternoon and light breeze.

This year’s installment had casks from 15 Alberta breweries, 4 B.C. breweries and an Alberta meadery. I didn’t try them all, but did make my way through as many as I could responsibly sample.  Overall, I will admit none of the ales I tried blew my socks off, although most did have some lovely qualities going for them, and many were near excellent.

Such is the adventure of cask festivals – even the brewers are not quite sure how the beer will work out. You think you have added enough spicing, only to find it doesn’t show up. Or it goes the other way and is over the top. So it is not really a criticism to observe that the cask feature may or may not have worked. Instead it is a celebration of experimentation.

So, with that caveat out of the way, here are a few highlights, divided into very off-the-top-of-my head categories.

  • real ale fest 084Best Aroma: Hands down the Blindman Brewing Pale Ale dry-hopped with Simcoe and Sorachi Ace. It was a beautiful, beautiful thing. I found the hop character didn’t come through as much in the flavour, but the aroma was dead on.
  • Most Assertive Ale: Ribstone Creek’s porter infused with coffee from Transcend. Enough coffee flavour to replace your morning espresso.
  • Where did the additions go?: As much as I tried I couldn’t pick up the spruce tips in the Alley Kat Full Moon, although it did alter the beer in a hard-to-describe way. Same went for the Olds College Oktoberfest aged with alder wood – I think alder may be too mellow for wood-aged beer.
  • What  happened there?: I am pretty sure the light lactic tang in the Parallel 49 IPA was not intentional. Kind of worked, though.
  • Who needs lactobacillus?: Yellowhead’s Strawberry Rhubarb ale also had a hint of tartness, but in this case coming from the rhubarb. The strawberry hung around only in the aroma.
  • Glad I can say I tried it, at least: The Fallentimber hopped mead was intriguing and the most unique flavour in the festival. I am not sure it worked for me, but some attendees loved it. I found the residual honey sweetness clashed with the C-hop flavours.
  • How did they get it all in there?: The “putting the most stuff in” award goes to Brewsters, who added coffee, star anise and bourbon soaked vanilla beans into their brown ale. It came out surprisingly balanced with an interesting peppery note.

As I say, the fun is in the trying. It doesn’t matter if the beer worked out as planned or not. In a way it is more fun when it doesn’t.

Like last year, the festival highlighted the best that real ale can be. It is adventurous, curious and entertaining. Plus, what can be bad about spending a sunny afternoon swapping tasting notes with other beer fans?

Sign me up for next year!




Something Old, Something New in Montreal

The bar at Isle de Garde

The bar at Isle de Garde

As I have mentioned in previous posts, my summer travels included stops in Ottawa and Montreal. My Ottawa beer adventures were chronicled here. Meanwhile, while I had highlighted one Montreal place in this post, I hadn’t yet written up my experiences on this trip.

Partly that is because I have been to Montreal a few times in the past few years, and so have written a lot about that city’s remarkable beer scene. However, I decided it was still worth the energy, and so my Vue Weekly column this past week runs a piece on the city (which you can read here).

On this trip, I made a point of hitting a few new places that have opened up since my last visit. I also popped by a couple of Montreal mainstays, like Dieu du Ciel and Benelux. So, it made it a nice theme to discuss something old, something new in Montreal in the piece.

Here, instead, I am going to just highlight the new places I write about.  Isle de Garde was a part of the summer post on quality beer bars (here), so I will just repeat here how thoroughly impressed I am at their multi-temperature tap system. That feels like the next stage in craft beer evolution.

Another new place is La Succursale, a busy brewpub in an upscale neighbourhood. While its atmosphere didn’t do too much for me – I found it a bit loud and sterile – the beer was certainly worth the trek off the beaten path to find it.

The non-descript frontage of L'espace Publique

The non-descript frontage of L’espace Publique

As I mention in the article, I am something of a sucker for small, independent places with a neighbourhood vibe. Places where it feels the locals know all about it, but it is a secret to the rest of us. L’Espace Publique is not much more than a hole in the wall. A long bar on one wall and a row of small tables along the opposite wall. That is it.  The signage is so low key you basically need to know it is there to find it. Yet, the beer were very enjoyable. They offer a broad range of styles all brewed on site. I appreciated how they jumped around brewing traditions, much like any homebrewer. The stout on at the time was particularly formidable.

But what I liked best about the place was its cozy, relaxed ambience. It is truly a neighbourhood pub. While I was there a young couple with a stroller wandered in, had a short visit over a beer and wandered out again, their baby gently cooing the whole time. The server seemed to know everyone and even with strangers, like myself, was friendly, warm and engaged. If only I had that walking distance from my house!

We all know the strength of Montreal’s beer scene. Yet, it is easy to forget as we sip on a St. Ambroise or a Dieu du Ciel that the scene keeps growing. For every well established venue, there are two or three new place opening up. Montreal is a diverse, vibrant city and its beer scene seems to reflect that. I was glad to check out a handful of the newcomers and pleased to report the quality continues to shine through.