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Have a Beer, Save some Land

An iealt beernteresting beer on Alberta store shelves this month is the Edmonton and Area Land Trust Oatmeal Brown Ale. This beer is a charity beer produced by Phillip’s to support the Edmonton and Area Land Trust, a small non-profit devoted to saving and stewarding ecologically sensitive plots of land around the Capital Region.

I liked the idea (and the beer) enough to make it the topic of my CBC RadioActive column last week. You can listen to the column here. (It is SO nice to have these posted on line once again!)

The beer is part of Victoria brewer Phillip’s Brewing annual Benefit Brew which is a once-a-year release where the proceeds – and I mean the entire proceeds, every penny of the wholesale price, not just the profits – of its sale are donated to a charity. The fun part of the project is it is, essentially, crowd-sourced as consumers decide both which beer will be brewed and which charity the money will go to.

Phillip’s has been doing this project for a few years, but decided in 2014 to run a parallel contest for the Alberta market. This year, the EALT beat out dozens of other entries to be the recipient of the benefit brew. Every entry selects a beer style that will be brewed, and the EALT picked an oatmeal brown ale.

At first it seemed odd to me that a small Edmonton non-profit would be partnering with a B.C. brewery for a charity brew. Why not pick a local brewery? That might be ideal, but no one locally is sponsoring a local contest like Phillip’s.Most are doing tons of other good work for local non-profits, but they don’t have this formalized contest. EALT just decided to toss their hat in the ring and they won. And who can blame them? Good for them!

As for the beer, it is a nice brown ale, doing what brown ales should do. Which is offer balance. Oats are common in stouts and porters, but rarer in brown ales. The oats give it a silkiness in the body which I appreciate. It is an earthy, pleasant beer which seems to fit well with the goals of the EALT.

So, go grab one of the lmiited 650-ml bottles and feel good about supporting a local non-profit trying to make our environment better.

The Beer Keeps Flowing

BR citradelicIt has only been a couple of weeks since my last news round up (read here), but the news has been flowing fast and furious so I felt I should put out another news roundup before I drown in all the happenings.

Much of this post has to do with Alberta, where much of the activity seems to be at the moment (or more likely I am not hearing the  updates from our friends eastward). As usual, in no particular order:

  • I want to start by highlighting the arrival just before Xmas of a new Alberta beer news blog. The Daily Beer hopes to post some kind of beer-related news or observation every day (that is one ambitious undertaking!). So far – understandably – the posts are more Calgary focussed but expect that to expand as time goes. Founder Hayden Dewes has connetions to both journalism and the beer industry, working part time at a Calgary liquor store and a member of the CAMRA Alberta executive. Dewes has created an attractive, lively site that is a good stop for someone looking for a quick hit on Alberta news.
  • Staying in Calgary, Big Rock continues with their big plans, as construction has started on their Toronto brewing operations in Etobicoke as well as a planned T.O. brewpub in Liberty Village. They also released their latest Signature Series a couple weeks back. Citradelic Single Hop IPA is, as the name implies, single-hopped with Citra hops. Citradelic is a new permanent addition to the growing Big Rock line-up.
  • Still in Calgary but on the flipside, size-wise, nanobrewery that could Dandy has launched two new beer. The fourth in their sour beer series is Dandy Part Time Punks Ginger Sour which combines lactic tartness with a light ginger refreshingness. They also have released a 3.5% alcohol rye Grisette called Une Vieille Maitresse. Both are available in very limited quantities. (Props to The Daily Beer News for this tidbit of beer news).
  • Tool Shed Brewing, also of Calgary, has a new seasonal out. Flat Cap Stout is an American-inspired stout that will work its way around the province over the coming weeks.
  • Moving up Highway 2 to Olds College Teaching Brewery, they hosted their first 5-course beer dinner last Saturday at the Pomeroy Hotel in Olds. Word has it was a great success. I realize this isn’t beer news, per se, but I suspect this will not be the last beer dinner held by the brewing program in southern Alberta.
  • EBGA freeze caskBeer geeks in Edmonton are holding the date of February 27 in their calendar for the latest Freeze Your Cask Off! winter cask festival hosted by the Edmonton Beer Geeks Anonymous. These are always entertaining and educational events with a great relaxed atmosphere. Tickets are $25. Or maybe I should say WERE $25 as the event is reportedly sold out. However, maybe you can find a Cask Off scalper somewhere willing to sell you an extra ticket.
  • A little farther up Highway 2 has Blindman Brewing announcing a couple of upcoming beer. Last week they brewed up their first kettle-soured beer, creatively called Kettle Sour #1 (Galaxy & Mosaic). Some of this new beer will be blended into their second rotational saison, Saison Lacombe: Noir. Despite ony being open for a couple months, the kids at Bindman are busy, busy. They are rapidly growing their barrel-aging program and, as you can see, starting to play around with sours.
  • Finally hitting Edmonton, Alley Kat Brewing has released the latest version of its Ginger Beer. Call it an early spring seasonal to reflect the disturbingly warm winter we are having.
  • As reported in the last round up, as of last Thursday Yellowhead officially released its Honey Porter, a sharp departure from its Premium Lager and Black Lager. They have not yet decided whether the porter is a one-off or will be a regular addition to their line-up. They hope to have tap accounts for the new beer as well as growler fills at the brewery.
  • Alberta Beer Festivals, the people behind a series of craft beer events in both Edmonton and Calgary have launched a three-part contest for the festival Kick-Off Beer, which will be tapped to start each of their spring events. It will be brewed by Olds College, but the rest will be up to the public. The first part, which closed yesterday, was to suggest which style to brew (no word on the winner yet). This week, people can propose names for the beer. Then for the last of February people can submit label designs for the beer. Contest details to be found here.
  • yukon_twobrewerswhiskyDown in Lethbridge, Coulee Brew Co. (formerly Wild Craft) have officially opened the doors to their restaurant, with the brewery to open in the next couple months.
  • Finally – and finally some non-Alberta news – Yukon Brewing, after seven long years of aging, tending and (I suspect) tasting are officially releasing their first single-malt whiskey on February 13. Two Brewers Single Malt Whiskey is an exciting culmination of the northern brewery’s ambitions to branch into spirits. They aren’t allowed to call it Scotch – but there is nothing stopping me from telling you that is exactly what it is. The first “Scotch” distilled north of 60. A limited run of 850 bottles is being released as the inaugural release. Alberta will being seeing some of this batch, although I am unaware of how much.

As I write this roundup, it becomes clearer to me I am obviously missing some exciting things in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. I will endeavour to dig up the goings-on out there and will do a roundup when there is sufficient news to report.





Ascending the Triple Summit

SixCorners_full_320x320I find it hard to know what to do with contract brewers in the region (breweries without their own brewhouse who contract other breweries to make their beer for them). I am happy to profile them and discuss what their plans are, especially if contracting is a step while they build their own brewery. I see contracting as a legitimate brewing option, in particular in the short term (I struggle with how to perceive long term contract arrangements – it is complicated).

Yet, for right or wrong, I find myself reluctant to write too much about their beer. In particular to review their beer (although I have on occasion, I will fully admit). I think my hesitance is that I know once they get up and running on their own the beer will change. That is inevitable. I want to evaluate the beer as it comes off of their regular brewery.

Silly, I know. If I review the second batch of a beer on a new brewhouse, it will have changed significantly in six months or a year. And even contracted beer can reveal the intentions and vision of the brewery. I am not saying it is rational, just that is what I struggle with.

I say that because I am about to make one of those exceptions (it’s my site, I get to do that). I recently picked up a bottle of Six Corners Brew Works Triple Summit. Six Corners (you can read my profile of them here) is the aspirational Okotoks brewery currently brewed at Paddock Wood. I picked it up in part because I try to pick up all new beer from prairie breweries. But it also TOTALLY caught my attention. It bills itself as an IPA3, so basically a triple IPA, which is curious. It clocks in at 10.3%, which is a pretty huge IPA. It was clear to me this is an experiment. One I had to try.

It pours dark gold with a noted haze (in part due to some unspotted sediment during pour). It forms a consistent, medium blanket of white head. There is a big citrus hop aroma. It is classic c-hops, offering pine and grapefruit. I get a soft grainy malt underneath but the aroma is all about the hops.

The tastes starts with a sharp honey sweetness and a noted biscuit character. Quickly a fruitiness comes in, both a grape-like fruit and a hop fruitiness. Citrus, pine, a bit of resin take over the middle. As we move back the bitterness builds but doesn’t get crazy big. Although there are IBUs in there. The linger is pine hop and alcohol heat. I find the finish a little rough around the edges.

I like the hop flavour in this beer and it definitely has some things going for it. But it needs refinement. The alcohol is just too assertive and present; I would prefer it more subdued like in a tripel. I like that it is not overly cloying and finishes fairly light – that is a very nice touch. But there are some rough edges around the beer. The first malt character is a bit rough and then there is that alcohol again.

Is it a triple IPA? I don’t know. I am reluctant to make a decision at this point. It is big. It is hoppy. It is too light and dry for a barley wine. So there may be something there (not that I am declaring, being the style curmudgeon that I am). At any rate it is an interesting and adventurous experiment for a prairie brewery. I recognize it is the first attempt and so there will be lots of time for improvement.

Just don’t drink more than one in a go. This is definitely not a session beer.


An Homage to the Drunk Monks

beer101logoMy latest Beer 101 column (read here) offers a look at the monks who brew beer. The Trappists. I know I have written about them before and many, if not most, of you are well familiar with their history, approach and beer.

Still, I am well aware the broader beer world still struggles to understand what they are about. I get far too many questions from beer consumers about Trappist beer. Too often people equate Trappist with any Belgian Strong Ale. Or they incorrectly assume any Belgian brewery with a Catholic sounding name (hello St. Bernardus!) must be Trappist. Clearly there is still much education to be performed.

I won’t recount the whole column here – that is what hyperlinks are for (again, you can read it here if you are too lazy to scroll back up to the top). Instead, I will discuss a few associated thoughts leading to and arising from the article.

I was motivated to write the piece upon discovering the arrival into Alberta of one of the newest Trappist breweries – Spencer from St. Joseph’s monastery in Massachusetts (the beer is named after the town the monks reside near). I like that the brewing brothers of St. Joseph’s break a few stereotypes about Trappists. First they live the U.S. Whaa?!?!? Everyone assumes the whole Trappist thing is historical. Yes, it has important historical roots, but it is a designation whose criteria are grounded in the here and now.

Also, they have the nerve to produce a unexpected beer – a so-called Single, a regular strength blonde ale using Trappist yeast. Do these Americans have no respect for tradition? Well, actually, that style is the traditional table beer produced by Trappists for daily consumption by the monks. Tradition. (Look for a review of Spencer in this neighbourhood sometime soon).

trappist logoThird, they are not located in Europe. Most people don’t realize that the order of Trappists (Cistercians of the Strict Observance) is a global order, with monasteries around the world. They think it is a strictly European thing. Wrong.

More on that another day. Today I just want to offer a reminder of the uniqueness of Trappist beer. They are not unique for their flavour or their brewing techniques. They are unique because of who brews the beer (monks!) and their purpose for brewing beer (on a non-profit basis to sustain the monastery and their charitable activities). That is a rare thing in this world.

Regardless of what you think of Catholicism or religion in general, there is something attractive about drinking a beer that has been made not for profit, with an eye to tradition and quality and to which the proceeds will go to aiding those in need.

How often do you get that in this world? Read the column and then go buy some delicious Trappist ales. Just be sure to look for the mark on the right.



Goosing a Classic IPA

goose island ipaIn the past few months, it seemed hardly a week went by without news of one of the big corporate breweries buying up an independent craft brewery. Heck, ABInbev bought out three in one week at the end of December. Big names and lesser known breweries both seem to be the target of the big boys’ affections.

One of the sales that seemed to start it all was ABInbev’s purchase of Chicago’s Goose Island. Longtime craft beer fans all know about Goose Island, who developed a very strong reputation since its opening in 1995. Well, Goose Island was bought out in 2011 and I remember at the time lots of consternation about what it might been for the beer, the brewery’s reputation and the future of craft.

Five years later, we know a couple of things. First, the trend toward acquisition is speeding up. Goose Island’s reputation may have taken a slight hit, but nothing that really held them back. It can be argued the increased distribution for the brand due to ABInbev’s networks has been a net gain for the brand (it is now available in Alberta, for example). As for the beer, has it changed? Well, I thought I would see for myself.

My latest Vue Weekly column is a review of their mainstay IPA (read it here). I remember trying it shortly before the purchase, but I can’t strictly call this a direct comparison as I didn’t take any extensive notes at the time so I am going by memory.

The beer is still an old school East Coast IPA. The brewing standards remain high as the beer still has a rich biscuit character and a piney bitterness. My tastebuds tell me the beer hasn’t changed substantially (but, again, my memory might be faulty). Some claim it is less bitter than it used to be. My response is that it is likely our palates that have changed, rather than the beer.

We can debate the merits of craft beer going corporate. But in the case of Goose Island, I don’t think one of the negatives is loss of quality. I suggest the bean counters have been left out of the Goose Island brewery itself.


Hans Three Years Later

hanascrossBack in 2012 there was a little-known dispute between Canada and Denmark over a godforsaken rock called Hans Island (read here). And, somehow, Sherbrooke Liquor Store got itself in the middle of it. It commissioned a beer in a (light-hearted) attempt to bring the two sides together. Three years later the dispute is unresolved and the rock remains a contentious piece of granite. As it turns out, the beer is still also around.

Back in 2012 Sherbrooke released a collaboration beer (before collaboration beer were cool) brewed by upstart Danish Brewery Ugly Duck Brewing. It was an exclusive for Sherbrooke Liquor, which is a pretty cool thought. They called it Hans Across the Water.

The beer was a pretty intense thing. An imperial vanilla coffee porter, clocking in at 11% alcohol. And in a 1.5 litre bottle, too boot, meaning it is something of an intimidating beer. Plus it had the single most infuriating seal ever made. It had a short cork that was basically impossible to remove by hand. Unbelievably frustrating.

You can read my original review of the beer here.

There are bottles of Hans Across the Water still available at Sherbrooke, and with their original irritating cork.

Just before Xmas, the owners of Sherbrooke asked me to take a bottle home and give it a try. Their primary concern was that the beer was still fit for consumption, and therefore sale. But they were also interested in my take on how the beer aged.

I wasn’t that concerned about their first worry – 11% beer are going to make it more than three years. But I was happy to evaluate the beer for their second question.

The first time I found the beer interesting. It seemed more stout-like than a porter, but it had some interesting, complex flavours. I liked its cocoa and dark fruit character but lamented its large volume.

After three years, I am impressed at how much of the original descriptors remain valid. I still get a dark fruit, raisin, chocolate and a bit of wood. These are accented by a subtle chocolate character. More sherry and earthiness come through. The coffee has disappeared as has the vanilla qualities.  It seems more like an imperial porter now than it did three years ago. The oxidation is starting to creep in but at this stage is complementing the flavours rather than overtaking. Not sure about three years from now.

In a way the beer has leveled out. No one feature stands out. The aging has softened the alcohol hit but has also taken away some of the more interesting edges to the beer. While it seems more in line with its style now than it did before, it also seems to have lost some of the qualities that made it interesting three years ago.

Still, it is a strong, flavourful beer. I remain befuddled by the choice of bottle size (1.5 litres, which equates to 6 pints of regular beer) and that damned cork still has me cursing (I had to basically disintegrate it this time). But as a gift or a unique social bottle it could work quite nicely.

Plus you can say you contributed to resolving a decades long fight between two countries. Sort of.

Sour Beer the Easy Way

WR cowbellKettle souring is a thing. It has gone from nowhere to relatively common in the U.S. in relatively short order. And now it has come home to Alberta. Wild Rose just released Cow Bell, their first kettle soured beer, and I am told the folks at Blindman Brewing will soon be working on one as well (and have, in fact, designed their brewhouse to efficiently handle kettle souring).

All of this interest piqued my interest in the topic. Not only is it an interesting story to tell beer fans, I also have visions of trying the process at home. I have always been a sour chicken because I have been paranoid of contaminating my home brewery. Kettle souring may give me a safer option.

I made kettle souring the topic of my CBC column last Friday. It has been a couple years since CBC actually posted my columns online – due to lack of resources – but they have renewed a commitment to post my columns on their website, starting last Friday (could there be a connection to the recent Federal election and the defeat of the CBC-hating Harper Conservatives??? Nah!!).

You can listen to the column here.

For the uninitiated, kettle souring is a fast method for creating sour beer. For centuries certain styles featured a sharp, tangy tartness. Lambic, Flanders Red and Berliner Weisse are just a few classic examples. They developed the sourness from various strains of Lactobacillus (the bacteria key to creating yogurt) that work alongside (or after) the Saccromyces yeast during the fermentation and/or aging stages.

The issue is that souring takes time – up to three years in lambics – and poses a serious risk of running rampant in your brewhouse. So  unless you were an exclusive sour beer producer, it could be tricky.

Kettle souring reverses the process. Lactobacillus is added to the wort before boiling. The wort is then left to sit in the brew kettle for 24 hours or so (until desired degree of sourness is achieved). The wort is then boiled – killing off the Lactobacillus and stabilizing the beer. It is then fermented, conditioned and packaged as normal.

Reports have it that the fermentation is a bit more sluggish due to the low pH levels but tends to work out just fine. Those same reporters also argue that the sourness is very clean but a bit more one-dimensional than traditionally soured beer. My (very) limited experience matches that report.

Still, it can create an interesting beer that, I argue, can be a nice gateway into the world of sour beer. Wild Rose’s Cow Bell is light, fruity and cleanly tart with a definite citrus accent to it. Looking forward to trying Blindman’s version(s).

For the record – and I find this VERY cool – Wild Rose told me for the Lactobacillus they simply dumped in a dose of low-fat, probiotic yogurt (I neglected to ask how much). Yogurt! How is that for a low tech beer-hack? I could totally do that at home, with the only cost being the slightly vexed looked from my family for stealing some of the yogurt in the fridge. Wild Rose also told me they adjusted the pH of the wort with lactic acid before pitching the yogurt and then let the wort sit for around 24 hours at 42 Celsius.

Traditionalists may wrinkle their noses at kettle souring, but I for one think it is an interesting, intriguing way to expand the flavour range of beer. Sure, they ain’t no Lambic, but they aren’t trying to be. My response to the traditionalist would be “try to appreciate it for what it is”. Which is pretty cool.


From Bear to Beer: Polar Park to Open Later This Year

polar park logoIt’s not often when a brewery can pay homage to a local landmark. But Polar Park Brewing (no website yet) intends to do exactly that. Polar Park (originally called Alberta Game Farm) was an exotic animal destination. They housed a variety of species, from giraffes, camels, lions, cheetahs to pandas and polar bears, ultimately focusing on  cold climate species. Polar Park, the park, was the life passion of Al Oeming a wrestler and zoologist who opened it in the 1950s to feature rare animals for public viewing. The park closed in 1999 (and the animals shipped to other zoos and reserves) due to declining attendance and shifting attitudes regarding zoos.

Polar Park, the brewery, is the passion of Robert Oeming, Al’s grandson. The family still owns the 924 acre parcel of land, complete with now aging enclosures, buildings and equipment. Oeming admits his first idea was to open the brewery on the family land. “Our original plan was to re-purpose some of the enclosures to create the brewery”.

After discussions with other partners and industry people, they quickly abandoned the idea as not practical given the out-of-the-way location. So they kept the name and changed gears completely. The new plan is to head right to the heart of Edmonton’s most hopping area – Old Strathcona.

The old Bee Bell Bakery building.

The old Bee Bell Bakery building.

More specifically, the old Bee Bell Bakery on 80 Avenue and 104 Street. The three-story building has sat empty since the Bakery’s closure in 2013. Despite its high traffic location, Oeming is not thinking about any kind of brewpub or full service bar. “Our focus is retail sales. We will have a tap room where people can come, have a pint or a flight of our beer, have a pretzel and leave with a growler”. They don’t want the hassle of a full-service restaurant, but are open to partnering with a third party who might open up a place for food in the building.

The retail focus doesn’t mean they are not interested in attracting foot traffic. Oeming wants the decor to be open and attractive. “They will see the brewhouse as they walk in. There will be a circular bar around the brewhouse, a growler bar in the front. They will see growing vegetables, herbs, etc.”

The latter feature is a reflection of the company’s environmental values. “We are Continue reading From Bear to Beer: Polar Park to Open Later This Year

All the Beer News That’s Fit to Drink

bushwakker_25thanniversaryOver the past couple weeks a huge amount of beer news has piled, not even counting the ongoing debate about Alberta’s mark-up policy (read here if you have missed it). So here is the latest rundown of what is happening around the prairies. The usual caveats and proclamations apply.

  • I might as well start with something that has more than a bit of relevance to the Alberta mark-up debate. Manitoba announced last week that it is launching a $5 million loan program for Manitoba-based craft brewers (read here). Manitoba brewers are eligible for up to $250,000 in loans, repayable over five years, for initial capital spending or upgrades to existing operations. This announcement is the latest in a series of policies designed to kickstart the province’s craft beer industry.
  • In what may be a surprise to many (but not to those paying attention) Regina’s landmark brewpub, Bushwakker, is celebrating its 25th Anniversary. Its big celebration bash is this coming Saturday (23rd). I totally suspect it is sold out by now, but if you happen to be in Regina that night, drop by and see if you can sweet talk your way in. The night will be marked by the release of Revenge of The Tartan Tzar, a Russian Imperial Stout that has been infused with Macallan 12-Year-Old single malt whisky and aged for over a year. It is pretty fun to think that good, old Bushwakker is 25 years old. How time flies!
  • Shifting to the North, NWT Brewing (originally profiled here) is now officially up and running with four beer, mostly available at the associated pub, The Woodyard. Don’t expect NWT beer south of 60 anytime soon, but craft beer fans now have a local option when heading up to Yellowknife this winter (take VERY warm socks!).
  • Sticking with north of 60, Yukon Brewing is as busy as ever. Their most recent Bomber release was Grizzly Wheat Ale, an American-style wheat. Rumour has it the beer is the base recipe for their Deadman’s Creek Cranberry Wheat. Next week we will begin to see bottles of their next Bomber release, I’m Leaving Today APA. There is also whiskey news on the Yukon front, but I will save that for another day.
  • yellowhead logo cleanAlberta is a busy place this month. Likely the most headline grabbing is Yellowhead’s impending release of a new beer, and an ale to boot. Yellowhead is known for producing a single beer, a German-style Helles lager. However, since new brewmaster Bruce Sample took charge of the brewhouse, he has been experimenting with small scale batches of different takes on their single beer, including various infused casks and a growler fill-only dark lager. In early February they take the next step and release their first ale – a Honey Porter. No word on whether it will be a one-time only beer or a regular addition but either way it is a big shift for the Edmonton brewery. Details on the launch to come.
  • Staying in Edmonton, Alley Kat has news on a couple of fronts. First, they have released their latest Dragon Series, a return of Blue Dragon. Also the much anticipated return of their barley wine, Old Deuteronomy, for its 2016 version. Old Deut is a local favourite among craft beer fans, which has been brewed almost every year since 1995. Their final news is of a different character. Earlier this month they announced a partnership with Bullfrog Power, a leading green energy provider. From this point forward Alley Kat will be powered by energy supplied from wind, , micro-hydro and biogas.
  • Sticking with Northern Alberta, one of the province’s newest breweries, Fat Unicorn Brewing up in Plamondon (read here for a profile), has released its first seasonal beer. Dirty Blonde is a Saison and is currently available in 650ml bombers at the brewery and in selected stores in northern Alberta.
  • wildrose logo goodShifting 300 km south, Wild Rose Brewing has a brand new seasonal on the shelves this week. Belgian-Style Pale Ale is as the name infers, a Belgian Pale Ale. Amber-coloured with a balance between earthy hop and a light yeast spiciness, it is the latest in their bomber-focussed seasonal series.
  • Finally, before Xmas Big Rock quietly slipped back onto the market their annual Winter Spiced Ale (either that or I totally missed the press release!). A popular seasonal, Winter Spiced Ale offers a warming beer with accents of ginger, clove and cinnamon.

There is your latest run-down on beer-related beer news. As I promised earlier, stay tuned for more developments in the politics-related beer news happening near you.


Steam Whistle Gets Injunction Against Mark-Up Policy

steamwhistlelogoYesterday at the Court of Queen’s Bench, Steam Whistle Brewing out of Toronto was granted a temporary injunction against the new Alberta mark-up policy established in the fall provincial budget (read about the policy here). Here is the Canadian Beer News post on the development (they link to a Calgary Herald Op-Ed that was just posted, but I won’t link to it here because it contains no useful facts for people wanting to actually know what is going on and is written by a right-wing lobbyist who uses the piece to simply grind their ongoing axes).

I had heard this was coming and am not surprised. The reaction from Ontario brewers and others has been quite vociferous since the announcement and there have been rumours for weeks that some kind of legal fight was about to be launched.

I have not yet examined the court documents (I have a day job, people!) and so will refrain for the moment to comment on the substance of the decision. Besides I suspect the decision was either oral or rather perfunctory, as interim injunctions usually are.

Two things are clear. First, for the moment, Steam Whistle is exempt from the higher mark-up applied to non-Alberta beer. Second, this is an interim injunction, meaning the judge has not rendered any formal decision regarding the legality of the policy. All they have indicated is that there is enough to merit further argument and consideration.

That said, it is a blow to the new government’s plans to promote local craft beer production. They may need to go back to the drawing board if this continues to play out poorly.

But opponents of the policy shouldn’t be popping the champagne just yet (wait, what do brewers pop when celebrating???). If the policy is struck down – and that is a mighty big if – there is nothing stopping the government from finding other ways to support local breweries. Maybe those ways will be more palatable to importers, maybe not.

Besides, opponents should be careful what they ask for. Alberta continues to have the most open borders and most accessible beer market in the country. If a differential tax is seen as a restraint on free trade, then tell me how greatly restricting or outright refusing to approve the listing of any products from other provinces (looking at you Ontario and Quebec) would be seen as legal? Breweries living in protectionist glass houses should think carefully before throwing free trade stones.

Stay tuned. This is about to get very interesting.