Participants of varying sizes occupy the beer market, from small, medium to large, most consumers are accustomed to the marketing strategies of large breweries shaping the market on a large scale from licensing pubs, stores, restaurants to use their promotional material as well as spending millions of dollars in advertisements to reach large audiences; the reason why blonde lager is most preferred in North America. Large breweries can, to a certain extent, control what you drink by limiting access to other styles by engaging in cost-efficient large scale brewing or limiting products from other breweries through their licensing deals with pubs and restaurants.
Small breweries have always made an impact on their local surroundings, but they’re often capitalised by larger breweries; eg. Unibroue/Sleeman and Sapporo, Creemore/Granville and Molson Coors. Today, craft beer is experiencing an expansion faster than any time since prohibition ended, changing the way the general population view beer through small, local community initiatives to attract consumers. This expansion in Canada began around the 80’s with breweries like Amsterdam, Creemore and McAuslan, these breweries were able to cater to a more localised market and educate a lager drunk population of the diversity of beer. For me, my first contact was Le Lion d’Or at Bishop’s University, where I first enjoyed my first Amber’s and Bitter’s. After many (many) experiences, I learned the virtue of good beer and the importance of the social aspect of beer, the ability to create wonderful, lasting relationships without the need of a beach, cottage, scantily clad women or football game. The only need is good friends and good beer.
Good beer doesn’t need elaborate gimmicks to sell, its intrinsic value sells itself. This has been evident by the market share craft beer has been able to achieve (also this). Large breweries may argue that they are not worried by newcomers to the market and that their impact is minimal. To that, I offer contrary examples:
These examples represent a shift in focus from institutions that are not agents of change but rather keepers of the status quo. Even these large breweries are now forced to participate in a market that is in flux from the growth of craft beer. To capitilise on the market, they have begun to shift their strategies to cater to craft beer aficionados, however beware of the wolf in sheep’s clothing as many of these breweries do not care if their product is of any discernible quality, they only care if you buy it.
Now why should you care? Because they don’t. They promote drunken hullabaloos through marketing campaigns ilustratrating the sensational, the surreal, that which is not a measure of quality. Good beer needs no ploys, care measures its quality. Good beer is made for beer drinkers, swill is made for money. Large breweries separate consumers from their beer, estranging relationships to consumers and individual communities; except for branding face-less pubs with little originality. Local beer supports local communities through the organization and support of local events and activities while seeking to create direct relationships with those who drink their beers; can you get drunk and dance in an open field with the owner of Labatt’s (or would you want to)? The relationship sought by craft beer hinges on the social importance of beer throughout history and its abilities to bring communities together.
The beer you drink is a democratic vote in support of good beer, a vote in care and social impact, or in support of multinationals that have dictated what you should be drinking. The next time you are faced with the decision of your next brew, vote for the brew that gives something back to you.
It is simple to say that I have fallen in love with a green cone. Close to all my activities are inspired by it, from the books I read, to the brews I make, right down to the beers I drink; I am forever grateful for hops.
Aside from its well-known use in North American Pale Ales, the culture of hops extends much further with a full history evolving from a medicinal beverage, to a plant the sailed the seas and finally to the renaissance of North America’s brewing culture. Initially, hops became used in brewing to preserve beer. Prior to that, hops were widely regarded for their anti-bacterial powers as mothers often made hop tea for their sick children or hop pillows for the restless. When applied to beer it was found to be a more stable flavouring ingredient as well as keeping beer for longer and cheaper, aiding mass production for sale and eventually moving brewing out of the homes and into the market.
Everyone was amazed at the benefits brought by hops, aside from its well known bittering powers it has the ability to prevent beer from spoiling, aid in head retention and impart citrus, fruity, floral and woody aromas. Hops became the staple for modern brewing practices as demonstrated by the German Purity Law.
The practice of using hops eventually leads to the story of the India Pale Ale, the ale that built the British Empire. It was found that hops aided in the preservation of ale on its journey to the British Raj. In order for it to sustain the journey, sufficient hops were to be used with an equal ratio of malt to balance the bitterness and increase alcohol by volume to further ensure preservation.
Countries of former British colonies would have been formed on this type of beer. It was well known that ships to the new world carried with them plenty ale for the voyage and subsequent stay. These became the local ale, like that brand on tap at your local watering hole. North America was bred on strong bitter ales, therefore the resurgence of hops in Craft Brewing should not be all too surprising.
Along with blazing new paths, Craft Brewers bring new perspectives and takes on traditional styles. One such style is the re-invigoration of the American Pale Ale using North American grown hops. To their European cousins, American hops have been found to have more resin amplifying not only the bitterness, but the flavour, mouth feel and aroma found in American Pale Ales. The North American craft boom has popularized hops. Where once citrus and fruity aromas were discouraged by traditional brewers in Europe, the extraction of these aromas is a large part of modern brewing practices leading to research on the attributes of hop oils to aroma and the cultivation of hops; including breeding new species such as Magnum, Nelson Sauvin and Simcoe to yield specific aroma profiles. A refocus on hops has made possible new creations not available in traditional markets, further redefining North American Craft Brewing as ground-breaking and at the vanguard of modern brewing practices.
And well, here I am in love with a green cone!
The start of a new year brings things to note for 2013; new music, new movies, or my favourite, beers. In my search I found Complex’s 1oo Beers to Try Before You Die. It was American centric, but included many international brews as well. On this list sat Pliny the Elder, considered by many as the best of its style. After some light reading, I was left pining for Pliny with no hope of reaching it.
American brewing has existed as a joke among a cadre of beer drinkers; to me it was. After all, it was the industry that gave us Budweiser, Coors Light, Miller Light, now Bud Light Platinum. It was redefined in the new vaunted American industrialism of post WWII, culminating with the end of prohibition. There began a race for profit at the cost of quality, polluting the minds of many with the cheap thrills of light beer.
American brewing was resurrected in 1978, when Jimmy Carter signed H.R. 1337, that included an amendment allowing small scale brewing to be exempt from taxation. Like a Phoenix, American brewing was on the rise. Where the late 70’s saw only 89 breweries, 2012 was marked by the establishment of over 2000 breweries in the USA (Brewers Association). This resurgence has led to a richer culture and a widely diverse industry boasting with the likes of Dogfish Head, Southern Tier, Rogue and Pliny’s maker, Russian River Brewing.
Fortunately, fate was in my favour. “I got you a bottle of Pliny”, read a text from a travelling friend. I waited in anticipation until that fateful day, when Pliny would be mine.
The ritual began with the flow of rich copper into a Pilsner glass. As it poured, the air filled with deep rich pine, very floral. The scent grew stronger as the glass approached. Like running through a pine bush with a fresh beer in hand, the bitterness was smooth and persistent. The potent combination of bitter citrus is intertwined with a caramel sweetness to strike the perfect balance.
If there was ever one IPA to rule them all, I’d vote Pliny.
Note: Dogfish Head, Southern Tier, Rogue are available in Ontario through the LCBO.
For this BogFather, you will kiss the ring.
This truly isn’t your familiar Bog Water, this is the Bog•Father; reigning in at 8.5% and an impressive 43 IBU’s.
This creature exists in a maroon lagoon, with a billowing scent of roasted barley and German malts. As it approaches, the scent grows stronger, and soon irresistible. With one sip, the powerful malts wash through as a fog over troubled water, coating the palate.
It pleased as a bock, in the moment it had that familiar feeling. That sense is quickly abrupted when the Creature from the Maroon Lagoon emerges, BogFather!!!
It quickly wraps your tongue in a mixture of dried fruits, overpowering the maltiness now left behind. It is unlike any Gruit I’ve crossed. Whereas Oiseau de Nuit and Dubbel Koyt imparted gentler flavours, the BogFather was not merciful. It was bold and powerful as a porter, but not a porter. The marriage of hops was felt once the creature disappeared into the gullet and left behind its bittering aromas; not to be seen again until the next gulp!
As you continue through the BogFather, notice flavours changing over time. As with most dark-heavy beers, drink this warm and ready yourself for a distinct adventure. Where cold, the BogFather’s frostiness individually pronounces the malt and bittering agents. When warm, it is a combination of both that blends with each sip, not changing the flavour characteristics but rather the timing in which they occur.
Note: The BogFather can be best enjoyed on a cold evening by the fireplace, with a soft-ripened cheese while watching Creature from the Black Lagoon.
Special Note: It came served in Beau’s new frosted glass. Although the glass simulates the idea of “the frosty pint”, it does take away the ability to observe the colour and clarity of the beer; key when evaluating appearance. Lovely for a frosty Lug Tread on a warm summer’s day, however I prefer the original.
The Dubbel Koyt, a beer 500 years in the making, in the defiance of purity laws. My interest was piqued at first sip. At a glance, its extreme paleness had me dreading the worst; I guess after years of drinking I have become conditioned to the idea that paleness equals blandness. Terribly wrong was I.
To the nose, faintly sweet zesty aromas fill the air. With one drop flavours ripple across your tongue to the furthest reaches. It spreads like wildfire, imparting a gentle sweetness bang on with its description of a breakfast cereal like sweetness.
Flavours come in waves, persistent sweetness provides a perfect balance to an avalanche of spiciness that explodes as the first wave dissipates Once it goes over the cliff, all there is left is a dry bitterness as a lament of another sip lost.
It was a true joy. I was stunned by its 6.8% ABV as it did not have the feel of a high alcohol beer. Cider fans will undoubtedly enjoy this special brew while white wine drinkers may find something in common with their fellow beer-bibers.
Critical note: the current climate alters the perception of the beer. Its light dry finish would best suit me on a warm midsummer’s eve.
Before proceeding, let me preface this entry by stating that I will not be attending Winterbrewed (yeah, groans are primarily on this side of the screen). However, Winterbrewed has made me feverishly ecstatic as it is a giant leap in fostering Ottawa’s beer culture.
The love of all beer-bibers (beer imbibers) is to meet new beer-bibers. Historically beer has unique social , sharing a pint has a way of intensifying social relationships by moving away from conservative arenas to more informal locales that encourage laissez-faire discourses. Winterbrewed provides this opportunity to share a pint with fellow men and women in the open space of a pedestrian mall that, many locals would agree, has seen little use.
The NCC will be strongly represented at the festival by Ashton Brewing, Beau’s, Beyond the Pale, Big Rig, Broadhead, Cassel Brewery, Hogsback and Mill St. These breweries have been integral in raising Ottawa’s culture.
Nevertheless, rather than discussing the breweries familiar with Ottawa natives, I would prefer to broach the unfamiliar as such events are sanctuaries for visitors to venture outside the box in sampling the non-ubiquitous. Thankfully, Winterbrewed is more than capable to oblige.
NCC natives may be familiar with the ritual of buying beer in Quebec. However, not many are aware of the treasures in their own backyard. While most residents of Ontario are familiar with OCB brews, not many are exposed to what is brewing in Quebec. At Winterbrewed, la Belle Province will be unleashed through the participation of Dieu du Ciel, Brasserie McAuslan, Microbrasserie Charlevoix, Micro-brasserie Le Trou Du Diable and Brasseurs Sans Gluten, specialists of gluten free beer.
For long they have been responsible for many tap takeovers across Toronto and have garnered wild popularity; 4 of the 5 breweries account for the Top 10 beers in Canada, according to RateBeer.com (a discussion for another day).
The importance of Quebec in Canada’s beer culture is that it serves as a model by which many provinces can adapt their legislation to allow for easy access to high quality craft beers that are integral to their communities and support local economies.
For an overview of these participants, please visit the links below:
Drink with care and Enjoy Winterbrewed!
Where can I find more?
Fortunately there are several locations scattered throughout Gatineau where you can find Quebec craft beers. Here are a few:
Marché Omni - 50 rue Begin, Gatineau, Quebec Canada J9A 1C6
Now you may be thinking, “great advice, now where can I find them”. This is why Broue Ha Ha’s participation is key in promoting the culture of beer in the NCC. Unfortunatley for residents of Ontario, such an establishment is impossible, Broue Ha Ha is a boutique beer store specialising in craft brews from Quebec. Through relationships established by the owner, he was able to have breweries from across the province supply his store with the best it has to offer. For Bishop’s University alumni, you will be happy to know here you can find Lion’s Pride and Bleuets Et Melon D’eau.
Le Trou du Diable
On this one I will let you be your own guide, as there are not many selections that will result in a bad experience. My guide was a Université de Sherbrooke grad from Shawinigan. He swore that I will not be disappointed and he was right. Last year at Festibiere in Gatineau, we were unwilling to budge from the side of the bar their taps were located. Search, try and enjoy.
On the Radar: La Shawinigan Handshake
After numerous trips to Broue Ha Ha (we’ll touch on them later on) I have come to sample the full range of brews out of Le Saint-Pub. If you are looking to play the home edition of ‘Tap-Takeover’, pick up several Charlevoix brews and be prepared for the ride.
On the Radar:
Vache Folle Imperial Milk Stout : Think mocha café au lait. It has the caracteristics of an imperial stout, but yet smooth and creamy.
Flacatoune: This Abbey Ale brought faint memories of Duvel. It is an ode to the female bootlegger of prohibition. The beer is a symbol of how breweries can provide unique experiences in collaborating with local establishments.
Fav: Dominus Vobiscum Lupulus – This is a no brainer. I asked the owner of Broue Ha Ha if he had anything special, he pointed to Lupulus and guaranteed enjoyment. It is no wonder it ranks #3 in Ratebeer’s Best Beers of Canada in 2012.
Recommend: Dominus Vobiscum – For fans of the Belgian style, the whole slate of Vobiscum is a treat. From Lupulus to Brut, Double, Triple and Hibernus. This is a worthy lesson on Belgian Abbey beers from Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec.