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Malted Madness: Five Passport-Worthy Canadian Microbrews
Not content to be contained, Malted Madness is spreading across the 49th parallel. Lucky for us, our neighbors to the North hold the same passion for cranking out (and drinking) mouth-watering microbrews as American brewers. And lucky for you, the GP team has a Canadian correspondent to help guide your sudsy stumblings beyond the world’s longest international border. The goal was the same: finding category contenders worthy of each of our style brackets (lagers, light ales, dark ales, and Et Al.). But instead of crowning winners, we’re presenting four Provincial picks (plus a personal favorite) to whet your palate. You might even be tempted to hop the border and find out what excellent Canuck craft brew is all aboot, eh?
64 Beers. 6 Rounds. 1 Winner. It’s the Gear Patrol National Craft Beer Championship. Follow the Story This Way »
Lager: Czech Mate, Paddock Wood Brewery
Paddock Wood Brewery’s Czech Mate pilsner is an excellent example of a classic bohemian style brew. A regular offering from Saskatchewan’s first microbrewery, Czech Mate starts heavily malted with freshly baked bread notes on the nose and the tongue. That soon subsides to a light finish with a dry bitter note, thanks to the combination of Czech Saaz and Lublin hops. With a decent repertoire of regular cast members and some incredible seasonal treats (the Heartstopper Hot Chocolate Stout alone is worth braving February in the Prairies), this once mail-order-only brewery is one to plug into your BPS (Beer Purchasing Selection).
Light Ale: Beaver River I.P.Eh?, Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co.
From another of our favorite Canadian imports, the Red Green Show: cheap, efficient beer holders in the great outdoors. Genius.
Hailing from Vankleek Hill, Ontario, award winning Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co. gives reason to embrace the organic movement by creating some amazing beer within Pro-Cert’s strict guidelines. While their Lug Tread Lagered Ale has a permanent home in my fridge, the Beaver River I.P.Eh is a superb seasonal offering once warmer weather finally shows up. A light citrus nose marries well with an earthy hoppiness to deliver a bold flavor profile more typical of a British style IPA. A slightly heavy 5.6% ABV is well hidden, and with bottles coming in 600ml size, it won’t take long before you find yourself in a heated debate about the merits of the metric system.
Dark Ale: St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout, McAuslan Brewing Co.
Sucking back a pint of St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout is like having your insides hugged by angels with a French accent. Espresso and chocolate abound within this dark and creamy ale that uses oatmeal to
give you an excuse to drink it before 11:00 a.m. lend to a strong body and thick caramel colored head. While normally enjoyed in the colder months, this big-flavored stout (a perennial favorite at the Canadian Brewing Awards) enjoys year-round favor with its playful carbonation, wet mouthfeel and hop-heavy finish. Letting you in on this Ale Noire might just make up for Bieber.
Et Al: Grasshopper Wheat Ale, Big Rock Brewery
Aside from the oil sands, Alberta is primarily famous for its wheat. While most of it finds its way into your midday Manhattan, a bushel here and there ends up at the Big Rock Brewery in their Grasshopper Wheat Ale. The creation of Big Rock’s first brewmaster, Bernd Pieper, this wheat beer differs from most in its absence of citrus overtones. Instead, vanilla, apple and cinnamon take center stage against a mild hoppiness in the lightly malted amber elixir. It pairs extremely well with mildly spiced Asian-Fusion cuisine, patio umbrellas and humid sunsets (what doesn’t though, really) by offering up a refreshing and clean finish with just a hint of malt to keep you coming back for more. For a more traditional take, Unibroue’s Blanche de Chambly est aussi sensass!
Bonus: Holy Smoke Scotch Ale, Church-Key Brewery
Brewed and bottled on hallowed ground, imbibing Church-Key’s Holy Smoke Scotch Ale could be easily confused with a religious experience. Found along the Trent-Severn waterway in Campbellford Ontario, under the steeple of a converted church no less, the brew boffins from Church-Key continually create uniquely crafted concoctions. A natural choice for the craft beer connoisseur is their Holy Smoke Scotch Ale, a delicious combination of a coffee- and chocolate-infused dark ale with the added complexity and sophistication of peat smoke malt reminiscent of Islay’s finest. Until recently, securing a six-pack meant a pilgrimage to the source itself; while it’s never a bad idea to spend a Sunday at church, I welcome this brew’s appearance at the local booze bodega. Just be sure to leave me a couple, please.