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Anyone remember the Reinheitsgebot? Also known as the Beer Purity Law of 1516, it was developed in Bavaria and limited brewers to the use of malted barley, hops and water. (Yeast was excluded because it wasn’t yet understood and other malted grains, particularly wheat, were added later.) It was, for its time, a pretty big deal.
It was a big deal in the early days of Canadian ‘microbrewing,’ too, with breweries from Granville Island to Upper Canada touting the Reinheitsgebot purity of their beers. Never mind that Germany, Austria and what was then still Czechoslovakia were the only countries terribly concerned with such things, in Canada the “made with 4 natural ingredients’ line – including yeast for fermentation now – was considered a safe and sure way to sell beer.
How quaint it all seems now!
While four ingredient beers are hardly uncommon in North America these days, they are far, far less dominant than they were even five years ago, as flavoured beers proliferate like wild flowers in the spring. Why, just this past weekend my beer fridge offered me the option of a lime-flavoured Berliner weisse, an Imperial stout “inspired by Mexican hot chocolate,” a “Golden Sour Ale” aged with peaches and an “Imperial pale ale with coffee.”
What’s more, that was just the tip of my beer fridge’s iceberg of flavours! Thankfully I’m seeing far fewer fruited IPAs these days – definitely a flavouring trend no one really needed! – but now that take on the style seems poised to be replaced by the ‘milkshake’ IPA, dosed with lactose for body and sweetness, not to mention the rising tide of coffee pale ales and IPAs; finding a plain Berliner weisse or gose is now trickier than locating one accented by some sort of fruit or other flavouring; and let us not forget the bourbon barrel “flavouring” of Imperial stouts and barley wines, which still oft times produces ales that taste more of the spirit than they do of the beer.
And that’s just the conventional side of flavouring. Did you catch the Chick-fil-A tenders-flavoured beer that Richmond, Virginia’s The Veil did a while back? How about Lervig and Evil Twin’s money and frozen pizza-flavoured stout, or Rogue’s Voodoo Donut collaboration series? The list, sadly, goes on and on.
Look, I’m not saying that flavouring beer with other than hops is a bad thing – I was a big proponent of fruit beers even back in the days when they were widely disparaged as “not real beers.” But when I begin waxing nostalgic over beers that are well-brewed in basic styles –pilsner, pale ale, helles, dry stout and so on – then I have to wonder if this cult of putting stuff into beer has finally gone too far.
Or maybe it’s just that we beer drinkers are all enablers. After all, it’s our money and our palates that encourage breweries to do such odd and unusual flavoured beers, often with a reward of a ‘special release’ that draws both crowds and inflated revenues. So maybe the answer is for us to simply stop buying them, even for curiosity’s sake.
It has a smooth, velvety texture and large, yet delicate, flakes with a rich, satiny sweet, buttery taste… sablefish. It’s also known as black cod and when poached in a fruity olive oil, it is a perfect date night dinner meant to impress. Sablefish is a deep cold-water fish, which makes it a wonderfully fatty yet mild treat. Poached at an unusually low temperature creates a depth of flavour that is unattainable otherwise. Show off your knife skills and serve with a melange of artfully diced steamed vegetables and a swirl of potato or cauliflower puree and you will have a date night dinner success.
2½ pounds sablefish fillets, at least 1-inch thick (it will expand when cooking)
1 large lemon, thinly sliced crosswise
¼ cup fresh lemon thyme
½ cup Marcona almonds, roughly chopped
2 cups extra virgin olive oil (a fruity green oil is best)
Sea salt to taste (about 3 teaspoons)
Freshly ground black pepper (about ½ teaspoon)
Preheat the oven to 250° F.
Sprinkle the fish with the salt and pepper, allowing it to sit for a few minutes at room temperature.
Place half of the lemon slices in an 8-inch glass baking dish.
Sprinkle half of the thyme over the lemon.
Arrange the fish in one layer on top of the lemon and thyme, and top with the remaining thyme, lemon and the chopped almonds.
Pour the olive oil into the dish, making sure not to knock the toppings off the fish.
Bake until the fish is cooked through and flaky, check every 10 minutes after 45 minutes in the oven – depending on the thickness of the fillet it could take 45 minutes to over an hour. (Remember, you are cooking low and slow)
For a unique pairing experience try this recipe paired with a Pumpkin Ale.
As TAPS Media prepares for the 16th Annual Canadian Brewing Awards & Conference the time is ripe to honour the Canadian cider industry. TAPS Media is excited to introduce the Canadian Cider Awards. 2018 marks the first year of the Canadian Cider Awards as a bespoke competition, no longer a footnote within the Canadian Brewing Awards & Conference.
Rob Engman, President of TAPS Media explains, “As a response to input from the Canadian cider industry and its continued growth, the time has come to host an all-new, stand-alone competition to honour its importance on the craft beverage landscape. We are very excited to launch the Canadian Cider Awards.”
The Canadian Cider Awards is the first national competition inviting majority Canadian-owned cider producers of all sizes across Canada to compete in a certified blind tasting to determine who produces the best ciders. The Canadian Cider Awards will judge Canadian produced ciders in 6 different categories, announcing winners in each category.
One of the great challenges for new homebrewers is making a lager. Although fermentation temperature control is one of the most important elements in brewing as a whole, for those who rely on ambient room temperature, ale yeasts can be much more forgiving.
Lagers require precision. Without the ability to provide a consistent cold temperature, significant yeast esters and off-flavour production will occur, leaving your intended clean, crisp and malty beer tasting more like green apple, sulfur and alcohol.
For ambient temperature brewers, the California Common is a hybrid beer that strikes a nice balance between clean malty lager and ease of fermentation.
With origins in the Gold Rush era, well before man-made refrigeration was a possibility, this beer was produced to take advantage of cooler seasonal temperatures in Northern California. Using specific strains of lager yeast which were found to perform well at warmer temperatures, brewers managed to create an amber beer with all the desirable lager characteristics in a fairly inhospitable environment. Popularity soared, and for some time this was the most popular style of beer up and down the West Coast until refrigeration and traditional lagering became more popular.
As is the case with many “lost” beer styles, the California Common has been revived to a degree by craft brewers, Anchor Steam being the preeminent example. The style doesn’t leave much room for customization, but a few tweaks (ie: crystal malt and hop quantities) to the typical base recipe can yield a wide range of results.
The beer itself is truly American in that it is significantly more hoppy than its European amber lager counterparts. The assertive bitterness of Northern Brewer hops provides a nice balance to the toasty caramel malt, which is accentuated by a 90 minute boil. Fruity yeast character is higher than most lagers, but should only be perceived in trace amounts.
As is the case with all cooler fermentations, a yeast starter is an absolute necessity.
California Common (BJCP Category 19B)
(all-grain, 5.5 gallons)
8 Gallons Tap Water (treated w/ Campden tablets) or Spring Water
Add ½ tsp Gypsum, ½ tsp Calcium Chloride
9 lbs Pale Ale Malt
1 lb Crystal 60
½ oz US Northern Brewer (9.4% AA, 60 mins remaining in boil)
¼ oz US Northern Brewer (9.4% AA, 15 mins)
¼ oz US Northern Brewer (9.4% AA, 0 mins)
Escarpment Labs Cali Common Lager or White Labs WLP810 San Francisco Lager
Brew Day Instructions
Mash in grains with 4.5 gallons of water to reach 151F (66C) and hold for 75 minutes. Use direct heat or infuse mash with boiling water to raise your temperature to 168F (76C) and hold for 15 mins. Drain your wort into the boil kettle and sparge your grains with 168F water until you collect 7 gallons of wort.
Boil for 90 minutes, adding hops at times directed in recipe above. Remove from heat and chill rapidly to 61F, then aerate your wort before pitching the yeast.
Ferment at 61F (16C) for 10 to 12 days, or until the beer approaches final gravity. Raise temperature to 68F (20C) for 3 days to complete fermentation. When gravity stabilizes, package your beer and carbonate.
This beer would benefit from cold-conditioning in the package anywhere from 1 to 8 weeks.
Questions or comments? Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org
TAPS Media is pleased to announce the acquisition of SESSION Craft Beer Festivals (Toronto & Muskoka). This year marks the 10th anniversary of SESSION and effective Feb 1st, 2018, TAPS Media has assumed stewardship of these wonderful festivals.
How it began…
In 2008 Jed Corbeil and Curt Dunlop saw a need for a craft beer renaissance in Muskoka. After opening Muskoka’s first craft beer pub (The Griffin), they expanded their passion for craft beer, music and artisanal food in August of 2009, creating the Muskoka Beer Festival. Over the next 9 years they brought thousands of craft beers, ciders, wine, and spirits to an ever-growing craft-loving crowd. The festival, now known as SESSION Muskoka, is a staple for beer, food and music lovers.
In 2010, Ontario Craft Beer Week was created, and they saw an opportunity to bring SESSION to Toronto. Over the past 8 years, SESSION Toronto has enjoyed exponential growth and is currently held at Yonge & Dundas Square in Toronto. It is the impressive grand opening event for Ontario Craft Beer Week.
President of TAPS Media, Rob Engman says, “We are so proud to accept the torch and move forward with the great events that Griffin Events have curated so well over the past decade”
Jed and Curt wish the team at TAPS all the success in the world and will be in full support of these events moving forward.
TAPS Media is excited about this new addition to our group of companies and for the future of these superb craft beer events.
The brewers of this Edmonton-based Nano brewery selected locally roasted coffee beans to create this Amber Coffee Ale. The coffee aroma mingles with a soft, bready malt aroma with caramel notes and combined it gives a sweet, creamy coffee impression. The flavour imparts a similar character with biscuit and caramel on the malt and a distinct coffee flavour. The coffee character has a light bitterness that contrasts nicely with the malt sweetness and combined with hop bitterness results in a lightly dry finish. The colour is amber and clear, with an off-white head that is low, creamy and persistent. The ale has medium body and carbonation, and a smooth texture with no astringency, yet with a lingering coffee bean dryness. It is common to see coffee combined with stouts and porters, yet the choice of an amber ale gives the coffee character a distinguished presence. Although the coffee character is firm, it is not over done – just enough to keep one lifting the glass for another taste.
Bent Stick Brewing is an Edmonton Nano brewery that opened up in 2016 with four guys that met each other while working at Alley Kat, Edmonton’s first microbrewery.
The “First Pull” is a collaboration with Ace Roasters, another Edmonton business that opened in 2016. The beer uses the addition of one of Ace’s popular blends, cold steeped, and by deciding to use an amber ale as the base beer allows the coffee to shine! This beer pours a rich medium amber with a foamy off-white head and a whiff of coffee aroma. The flavour is what you would expect from a café au lait but carbonated: a medium roasted coffee with a blend of caramel, just a hint of vanilla and a lingering hint of coffee bitterness. There is a light mouthfeel of graininess and caramel biscuit, just enough to remind you that this is a beer, and not coffee. A perfect beer for those that enjoy a cup of coffee, and not overwhelming for those that are not quite sure about coffee beers.
As I type these words, it is cold outside. Like, really cold. But then that’s what one should expect in January in Canada, I suppose. Doesn’t mean I have to like it, though.
Adding to the bleakness of this month is something called ‘Dry January,’ or if you prefer, ‘Dryanuary.’ It’s when people, including even award-winning beer writers like Pete Brown, decide for one reason or another to abstain from alcoholic drinks for 31 days. (Why they don’t choose the 3-days-easier month of February has always confounded me.) It’s supposed to ‘reset’ your drinking patterns, or something like that.
While I do not participate in ‘Dryanuary’ myself, preferring to take regular and shorter periods of abstinence throughout the year, neither do I scoff at those who do. To each their own, I say, so long as they don’t get insufferably self-righteous about it all.
There is, however, an alternative to ‘Dryanuary’ that I find much more interesting. It’s ‘Tryanuary’ and it highlights the joys of discovering new flavours through the course of the first month of the year. If you’re inclined to ‘Try’ more than you are to ‘Dry,’ then may I offer the following suggestions.
Mezcal: To explain mezcal as simply as possible, all tequilas are mezcals, but not all mezcals are tequilas. In other words, mezcal is sort of like tequila in that it is made from agave that is fermented and then distilled, the big difference being that mezcal may be made from over 30 varieties of agave, not just the Blue that is a restriction for tequila, and it can be made in far more regions. The production process also differs, a portion of which accounts for mezcal’s often smoky flavours. (Just as not all single malt is smoky, neither is all mezcal, but also like Scotch whisky it does tend to be a flavour trait.) Think of a fuller-bodied and at least lightly smoky tequila and you have a hint of what to expect from mezcal.
Spontaneously Fermented Beer: No, I’m not talking about kettle sours, but true ‘wild beers’ in the fashion of Belgian lambics and the global beers they have inspired. Proper gueuze lambics from Belgium’s Payottenland, with names like Cantillon, Oud Beersel, 3 Fonteinen and De Cam, can be hard to find, but are worth the search for the outstanding complexities they offer, as are certain domestic American examples from breweries like New Glarus and Allagash. (I know of no outstanding spontaneous fermentation happening in Canada, other than James Walton’s all-too-infrequent releases at Vancouver’s Storm Brewing.) Taste one beside your favourite kettle sour for a crash course in the intricacies of wild fermentation.
Malty Ales and Bocks: I know, hops are where the action is these days, but, dammit!, malt can be pretty nice, too. Particularly when the wind is blowing cold, a nice malt-bomb of a beer can be just the thing – rich, restoring, soothing, warming. Seriously, just put down the IPAs for a day or two and treat yourself to a doppelbock, Belgian style dubbel, British-inspired barley wine or other malt monster.
Gin: Gin can rub people the wrong way. For most, it’s the juniper, which is a requisite flavouring for gin and has a very distinctive, love-it-or-hate-it flavour. But if you’re a hater, there are two things you should know: 1) A new generation of gins, headed by Hendrick’s but including many, many others, de-emphasize the juniper aspect to the point that it’s a hint rather than a holler; and 2) I have found that if you turn logic on its head and try the most juniper-y gin you can possibly find, something like London No. 3 or even the quite common – and quite good – Beefeater, the intensity of the flavour can sometimes sway even the most juniper-phobic of drinkers.
For many Canadians, December is a time of plenty: an event-filled month when food and drink are consumed with total disregard for one’s health until the scales are tipped come January.
Now that the free-wheeling holidays are over, positive lifestyle changes are in vogue and vices such as beer tend to move to the back of the refrigerator.
In the colder months, when trying to cut down alcohol-consumption, I tend to gravitate toward sessionable English ales. They combine strong, diverse flavour with the alcohol content of a typical light beer, which makes for a warm and nurturing drink with a calorie count about half of most popular craft beer styles.
In my brewing experience, a particular beer that has always been a crowd-pleaser is the Best Bitter. Light lager and strong ale drinkers alike seem to appreciate this style, as it combines the best of both worlds. A five-gallon keg never seems to last more than an hour after tapping. This is a low-effort, high-reward beer.
A good bitter, though balanced, is highly dependent on malt flavour. A good English malt like Maris Otter serves as our base, with some Crystal malt to add some colour and caramel. In addition, a 90 minute boil will add some Maillard products and darken the beer.
The water should be treated to match a typical English pale ale profile, which contains a fair amount of bicarbonate, calcium and sulphate. We don’t want to “Burton-ize” it, but the additions are a little higher than most recipes.
Using subtle English bittering and flavouring hops is important to achieving a good balance, but I like to add an extra punch of hops at the very end of the boil to increase the aroma.
In terms of yeast, it’s important to use a lower-attenuating English strain to maintain fullness of body and flavour. Fermenting too much sugar will result in a lighter, thinner beer without much character.
The beer will keep for quite a while, but it tastes best when consumed within 3-4 weeks of brewing.
Best Bitter (BJCP Category 11B)
(all-grain, 5.5 gallons)
8 Gallons Tap Water (treated with campden tablets) or Spring Water
Add 1 tsp Calcium Carbonate, 1 tsp Gypsum, ½ tsp Calcium Chloride directly to the mash
8lb Maris Otter
0.5lb Crystal 45
0.5lb Flaked Corn
1oz East Kent Goldings (5% AA, 60 mins)
1oz Fuggle (4.5% AA, 10 mins)
1oz East Kent Goldings (5% AA, 0 mins)
Escarpment Labs English Ale I or WLP002 English Ale
Brew Day Instructions
Mash-in grains with 4 gallons of water to reach 151F (66C) and hold for 60 minutes. Use direct heat or infuse with boiling water to raise temperature to 168F (76C) and hold for 10 minutes. Drain into boil kettle and sparge grain with 168F water until you collect 7 gallons of wort.
Boil for 90 minutes, adding hops as directed in recipe above. Remove from heat, chill rapidly to 66F (19C), transfer to fermenter and aerate wort before pitching yeast.
Ferment at 66F (19C) for 7 days, then allow to rise to 70F (21C) for 3 days to encourage complete fermentation and clear up diacetyl. Package, carbonate and enjoy fresh.
Questions or comments? Contact the author at email@example.com
Canada’s Breweries Pushing the Envelope with Merchandise and Branding
Many modern breweries are uncertain on how to promote their wares, especially in the digital age and when they begin operation. But once they begin to work on creative branding strategies, they come up with novel merchandising ideas. Often it’s all about having something people can see in plain sight and objects to take away after a drink while drawing on where the beer comes from historically to help define their branded image.
“If our brewery is the nucleus, then the store is our heartbeat, and they are all in one spot here,” says Southampton, Ontario’s Outlaw Brew Co.’s Andrew Woodley. “With our brewery being a cornerstone location in the town, we are fortunate to have a very accessible store for visitors. Lots of people travel up to our area for summer vacation and work, and can take a piece of the nostalgia back home: t-shirts, long sleeves, hoodies, ball hats, trucker hats, mugs, everything.”
Located on the corner of Highway Twenty-One and High Street in Southampton, Outlaw is housed in a historic stone building that was originally the Southampton Hotel, established in 1867. By being centralized right in the town and on a major Ontario highway, Outlaw makes use of its local community and landmarks for its merchandising.
“We are fortunate to work with a impressive graphic designer, born and raised from the area, that helps embody and express our core values through the brands.” Woodley said. “My business partner, Deborah Leon, is the real mastermind behind the branding and we got our ideas literally right out our door. Our 21 Lagered Ale is named after Highway 21, but it can be astonishing how brands can take on their own identity in the public sphere—i.e. ‘I wish I was age 21’, the Blackjack in gambling, etc. The Outlaw spade is big and bold, and at the core of all our labeling.”
In the past, the big beer brands such as Molson or Labatt had their names across so much of the public landscape: light shades over pool tables, billboards at sport rinks or ball field, and various sizes of drink glasses. But now there are new artifacts from up-and-coming local breweries, from scarves to banners, many of them adorning public places and competing with the major brewery labels for space, notoriety, and even a few unconventional end products.
“You have to see these!” said Woodley, holding up a pair of Outlaw branded black booty shorts. “These are the hottest gift going around Valentine’s Day!”
Other breweries work hard to create associations to help push their branded merchandise by sourcing as much local talent as possible.
“Seventy percent of our merchandise is sourced locally,” said Cowbell Brewing Company’s merchandise manager Kathryn Peach. “Whether it’s our Canadian-Made garments, sourced from Redwood Classics in Toronto to our completely custom products like candles, coffee beans, and growler carriers, supporting local businesses has allowed us to build a unique and authentic experience for guests who visit the Cowbell General Store. Something to take home, too. But it’s not always easy either. Redwood is Toronto’s only t-shirt manufacturer left and they are high priced to order.”
When asked about their beer labels and designs, Cowbell’s guest service manager Amy Gibbings noted how much Cowbell insisted on delving into local history to help give each beer its own look.
“The Sparling Family started Cowbell and knew they wanted to both reflect Blyth’s rural roots and source out specialists,” said Gibbings. “For instance, our Doc Perdue’s Boxing Bruin India Pale Ale was named after a real veterinarian from Blyth that cared for all kinds of animals, including a bear cub named Bruin, and eventually had a full animal exhibit on his property. His great legacy and others gave great titles to our beers and we were able to get Arcane, our London, Ontario-based designer, to create the logos we wanted.”
Merchandise and branding has also entered into the digital medium for breweries as well. Clients that live outside of jurisdictions of their favourite beer distribution areas can now get all matters of merchandise across the World Wide Web.
“Our online website has been an awesome addition, being able to now sell beer and merchandise online and ship to our customer’s homes,” said Woodley. “We’re happy that people want to not just drink the beer but also proudly sport the logo.”
*Special thanks to Grant Sparling of Cowbell Brewery for additional information to this article.
The 16th Annual Canadian Brewing Awards & Conference will be held on May 24-26, 2018 at the Nova Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The CBAC is the only nationally Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) sanctioned competition inviting majority Canadian-owned breweries of all sizes across Canada to compete in a certified blind tasting to determine who produces the best beer in over 50 style categories.
The submission platform is now open and breweries can submit up to twelve separate entries to be judged in the competition.
The Canadian Brewing Awards & Conference is a 3-day event that features an expansive trade expo floor, influential speakers and awards gala where winning brews and breweries are announced, along with the highly coveted ‘Beer of the Year’ and ‘Brewery of the Year’ winners.
The most noteworthy change for 2018 is the decision to separate Canadian cider submissions from the event, and the announcement of a new awards ceremony exclusively for the cider industry. Rob Engman, President of the CBAC explains, “As the Canadian cider industry continues to grow each year, the time has come to host an all-new, stand alone celebration to honour its importance on the brewing landscape. We are very excited to launch the Canadian Cider Awards.” Details will be released in the coming weeks about the Canadian Cider Awards Celebration.
The Canadian Brewing Awards & Conference is a annual celebration honouring excellence in the craft beer industry. Winning a Canadian Brewing Award is a widely recognized symbol of brewing excellence and serves as an important vehicle for educating the Canadian beer-drinking public about the variety and quality of commercially available craft beers.
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