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Vermont. Birthplace of the New England IPA, or as I like to call it, the “neepa.’ Home to Heady and Hill Farmstead. Perhaps the first part of the world the world in which the word “juicy” was used to describe a beer. And, in early March of this year, host of the Beer Marketing and Tourism Conference.
More about that last bit, the Conference, later on. For now, let’s focus on the beer.
I both sampled and drank – definitely not the same thing – several beers over the course of my four days in Burlington. Some were densely cloudy or even turbid and others were bright and clear as the proverbial bell; some boasted a muddled mix of tropical and citrus fruit flavours, some had a brilliant and balanced fruitiness and still others were crisp and breathtakingly straight-forward in their deft mix of malt and hops; and some were much-lauded labels familiar to anyone who has ever scanned the beer rating sites of the web while others were more obscure and conspicuously uncelebrated.
Most were also good to very good, occasionally veering towards excellent. And although I did very much enjoy the acknowledged superstars of Vermont beer, brews like Heady Topper and Lawson’s Liquid Sunshine and a handful of Hill Farmsteads, none of those figured into what I’d describe as the best of the trip.
Instead, the pair of beers that stand out in memory as the most remarkable I sampled were a dunkel lager and a 5.6% take on the Scottish 90 shilling style, the former from the von Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe and the latter from American Brewers Guild’s Middlebury production arm, Drop-In Brewing.
Each was remarkable for not its hoppiness or “juiciness,” but rather for its studious malt profile. The Dunkel by Von Trapp has near-perfect balance with a touch of raw chocolate sweetness up front seguing into a dry but not austere body with an earthy, cocoa-accented character, while Drop-In’s Heart of Lothian starts bit brown sugary, but in the mid-palate boasts a vaguely peaty character – although without the smokiness of a peated malt beer – that blends seamlessly with background notes of raisin and prune leading to a lightly mocha-ish finish.
Each stood as testament to the fact that malt can be just as exciting, flavourful and sexy as hops, even in Vermont.
Meanwhile, back at the DoubleTree hotel, beer tourism was enjoying a much deserved moment in the spotlight. As I tweeted at the time, the most remarkable thing about the Conference was the evidence it provided of the amazing growth of beer tourism, with attendees coming from as far away as Belgium and Australia, the Texas Craft Brewers Guild pouring member beers at one of the receptions and even a pair of Ontario distillery reps in attendance.
In only their second year of hosting the event, it seemed as if the conference organizers were still getting their feet on the ground with this one – too many breakout sessions had a distinct predictability to them – but that did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the attendees with whom I spoke. Even if some expressed disappointment with the program of seminars, they told me that the networking opportunities the Conference afforded more than compensated.
I expect this one to get bigger and better and more organized next year, and beer tourism to continue to grow apace. If you operate a beer tour company, are part of the Convention and Visitors Bureau of a beer-centric city or town of or manage events for a small or regional brewery, keep your eyes on bmtcon.com for news about next year’s edition.
TAPS Media is excited to announce the Ontario Brewing Awards will be taking place September 14, 2018 as the official kick-off to Toronto Beer Week.
The Ontario Brewing Awards is the premier competition solely focused on celebrating the best craft beers in the province. On September 14th 2018, brewers will gather to honour the best of the best in over 40 style categories. Beer submissions will be accepted beginning May 1st, 2018. Please visit ontariobrewingawards.com for more details.
TAPS Media, owners of TAPS Online, the Canadian Brewing Awards and Conference, Session Toronto and Session Muskoka, acquired the OBAs and the announcement was made at the 2017 Ontario Brewing Awards in Toronto, Ontario.
The Ontario Brewing Awards were founded in 2004 by Intelivents, a Toronto-based events company, to showcase the success, growth, and quality of the Ontario brewing industry. In 2017 the OBAs had 679 entries and awarded winners in 44 style categories plus Best of Show (gold, silver and bronze) and Newcomer of the Year. TAPS Media will bring its expertise from the Canadian Brewing Awards & Conference to continue to grow the OBAs into the premier Ontario-centric beer competition recognizing Ontario brewing excellence. The OBAs will be a BJCP sanctioned competition.
“Our team is very excited to bring the same level of excellence to the OBAs that we have achieved with the CBAs,” says Rob Engman, President of TAPS Media. “Our mantra is to embrace a collaborative approach and continually strive for improvement, so we are looking forward to partnering with The Golden Tap Awards and Toronto Beer Week to offer an exemplary experience for those in the Ontario brewing industry.”
The month of March is a great time of year to brew Irish beers; not just as a part of your annual St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, but also due to their low alcohol and high drinkability as we move out of winter warmer season.
Around the world, no Irish beer is more well-known than the Stout. Guinness in particular has come to dominate the market, though many fine examples exist in Ireland and abroad.
Here in Canada, Stouts are among the more popular offerings of a number of craft breweries. At Toronto’s Granite Brewery (originally of Halifax), Keefe’s Irish Stout has been a mainstay since their second location opened here 27 years ago.
“It’s a style that I will always love,” says Mary Beth Keefe, Brewmaster at Granite and niece/daughter of the brewery’s founders. “It’s always important to me as a brewer to have a lot of flavour and low alcohol.”
The first Irish Stouts were an evolution of London Porter. Originally quite alcoholic and heavy, they were called ‘Stout Porter’ or just ‘Stout’. Over time, tastes changed and the beer continued to evolve, eventually settling to what we know as an Irish Stout today — low-alcohol, medium-high roasty bitterness, semi-dry to dry-finish. Some brewers use nitrogen to carbonate their draught product, giving it a smooth, creamy mouthfeel and a fuller body.
Keefe’s Irish Stout falls within the framework of a traditional recipe with one obvious point of uniqueness. It took home Silver in the Dry Stout category at last year’s Canadian Brewing Awards, so the results speak for themselves.
The malt bill is quite simple, with standard 2-Row accounting for the bulk of it. Roasted Barley is responsible for colour, aromas and flavours of coffee, and a touch of bitter astringency. Toasted or Torrified Wheat is added in low amounts to increase mouthfeel and head retention.
The mash temperature of the recipe will produce a slightly less fermentable wort and result in the beer finishing a little sweeter, to balance out the malt and hop bitterness.
The hop bill is equally simple to the malt, with East Kent Goldings added at the start of the boil for bitterness and toward the end for flavour and aroma.
The yeast choice is where things get interesting. Granite’s house yeast, Ringwood, is a traditional English ale yeast typically used in top-cropped open fermentations. It’s well known as a distinctly flavourful and sometimes temperamental yeast, and should be approached with caution by the homebrewer. If experimentation is your thing, then Ringwood is your yeast. If it’s a sure thing you’re after, a traditional Irish Ale yeast will also produce a very good beer.
New Experimentation and Innovation with Nitrogen-Infused Canadian Beer
By: James Burt
Beyond the usual beer ingredients—malt, hops, water—many breweries are now making changes to the gas components of their beers. This has lead to new, inspired brewing results in the Canadian beer marketplace, as well as prospective changes to beer packaging that weren’t well known before.
“I was cycling in Breckinridge, Colorado with some other brewers,” said Calabogie Brewing Company’s president and founder Mike Wagner from Calabogie, Ontario, near Ottawa. “I talked with them and took a recipe in particular that involved using nitrogen and how it creates a smoother beer style. From there, I came up with our Brown Cow Milk Stout, a nitrogen-infused beer we have had out now and had success with. It’s got a special, smooth texture that’s unique.”
Many beer drinkers are familiar with nitrogen used in particular beers, primarily in porters and stouts. Ireland’s famed dry stout Guinness has used nitrogen to provide its smooth drinking texture since the 1960’s, both in draft and, thanks to plastic, nitrogen-infused widgets, in cans and some bottles. While the use of nitrogen was limited to Guinness and select few other European beer brands, the use of nitrogen has travelled abroad and now become an experimental ingredient in Canadian independent brews and breaking some of the traditional rules of beer gas-infusion along the way.
“When I worked at Spinnakers [Brewery, of Victoria, British Columbia] in the late nineties, I used to brew nitro stouts for St. Patrick’s Day,” said Phillips Beer’s Matt Lockhart from Victoria, British Columbia. “I really enjoyed both brewing and drinking them. Now, at Phillips, we’ve been canning now for six years, and it was one of the things we started thinking of shortly after we fired up our canning machines. But once we started figuring it out, we fell in love with the idea of doing a nitro porter, making a richer, fuller bodied beer than a dry stout, and something a bit different from what was already available.”
Nitrogen-infused beers tend to begin with specific recipe necessities, much like their more traditional India pale ale or lager counterparts.
“In terms of brewing process for our Odyssey Nitro Porter, it is a single infusion mash, and fermented as an ale,” said Lockhart. “We have some unique bits of equipment in our process—we use a mash press in our brew house, which gives us great extract and flexibility with non-traditional grains, and a centrifuge instead of a whirlpool, allowing us to overload the hops in the kettle.”
Once these beers are completely brewed and ready to be canned or bottled, the nitrogen aspect of the beer comes into play. The influence of modern science into the more complex brewing process of nitrogen-infused beers cannot be underestimated at this stage, Many modern brewers have developed their own techniques to add the nitrogen to their canned products that were not previously available.
“What some brewers don’t realize is that nitrogenating beer is a packaging matter, not really a brewing one,” said Wagner. “I came to it from my work in the pharmaceutical industry where we used a nitrogen ‘doser’ that was used to get dissolved oxygen out of pharmaceutical solutions. When we were doing the first batches of milk stout, we brought a doser into the brewery one day and worked to figure out how to can using it. You need to dose the cans fast—it’s all got to be packaged and sent out to sell. But we managed to come up with our own dosing method. Later, we got help from Jeff Rogowsky from Sessions Craft Canning to do this during a whole production of cans. Now we can dose the cans regularly and, in the process, roll out the stout in a regular production format.”
Wagner went further to express his enthusiasm for more experimentation with nitrogen-infusion in more beer recipes and what possibilities can exist for new concoctions.
“It’s exciting. I’m one of the first guys to do this, but not the last. There’s new technology involved and there’s a good bright future of people nitrogenating so many beers. You’re likely going to get nitrogen infusion in other beer types and new equipment to help with this on the market thereafter. It’s a good game changer for the industry.”
Ever tried a ‘champignon de Paris‘? The real ones– cultivated in abundance and almost exclusively at one time in the catacombs of Paris? A champignon de Paris, or a Paris mushroom, the real ones, have become a bit of a gastronomic legend. To most, it is nothing but a plain ol’ white button mushroom, but there is a big difference. Marinated raw they taste fresh with a toothsome, velvety texture, and they greedily guzzle up flavour. Parisians know that sometimes a few high-quality simple ingredients make for a spectacular dish. This salad, with only 5 ingredients, is light but meaty and earthy at the same time, accented with bright lemon and parsley. The key to this dish is really, really good ingredients. The splurge is worth it.
There are no exact amounts for this recipe as some mushrooms will absorb more oil and some lemons will have different amounts of juice. Trust your instincts, you really can’t make this wrong with the right ingredients.
White button mushrooms – Even if the box has ‘Champignon de Paris’ written on the supermarket label, chances are, they weren’t ‘made in Paris’. Not even close. So find the best looking. freshest domestic, organic if possible, mushrooms you can find.
2-3 lemons – if you can find them, try Meyer lemons, especially if you are adverse to the tartness of a traditional lemon, these are milder. If you like tart, go with a standard lemon. DO NOT use anything in a bottle!
Olive oil – This is the time to splurge – search for a high-quality cold pressed oil that is a beautiful green, fruity up front and peppery on the finish. Mass produced grocery brands will dull the dish.
Flake salt – DO NOT use table salt, this calls for a beautiful large flake salt, also known as finishing salt. The taste is superior and you want the crunch of the flake as a counterpoint to the velvety mushroom. (Falksalt is a good choice)
Parsley – choose carefully, deep green stems and leaves indicate an inferior, tough herb which will ruin the texture of the dish. It should be light green and soft. If you are not a parsley fan, try arugula for a peppery note. A handful enough, you want to taste the mushrooms.
Take out the base of the mushrooms, then lift off the peel from the underside. Take a small sharp knife, take a 1/4 to a 1/2 inch bit of mushroom peel, and slowly lift off the peel, moving towards the centre of the dome of the mushroom. Continue until all of the peel is off all of the mushrooms. (Parisians always remove the skin the allow for better absorption of flavours and better presentation)
Slice each mushroom into thin slices, and put them in a wide, flattish bowl.
Juice the lemon, and pour the juice over the mushroom slices. Drizzle a glug or two of oil over the slices. Sprinkle salt over the mushrooms.
Gently combine and make sure the mushroom slices don’t stick together. You want lemon juice and salt on each slice.
Refrigerate this mix for several hours. You will see that the mushrooms have given off some of their own juice. Gently toss the slices so that the lemon/mushroom juice is well distributed.
Let come to room temperature and serve with a ramekin of flake salt so guests can add to taste.
The Vital and Improved Canning Techniques for Canada’s Breweries
By: James Burt
“We usually can every Friday,” said Black Oak Brewing Company’s inside sales and social media coordinator Mark Blommers from Etobicoke, Ontario. “We have three mainstays going in cans and going out to shops and bars. But now but our seasonals, like Beat the Heat, they get into cans too. It’s true that some clients only drink bottles and that’s fine. But cans are just easier—for space, for retail, everything.”
Though more mainstream beer drinkers might take their favourite beer(s) coming in cans for granted, global beer drinkers are only recently accepting canned beer as a decent medium to enjoy beer. While more sophisticated beer aficionados continue to stand by bottles or draft as the only way to drink beer, cans are enjoying a growing acceptance. Moreover, canning technology is changing to suit various breweries’ operations and lending themselves to canning for conditions of specific beer types, often right on site for a quick packaging session as soon as the batch is done.
“On Friday, our associates from Sessions Craft Canning come into our brewery,” said Blommers. “They roll in with their big truck and can up whatever we’ve brewed. On that, they all the can labeling and wrapping done beforehand at their warehouse with their own beer gear.”
Modern mobile canning units for smaller or specific brewing operations might surprise beer connoisseurs since they can beer quickly and move in and out of a given space in very little time. But they are viable for breweries today seeking easier canning methodologies to suit their brewing spaces or budgets.
“We have four mobile canning machines, plus an in-house labeling facility for shrink sleeve cans. Craft Sessions was the first company to bring mobile canning to Ontario back in 2015,” said Jeff Rogowsky, CEO of Sessions Craft Canning in Mississauga, Ontario. “We supply the cans and the whole process for our clients such as Black Oak takes about an hour. Once our canning equipment is set up, we can typically fill over two thousand one-hundred tall boy cans [473 mL] per hour.”
As with most other facets in the brewing process, quality control procedures come into play with any canning session.
“When you work with so many breweries as we do, strict quality control procedures are of the utmost importance,” said Rogowsky. “Before we do any canning on any site, a strict Clean in Place, or CIP, routine is always done. We wear all the necessary safety protection for our eyes and ears. But the one special thing to note in canning is the ATP [adenosine triphosphate] tester. It shows any organic material that may be on the can’s surface. Using that, we can make sure the cans get properly cleaned and that nothing living creeps into the cans that can ruin the beer. To date, Sessions has canned over five-and-a-half million cans for over forty different Ontario craft breweries and cideries.”
Other breweries have their canning mechanisms installed in-house in more static machine formats. If they have enough space, a brewery can vertically integrate and do all their beer production plus packaging under one roof.
“We use Cask Brewing Systems from Alberta for our canning machinery,” said District Brewing Co.’s production assistant AJ Leeks. Based out of Regina, Saskatchewan, District does all of their canning right after completing their brewing. “They have good materials and gear. On a full production day we can roll out fourteen thousand cans. We started with stubby or short cans, but now have tall boys in our line-up.”
When asked if their canning equipment has issues, Leeks spoke of only occasional details brewers have to be aware of when setting their equipment for a canning session.
“The one thing we have to make sure is that the dyes are correctly set for seaming the cans. Seams make sure the cans are sealed correctly. The seam has to be exact—it can’t be too long or too short. Leakage will arise in both cases if the seams aren’t proper. Whenever a brewery gets canning gear installed in their workspace, that’s the one aspect they have to get down quickly. Usually the rest is pretty easy to learn and use from there.”
“There’re also filling issues,” added Blommers. “If cans don’t get filled with beer correctly or with too much beer, it can cause the beer to go bad faster because of the oxygen levels in the cans. Hence low fills don’t get distributed as it would not be the best tasting beer within a week or two.”
Water Usage and Management in Canada’s Breweries Today
By: James Burt
Out of the four ingredients to make beer—grain, hops, yeast, and water—the last often gets the least amount of attention. Water seems commonplace: an easy resource to access anywhere and without the specialty or culinary know-how that the other ingredients have.
While so many people take water for granted as something they can get practically freely in their homes, gardens, and work drinking fountains, today’s brewers have to be conscious of their water sources and science, and how to use it efficiently from beginning to end of the brewing process.
To begin with, a brewer’s water source is of necessary consideration.
“We are lucky to live right on the shores of Georgian Bay where we have an excellent water source for brewing,” said Trestle Brewing Company’s Matt Lyons of Parry Sound, Ontario. “The only treatment we put our water through is a carbon filter to remove any solids and all chlorine.”
Chlorine treatments are necessary for most Canadian brewers—almost all have a need to do some sort of initial water treatments before brewing due to the content of their water source no matter where they are located.
“The problems we have are chlorine and the high level of organics in the water we use,” says Mark McGraw of Loyalist City Brewing in Saint John, New Brunswick. “So we have to treat it with a five stage filter process. That ends with carbon polish to get the best final treatment of water going into the brewing stages.”
Once treatments are done, brewing companies need to pay close mind to water usage monitoring, both in terms of cost matters and environmental impacts. Monitoring technology is necessary at this point.
“We use a number of ways to monitor our water usage throughout our brewing process,” said Lyons. “We will have flow meters installed on our brew house to ensure we do not over use water when mashing in or during sparging. There will also be flow meters installed on wash down hoses as well as water bibs for cleaning and sanitizing of tanks and hose lines. We can then take this data and implement it to monitor daily usage with different operators. This will allow us to bring uniformity to our process, and ensure the same process methods throughout our brewing, cellaring, and packaging processes. Once we have this data, we can also look at ways to improve our process to cut down the amount of water used. We will also use timers in the brewery when performing sterilization cycles to ensure we don’t go over the required amount of time which would constitute an overuse of electricity and water.”
McGraw also noted the need for breweries to mineralize brewing water, especially for exact recipes.
“Wherever the water profile is soft in brewing, we have to mineralize for specific beer. Stouts, India Pale Ales…they don’t use the same water types. We use brewing salts and lactic acids to get the right pit levels for water beer for those particular beer types.”
Once the brewing process is over, water disposal can be an issue. However, spent water from brewing has its own usage as McGraw elaborated.
“We try to recycle as much as we can. You can re-use water for wash-downs and cleaning inside the brewery. One thing that is important to note is that there are no huge regulations here like they have the United States. We don’t have to hold and de-oxygenate water that the breweries down there have to down there.”
For new and established breweries, the necessity to get educated in their local water supplies and usage practices is essential for brewing longevity. As Lyons reflected:
“To be able to have that knowledge base in discussions with the municipality and substantiate our proposed solutions with data from other breweries has been crucial.”
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.