Fredericton Craft Beer Fest 2017 Round Up

Last weekend, Matt and Trevor packed their bags and headed off to the annual Fredericton Craft Beer Festival. As usual, it was a jam-packed celebration of great beer. This year’s event really reflected the explosion in the East Coast beer scene, as old favourites shared the limelight along with new breweries from throughout the region. And this year, even more breweries brought special one-offs for the festival, keeping fans buzzing throughout both sessions. Read on for our favourite beers and breweries from the festival. Who makes your list? Post a comment below and share your picks.

TREVOR’S FIVE FAVOURITES

Abyss Barrel O’ Cherries (schwarzbier)
Spindrift Brewing Co.
Dartmouth, N.S.

Spindrift is Atlantic Canada’s only lager-exclusive brewer, so brewmaster Kellye Robertson has the opportunity to craft some truly unique beers. Case in point: this beauty: a one-year barrel-aged Schwarzbier lagered in red-wine oak barrels, then zinged with sour cherries. Tart sourness, dark chocolate richness, and spicy warmth.

Imperial Vanilla Porter (Bourbon Version)
Hammond River Brewing Co.
Quispamsis, N.B.

I’m usually don’t like flavoured porters, so I was shocked to discover I love this one. Velvety rich but not cloying, warm but not boozy. The hit of Maker’s Mark bourbon is a perfect counterpoint to the vanilla flavours. Everything works in perfect balance. Other brewers should have to drink this before attempting porters.

Zirable (lambic)
Acadie-Broue
Moncton, N.B.

Whenever I have something from Acadie-Broue, they knock my socks off, and this tart lambic did it again. Big-time sourness but just when it gets to be too much, there’s a pleasant sweet hit to balance it. Every mouthful reminded me (in a most pleasant way) of Sour Peaches candy.

Smiling Irish Bastard (American pale ale)
Geaghan Brothers Brewing Co.
Bangor, Me.

If you’re a fan of the classic PA (as I am), you’re bound to love this one. A nice grapefruit-citrus pop from the Cascade hops, balanced with moderate maltiness. The hoppiness lingers without crushing your taste buds. At 6% ABV, it’s surprisingly refreshing—a perfect afternoon sipper for a hot summer day.

Neon Nights (American wild ale)
2 Crows Brewing
Halifax, N.S.

They didn’t start serving this new sour until 8pm, and there was such a crowd around the booth waiting that many people moved on without trying it. Those who stayed got a treat: mouth-puckering tartness, with an unexpected Brett funk. One of the most memorable beers I had at the fest.

MATT’S FIVE FAVOURITES

Quicksand Jesus (Barrel Aged Version)
Hammond River Brewing Co.
Quispamsis, N.B.

I’ll be the first to admit, I’m a sucker for a big, bold beer, but this one was exceptionally good. Deep roast, with just the right balance of hops, and a slight warming from the alcohol. At 10.1% ABV this beer was dangerously easy to drink.

One Hundred
Big Spruce Brewing
Nyanza, N.S.

Organically made from 100% local Nova Scotia ingredients, including yeast harvested from cherries on their farm, this beer satisfies. Much like a Belgian beer, this beer is slightly sweet with hints of spice and fruit. An interesting and well crafted beer.

Kettle Sour Blackberry Ale
Hammond River Brewing Co.
Quispamsis, N.B.

This was one of the most memorable beers of the night for me. Tart and refreshing, with bright, fresh blackberry flavours. From the aroma through to the finish this beer just made me happy.

Sour Otis Grapefruit
Tide & Boar Gastropub
Moncton, N.B.

Crisp and light. This was a wonderful beer in the midst of a lot of big, heavy beers. Tangy, but not puckeringly sour, with a light grapefruit flavour. Reminds me of this warmer days and sandy beaches.

Neon Nights (American wild ale)
2 Crows Brewing
Halifax, N.S.

They made us wait until 8 PM to try this one, but it was worth it. This beer highlights all that is good with Brett/barrel-aged beers. The base beer was coming through, but it had earthy-funky flavours that played nicely with the fruit and a dry, tart finish.

TREVOR’S BREWERY OF THE NIGHT

Geaghan Brothers Brewing Co.
Bangor, Me.

My first beer of the night was Geaghan’s Smiling Irish Bastard pale ale, and those friendly folks got my evening off to a great start. I was back at regular intervals for the rest of the festival, and never had a less-than-fantastic beer from them. Their Captain Kool IPA reminded me that I might not be sick of IPAs after all, the Presque Isle Honey Blonde was a funky take on what can be a dull type of beer, and the Bangor Brown was an intriguingly hoppy American take on a classic style. There’s a road trip to Bangor in my future.

MATT’S BREWERY OF THE NIGHT

Hammond River Brewing Co.
Quispamsis, N.B.

I’ve had Hammond River beers before and I knew they were a good brewery, but they really knocked it out of the park this year. Once I found them, I really didn’t travel far from their table because I kept wanting to try more. Not only was their kettle sour and barrel aged beers great, but the Too Hop To Handle IPA and the Breakfast Stout were great just as good. Can’t wait for their new brewery to open so I can get more from them year-round.

Cheers!

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Shiretown – Venezuelan Express Porter

img_0066Charlo, NB’s Shiretown reopened this past Summer after a priori of suspended operations and we couldn’t be happier. Reds, browns, IPAs — Shiretown runs the range, but their new Venezuelan Express Porter is a great addition.

Appearance: Inky black, with faint ruby highlights around the edge when held up to the light. Thick, creamy beige-brown head that’s long lasting.

Aroma: The nose is coffee and milk chocolate dominant. Theres a light fruitiness that sneaks in.

Flavour: The first thing is dark roast coffee, right up front. Then there’s dark chocolate with just a hint of booze. The finish is a lingering toasty-fruity flavour on the tongue.

Mouthfeel: The texture is creamy and smooth. Medium-light body with light carbonation.

Overall: A very nice drinking porter. Coffee and roast malt flavours blend very well together. The light carbonation adds to the creamy texture to create a pleasurable drinking experience.

82/100

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Drink N Brew Turns 3!

Today marks the third birthday for Drink N Brew. Over the past three years we have been able to attend many beer events, have had the privileged to meet and talk with many brewers and beer fans, and of course, sample many great beers. 

To think about making a short list is almost hard to comprihend, but through some thought here are our top 5 beers we have reviewed. This isn’t to say these are all the best beers, but these were great at the time we drank them and have stuck in our memories as great beers that we would drink over and over again. 

1. Brasserie Dieu du Ciel – Aprhodisiaque

An unbelievable beer. Simply wonderful. Full of chocolate and subtle roast and so perfectly balanced. Not at all cloying, but with just a hint of sweetness, this is one to enjoy over and over. Heavenly. 

2. Nebraska Brewing Co. – Apricot au Poivre Saison (Reserve Series, Chardonnay Barrel Aged)

Big, bold, and complex. Apricot sweetness, nicely tamped down by a hit of black pepper. Slight vinous quality from the oak-barrel aging. Every mouthful is an experience.

3. North Brewing Co. – Farmhouse Ale
With aroma and flavours of cherries and dark fruits, this French styled Farmhouse Ale is treat to drink. Malty and dry, funky and balanced. Craftsmanship in a glass.

4. Maine Beer Co. – Zoe

A wonderful American style Amber Ale. Not the biggest hop bomb going, but full flavoured and one of the best red ales we’ve ever had.

5. Bad Apple Brewhouse – Barrel Aged Black and Tackle Russian Imperial Stout

Bold roast with nice whiskey notes. A well made beer showing off the skills of the brewmaster.If you find it, buy it. Sip and enjoy. Smooth: pace yourself, it’s a big beer, but drinks easy.

Cheers to 3 years and we raise our glass to the next three years and beyond!
~
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Grimross – Maritime Pale Ale


Grimross Brewing is a small brewery located in Fresricton, NB. Opening July 1st, 2013 by Stephen and Dawn Dixon, they have a growing reputation for great beers and expanding operations. Maritime Pale Ale is their first offering in cans or bottles. 

Appearance: Deep golden colour with an off-white fluffy head that is long lasting. Nice lacing on the glass. 

Aroma: Big hop nose of citrus, with a slight pine note and a hint of earthiness. A little malt aroma and a sweet finish. 

Taste: Hops – pine and citrus, little floral. Long lasting, late bitterness on the palette. A little malt comes through, a bit more as it warms. 

Mouthfeel: Light-medium body with a medium carbonation that so quite appropriate. Creamy texture, but cut with hop oil. 

Overall: Very nice. Balanced (little malt, but nice range in the hop flavours). This is one I will be going back to and recommending. I can’t wait to see more offerings on the shelves from Grimross. 

84/100

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2016 Halifax Seaport BeerFest

Beerfest2016-By-CHR!S-SM!TH-22
(Photo by Chris Smith – funkfactor.com via seaportbeerfest.com)

Last weekend saw the return of the Halifax Seaport BeerFest, so we laced up our drinking shoes and headed to Cunard Centre on Friday night. It was my (Trevor’s) first time at the BeerFest since it moved indoors, and Matt’s first time ever. After a decade of doing this, organizers have built a pretty well organized, efficient festival, and as always, the beer is the star. Some 110 producers from around the world offered up 326 different beers and ciders, which has to be the widest selection ever offered in Atlantic Canada. On Twitter, I saw a couple people grumbling that many Nova Scotian brewers weren’t there.

IMG_3519Those grumblers miss the point: the Seaport BeerFest isn’t a local craft-beer festival, it’s an international beer festival, and organizers aim to showcase beers not available locally, which included 75% of the offerings this year. (If you want a local craft-beer festival, check out the Fredericton Craft Beer Festival or the Craft Beer Cottage Party in Halifax.)

This year’s Seaport BeerFest included a great variety of beers from the U.S., Ireland, Ontario, Quebec, and Western Canada. Below are our favourites (in no particular order). Were you at the festival? Which beers make your list? Post a comment below to weigh in.

IMG_3528MATT’S FAVOURITES

Le Coq by Le Trou du Diable in Shawinigan, Quebec
This, for me was a near perfect beer. Tart cherries with a beautiful malt balance. There are a lot of breweries doing sour beers these days, but few are as perfect as this one.

Buneos Dias by Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company in Vankleek Hill, Ontario
This is a style of beer that has really grown on me. Gruit is a beer brewed in ancient tradition with herbs and spices for flavouring rather than hops. This beer is tangy and peppery with a great dry finish. Each sip begs for the next.

Maine Island Trail Ale by Rising Tide Brewing Co. in Portland, Maine
This is a great example of how a session IPA should be done. There is a great happiness, but still balanced with a malt backbone. The carbonation is kept at the right level so that the beer isn’t thin. Other breweries could look to this beer to see how to do a session beer right.

Wheat by Side Launch Brewing in Collingwood, Ontario
This is a well made traditional hefeweizen. They hit the balance of wheat malt flavours and banana and clove just right. Nothing is over powering, making this a great hot day patio beer.

Saison Framboise by Brasserie Dunham in Dunham, Quebec
If I just said fresh raspberries that would be enough, but this beer deserves more. The base beer is so well made, with a slight spicy notes and a dry finish, but the bright, fresh raspberries are the true showcase for this beer. Bravo.

IMG_3531

TREVOR’S FAVOURITES

Dark Arts Porter by Trouble Brewing in County Kildare, Ireland
It seems near impossible to find a nice dry textbook porter that’s not a booze bomb and/or hasn’t been infused with vanilla (or cinnamon or whatever). Trust an Irish brewery to fill the craving. Balanced, dry, and rich. Velvet in a glass.

Pucker Up Pomegranate Hibiscus Wit by Garrison Brewing Company in Halifax, Nova Scotia
I didn’t expect a wit to offer a mouth-puckeringly sour sucker punch of flavour, but that’s exactly what I got here, and I loved it. One of my favourite beers ever from one of my favourite breweries ever.

Geary’s Hampshire Special Ale by DL Geary Brewing Company in Portland, Maine
Warm, boozy, and flavourful—at its best, an American strong ale makes me think of a nice whisky. It’s not a style you see often enough. I’m planning a Maine road trip.

Smoke & Mirrors Imperial Smoked Ale by Coal Harbour Brewing Company in Vancouver, British Columbia
Here’s the thing about smoked ales: they tend to taste like smoke, and nothing else. This is easily the tastiest smoked ale I’ve ever had. Subtle peat, chocolate, and malt flavours nicely counterbalance smoky acridity. My favourite beer of the night.

Wag The Wolf Hopfenweisse by Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company in Vankleek Hill, Ontario
This starts out like a classic Bavarian weissbier, but then those New Zealand hops kick in. The result? Wheaty sweetness morphs into a citrus zing, with a surprisingly bitter and clean finish.

MATT’S FAVOURITE BREWERY OF THE NIGHT: Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company in Vankleek Hill, Ontario
I have tried Beau’s before and thought they were pretty good, but having tried a wider selection of their offerings I’m thoroughly impressed with them. Every sample was a great beer and they came from a wide selection of styles. Not only was the Buenos Dias great, but they had a great kölsch (Lug Tread Lagered Ale), a great milk stout (The Tom Green Beer), and a great hefeweizen (Wag The Wolf Hopfenwisse) – all excellent beers that could have made my list. I will be keeping my eye out for more from Beau’s.

TREVOR’S FAVOURITE BREWERY OF THE NIGHT: Coal Harbour Brewing Company in Vancouver, British Columbia
It’s tempting to pick these guys solely on the basis of the masterfully crafted Smoke & Mirrors Imperial Smoked Ale, but the Blackwing Baltic Porter is damn good too (sweet, crisp, and dangerously quaffable at 7.5% ABV). If the list above were a Top 6, it would include Blackwing. I can’t wait to try more from Coal Harbour.

~

Matt’s love of beer runs to all styles and as an avid home brewer he has brewed many of them.

Regular contributor and guest reviewer Trevor J. Adams is senior editor with Metro Guide Publishing and the editor of Halifax Magazine. In 2012, he published his first solo book, Long Shots: The Curious Story of the Four Maritime Teams That Played for the Stanley Cup (Nimbus Publishing). You can see what Trevor is drinking on Untappd and follow him on Twitter.

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A Quebec beer adventure

You know you’re in a province with a good beer scene when the gas station has a better craft selection than your local liquor store. Recently, I took a road trip through Quebec’s Gaspé region, and had the chance to explore some of La Belle Province’s fine brews. Read on for my five favourites from the trip. Note: I’m not saying these are Quebec’s best beers; they’re my five favourite discoveries from this trip. Post a comment below to share your favourite Quebec beers.
L’Épiphanie by Brasserie Artisanale La Fabrique in Matane, Quebec. The best thing about a province with a mature and thriving craft-beer scene is that you find great beers in the most expected places. This little brewpub boasts 20+ taps, mostly pouring house-made beers. This tart, light, and refreshing sour is my favourite. Flavourful without being overpowering, and a great pair with an Oktoberfest sausage that I’m still thinking of a week later.

 

Écume by A l’abri de la Tempête in L’Étang-du-Nord, Quebec. My most common review of a pilsner is “Meh, it’s a pilsner” so I’m still amazed at how much I like this Magdalen Islands creation. Slightly grainy and roasty, with a faint briny character: especially tasty with a smoked-salmon mousse.

 

Rosé sparkling cider by Cidrerie Michel Jodoin in Rougemont, Quebec. Man, I wish I’d encountered more ciders on this trip. This rosé-style cider is a big tasty bomb of fresh-apple flavour: slight sweetness balanced with lively acidity, with tart berry and floral notes. Perfect on a summer day by the ocean.

 

La Gaspésienne Robust Porter by Microbrasserie Pit Caribou in Percé, Quebec. Belgian brewers heavily influenced this part of the world, so you don’t see a lot of porters. But that doesn’t mean they can’t make textbook porters. This beauty is dry and bitter, with complementary hints of chocolate, black coffee, and caramel.

 

Chantier Naval – La Carrick by Microbrasserie Le Naufrageur in Carleton-sur-Mer, Quebec. This isn’t just one of my favourite beers from the trip, it’s one of my favourite wee heavies ever. It starts with an explosion of chocolate and toasted nuts, which quickly gives way to smoky whisky flavours and a long warm finish. Beautifully crafted.

 

 

Regular contributor and guest reviewer Trevor J. Adams is senior editor with Metro Guide Publishing and the editor of Halifax Magazine. In 2012, he published his first solo book, Long Shots: The Curious Story of the Four Maritime Teams That Played for the Stanley Cup (Nimbus Publishing). You can see what Trevor is drinking on Untappd and follow him on Twitter.

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