Fredericton Beer Fest: 2016 Edition

IMG_2531This past weekend was the Fredericton Craft Beer Festival. This year the organizers expanded the event, not only with an additional tasting session, but with a full week of activities all across the city of Fredericton, as always, the festival was the crown jewel event. Well organized, in a perfect location, and with loads of great beers.

This year’s event saw many new breweries, several that only opened in the past year, and many regional favourites returning, along with some national and international brands.

Matt’s 5 Favourite Beers (in no particular order)

Big Spruce Brewing (Nyanza, N.S.) Meek Thy Maker: A nice malty Red IPA with a beautifully smooth hoppiness from West Coast American hops. This was the winning recipe by Shawn Meek from Big Spruce’s home brew competition.

Barnone Brewery (Rose Valley, P.E.I.) Lil DIPA: A well made example of what a big IPA should be: big and bold, but still balanced, and very drinkable.

Moosehead Brewing (Saint John, N.B.) Chocolate Orange Ale: I never thought I’d have a Moosehead beer on a “best of” list, but this one really surprised me. Thanks to a friend at the fest we got to try this very limited cask release. Nice chocolate flavour with some orange and residual sweetness—like a malty, liquid version of an orange chocolate. Well done. Keep surprising us with these.

Sunset Heights Meadery/Pollen Angels (McLeod Hill, N.B.) Naughtea: I’ll admit, I’m not big mead drinker, but this one was not what I think of when I think mead. Infused with green tea, it refreshes the palate and begs for the next sip. Earthy and herbal, but rounded with some honey sweetness.

Bore City Brewing (Moncton, N.B.) Marécage: I’m a sucker for a good farmhouse styled beer, and this is a good one. This Belgian-inspired beer is dry with a fruity aroma and the spicy saison flavour you expect. Hints of malty and some bitterness finish it off. This is great now, but would be better in the heat of summer, and I’m now ready for it.

Matt’s Favourite Brewery

For me, this was a tough decision. There were so many great beers, from many excellent breweries that it was hard for me to settle on just one. I admit that I went back and forth. In the end I had to pick Big Spruce Brewing (Nyanza, N.S.). I had several of their beers and they all were top-shelf beers. I’ve always loved the beers from Big Spruce and their showing at the fest exceeded my expectations.

Trevor’s 5 Favourite Beers (in no particular order)

IMG_2538Johnny Jacks Brewery (Oromocto, N.B.) Trench Fighter: Smooth, bitter, and creamy, this American style was the best IPA I tried all night, and a textbook example. 

Maybee Brew Co. (Fredericton, N.B.) Long Carry Brett Red: This one excited me as soon as I heard about it; I figured the brett yeast would guarantee some funky flavours, and I was right. Dry with an interesting dankness. Tastes a lot better than it smells.

Barnone Brewery and Hop Farm (Rose Valley, P.E.I.) La Vaca Loca: I often find milk stouts too sticky-sweet, but I’ve never had a bad beer from Barnone, so I decided to give this one a try. And am I glad I did! Surprisingly dry, light, and refreshing for a milk stout.

York County Cider (Fredericton, N.B.) Sweet William: The best ciders are as straightforward as a punch in the mouth, and that’s a perfect description of this one. Elegantly simple, it tastes like nothing more than a bite into a fresh, crisp apple. Almost perfect.

Moosehead (Saint John, N.B.) Wee Heavy: I know, I’m as surprised as you are to see Moosehead on this list. Brewed just for the festival, this one was on cask and about as far removed from Moosehead’s typical macro lagers as you can get. Rich and flavourful, with hints of caramel; lingering boozy warmth.

Trevor’s Favourite Brewery

It would be more dramatic if this were a tough decision, but Johnny Jacks Brewery (Oromocto, N.B.) locked up my vote pretty early in the evening. I liked every beer I had from them. In addition to the best IPA of the festival, they poured a surprisingly flavourful gruit (an ancient and largely unappreciated hopless style) and a light and endlessly quaffable blonde. Nice friendly folks skillfully crafting distinctive and flavourful small-batch beer.

~

Matt Small is the founder and head drink-n-brewer at Drink N Brew. 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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Smuttlabs – Thelema

IMG_4898The Craft Beer Cellar in Portsmouth, New Hampshire recommended this Belgian-style golden ale from Smuttlabs.

Appearance: A cloudy golden pour with a thin, eggshell head and persistent lacing.

Aroma: Big nose of red plums, caramel, and cherries. Earthy whiffs of black pepper.

Taste: Vinuous and acidic. Flavours of citrus pith, with a red-wine earthiness. Pepper and cinnamon heat as it warms. A punch of orange oil to finish. 

Mouthfeel: Light body and good carbonation. Slight carbonation bite on the palate.

Overall: Light and easy drinking. Not at all boozy, but gets warm and earthy in its final act. This is a complex beer, that changes tone and develops more spiciness and wine qualities as it warms and breathes. Beautiful craftsmanship.

82/100

Smuttlabs (Smuttynose) can be found on the web, Facebook, and Twitter.

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Belgian Holiday

I knew it was going to be a good trip when I sat down for my first meal and asked the server to suggest a local beer. He quickly rattled off five beers with names I’d never heard of and long and elaborate pedigrees that I couldn’t follow. Then when I ordered my meal, he rescinded all those options, and told me what beer I had to have with my food.

Last week, in my day job as editor of Halifax Magazine, I visited the Flanders region of Belgium and the Arras region of France for a tour of First World War related sites. It was an amazing, moving experience (which you can read more about in the November issue of the magazine) and Europe being the civilized place it is, I tried many, many good beers. In no particular order, here are my five favourites. 

 Papegaei by Brouwerij Verstraete at Restaurant Lettenburg in Diksmuide, Belgium. Created by local gypsy brewer Adam Verstraete, this is a big boozy blonde (8% ABV) with beautifully fresh and floral hops. Verstraete uses fresh hop flowers (rather than pellets or extract) to impart the unique flavours.
 Kriek 100% Lambic by Brasserie Cantillon at Le Poechenellekelder in Brussels, Belgium. I drank so many good krieks on this trip, I could easily give you a Top 5 list featuring nothing but that style. This was the best: light body and lively carbonation, crazy cherry sourness to start, with a subtle sweet finish. Perfect after a long walking tour of Brussels.
 Page 24 Reserve Hildegarde Blonde by Brasserie Saint-Germain at L’estaminet de Lorette in Albain-Saint-Nazaire, France. I was only in France for one day, so I didn’t get to try many local beers, but I’m very grateful to the restaurateur who brought this biere de garde unbidden after seeing me wave away a waiter with Stella. Fruity nose and flavours of fresh-baked bread, with an unexpectedly sweet finish. Paired nicely with a hearty beef stew.

  

Wipers Times 14 by Brouwerij Kazematten at Het Moment in Ieper, Belgium. During the First World War, British troops in the Ypres Salient produced a magazine called The Wipers Times. In the very casements where they took shelter, a local brewery now produces this pale ale. Historical connection aside, it’s a lovely example of a Belgian PA, with floral notes, slight hops, and a nice fruity finish.

  

Liefmans Goudenband by Brouwerij Liefmans at De Fonderie in Ieper, Belgium.
Hands-down, my favourite beer from the trip. This Flanders Oud Bruin style is a beer built for aging (it spends up to a year in the cellar before even leaving the brewery). The restaurant had been aging this bottle for “three or four years.” The result? A huge hit of rhubarb and green-apple aromas, followed by a wave of mouth-puckering flavours with a bit of an oak-barrel quality. Almond and currant flavours to close. I had this with a big steak, and it was life-alteringly good.

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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.

    Spindrift Brewing Co. – Coastal Lager

      Nova Scotia’s newest brewery, Spindrift Brewing Co., located in Dartmouth, NS, has just launched its first beer this week. Coastal Lager is an amber lager described as a Festbier and is not your everyday lager.

    From the brewery: Coastal Lager is a bright amber lager that has unique toasted and earthy qualities. This German-style Festbier converges speciality European and Canadian malts with noble German hops to create a natural clean finsih that can only by obtained by using the traditional lagering process.

    Appearance: Clear, golden-amber with a creamy big off-white head. Lacing on the glass last to the last drop.

    Aroma: The aroma is sweet with beautiful caramel malt richness. Slight hints of dark tree fruit with no notable hops.

    Taste: The caramel malt in the nose doesn’t shine in the flavour, which is dominated more by the bitterness. The German hops give a earthy-floral finish with just slight spiciness. The caramel/toasty flavour comes in on the backend of the flavour leaving a lovely finish on the palate and draws the flavours all together.

    Mouthfeel: A fairly light bodied beer with just the right amout of carbonation to keep it light and easy drinking.

    Overall: Very well done. Clean and dry with a wonderful finish. This is a beer that can be consumed by the litre and probably should be. Execlent showing for this new brewey’s first showing. Can’t wait to see what Spindrift does next.

    82/100

    Spindrift can be found on Twitter, and Facebook

    Pump House – Rose Hip Ale

    The Pump House Brewery and Restaurant, located in Moncton, NB, opened its doors in September of 1999. This small brewpub has grown to producing many fine ales and lagers and they’ve brought home a fair number of awards over the years including “Brewery of the Year” from the Canadian Brewery Awards. Offering many year-round, local favourites and a quickly growing number of seasonal and one-off brews, this small brewery is sure to have a beer for anyone to enjoy.

    IMG_1503The Pump House released their Rose Hip Ale just this summer and already people are talking about this refreshing ale brewed with rose hips.

    Appearance: This ale pours with a lively carbonation producing a white head made of tiny, champagne-like bubbles. The colour is a golden, almost burnt orange and is fairly cloudy.

    Aroma: Sweet bready aroma upfront with a light fruitiness – almost melon. It’s quite like a saison in aroma with the wheat coming through.

    Taste: The flavour of the wheat shines with some spicy notes and fruitiness of under ripe apple and sweet melon. There are some slight floral hints as well.

    Mouthfeel: The body is fairly light accented with the slightly elevated carbonation. There is a slight prickliness on the tip of the tongue, otherwise quite enjoyable.

    Overall: This is a nice beer. It’s not heavy in any aspect and very easy to drink. Great beer on a hot day. A great lawnmower beer. It changes slightly as it warms, but it probably won’t stay in your glass long enough to notice.

    78/100

    You can find the Pump House on the web, Facebook, and Twitter.

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    -Cheers!

    Drink N Brew Hits The Road!

    IMG_1421This past weekend Matt and Trevor (along with Trevor’s wife, Tammy, as DD – have to be safe) headed out on the road to visit some of the many craft brewers and wineries in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley.

    The trip was fruitful with several growlers and the consumpsion many samples of fine wares. There was world class Nova Scotia hospitality at every stop along the way and some great food, too. With stops at Meander River Farm & Brewery, Sea Level Brewing, Paddy’s Pub (Wolfville), Bad Apple Brewhouse, Grand Pré Winery, and Avondale Sky Winery it was a great day that is highly recommended.

    Though no one had a bad thing to say about anywhere we visited or anything we drank, both Matt and Trevor agree that the Impresser DIPA from Bad Apple was the highlight. “My favourite beer on this tour was definitely the Impresser from Bad Apple,” says Trevor. “When I saw the high IBUs and alcohol, I was expecting a mouth-puckering hop bomb, but it was really well balanced and easy to drink — excellent craftsmanship.” And for the record that is 10.2% ABV and a whopping 300 IBU (calculated).

    The most surprising thing for Matt was the winery visits that were not even originally in the plan (thanks Tammy for “making” us go). “Both were nice, but Avondale Sky was a beautiful site in a converted church,” Matt says. “The staff there were so friendly and knowledgable. They knew we were ‘beer geeks’ and not usual wine drinkers and were able to make the experience wonderful.”

    All around it was a great day.
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    For Love Of Beer.

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