Category Archives: beer fest

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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2016 Halifax Seaport BeerFest

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(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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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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Fredericton Craft Beer Festival 2015 Wrap-up

479098_384398868319932_1841047704_oLast Saturday (March 7), Matt and Trevor joined hundreds of other craft-beer lovers at the Fredericton Craft Beer Festival. Simply put, it was a great event. The location, layout, and staff and volunteers were wonderful. The simple things like dump and water stations were plentiful and well positioned. Even the attendees were well behaved, with most of them obviously there for craft beer and not a marathon of pounding beer 4 ounces at a time. We’re already making plans to return for the 2016 editions. We raise our glasses to the organizers and staff and can’t wait to see how the rest of the beer fest season compares.

Matt’s Top Five Beers (in no particular order)

Bad Apple BrewhouseIMG_0082 (Somerset, Nova Scotia) Mosaic Double IPA: Big, but balanced with an aggressive pine nose that caries into the flavour along with some citrus and dank.

Big Spruce Brewing (Baddeck, Nova Scotia) UnRYEvaled Chocolate Rye IPA: Slight roast/chocolate, and a bit of spice, but the hops are the showcase.

Big Tide Brewing (Saint John, New Brunswick) Bucht Bock: Malty without being too sweet like some bocks can be. This would be drinkable (and dangerous) by the litre.

Barnone Brewing (Rose Valley, Prince Edward Island) IPA: Fresh and hoppy without being over the top. An easy drinking, well made beer.

Celtic Knot Brewing (Riverview, New Brunswick) Dubh Loki Black IPA: First beer at the festival, and I didn’t go wrong. A bit of roast, but smooth and hoppy.IMG_2623

Trevor’s Top Five Beers (in no particular order)

Garrison Brewing (Halifax, Nova Scotia) In Session ISA: Garrison just released this new session ale at the Savour Food & Wine Festival in Halifax last week, so I was delighted to get another chance to sample it in Fredericton. Low-alcohol and super hoppy, it’s proof that a session ale can have big flavours. This one is going to be popular.

Red RoverIMG_0085 (Fredericton, New Brunswick) Winter Blues Cider: I’m a sucker for a craft cider, so I was really looking forward to sampling from Red Rover, and this tart, spicy cider far exceeded my expectations.

Le Trou Du Diable (Shawinigan, Quebec) Dubaï Pillée: A weird and wonderful DIPA, this starts with smacks of fruit and wildflowers, before turning dank, funky and hoppy.

Barnone Brewing (Rose Valley, Prince Edward Island) Pale Ale: There were a lot of pale ales at the festival, and this was the best by a country mile—a nice nose of fresh hay, slight malts and hops, perfectly balanced; refreshing and delicious.

Hammond River Brewing (Quispamsis, New Brunswick) Breakfast Stout: My unrestrained Untappd review called this a “pretty well perfect” stout and I stand by that. Flavours of bacon and milk chocolate, rich without being boozy—the best stout I had all night.

IMG_0094Best Brewery of the Festival

We actually intended to give you two different picks here, but it turns out we (Matt and Trevor) both picked the same brewery, and neither of us was willing to budge. Our unanimous pick for the Best Brewery of the Festival is Prince Edward Island’s Barnone Brewing. We liked every beer we had from them, and despite our commitment to sample as many different breweries as possible, we just kept going back to them for more. “The three beers I had from them make my top ten: IPA, Pale Ale, and Sessions IPA,” says Matt. “All balanced, flavourful, and well made. I can’t wait to start seeing these beers in a store nearby soon.”

Were you at the Festival? What were your favourites?