Category Archives: beer tour

BELGIAN SIX-PACK

Last month, my day job as editor of Halifax Magazine took me back to Belgium to cover events marking the centenary of the end of the First World War. And as you’d expect, I seized the opportunity to sample every local beer I could get my hands on. Belgium has more great beers per capita than any place on earth and one human couldn’t possibly sample them all, but I gave it a good try; here are my six favourite discoveries.

Cuvée Jeun’homme by Brouwerij De Leite in Ruddervoorde, Belgium

Dry-hopped with a blend of four local hops, this sour ale has a smidge of citrus bitterness and whole lot of mouth-puckering tartness. Four months ripening in oak-wine casks make it complex, full-flavoured, and easy to sip. Paired nicely with the leek soup at Café De Republiek in Brugge.

Trappist Westvleteren 12 by Brouwerij De SintSixtusabdij van Westvleteren in Westvleteren, Belgium

Trappist beers aren’t as easy to find in Belgium as you’d expect (a shopkeeper told me the monks prefer to export, to avoid competing with local brewers), so I was pleased to find this big boozy quad on tap. Rich and fruity, with roast coffee and dark-fruit notes. Paired well with the peppery beef goulash at La Poupée gastropub in Poperinge.

Hercule Stout by Brasserie des Légendes in Irchonwelz, Belgium

After a couple days of sours, saisons, and blondes, I was starting to yearn for a stout, so I was delighted to find this locally-made one on at the stylish and popular L’Excelsior in Mons: malty and dry with a hint of smoky sweetness. Accustomed as I am to American-style stouts, I kept waiting for a hop hit that never came. But that’s not a beef; this was a tasty surprise.

Queue de Charrue Blonde by Browerij Vanuxeem in CominesWarneton, Belgium

A textbook example of what has to be the most popular style in this part of the world: the strong golden ale. Sweet and crisp, with a slight hop bitterness to finish and refreshing minerality throughout. Nicely balanced.

Super 8 IPA by Browerij Haacht Brasserie in Boortmeerbeek, Belgium

This Flanders IPA gets some lukewarm reviews online and I can’t for the life of me figure out why. It starts fruity and floral, with a surprising (but pleasant) grapefruit zing; effervescent with a lively mouthfeel and a subtle hop finish. Easy to drink.

113 Ambrée by Brasserie 113 in Mons, Belgium

If you had predicted that an amber lager would be my favourite beer from this trip, I would have laughed in your face… but here we are. Hard to find even its hometown, this beer comes from a tiny Mons brewery (when I tried it, it had just five Untappd check-ins) and I had the good luck to be just sitting down at La Petite Provence as the brewer was delivering a shipment. It is, by a wide margin, the tastiest lager I’ve ever had. Rich, malty, full-bodied; nicely balanced and a genuine pleasure to drink.

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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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AMERICAN ADVENTURE: 5 FAVOURITES FROM A RECENT U.S. ROAD TRIP

Here in Atlantic Canada, beer drinkers are just close enough to the U.S. to get tantalizing hints of the great brews we’re missing. American craft brewers like Maine’s Geaghan Bros. show up at the Fredericton Craft Beer Festival and you’ll find the odd surprise in stores. But for the most part, the American craft-beer scene is a big tasty world we don’t get to explore. 

So when it came time for a family trip stateside in early October, my first thought was “BEER!” Read on for my five favourites from the trip. Note: I spent most of my time in Rhode Island and Maine; by no means did I do a comprehensive review of the country’s (or even those states’) best beers. These are my favourites from what I sampled. You have different favourites? Vive la différence.

 

Czech Pilsner by Moat Mountain in North Conway, N.H. 

A classic Bohemian pilsner: light, crisp and refreshing. A little orange-peel zestiness with black-pepper hints. Clean and dry finish. Easy to drink, surprisingly tasty for the style, and a modest 4.9% ABV: this is an all-day drinker. Best enjoyed on a verandah overlooking the White Mountains. 

 

Frosty Stout by Newport Craft Brewing in Newport, R.I. 

I picked this one up after an earnest endorsement from the cashier at Beach Wine and Liquors in Middletown, R.I. and it ended up being my favourite beer from the trip. Produced in collaboration with beloved local ice-cream parlor Frosty Freez, this is a rich and nutty stout, creamy and quaffable with a bittersweet finish.

 

Pumking by Southern Tier Brewing Company in Lakewood, N.Y.

I typically wouldn’t cross the street for a pumpkin beer, but I’ve read repeatedly that this one is the gold standard for the style, so I was keen to give it a try. And I’m glad I did. Spicy, sweet, butter, light-bodied, and well balanced: pretty much the best pumpkin beer I’ve ever had. At 8.6%, it finishes with some boozy heat and packs a wallop. Share with friends.

 

Pale Ale by Tuckerman Brewing Company in Conway, N.H. 

If I had to pick only one style of beer to drink for the rest of my life, it would be the classic American pale ale. Flavourful, easy to drink, and hoppy without stunning the palate. At its best, the style is everything a beer should be. And this cold-conditioned and dry-hopped ale is a textbook example. Naturally carbonated in bottle or keg with the German “krausening” process, this brew has a simple and straightforward profile that belies the craftmanship behind it. 

 

Captain’s Daughter by Grey Sail Brewing in Westerly, R.I. 

Balance is important and all things in moderation… but hey, sometimes you just need a big boozy hop bomb. This DIPA fits the bill nicely. Massively hopped with chinook, citra, and mosaic, it manages to have tons of hop flavor without that fresh-cut-grass bitterness that plagues the style. Pleasantly bittersweet, it goes down easily; at 8.5% ABV, it punishes the careless can-pounder.

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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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BEER BY THE SEA: 5 FAVOURITES FROM THE MAGDALEN ISLANDS

Last month, I went on a family vacation to Quebec’s Magdalen Islands (AKA Îles de la Madeleine). About a 5.5-hour ferry ride from P.E.I., the Acadian archipelago is smack in the middle of the Gulf of the St. Lawrence, boasting an abundance of sandy beaches, fresh seafood, and spectacular scenery. And like the rest of Quebec, it has a lively local-food-and-drink scene.

Considering the region’s total population is 12,000, I was delighted to discover a thriving local brewery, cidery, and meadery, plus a choice selection of other Quebecois drinks. (I know some people argue that cider and mead aren’t really beer; if confronted by one of those people, it’s best to just nod politely and have a drink.)

Here are my five favourites from the trip.

Chipie by Archibald Microbrasserie in Lac-Beauport, Que.

The instant you board that ferry in Souris, P.E.I., you’re essentially in Quebec. The proof? The onboard bar boasts a selection of craft beers at a shockingly reasonable price and you’re not confined to a little bar to drink them. My vacation started with a textbook American red ale. Unshowy and straightforward, with a lovely Cascade-hop nose and a strong malt backbone.

Pilsner Blonde by Alchimiste Microbrasserie in Joliette, Que.

As you’d expect, the SAQ liquor store was our first stop, where this little darling was retailing for $2.85 a bottle. (In a Nova Scotian store, $2.85 barely gets you a look at a good craft beer, let alone a bottle.) This is no low-quality, high-volume discount beer, though. It’s unusually interesting for the style: light and grainy, with faint minerality to finish. Refreshing after a long day of travel.

And now, the made-in-the-Magdalens portion of our list…

Hydromel des Montants by Miel En Mer in Havre-aux-Maisons, Que.

There’s some debate over just what to call this tasty beverage. The honey-maker who produces it calls it a “honey wine,” Untappd calls it a “honey beer,” and the local tourism website calls it “mead.” Pedantry aside, it’s surprisingly sweet without being cloying. Local chokeberries give it a nice complexity, adding just enough tartness to offset the honey richness.

La Poméloi by Le Verger Poméloi in Bassin, Que.

This charming little cidery is tucked away on a winding dirt road in the hills, about as far from the ocean as you can get on this island. Its store/tasting room is just big enough for four adults. And it is absolutely worth visiting. The owner is friendly and knowledgeable, eager to share his passion. (He invited us to wander around the orchards and explore, which was a lovely way to spend a sunny summer morning). This eponymous oak-aged cider is his Cadillac, and it’s not hard to see why. At 17% ABV, it’s agreeably warm, with the oakiness making it feel like a smooth, faintly sweet whisky. Prickly/spicy notes give it an excellent finish. The best cider I’ve had in a long, long time.

Corps Mort by À l’abri de la Tempête in L’Etang du Nord, Que.

On my last Quebec trip I went to Gaspé and found a pilsner from these guys that I loved, so I was eager to visit the brewery on this trip. I took a trunkful of their beer home, and this English-style barleywine was my favourite. Sticky, rich, currant-sweet, and smooth. With 11% ABV, it’s another big boozer, but it’s so beautifully crafted you’d never know it. Aggressively flavourful yet quaffable. Often this style starts to feel like work after I’ve had a couple sips; this one went down easily, leaving me wondering why I hadn’t bought more. Best beer of the trip (and of the year, so far).

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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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IRISH EXPLORATIONS: 7 FAVOURITE BEERS FROM THE EMERALD ISLAND

Last month, I enjoyed a family vacation in Ireland. We spent two weeks roaming the island, giving me lots of time to explore friendly little pubs, tour breweries, and sample a lot of great beer. Here are my favourites from the trip. You’ll have to be pretty lucky to find most of them in Canada but if you ever visit Ireland, seek them out. Irish craft beers in general are fantastic and these are some of the best I’ve had.
Cousin Rosie’s Pale Ale by McGargles Irish Family Brewers in Celbridge, Ireland

About 90 minutes after my feet touched Irish soil, we discovered the Patriots Inn, which instantly became our Dublin base of operations. It required a little negotiation to make the bartender understand that Guinness isn’t mandatory for tourists. Once we got that sorted, she poured this textbook APA: hoppy, crisp, quaffable—just the beer to start our explorations. Older versions of this got brutal online reviews; either McGargles has improved its game, or those reviewers need to chill.

 

Bay Ale by Galway Bay Brewery in Galway, Ireland

I ordered this beer because it was the only thing in the restaurant that wasn’t a Heineken product, and I cringed when it turned out to be a copper ale—a style that I usually dislike. Imagine my delight when it turned out to be aggressively hopped, vigorously carbonated, and surprisingly tasty.

 

Yannaroddy by Kinnegar Brewing in Rathmullan, Ireland

At 4.8% ABV, this coconut porter is an easy sipper. Light but velvety, it’s faintly sweet but not cloying, with a nice dark-malt balance. Well rounded and smooth; beautifully crafted, in an unshowy way. Pairs nicely with a big ol’ pub steak.

 

Maggie’s Leap by Whitewater Brewery in Kilkeel, Northern Ireland

There are so many India Session Ales in the world, and so many of them are thin, fizzy, and tasteless. This one, on the other hand, was hugely hopped, offering a floral nose and big citrus-zest punch in the taste buds. Combines the drinkability of a session ale with the big flavours of a double IPA.

 

Tom Crean’s Irish Lager by Dingle Brewing Company in Dingle, Ireland

This is the only beer this little historic brewery makes, so I expected it to be pretty much perfect, and they didn’t let me down. Light, faintly sweet, and malt-forward. The German-style yeast gives it an unmistakably Bavarian quality. One of my favourite lagers ever.

 

The Sinner by O Brother Brewing in Kilcoole, Ireland

Even in this land of stouts and reds, one sometimes needs a classic American IPA. The Sinner satisfies the craving nicely. It’s carbonated with gusto which, combined with the predominant zesty citrus hops, made it a wonderful quencher after an afternoon of exploring Dublin.

 

Wrasslers XXXX by The Porterhouse Brewing Co. in Dublin, Ireland

Before the trip, I asked folks on Twitter to recommend a must-visit brewery, and the majority picked the Porterhouse brewpub. They didn’t steer me wrong; I tried two flights and every single beer could have made this list. Black as night, with a thick pearl head and lacing for days, this is a classic Irish stout; lip-smackingly dry with lingering black-coffee bitterness.

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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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Austrian Adventure

Last week, my day job as editor of Halifax Magazine took me to the state of Vorarlberg in western Austria. (Read this for background on why I went, and look for my reports from the trip in the magazine this fall.) As you might expect, I seized the opportunity to sample a lot of new beer. I tend to gravitate to IPAs and stouts, so this trip let me explore some styles that I don’t usually take very seriously. (You don’t see many pilsners on my best-beer lists). Read on for my four favourite Austrian brews from the journey, and one unforgettable Belgian bonus.


Mohren Pilsner by Mohrenbrauerei August Huber at the Mohren brewery tasting room in Dornbirn, Austria.
I had an ungodly number of pilsners and this one, sampled at the end of a marathon tasting session at the Mohren brewery, was the best by a wide margin. Light and surprisingly hoppy, clean and refreshing. “This is the beer for fathers to drink,” said our guide. High quality, tasty, and accessible—these sorts of beers are the future of Atlantic Canadian craft brewing.


Wälder Dunkl’s by Brauerei Egg at Gasthof Adler in Krumbach, Austria.
Another happy chance to rediscover a style that I’ve never given much consideration. A beautiful deep amber pour, lively carbonation, roasty notes. Sweet and light, with lingering caramel tones. Paired beautifully with a peppery beef goulash.


Frastanzer Kellerbier Bio by Brauerei Fratanz at Montforthaus in Feldkirch, Austria.
Billed as the state’s first 100% organic beer, this unfiltered little beaut is light and zesty, with just enough sweetness to balance. The quintessential Alpine beer—I could drink it all day. A couple of these are excellent hiking fuel.


Mohren Pale Ale by Mohrenbrauerei August Huber at the Mohren brewery tasting room in Dornbirn, Austria
. After several days of lagers, pilsners, and radlers, I almost swooned when the guide handed me a hoppy APA. Rich floral nose, with a big pop of citrus—smells like a hot day on a tropical island. Dry and bitter, with subtle but persistent piney notes, quaffable but memorable. An excellent take on a style that’s rarely brewed in the region. Fine craftsmanship.


Bloemenbier by De Proefbrouwerij at Schwanen Biohotel in Bizau, Austria.
The restaurant at the Schwanen specializes in organic locally-sourced dishes, and the highlight is the seven-course Wilde Weiber wine-pairing dinner. Host Emanuel Moosbrugger is a drink-pairing wizard; when he heard I was a beer guy, he added something special to the mix. He poured this light and floral Belgian herbed ale alongside the soup course. It perfectly complemented the bright and earthy flavours of the fresh tomato, radish, and daisy soups. I didn’t so much taste the beer as just feel it tingle and explode in my mouth: light, sweet, delicious, tart, salty—and all happened at once. If you’re ever nearby, visit the Schwanen—it’s the kind of culinary experience you’ll brag about for years.

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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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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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