Category Archives: craft beer

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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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.

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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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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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Les Trois Mousquetaires – Hopfenweisse

Les Trois Mousquetaires Microbrewery is one of those breweries that seem to just real release one great beer after another. Brewing award winning beers in Brossard, Quebec since 2004, they continue produce beers that are prized not only in Canada, but the US, Europe, and Brazil.

From the Brewery: Wheat ale mixing the flavors of Germany’s hefeweizens and America’s typical hops.

Appearance: Golden yellow, straw, and slightly cloudy. There’s great carbonation cascading up the glass. Big fluffy white head that stands tall, even above the glass.

Aroma: Aroma of fresh oranges with some herbal notes.

Taste: The orange from the aroma persists into the flavour but more orange peal. There’s a firm bitterness which isn’t normally in a traditional weissebier, but it’s a refreshing change. There’s some floral notes coming through from the hops.

Mouthfeel: The light body is showcased by the high carbonation. Also a bit of slickness from the hops used.

Overall: I like this. It’s different then any hefeweizen I’ve ever had, but it’s well crafted. It’s like a Hefeweizen and an IPA had a love child. I can see enjoying this on a hot day.

84/100

Les Trois Mousquetaires Microbrewery can be found on the web, Facebook, and Twitter.

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~Cheers

North Brewing Co. – Farmhouse Ale

IMG_0281With the goal of being a zero emissions brewery, North Brewing Company has been brewing Belgian inspired beers for the past couple of years. Located in the North End of Halifax, NS they have become a local favourite.  I first visited them when they had only just opened and where know at the time as Bridge Brewing, they have continued to mature and expand their offering since.

From the brewery: Our French Farmhouse-inspired ale. Candied fruit aroma. A solid malt character balanced out with a refreshing tartness from the yeast. Big and complex.

Appearance: Deep ruby red with amber highlights. Beautiful carbonation with a slight head.

Aroma: Malt with plums and a dark cherry note. A bit of barnyard, earthy funk. My mouth is watering already.

Taste: Lots of fruit – cherries and raspberries. Some of the funk comes through giving a full flavour and balancing the beer. Nice malt presence. There’s a slight tartness that really fills things out. With a lot going on, nothing is overwhelming.

Mouthfeel: Though this is a dry beer and the body is thin as expected, there’s the illusion that it’s fuller then it is. Perfect carbonation.

Overall: Very well done. Nothing seems out of place and all the elements are working in perfect harmony. As it opens up in the glass it melds together making a wonderfully tasty experience that dances across the palate.

90/100

You can find North Brewing Co. on the webFacebook, and Twitter.

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~Cheers!

Picaroons Traditional Ales – Plaid to the Bone

I picked up this offering from Picaroons (Fredericton, New Brunswick) at RockHead Wine & Beer Market in Halifax and it was a surprise in every way. Based on the name, I assumed it was a wee heavy, so the first surprise came when I realized it was a gruit. I’d never had the style before, and after Googling it, I was skeptical: it’s an ancient style of unhopped ale, using heather tips and flowers. With that in mind, I cracked open the bottle fully prepared to hate it.

From the brewery: Plaid to the Bone Heather Ale is a 4.5% abv ale made with heather tips and flowers created especially for the upcoming New Brunswick Highland Games Festival.

Appearance: Hazy and golden, with a thin pearly head. Minimal lacing.

Aroma: A big nose of wild flower and…sweaty feet. Seriously: there’s a dank, mushroomy, sweaty funk there—like damp tennis shoes on a hot summer day.

Taste: To my manifest relief, the funky qualities don’t continue into the taste. There’s a little bit of mushroominess, but it’s mostly clean and faintly sweet, with a slightly floral finish.

Mouthfeel: Light and easy drinking, ideal for a hot summer day.

Overall: As this is the first and only gruit I’ve ever tasted, I can’t really say how it represents its style, but it stands on its own as a unique and pleasantly surprising beer.

85/100

You can find Picaroons on Facebook, and Twitter.

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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Rogue Ales – Rogue Nation Brutal India Pale Ale

I’ve been hearing American friends talk about Rogue’s (Newport, Oregon) signature IPA for ages, so I was pretty excited when I recently found it at RockHead Wine & Beer Market in Halifax. My favourite beer style is a big ballsy IPA, and I was curious to see if this one measured up to its hype.

From the brewery: Brutal combines Oregon hops with English Malts. The Oregon grown Crystal hop is a triploid variety developed from the German Hallertau aroma hop variety with contributions from Cascade, Brewers Gold, and Early Green. Crystal is the only hop used in brewing Brutal and it provides a massive amount of aroma without dry-hopping. The English malts used are floor malted Pipkin (a mellow cross of Maris Otter and Warboys, from an English company called Beeston), Cara Vienna and Cara Wheat.

Appearance: Cloudy orange pour with a rich and persistent white head. Strong and lingering lacing.

Aroma: Huge nose of lemon zest and fresh-cut pine. 

Taste: Cream-of-wheat sweetness up front, with a sharp lemon-zest finish. Long-lingering bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Big carbonation means a tingly, lively mouthfeel, with a bit of tongue-curling from the aftertaste.

Overall: This IPA’s reputation is well earned. It’s nicely crafted, aggressively hoppy but not overwhelming, and expertly balanced. Add this one to your Essential American Craft Beers list.

86/100

You can find Rogue Ales on the web, and Twitter.

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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Boxing Rock – The Next Chapter

IMG_0016Located on Nova Scotia’s South Shore in the town of Shelburne, Boxing Rock Brewing Co. has made quite a name for itself. The Next Chapter was brewed using New Brunswick grown malt and in collaborate with Andrew “Esty” Estabrooks (former head brewer with Picaroons Traditional Ales of Fredericton, NB) as their first release for the New Brunswick market. This India Pale Ale is made with a healthy dose of rye added to the malt bill.

Appearance: Dark red-orange with ruby hues. Moderate amount of off-white head.

Aroma: Bright hop aroma with lots of citrus and hints of pine and early spring grass. Some malt coming through with a nice bready note. Sight spicy aroma.

Taste: Wonderful hit of hops right up front followed by a firm, but not overwhelming, bitterness. The first taste of the hops is of citrus, but quickly becomes resin and dank, with it fading back to citrus peel (grapefruit and lime). The bitterness lingers on the palate begging for another drink. There is a bit of malt, enough to hold up the bitterness, with a subtle spicy flavour from the rye.

Mouthfeel: The carbonation is moderate as expected and it has a medium body. There is a very slight oiliness, probably from the hop load or maybe the rye.

Overall: Very drinkable. Perfectly put together with a great use of hops and malt. All the flavours work together to make a great drinking experience. This is one beer (like all the others I had from this brewery) I hope to enjoy more of.

88/90

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