Category Archives: opinion

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.

~

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.

 ~

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.

~

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.

~
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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Cannery Brewing – Drupaceous Apricot Wheat Ale

Long-time West Coast favourite Cannery Brewing in finding its way east. The Penticton, B.C. brewery has been in the business since 2001, starting with draught sales of a few core beers, and growing to offer a variety of seasonal and flagship creations in cans and bottles. This one will be available this summer in bottles at ANBL.

The brewery describes Drupaceous Apricot Wheat Ale as “a refreshing seasonal Canadian Wheat Ale with notes of citrus and stone fruit. A large addition of Canadian wheat gives this beer a slight haze. We added apricots after fermentation to give this classic summer beer an Okanagan twist.”

Appearance: Strawberry-blonde pour with a medium pearl head and tenacious lacing.

Aroma: Smells like a summer day: floral and juicy sweet; you can smell the apricots a mile away.

Flavour: The aromas made me worry about a cloying juice bomb but the brewer got this one just right. Light with enough sweetness to make you remember the apricot, but good grainy balance. Crushable.

Mouthfeel: Vigorous carbonation makes for a prickly palate.

Overall: Refreshing as hell and just 5% ABV, this could be the official beer of summer yard work. If you think you hate fruit beers, this is a good one to make you reconsider. 

85/100

~Cheers!

Cannery Brewing can be found on the web, 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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Cannery Brewing – Muse & The Golden Promise

Long-time West Coast favourite Cannery Brewing is finding its way east. The Penticton, B.C. brewery has been in the business since 2001, starting with draught sales of a few core beers, and growing to offer a variety of seasonal and flagship creations in cans and bottles. This one will be available this summer in bottles at ANBL.

The brewery describes The Muse & The Golden Promise as starting out as a “Artisan Creation Limited Release Beer. It was so well loved that we rolled it into our regular, core beer line-up. This hop forward, well-balanced west coast extra pale ale blends Golden Promise malt with Simcoe Hops. It is dry-hopped.”

Appearance: Golden colour with a long-lasting fluffy, white head.

Aroma: Sweet-floral and citrus hop-nose. Clean and pleasant with light hints of malt.

Flavour: Upfront bitterness that fades to a malt-hop balanced. Orange peel with some earthy-floral hints and a light toasty malt backbone. Easy on the palette with no chance of fatigue. 

Mouthfeel: Light but creamy mouthfeel. Carbonation is just right for texture and drinkability. 

Overall: Nicely balanced, with citrus/floral flavours playing together in a great harmony along with the Golden Promise malt. This is an everyday sipper to be enjoy over and over.

84/100

~Cheers!

Cannery Brewing can be found on the web, Facebook, and Twitter.

~

Chief Drinker and Head Brewer with Drink N Brew, Matt’s love of beer runs to all styles and, as an avid home brewer, he has brewed many of them. 

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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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