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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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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?