The first major beer expo of the summer season, Mondial de la Bière, has wound down in Montreal and been rolled away for another year. The twentieth anniversary of what is arguably Canada’s premier craft beer celebration did not disappoint. One hundred and twenty exhibitors presented over four hundred crafted beers from around the world, including the big gun micros from the U.S. and Canada. It was great sampling fine artisanal ales in the boisterous camaraderie of beer loving brethren – and some of the best samples came from Canada. Also very impressive were the artisanal beers from Italy and Brazil, where craft brewing has taken off in a big way. Having a VIP pass helps in beating the line ups in the crowded main areas of the Palais des congrès, so you can sample all the gold medal brews and local terroir. The artisan brewing exhibitors are in competition at this exposition and the voting results came out this way:
• Gigantic Brewing Co. – End of Reason Belgian – strong ale, U.S.A.
• Cervejaria Bodebrown – Bodebrown Wee Heavy – scotch ale, Brazil
• Le Saint-Bock – Malédiction – sweet stout, Quebec, Canada
• Schneider Weisse – Aventinus – Dunkel Weizenbock, Germany
• Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co. – Burnt Rock Vanilla Porter, Canada
• Cervejaria Colorado – Colorado Guanabara – Imperial stout, Brazil
• Dieu du Ciel! – Solstice d’Été – fruit infused Berliner Weisse, Canada
• Brasserie de l’Abbaye de Brogne – Brogne 6.5 – Abby Blonde Ale, Belgium
• Muskoka Brewery – Twice as Mad Tom – Double IPA, Canada
• Le Cheval Blanc – Red Ale américaine – American Red Ale, Canada
• Hopfenstark – Berliner Alexander Platz – Berliner Weisse, Canada
• Boquébière – Hopkins Porter Fumé – Smoked Porter, Canada
World-class artisanal beer and local Quebecois cuisine is well worth the jaunt to Montreal. I’d recommend a trip to the 2014 Mondial to any dedicated craft beer enthusiast. We can hope that some of these great medal-winning beers will make appearances in local craft beer establishments this year.
Niagara Craft Brewing
Another early summer junket took me to see the two newest craft breweries in the heart of Niagara wine country – Niagara Oast House Brewers and Silversmith Brewing Company – both conveniently located on the old Niagara Stone Road that runs through Virgil and Niagara-on-the Lake. Both had impressive small batch brewing set ups, which augurs well for the production of cask-conditioned ales. Oast House had a new release of Bière de Garde (strong Belgian farm house ale) as well as a new Smoked Irish Stout and a delicious Summer IPA – all unfiltered, all natural, flavourful and unique. Nothing beats sampling well-crafted beers fresh from the brewery.
Silversmith had a new pale ale which really got my attention – massive apricot and pear tones with earthy hopping, very cidery. Schwarzbier was fresh and roasty but unfortunately the new Oyster Stout was still in the conditioners. I will return to sample this one. After tasting some of these two talented brewers’ new releases I believe they have great potential. Both have sampling rooms and retail stores at the brewery, but you can keep an eye out for their products at craft beer pubs and the summer beer fests in our area.
Summer seasonal releases are arriving at the LCBO and they show great promise with a fine line up of international crafted brews hitting the shelves in June. Most of these beers have scored 80 or better on the beer rating sites. Some notable must-tastes include:
(320697) Mikkeller Canadian Dream
(318907) Abbaye des Rocs Blanche Des Honnelles Strong Belgian Wheat Ale
(333138) Howe Sound King Heffy Imperial Hefeweizen
(320028) Ommegang Hennepin
(333146) Charlevoix Dominus Vobiscum Saison
(322578) Nøgne Ø Saison
(322552) Le Trou du Diable Shawinigan Handshake
(322537) Brooklyn Brewery Sorachi Ace
(325738) Chouffe Houblon Dobbelen IPA Tripel
(327601) Scaldis Blonde Triple
(333468) Les Trois Mousquetaires Hopfenweisse
(318758) Cuvée des Jacobins Belgian Lambic Ale
Barrel Aged Beers
Barrel aged beers seem to be in vogue with local craft brewers. Wooden wine and liquor barrels are full of many flavourful and aromatic compounds and tastes that, when added to beer, create another level of depth and complexity, and round out or mellow the beer’s character. Some recent notable examples: Flying Monkeys Matador Cedar Aged Double IPA; Cameron’s Obsidian, a rum barrel aged Imperial Porter; Nickel Brook’s Old Kentucky Bastard, a Bourbon Barrel aged Imperial stout; Radical Road’s Canny Man, a barrel aged Scotch “wee heavy”; and most recently, Bush Pilot Brewing Company’s Barrel aged Stormy Monday Barley Wine.
Taste of the Month & Brewer Profile – Bush Pilot Brewing Company’s Stormy Monday
Previously I mentioned that the Niagara region is a new hot bed of artisanal brewing. I have long maintained that the craft brewing studies and pilot brewery at Niagara College were responsible for most of the good changes in the regional craft beer industry. Niagara College craft brewing grads and instructors have had a major (positive) impact on the Ontario craft brewing culture – expanding the industry with style diversity, innovation, repeatable quality and new craft brewing operations. In keeping with this trend, a new leading edge brewing consortium involving Niagara college brewing personnel recently collaborated with newly formed Bush Pilot Brewing Company.
Bush Pilot Brewing Company is the brainchild of Roland and Russell artisanal beer aficionado Vlado Pavicic in collaboration with Niagara College brewing, local crafters and famous brewing artisans from around the globe. The concept is to have a celebrated brew master design a special brew and oversee its production at local craft breweries in collaboration with local brewing artisans, creating a series of exceptional one-off brews. (A permanent brewery is in the plans). The focus will be on big, unique, barrel-aged craft brews.
Bush Pilot’s first offering was designed by the legendary Danish craft brewer Anders Kissmeyer, of Nørrebro fame. Stormy Monday is a fruited-spiced barley wine aged in Calvados barrels. A profusion of natural adjuncts are used in this brew – star anise, bitter orange peel, cocoa, cinnamon, dried fruit (quince, apple, dates, raisins, figs), real vanilla beans, cardamom, juniper berries and local maple syrup are combined with several select malts and hop varieties. At first blush this sounds like flavor bomb overkill but consider that it was aged for over seven months in barrels sourced from Domaine Dupont in France. The barreled batch was brewed at Niagara college and a non barrel-aged batch was brewed at the Nickel Brook brewery in Burlington. Then they did a 60/40 blend and bottled it. The results I sampled were phenomonal, and gave me this impression:
My sample decanted dark opaque brown ale into the snifter; when held to light this is a beautiful hazed ruby color. Two-finger tight-pored tan cap lasts and laces (a rarity in barley wines). The operative word for delineating this beer’s character is complex and layered. The aroma is rich – spice, dark fruit, succulent fruit, herbaceous tones, cocoa, layered malt aromas – amazing. Overkill? The flavour tells the tale – from the front side to the middle to the finish this ale is complex. The palate is assaulted with a host of flavours from piquant to subtle – spices, fruits, malts, herbs, wood, vanilla, cocoa, hops, sweet, bitter and various impressions caused by these flavour amalgams – some new aroma or taste keeps emerging as the brew warms – this holds great promise for what cellaring will do for this big ale. This is big brash barley wine meets spiced ale meets barrel aging – complex verging on chaos. An ambitious first offering for this brewing company. I’m told they have a second offering in the works – a barrel-aged Doppelbock called “Norseman”. Bush Pilot will be the one to watch for truly unique barrel-aged brews.
THE MALT MONK is the alter ego of D.R. Hammond, a passionate supporter of craft beer culture. He invites readers to join in the dialogue at http://maltmonksbeerblog.wordpress.com/