While my craft beer knowledge may pale in comparison to a Prud’homme certified drinker or a brewery sales rep, my motto is to talk about beer when the opportunity arises and if I see something I’ve never had before, I try it. Tasting whatever I can has helped to develop my palate and I’ve meet so many new and awesome people by chatting about craft beer.
One of the best lessons I think I ever learned actually came from my work in the music industry: there is no right or wrong when it comes to taste. Someone turning their nose up at you because you prefer a traditional lager to a limited edition sour? Whatever. Luckily, I’ve rarely found this kind of behavior among the Toronto beer nerds I hang out with (mainly laid back runners!) but it’s a good reminder to own what you like, and respect other people’s tastes.
I love learning about Canadian history, running in the mountains of Alberta or along the ocean in PEI, and, of course, supporting the Canadian craft beer industry. Canada Day is my jam; last year my friend and I dressed up as the basketball Heritage Minute and won $1,000 for best costume on the Indie88 Canada Day cruise! But that’s a different story.
Every year I go to a cottage in Haliburton where my dad is the Artistic Producer of a theatre festival. One of my best friends has a cottage there and it’s one of my favourite places to be. We go canoeing, read, eat fabulous food, drink excellent beer and wine, play games and, occasionally, I manage to fit in a run.
I’m no expert, but here’s what I plan on drinking this weekend to celebrate Canada Day. 10 beers to take you through 10 different Canada Day situations. Due to availability and my current cellar, I’ve got a heavy Ontario presence below. If it were possible to bring a growler from Dieu du Ciel, Last Best, or PEI Brewing Company, I certainly would!
1. When you get in at 11pm after battling the highway traffic: Diving Horse Pale Ale from Muddy York Brewing
This is a really well balanced pale ale that’s refreshing and really flavourful thanks to a blend of four different hops (Nelson Sauvin, Simcoe, Cascade and Chinook). The notes of pine are a perfect way to welcome you to cottage country, or wherever in Canada you may be. (For the fascinating story behind the name of this beer, click here.)
2. When you’re waiting for your eggs and bacon to cook: Breakfast Porter from Indie Ale House
Grab a growler of this light bodied, rich flavoured breakfast beer on your way home from work before hitting the 401. I adore porters and the coffee and chocolate notes in this one will pair beautifully with your bacon and eggs.
3. When you’ve had your afternoon swim at the 3pm sun hits: Raspberry Über Berliner Weisse from Nickel Brook Brewery
My good friend Matt Gibson started working for Nickel Brook Brewing earlier this year and it’s been fabulous getting to explore these brews in depth with him. A recent favourite was the Raspberry Über Berliner Weisse. This sour beer has been aged on loads of Ontario raspberries. It’s a crisp, wildly refreshing beer. A perfect choice for those who aren’t interested in that artificial flavour and cloying sweetness commercial fruit beers can have.
4. When you’re munching on a sandwich (fresh bread, local tomatoes, etc.) with a side of plain Ruffles on the dock: 35 & 118 Cream Ale from Boshkung Brewing
A subdued bitterness and soft mouthfeel make this light bodied cream ale the perfect pair for a sandwich that’s just come from the build-your-own sandwich bar that usually shows up early afternoon at the cottage. This beer won the silver medal Canadian Brewing Awards for Cream Ale in 2015. Well-deserved!
5. When the fireworks are lighting up the lake: Canuck Pale Ale from Great Lakes Brewery
I’ll let this beer speak for itself: “The minute you crack your can, aroma of grapefruit, mango and pine hit you in the face; like a beaver slapping his tail on a pristine small body of water in Ontario.” When I tasted this once in a blind tasting I was convinced it was an IPA. The flavour is there, but with only 35 IBUs, this sessionable ale is a perfect beer to take you through the evening.
6. When you wake up a little later than expected and miss breakfast: Summerweiss from Muskoka Brewery
This summer wheat beer is floral, citrusy, and hits the spot when mixed with some grapefruit or orange juice. Mix yourself one of these “beermosas,” grab your towel, and plant yourself on the dock. (I also tried the new Kirby’s Kolsch from Muskoka the other day and loved it. While I’ve not yet tried it as a “beermosa,” the peach notes in it make it an ideal candidate and I plan to bring a can up to give it a try.)
7. When everyone else is having red wine with their burgers: Ransack the Universe Hemisphere IPA from Collective Arts Brewing
One of the many things I learned about beer and food pairings when I recorded a podcast with Doug Appledoorn for Sounds Like Beer is that people mistakenly think that cheese is best paired with wine. In reality, the fat in the cheese coats the taste buds on the tongue so beer is the perfect thing to cut through and complement. I love the bitterness of the hops and high carbonation in this beer that cut through the fat and cleanse the palette. Especially because I often top my burger with blue cheese, sauteed onions, bacon, etc. #noshame
BONUS: I run a contemporary classical recording label that features exclusive Canadian artists. Our recent JUNO Award-winning release Spin Cycle featuring Afiara Quartet and Skratch Bastid was chosen as one of the Series 6 labels! I’m on a mission to find one for this weekend.
8. When it’s 2am and you should probably be in bed: Midnight Mass from Brimstone Brewing Co.
The first time I had this chicory, oatmeal stout I was completely rocked. My friend Sara is the Toronto sales rep for this brewery and their beers certainly pack a punch. (Also delicious: Sinister Minister IPA). Midnight Mass is rich, full-bodied, and the notes of chocolate and coffee (from the chicory) are the perfect way to end your evening.
9. When you’re reading on a rock by the lake: Dark Lager from Side Launch Brewing
One of the reasons I love this dark lager is that I get the richness I love from a heavier beer without weighty body. While I love stouts, they’re not my favourite thing to drink mid-day. Side Launch’s Dark Lager has a smooth, medium bodied finish that will stand up to any summer day. (Of note: Currently reading Iain Reid’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things.)
10. When it’s time to head home and you just want one more before hitting the road: Red Racer ISA from Central City Brewing
While I’m over the scantily clad woman riding a bike, I like this beer. It’s low-ish in alcohol at 4% while still bringing lots of flavour from mosaic hops. Lightly fruity, this beer is the perfect farewell to the cottage life before hitting the road and heading home.
HAPPY CANADA DAY! Enjoy this gem of me from many years ago.