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It’s not ‘Miller time’ anymore; exploring the world of craft beers

Friday, 10 June 2016

It's a great time to be a beer drinker in this country of beer drinkers. A craft beer revolution has been going on in Canada for the past few years and it shows no sign of letting up.

Especially here in B.C. where liquor laws changed in 2013 to allow breweries to have on-site tasting lounges, making this province the epicentre of the craft brew movement. And nationwide there has been a 70% increase in the number licensed breweries. It seems our thirst for high quality beer is unquenchable.

Having licensed breweries means it’s not just the beer itself that has the foodies, beer enthusiasts, tourists and cool kids in a tizzy about the latest neighbourhood micro-brew.  It’s all about the experience. In fact I would argue that’s the main driver behind the trend. Just like touring wineries when you visit the B.C. Okanagan or Ontario’s Niagara region, doing the same with local breweries is an entertaining way to spend an afternoon.

On a recent Friday night I did a brewery crawl along beer makers’ row in beautiful Port Moody B.C., hitting Yellow Dog, Twin Sails and Moody Ales Brewing. Each was a great experience complete with knowledgeable staff, hip industrial environments and enthusiastic crowds. My top choice goes to Yellow Dog’s Play Dead IPA, but then again it was first on my tour. Things were getting a bit fuzzy by the end so I might need to do the whole thing again in reverse just to be thorough and fair.

The term ‘craft beer’ seems like a bit of a marketing schtick, since micro and macro breweries can use the term to describe their products as they see fit. The implication is that craft beer is made with high quality grains and malted hops, along with other ingredients like wheat and fruit that may have been locally grown, lovingly tended to, ethically harvested, etcetera etcetera. The guidelines say that craft beer should be made in smaller batches of less than 75 hectolitres, but there are no hard and fast rules.

So when you’re on your own brewery tour, ask questions about batch size, ingredients and brew methods. (Just like at a winery, the staff will encourage beer dialogue.) And if supporting the little guy is important to you, do your research in advance of any shopping since the big macro breweries will likely be scooping up the little guys. It’s just business.

All I know is, beer never tasted so good. I’m loving the IPAs and the brown ales in particular, which are unbelievably flavourful and thirst quenching. If you are languishing in the lager lane – not that there’s anything wrong with that – I urge you to expand your horizons. There are so many options.

The first question you’ll be asked when you cozy up to order a tasting will likely be, what do you like? If you’re a newbie or not sure what’s what, here are a few basic descriptors to keep in mind:

Types of beer:

  • IPA – Higher in hops, which create a slightly bitter taste (some more than others)
  • Lager – the world’s most popular type of beer. Aged longer so they have a smooth finish
  • Blonde lager – thirst quenching and light
  • Pilsner – light, but with a bit more hoppiness then a lager
  • Brown Ale – notes of caramel, chocolate and citrus
  • Wheat/Weissbier – due to the use of wheat, they have a very subtle aftertaste
  • Porter – dark in colour, but sweeter and less hoppy then a stout.
  • Stout – rich and dark, many are made with unmalted roasted barley which creates an almost coffee like flavour
  • Belgian style – primarily ales, with a heavy emphasis on malt and fruity yeast flavours
  • Fruit – these are generally ales, but have less bitterness so the fruit flavour can come through.

Happy Friday everyone. It’s 5 o’clock somewhere!

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  • BrainofMorbius

    There are a lot of microbreweries out my way…but I never really knew what all the different beer categories stood for Thanks! ☺