Follow beer writer, Troy Burtch, as he explores the wonderful world of craft beer and the pubs that serve it. Great Canadian Beer is a place to come to catch up on beer news, read tasting notes, check out event listings, and for pub previews and reviews.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Beer as an Embodiment of Canada: Guest Writer, Rob Symes

So, in a previous post Troy mentioned that I had been granted Canadian citizenship. I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to now be a Canadian, and how I would define being Canadian. Citizenship documents talk about the responsibilities of citizenship – in essence the values and beliefs that we should all have as Canadians – and this provides some help, but it sure is hard thinking as a downtown Toronto dweller about what I have in common with my cattle rearing uncle in the Ottawa Valley. We’re a diverse people, and we can’t be placed into clean niches (other than that we’re nice… ‘nice’ is a word I hear a lot when people talk about Canadians). Naturally my mind wandered and I began thinking about what Canadian beer is, and how could I define the brewing industry of my new homeland. Just as I found it hard to generalise about what it meant to be Canadian, I also found it hard to generalise about Canadian beer; there are a lot of general common threads, but also striking differences. I then started thinking at a provincial and territorial level… what beer most represents the different parts of our glorious land? Here’s my best answer…

Ontario: My home province runs the gamut from heavy industry to pastoral farming, and is also home to some of the biggest (but no best) brewers in Canada. The common denominator is lager, but I’m not about to push Lakeport or Molson Ex anytime soon. Instead, Grand River’s Town Hall Lager should please everyone with its well-crafted clean profile of biscuit malt and citric bitterness. It’s a good honest working man’s beer.

Quebec: The beautiful province seems to be making a career out of Belgian-style ales, which reflect the cosmopolitan, patio culture of Montreal and the fortified grandeur of Quebec City. Unibroue’s Fin du Monde, with its corked and caged bottle and glorious label depicting Quebec would be equally at home in either situation.

British Columbia: BC produces some of the hoppiest beers in Canada, either because they neighbour hop-crazy Washington state, or because hop vines are cousins of the marijuana plant. Tree’s Hophead IPA seems perfect for both explanations.
Alberta: Oil, so it has to be a stout. Handily, Calgary’s Wild Rose produces the excellently named Alberta Crude, which by all accounts looks like the real deal, and is well worth fuelling up on.

Saskatchewan: I’m thinking grain… lots of grain, so perhaps a beer with a nice solid malt body. Paddock Wood produces an excellent pilsener by the name of Czech Mate which has just that, with an abundant prairie grassiness to boot.
Manitoba: Like Saskatchewan I think of Manitoba as a producer of grain, so a wheat beer would do the trick. How about Half Pint’s Holy Spirit, the last in a trinity of excellently adventurous prairie brews?

Nova Scotia: Garrison’s Tall Ship Amber reminds us of Nova Scotia’s proud seafaring history (if you need another reminder check out a dime). I also like how the brewery’s name conjures up images of Citadel Hill guarding over one of the world’s finest natural harbours.

New Brunswick: Its always stormy in the Maritimes. Whenever I turn the Weather Network on it seems that either a foot of snow is being deposited on the provinces or a hurricane is bearing down on them. A beer to warm the soul on a nasty winter’s night is Baltic Storm, a seasonal available at the Pump House Brewery.
Newfoundland and Labrador: In this province, The Rock is not a wrestler, and its certainly not a disappointing Michael Bay film. Eric’s Red from Quidi Vidi appeals to the Viking heritage evoked by L’Anse aux Meadows.

PEI: Tiny PEI will always be associated with Anne of Green Gables and Bud the Spud (I should get additional Canada points for that Stomping Tom reference). Gahan House is the only brewery on the island linked to the rest of us by a bloody big bridge, so in honour of the Confederation Bridge and the men who made Canada a country, I’ll select Sir John A’s Honey Wheat Ale.

Yukon: Without a doubt Yukon Brewing’s Lead Dog Ale, with its label of a husky and warming body not only embodies the rugged heart of the north, but also provides welcome warmth in cold climes.

*Neither the Northwest Territories nor Nunavut (with a combined population of 74,000) currently have any breweries. Its too bad because an eisbock would be a perfect representative. The beer is frozen and the ice layer skimmed off leaving a super-concentrated warming brew which would be ideal to take the edge off the chill.

Agree or disagree? Leave a comment with your thoughts.

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