Happy Friday! Now that everyone has cleared their driveways and warmed up, it’s time to sit back and relax with some local beer news…
• Charlottetown’s Upstreet brewery is releasing a new brew today. Black Tie Affair is a stout with a twist! To help combat the cool nights upon us, they have added a little extra to the traditional stout. Sixty litres of cranberry juice (from local producer PEI Juice Works) was added to the beer after primary fermentation had settled down; the beer was further dosed with some vanilla during the conditioning step. The inspiration for the brew came a few years ago, when Brewmaster (then-homebrewer) Mike Hogan brewed a beer for his brother’s wedding. When his sister-in-law-to-be, a culinary student at the time, was asked for a single ingredient to serve as the spark of a recipe, she chose cranberries. From that, Hogie built the Black Tie Affair. It was also one of the first beers that Joey shared with Mitch (the other two Upstreet owners), which planted the seeds of a future brewery. Black Tie Affair Vanilla Cranberry Stout comes in at 5% ABV and 25 IBUs, and will launch at the brewery this evening, after the Christmas Tree Lighting at 6pm. There will be free hot chocolate, music from Salt Licks, and a prize for the ugliest sweater.
• In other Upstreet news, their summer seasonal White Noize White IPA is returning to the lineup as one of their flagship beers. This 7% and 70 IBU beer shares the best characters of an American Wheat and IPA. On tap at Upstreet and around the island now, it will also be available in bottles very soon. Speaking of bottles, several of the PEILCC stores where Upstreet bottles were delivered last week had to be restocked several times over the weekend. Thankfully, the Upstreet Elves are hard at work keeping them stocked, so keep an eye on their Twitter page for details as deliveries are made.
• Also debuting today is Upstreet’s “alternative drinks menu” at the taproom. For those who want to visit Upstreet with their beer-loving friends and family, but aren’t beer drinkers (those people exist?), they now have local wine and cider on the menu. Beginning today, Matos Wine and Bulwark Cider will be available for on-site enjoyment. And beginning December 9th, they will be offering a full food menu in the taproom, four nights a week (4-10pm, Wed-Sat). Local chef John Pritchard will be preparing tapas and shareable plates. And drop by tomorrow afternoon for a Pinball Tournament, hosted by the Charlottetown Pinball League.
• Big Spruce will be releasing their Left Breton Organic Conspiracy, a 7.4% Double IPA, next week. It is brewed with loads of Big Spruce’s own home-grown Cascade, Galena, and Mt Hood hops; this makes the bitterness difficult to calculate accurately, but is estimated at 80 IBUs. This brew was originally inspired by a visit in 2013 from their good friends Brian and Rebecca from Crannóg Ales, who had brought some of their own farm-grown organic hops. While they weren’t able to join them for this brew day, they were there in spirit. A cask of Left Breton, double dry-hopped with Citra and Nelson Sauvin, was sent to Stillwell and tapped earlier this week. Look for the wider release to feature additional dry-hopping from more of their own farm-grown Cascade.
• Big Spruce held their Home Brew Challenge on the weekend. 25 homebrewers submitted 45 entries in three categories: Dark Czech Lager, Altbier, and Red IPA. The top beers in each category were selected by a panel of 12 BJCP judges:
|Czech Dark Lager||Altbier||Red IPA|
|GOLD: Eric Gautier (co brewer Justin Clarke)||GOLD: Eric Gautier (co brewer Justin Clarke)||GOLD: Shawn Meek|
|SILVER: Derek Stapleton||SILVER: Keith Forbes (co brewer Mike Orr)||SILVER: Scott MacLean & Randy Rowe|
|BRONZE: Justin Clarke (co brewer Eric Gautier)||BRONZE: Andrew Martin||BRONZE: Josh Armstrong|
The Best of Show beer is Czech Yo Self Czech Dark Lager by Eric Gautier and Justin Clarke, and the Brathair Brothers will be visiting Big Spruce to brew up that beer very soon. In fact, owner Jeremy White was so impressed with the quality of the three gold medal beers, that they all may be brewed in Nyanza. Look for at least one of them to make their debut at the Local Connections Craft Beer & Local Food Celebration on January 14th. Big thanks to the judges, stewards, and the Wooden Monkey Dartmouth for hosting the judging and after party.
• Speaking of homebrewing, it was a great year for local homebrewers on the national level. The Brewnosers took home third place in the Homebrew Club standings (behind the CowTown Yeast Wranglers and River City of Manitoba Brewers), as tracked by Brewer of the Year site. This is thanks in large part to the outstanding performance by Annapolis Valley brewer Mark Pennell, who ended up taking home 75 medals at more than fifteen homebrew competitions during the year, and was the second-most decorated homebrewer in Canada. A special shoutout to Mark McGraw, who finished 11th in the 2015 standings with 19 medals, and the dozen-plus other members who entered and placed in the local and national competitions. All of this year’s results are collated here. Look for Pennell’s award-winning Working Man Mild to be brewed at Beau’s in Vankleek Hill in 2016, earned by winning the Best of Show at the Members of Barleyment and Beau’s Oktoberfest Competition.
• TrailWay has just released a brand new beer, and it couldn’t have come at a better time! Rascal is their take on a “big American Stout”; think dark, strong, and roasty… perfect for sipping on in the colder, snowy weather that has moved into our region. Named after co-owner/co-brewer Jake Saunder’s Black Labrador, it was brewed with plenty of specialty malts, including oats, flaked wheat, flaked barley, Crystal malt, Munich, and Black malt. Bittered to 40-50 IBUs to balance all that sweetness, it weighs in at ~7% ABV. Look for it over the weekend at King Street Ale House and 540 Kitchen & Bar, as well as Bourbon Quarter in Saint John.
• We also have a sneak preview on a new beer from TrailWay, due to hit taps next week. Currently unnamed, this one has a grist of Crystal, Munich and Rye malts, to go along with the base malt, giving it a reddish hue. Hopped into IPA territory with Warrior, Mosaic, and Summit, think of it as a hoppy Amber Ale, or Red IPA. More on this beer next week!
• It’s December, which means that it’s almost time for the annual Picaroons 12 Beers of Christmas! Starting Saturday, December 12th, a different festive beer will be released daily, until December 23rd, for growler fills at the Brewtique. As usual, each day’s beer will be announced at noon via Picaroons’ Twitter and Facebook accounts, and will officially go on sale at 4 pm (except for Sundays, when it will be launched at noon). Unlike last year, there will be no two growler per person limit; however, they are asking customers not to overdo it, as each batch is extremely limited (~360 L per batch, or approximately 180 standard-size growlers). We can probably expect a mixture of new beers and returning favourites, so keep your eyes peeled! These beers always sell out extremely quickly, so if you’re interested in certain releases, be sure to get to the Brewtique as close to 4 pm as you can.
• Hammond River has rebrewed their Two Rivers India Black Ale, a Black IPA that was originally brewed as a collaboration beer with Big Axe. This dark ale shows some roast aromas and flavours from the addition of dark malts, with plenty of hop presence as well, thanks to a bittering addition of Columbus to 77 IBUs, and late additions of Galaxy and a heavy dry-hop of Amarillo; the first batch featured all-Citra after the initial bittering addition with Columbus. It still weighs in at 7% ABV, and is currently on tap at the Saint John Ale House and the Barrel’s Head; look for it to possibly follow at other HR accounts, soon.
• YellowBelly brewpub in St. John’s has released a special brew this week. Top Shed Cream Ale is a collaboration between the crew at YellowBelly and Top Shed, a craft brewery in Bew South Wales, Australia. Eastern Australia meets Eastern Canada! This Cream Ale was brewed in the traditional fashion, using barley malt, malted wheat, and corn; the hops used were Mosaic and Pacific Gem. At 4.8% and 22 IBUs, this beer is the lightest ever brewed at YB, and is immensely quaffable. A little more on the story of East meeting East can be read at Top Shed’s blog.
• Unfiltered has brought back the immensely popular Double Orange Ale. The DOA Double IPA features huge citrus aroma and flavour from loads of Citra hops used throughout the process, with a light malt sweetness and orange colour thanks to the special technique Brewmaster Greg Nash uses on the brew. The final specs on this beer are 7.5% ABV and over 100 calculated IBUs. It will be back on tap at the brewery today at noon, and at better bars very soon. Rumours are that Unfiltered’s taproom, Charm School, will be open in the next few days, so be sure to follow their feed for more details. *Update: Charm School opened Saturday, and will be open daily (except Monday), at 4pm.
• Speaking of openings, after a brief hiatus, Tom’s Little Havana and sister restaurant The Fireside have opened in their new location on Birmingham Street. The number of taps has expanded, and now feature at least five local craft brews on the go, including Bad Apple, Boxing Rock, Tatamagouche, and Unfiltered. With many of the wall murals and furnishings transported from their old location, the spirit of Tom’s is alive and well in the new location.
• The Auction House on Argyle Street in Halifax has recently expanded their craft beer offerings, in a big way! Already boasting more than twenty local beer options, they recently installed a SmartBrew system in the restaurant, allowing them to produce beer onsite. They are releasing an American Amber (Her Name Was Amber) and Dunkelweizen (Bob’s Your Dunkel) under the George’s Island moniker, with more varieties to follow shortly.
• Fredericton’s James Joyce Irish Pub is opening membership into their Mug Club again, with mugs #31-48 becoming available on January 1st. The yearly membership costs $59.95 + tax, and entitles members to their own mug, 24 oz pours for the price of 20 oz, food discounts, email updates on special beers being tapped, and more. Pre-sales start on Monday, December 7th at 6 pm. And get ready for their Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest later in the month – show up at the pub with your lamest, ugliest Christmas garb between December 20th-24th, snap a photo of yourself and upload it to the Joyce’s Twitter or Facebook page to enter. The selected winner will receive dinner for two at the Terrace.
• A new documentary featuring the Nova Scotia independent beer scene will make its debut this weekend. “Craft Beer” will be airing on CBC’s Land and Sea this Sunday, December 6 at 12 noon. The producers visited several breweries and locations across the province to learn about the craft beer movement, and the people behind it. Good news for those without TVs – it is available now to watch online.
• The latest One-Hit Wonder release from Propeller will be hitting the taps later today. Jaromir Lagr is a 6.8% Imperial Czech Pilsener. Details are a bit thin beyond that, but we can tell you that like all previous OHW brews, it will only be available for growler fills at the brewery and on tap at a few spots in the HRM.
• BarNone owner/brewer Don Campbell will be hosting a beer dinner at Baba’s Lounge in Charlottetown on Sunday, January 24th at 6 pm. Baba’s has long been a huge supporter of local craft beer on the Island, and this is a perfect way to get your hands on lots of BarNone beer and some authentic Lebanese food! There will be five different BarNone beers sampled, paired with four courses. Campbell will be present as beer host, along with Ryan Abdallah as food host. You can call now (902-892-7377) to reserve your tickets, which are $49 each (price includes tax and tip) and include a sampler glass for you to keep.
That’s about it for this busy week! Good news for fans of Garrison‘s Spruce Beer that live outside of the HRM: it has hit the shelves in several NSLC stores around the province, and will be on shelves in PEI next week, and in Newfoundland and Labrador the following week. And for those in NB, fear not, it will be available on your shelves in the New Year. FirkinStein Brewing will be at the Lunenburg Farmers’ Market on Thursday December 10th and 24th, in addition to their regular delivery days. While the Triskaidekaphobia Imperial Brown Ale is not quite ready to pour, there will still be some lovely beery treats at Sunday during the Ladies Beer League‘s Holiday Brunch, including Boxing Rock’s U-889 Imperial Stout. Tickets for the party starting at noon at Stillwell are sold out, but we suspect the beers will still be available when the doors open to the public at 4pm. A reminder that Battery Park Beer Bar in Dartmouth is opening next Thursday, December 10th. The lineup will feature twelve taps, brewed both by partner North, as well as other local breweries, it will increase the local beer availability in downtown Dartmouth. Finally, be sure to drop by to visit the great folks at Good Robot; their new-and-improved Burban Legend Citrus APA, now dry-hopped for more juicy hop aroma, is currently on tap.