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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26
HOME / STORY

Bring ‘Em On!

Jason Foster
Published Monday December 22, 04:50 pm
More import craft beer choices at the SLGA equals more happiness

Year in Review pieces are almost always about lists: top news stories, the best music, weirdest world happenings, and so on. They’re fun!

 

But I didn’t do one this year. Sue me — I like to be offbeat.

 

Instead, I decided to pick one major story in Saskatchewan’s beer scene, and focus on that: the unusually high number of new beers the SLGA has been approving for import into the province.

 

The inventory list of beers available (at least theoretically) at SLGA stores has spiked recently, and some of the new additions are definitely noteworthy. So as the calendar flips over, I thought it’d be a good time to do a bit of a preview of some of the new beers you might be able to find on SLGA shelves.

 

Before I start, note the “might” in the previous line. Yup, I’m hedging on availability, because each store makes its own decisions on what to bring in. So the beers I’m looking at are officially in the system, but I have no idea whether or not your local store will actually order them in (and I ain’t driving all over town to figure out who has what!). But even if your local outlet doesn’t have one of the beers on this list, you can have them order it in.

 

Let’s start with one of the founders of the North American craft beer movement. Back in the 1960s, Anchor Brewing was a struggling San Francisco brewery from another age. Dating back to the 1890s, it had long passed its best-before date. Then Fritz Maytag (yes, from those Maytags) bought it and tried to turn it around. It took a while to take hold, but by the early 1980s they were a linchpin in the growing craft beer movement. Thirty years later, they haven’t missed a step and continue to be one of the most respected craft breweries in the U.S.

 

Now, you can find six-packs of their Brekle’s Brown and their IPA, both hoppy and well-crafted, in Saskatchewan. Their signature beer, Anchor Steam, doesn’t seem to have made the trek yet — but hopefully it will soon.

 

In contrast, you could try one of America’s youngest craft brewing upstarts. San Diego’s Rough Draft only opened in 2012, but it’s already building a nice reputation. Their Weekday IPA recently entered the Saskie market: it’s what some people call an “India session ale,” which means it’s a lower-alcohol version of an India pale ale — all the hop flavour and bitterness, but with a lighter body and less buzz.

 

Lots of Canadian breweries are beating a path to Saskatchewan as well. Pick a province and there are new beers coming here from there. How about Picaroons from New Brunswick? I bet you’ve never tried them, but this Fredericton brewery won Brewery of the Year at the Canadian Brewing Awards in 2011. Their Irish Red Ale is loyal to the traditions of Irish red ale, with a delicate caramel sweetness and a dry finish.

 

Or if Québec catches your fancy, how about a Shawinigan Handshake, from Le Trou du Diable? This German-style weizenbock has a full-bodied, fruity character with a light spiciness to balance. But what really makes this beer interesting is its label and story. Those of you of a certain age will remember the 1997 APEC Summit in Vancouver, and the incident where then-Prime Minister Jean Chrétien choked a toque-wearing protester. Back home in Shawinigan — Chrétien’s hometown and the location of Le Trou du Diable’s brewery — the joke became he was just engaging in a “Shawinigan handshake.” The brewery thought it would be fun to immortalize that embarrassing moment with a beer.

 

Closer to home is Alberta’s Hog’s Head Brewing, located in the capital region suburb of St. Albert. They’ve breached the border with their flagship Hop Slayer IPA, and what’s intriguing about this beer is that it’s a bit darker and maltier than many IPAs, almost moving into the range of what some call “red IPA” (although that’s a term that bugs me). But it still has all the hoppy bite IPA fans are looking for, clocking in at an impressive 100 IBUs. This is a beer for hopheads, for sure.

 

The most interesting new arrival might be Burlington Ontario’s Collective Arts. In what may be the most creative beer concept in years, Collective Arts combines beer, music and visual arts to add multiple dimensions to drinking a beer. Unlike most breweries that pick a label design and stick with it, every few months Collective Arts launches a new numbered series of limited-edition artwork for its labels, each one with its own distinct tone and style. And using some new-fangled app, you can scan the label to launch music, videos and bios of the artists involved. Clearly this is Canada’s first post-modern brewery.

 

They’ve shipped Rhyme and Reason — what they call an “extra pale ale” — to Saskatchewan. It is a lovely rendition of an American pale ale, offering a grassy malt base with honey and meadow flowers as an accent. The hops are fruity, citrusy and resiny. Not overly bitter, it’s light and sharp, creating a very drinkable beer.

 

These are only some highlights of what’s available in Saskatchewan these days. Combine that with all the new breweries opening up in our province, and 2015 promises to be a very beer-y year. 

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