Friday, June 06, 2008

Now invading Canada

The craft beer movement is extending manifest destiny northward.

Just as wines from Napa Valley, Sonoma County and Oregon are giving bordeaux, burgundy and barolo a run for their money, breweries from California to New York are proving they can make some of the best suds in the world. And they're not just copies of the old European originals. While American craft brewers have proven themselves no slouches at styles such as pilsners, pale ales and stouts, they've also created some of their own, often bold styles.

"U.S. craft beer is probably the most diverse and interesting brewing scene in the world," beer aficionado Cass Enright said at a recent dinner in Toronto at the Academy of Spherical Arts to celebrate the Ontario launch of Southern Tier Brewing's India Pale Ale.

But this is Canada, and they get cranky up there.

But the super-hoppy beer trend has its detractors, even among some American brewers. "Can you imagine a chef saying, `This is the saltiest stew you've ever tried, and you're not a real man if you don't like it?' That's what some of these breweries are doing," says Garrett Oliver, brewmaster of the Brooklyn Brewery in New York.

Oliver, whose flagship Brooklyn Lager has been available at the LCBO since last year, makes an IPA more in keeping with the original English style. He also brews a bottle-conditioned Belgian ale, which will be on sale at the LCBO some time in the next year. Brooklyn's Black Chocolate Stout, a rich, strong imperial stout, will be part of the LCBO's seasonal program this winter.

While the bolder beers are some of the more popular American brews on offer at Beerbistro, they're not the only ones people ask for.

"The Americans are hop-heads, but there's a lot more variety than just IPAs," says Morin, pointing to Dogfish Head's Chateau Jiahu, a delicate brew that includes rice, honey and hawthorn berries.

Unfortunately, Wisconsin could be doing better.

Still, craft beer fans shouldn't expect to see beer from smaller but highly touted U.S. brewers, such as Wisconsin's New Glarus, or Indiana brewery Three Floyds, renowned for its Dark Lord imperial stout. Many are still building a following in their home markets, says Rhee.

Another obstacle for some breweries is the LCBO's regulations, including specific requirements for labels, packaging and rigorous testing at the LCBO's lab.

Smaller breweries, such as Buffalo's Flying Bison, don't have the technical or financial ability to change their packaging.

"It really doesn't make any sense for me to do it. It's not worth it,'' says Flying Bison brewer Tim Herzog.

Despite the new additions, Rhee admits the LCBO's stock doesn't go far enough. "We'd definitely like to have more American beer. Our customers are asking for it."

Rather than worrying about the protection of beer distributors here, Wisconsin should be promoting it's craft brews. Somebody tell Governor Doyle the Canadians like us. They really like us.


As long as we're discussing craft beers, let's look at Lake Louie Brewing, LLC, in Arena, Wisconsin.

Established 2000. Lake Louie is a small brewery located on the beautiful shores of Lake Louie (actually a ¼ acre pond) just outside of Arena in SW Wisconsin. When we aren’t swimming in summer or ice skating in winter, we’re producing top quality local beers for local people. Currently offering English and American ales in kegs and pressure filled growlers to taverns, restaurants, and liquor stores. Our beers are being tapped by some of the finer public houses in the area. Really fun free tours on most Saturdays by appointment.

Those of you in Western Wisconsin, let me know what you think of the Warped Speed Scotch Ale.

Brewed in the classic Scotch Ale style dating back to the 1700’s, with a deep reddish brown color. Full of body, sweetness and flavor. Possessing a smooth and lightly hopped finish. Best served at 45ยบ F in a room temperature pint glass. For the ‘Big Beer’ drinkers among us.