Beer perspective

Discussion in 'Canada' started by polloenfuego, Jun 2, 2021.

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  1. polloenfuego

    polloenfuego Poo-Bah (1,905) Jan 26, 2013 Canada (NB)
    Society Trader

    TLDR : Sometimes a new perspective can give your love of beer a boost for the better.

    I recently moved from Ottawa to Fredericton (or back to Fredericton). This has been an adventure during Covid Times, including from a beer perspective.

    When I left Ottawa, I was really becoming cynical about Ontario beer. I found most of what was available to be what I call sheep beer. It's the beer the brewers make to feed the craze and those that follow it. So, over the last (almost) 2 years, it's been a run of hazy/juicy IPAs and DIPAs.

    The sad fact was/is that 90% or more of these beers were pretty dull and generic. Nothing was particularly bad about them, but nothing was particularly good either.

    I prefer to support local when possible, and I had found a list of brewers that usually met or exceeded my expectations. Some of the other established places just seemed to mail it in...not really seeming to care about the quality of the product.

    There were also some newer places that were making a hell of an effort, but not always hitting all the marks. I can easily tell you, I would rather buy from these places than from the company that sticks with the trends and avoids risk and variety.

    Before I left, even some of the more reliable breweries I leaned on began to wane. Without naming them, a couple from Ottawa and a few from Toronto.

    By the time I left Ontario I just felt like the beer industry there was in neutral.

    Now, I live in New Brunswick. There are a metric shit ton of breweries in the province. I count around 30. Doesn't sound like a lot for a province? New Brunswick has 800k people. That's less than the city of Ottawa (1.4M in Ottawa/Gatineau) which has about the same number, give or take a couple.

    Some of the ones in both places probably shouldn't count as they are places that use the Duff model...Duff, Duff Dark and Duff Lite.

    All in all, I'd say those are more prevalent in the Ottawa area.

    Back to where I was going. New Brunswick has some standout breweries in my opinion, Trailway leads that pack (fight me). But so many of these places are new to me, and they have made beer fun again.

    The Maritmes have a tendency to lean toward traditional British styles. Every brewery makes an amber/red and a bitter, I think it's the law.

    But there are so many places doing so many things. There are a few places that focus on Belgian styles, a few doing the hop heavy thing, some doing British, others doing German.

    I feel like a kid in a candy shop again. Now, let's be real, not all of these beers are great. I've had some bad ones, and I've had some great ones. Most fall in the middle, and trending up.

    What I see in New Brunswick is passion. Most of the places I have been, and the people I have talked to (yeah, NB isn't in anything close to lockdown) are really into what they are doing. I can never say no to that. Am I going to like everything? No, but I really appreciate the work they are doing. I really like places that ask for feedback. That's happened more here...I've been to three places where I was asked straight out what I liked and didn't like and how I think it could improve. What's that all about? The only other place I have experienced that was Vermont.

    I am really enjoying beer again, getting to try a whole new batch of breweries is exciting. Talking to new folks (I really forgot how friendly my people are), and just shooting the shit about beer and stupid shit.

    So here's the thing. Is Ontario beer really boring? I don't think it is, I think I just took it for granted. There are boring places and subpar beers, but that can be said everywhere.

    I'm really looking forward to exploring all the beer here in New Brunswick and across the Maritmes. I can tell you I've found some solid stuff, and I have barely left Fredericton.

    I think I have learned an important lesson or two. First, perspective is everything. Second, beer is never boring, you just need to look at it differently.

    Also: we all miss pubs and taprooms. It will get better.
  2. CurtisD

    CurtisD Disciple (387) Aug 16, 2012 Canada (NB)

    Welcome back to NB!

    I one point, I felt a little deprived living out East, beer wise, compared to Quebec and Ontario. Not really the case anymore.
    ChicagoJ, Coronaeus and Electros like this.
  3. Electros

    Electros Poo-Bah (2,581) Feb 20, 2007 Canada (ON)
    Moderator Society Trader

    Last year I had the pleasure of working as an essential worker for 10 weeks and thoroughly enjoyed my time in NB.

    I only had one day off a week when I went on shift after surviving the prison hotel but I made the most of it every Sunday as I toured and explored making it to 19 different breweries and loved every minute of it.

    At each place I stopped and just chatted beer with owners, waiting staff, and other BAs sampling tons of great beers from all around and truly the province is a hidden gem.

    St. John and Fredericton had a some great beer scenes but small towns of the path had some cool small places; Holy Whale.

    I think back fondly of my travels and I was grateful for the opportunity which very much ringed a similar epiphany in my head that Ontario has come a long way in the last 20 years.

    I can't wait for another opportunity to go back and hopefully stay in the exact same spot over looking the ocean in West St. John.


    Breweries I made it to:

    Picaroons, St. John. (Get the pizza next door!)
    Picaroons, Fredericton.
    Loyalist City Brewing.
    Big Tide Brewing (Great food, very friendly owner).
    Gahan House.
    Fog Horn Brewery (Great selection).
    Hammond River (Fantastic patio).
    Long Bay Brewery (Another great owner, quality beer).
    Sussex Aleworks (Great spot to have a drink, close to another great pizza place).
    Graystone Brewing.
    Trailway Brewery (Dear God yes, got there DDH Hu Jon!)
    Pump House Brewery (massive growler, growler option and great prices).
    Tire Shack Brewing.
    Cavok Brewing.
    Flying Boats Brewing.
    Holy Whale (Great brews, coffee, another great pizza place close by... LOVED Alma!)
    Maybe Brew Co.
    Grimross Brewing (Great selection!)
    Tobique River Trading Company (Cool little joint, whisky soaked coffee too).
    Moosehead Brewery (why not eh).

    ChicagoJ, Beersnake1, CurtisD and 2 others like this.
  4. polloenfuego

    polloenfuego Poo-Bah (1,905) Jan 26, 2013 Canada (NB)
    Society Trader

    The bubble is open now...the exploring is about to begin. Lone Oak (PEI), you are first on the list.
    CurtisD, Coronaeus and Electros like this.
  5. Tmappin

    Tmappin Aspirant (215) Sep 25, 2008 Canada (NS)

    Lone Oak is great (really digging their west coast IPA, Hollywood, right now). I highly recommend making the trip out to Copper Bottom when you have a chance also. Their Czech Pils, Flora, is pretty dang great.

    If you are in the Charlottetown area, a stop in at Modern Brewer's Village Green is also recommended. They are really nice humans making very small batches of good beer.
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  6. polloenfuego

    polloenfuego Poo-Bah (1,905) Jan 26, 2013 Canada (NB)
    Society Trader

    Thanks for the tips!

    I've had Yankee Gale from Lone Oak, and I think it is one of the better hoppy pale ales I've had in a while.

    The other spots are now on the list. After the Island I'll be heading to Halifax. Lots to see and enjoy there. I just wish the Seahorse was still in its old glorious spot.
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  7. Electros

    Electros Poo-Bah (2,581) Feb 20, 2007 Canada (ON)
    Moderator Society Trader

    So jealous!!!

    Perhaps I should start a Canadian version of post your latest haul!

    Stay tuned...
    CurtisD likes this.
  8. TheHammer

    TheHammer Poo-Bah (1,677) Feb 15, 2009 Canada (ON)

    I have to completely agree with your melancholy regarding Ontario beer. For me, it's a bit worse as apart from New England ones, I generally can't stand IPA. The sheer volume of it, and fruited sours that are present of shelves, is just out of control and has added to my pandemic malaise.

    That said, I think I just stumbled onto the reason. A lot of brewers are brewing what sells, and aren't experimenting since the money has taken a hit. All's I can say is thank goodness for Wellington's core lineup.
  9. Tmappin

    Tmappin Aspirant (215) Sep 25, 2008 Canada (NS)

    As someone who doesn't live in Ontario, but orders beer from Ontario on a dang near weekly basis now I have to say my experience does not entirely reconcile with this outlook. Yes there are too many fruited almost beer/beer adjacent options, but there is also a huge swath of amazing classic lagerbier coming out in Ontario. Ontario has a handful of breweries making very good classic english styles. Ontario has a few breweries making fantastic saison, both clean and mixed ferm. The Ontario beer scene is vibrant and healthy, buy the styles you want to see more of and hopefully there will be more of them.

    on a related note, Town just released a munich dunkel. I can count on one finger the number times I have come across a Canadian made dunkel. I just ordered one.
    Electros likes this.
  10. polloenfuego

    polloenfuego Poo-Bah (1,905) Jan 26, 2013 Canada (NB)
    Society Trader

    TL;DR: There is variety in Ontario, access is the real issue. Also, the LCBO sucks.

    You are not wrong about there being some fine breweries in ON doing some good things. However many of them don't get those different styles to LCBO shelves and won't because of the ridiculous system that is the LCBO.

    There are gems throughout the province, I spent a great deal of money ordering from some of them during the pandemic.

    I found that much of the time those other styles went fast, and that made for some frustration.

    It's great if you live in the GTA, or Ottawa. Those finds are easier. Even in Ottawa I found them becoming more scarce as the locals tried to satisfy the hazebros.

    At my former local, I would buy anything they put out that wasn't a hazy IPA. You are right, some nice funk (they have a foeder and coolship), some good lagers (a fantastic dark lager that I bought when available), the occasional English style, but the majority of what they produced was hazy IPAs, to make the most of market opportunity. I don't blame them for that, if it sells keep doing it, and spend some time doing experiments with other styles.

    The haze craze has gotten so bad that there are a number of brewers in Ontario who put haze into their WC IPAs. That is an abomination in my opinion. Just because you can make it hazy, doesn't mean you should.

    Now, the LCBO is not entirely stupid. They know what's hot, and that is what they put on the shelves. I would venture 90% of the ale shelf space at the LCBO is either IPAs with haze, or fruited sours. Hard to find variety. The lager section is not great, a few good ones here and there. I admit that these are my observations at the local LCBOs in Ottawa, so it could be different elsewhere.

    Between old stock (I found a 3 year old can of IPA once) and poor selection I just stopped going to the LCBO.

    I tip my hat to brewers that break away from the trend. Godspeed, Small Pony, Barn Cat (with the funk), and others are making an impression on many BAs. There are many others, but access is a huge issue for most.

    Cooperation among brewers is also growing, I see many places are selling each other's beers at their bottle shops (thanks mostly to changes in laws during the pandemic). I think it's this sort of cooperation that will impact the market most and help bring more styles to market.

    One of the things that I used to chat about with my fellow BAs is the concept of a collective that could open shops dedicated to Ontario Craft. Thanks to changes in legislation, this may actually be possible in the not too distant future. What a radical change that would be for Ontario; brewers breaking away from the hell that is the LCBO and Beer Store.

    So yeah, my ass was cranky when I wrote my original post. That being said widening the access to these beers would make craft better in Ontario. Let's hope this happens.
    Electros likes this.
  11. Coronaeus

    Coronaeus Poo-Bah (1,997) Apr 21, 2014 Canada (ON)
    Society Trader

    It is an interesting time. The ubiquity of hazy IPAs (which I like) and fruited sours (very tired of) is unarguable. But, the ability to get every other style under the sun has never been better. I can order cask in a box, Grodziske, old ale, and a bunch of other less common styles right now if I wanted to. Say the same thing even five years ago and you are a liar. I made an IP trade just two days ago and got a fairly recent Burton ale and a barrel aged 120 shilling and couple cans of a Montreal made Munich Dunkel. On the other side, I can get really top tier NEIPAs and flavoured stouts made locally. That wasn’t the case even 3-4 years ago.

    I hate the fact that shelves are littered with fruited sours made by every middling brewery in the province. And I’m being generous when I say ‘middling.’ But, it really is the best time to be a beer consumer, at least in my beer buying lifetime (about 30 years). It could be better for sure. These new private bottle shops need to be able to buy their stock at less than retail; my wallet can only stomach so many $9 cans of IPA. That said, I doubt we are going back to the world where these shops won’t exist.

    This is the golden age, or at the very least, golden age adjacent.
  12. Electros

    Electros Poo-Bah (2,581) Feb 20, 2007 Canada (ON)
    Moderator Society Trader

    100% agree. Best time ever to be in Ontario. More private distribution with no crazy markups need to happen. More chance is needs in the system and in the law.
  13. CurtisD

    CurtisD Disciple (387) Aug 16, 2012 Canada (NB)

    Mind if I ask which Ontario breweries are willing to ship to the Maritimes? I've tried most of the major ones (though not the last few weeks) with no luck.
  14. polloenfuego

    polloenfuego Poo-Bah (1,905) Jan 26, 2013 Canada (NB)
    Society Trader

    I think legally ON brewers cannot ship outside the province. However, there are some bottle shops that will. Perhaps one of the other BAs can help you out
    Electros likes this.
  15. Smakawhat

    Smakawhat Poo-Bah (8,421) Mar 18, 2008 Maryland

    Sounds like you are having a good time.

    A real change in scenery is a great thing for beer hunting and consuming. I was recently quite far out of my home in rural North Carolina, not too far from Asheville with so many new beers to try. Lots of goodies down there (some I have had before) making for a fun beer stay.

    It's like everything old is new again sort of.
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  16. polloenfuego

    polloenfuego Poo-Bah (1,905) Jan 26, 2013 Canada (NB)
    Society Trader

    My perspective continues to change.

    I spent the past weekend on Prince Edward Island and that gave me a real opportunity to see the beer scene there and try some new stuff.

    I visited 5 breweries in total, two in the east, one up west, one in Charlottetown, and one in Borden, right by the bridge.

    We arrived in Charlottetown on Friday afternoon and had a couple of pints and some food at Hopyard. I recommend it, but if you go make sure to see what is in cans as well as on tap. The food is great, huge portions and well priced.

    Right next door to Hopyard was the first brewery on the trip. Upstreet Craft Brewing. It was busy when we went in, not surprising on a Friday afternoon and during tourist season, and it was a touch noisy. The setup is very modern, a nice indoor area and a nice patio too. To be honest, the vibe didn't work for me, but I am a cranky over 50 guy who prefers a quieter and more laid back setting. I grabbed some cans from their well stocked fridges after having a sampling. the pricing was reasonable, in line with most places.

    On Saturday we made our way into Montague, which is a small fishing town of about 2000. They have two breweries, which impressed the hell out of me. I visited Copper Bottom first, I had heard good things about the place and the beer. It was another modern place, very square and shiny. I have to say, I was a touch disappointed with the selection, but I managed to get a few cans. The thing that sticks out to me about Copper Bottom is the vibe. It seemed to be very business like. The staff I tried to talk to were not exactly engaging.

    Next we hit Bogside Brewing. Now this place has a set up that I could get used to. The space they have includes a to go area, a bar with all their offerings on tap, a pizza shack and a barbecue joint. Heaven. I decided on a flight and the person at the bar took the time to describe each of the beers I chose. She was very engaging and friendly, asked us some questions and told us to come see her if we wanted more.

    Honestly, I had no expectations from Bogside. I didn't know a lot about it, and the info I gleaned from Untappd was middle of the road. In my small flight I had 4 beers. Three of them impressed me quite a bit. The Paint it Black porter was really nice, roasts, chocolate and caramel. Probably the best porter I have had in a long while. Their APA was my second favourite, hoppy and amazingly crushable. The session IPA was solid, but not what I was after. The brown ale was okay.

    Here's the thing though, I got their WC IPA (Shucker's Select) and it was the best of the bunch. A real fine quality WC, which I find a rarity in the Canadian market. I bought the hell out of that.

    Sunday, we hit our last places. Moth Lane is a very small brewery in a very rural area. It is well off the beaten path. The road down to the brewery is a dirt road, and the building is small and looks like a small house and barn. It is right on the water's edge and their views are spectacular. I went in to get a beer and peruse the take away options. The owner sparked up a conversation with me immediately. The place looked pretty bare and he told me that customers had run him empty over the weekend (surely a good sign). He gave me samples of each of what he had available. Very generous samples at that. Solid stuff, everything was on point. Then he asked me if I wanted to try something "a little weird." I am always game for that, so he put a glass of RIS in front of me and said I'd either hate it or love it. He wouldn't tell me much more, but he waited for my reaction.

    That RIS was bourdon barrel aged, and soured. It confused the hell out of me, and I was even more confused that I wanted to drink all of it. Very unique and very tasty. I can see many people spitting it out and wondering what the hell they just drank, but I loved that slight zip that came with the traditional RIS and barrel flavours.

    I left with a couple of his barrel aged products, and he invited me back saying he hoped there would be more he could share with me. As I was about to leave, he handed me a sticker for my fridge. One of the nices brewery logos I have seen.

    Getting closer to home we stopped in Borden at Lone Oak. This brewery is probably getting most of the noise on the Island. Their WC and hoppy APA are both fantastic, and I wanted to stock up. The place was hopping, which is great for them, but unfortunate for me as I was hoping to chat with some of the staff. They were being run ragged though, so I just grabbed my stock and made my way out.

    When I got home to Fredericton, I took stock of what I had bought. I had a fridge full of IPAs along with some APAs, porters, stouts and couple of Czech dark lagers. I now know how many beers my "cold" section of the dual zone fridge can hold. It was jam packed with 70 cans. I think I am good for a while. :laughing:

    Prince Edward Island has about 160k people, and the brewing industry is hopping there. I visited 5 breweries, and there are a few more. I had an excellent time all weekend, met some great people, saw some beautiful places and enjoyed some good beer. PEI is worth a visit just for its beauty, but a hopping beer industry makes it even more enjoyable.

    Every day my faith in beer continues to be restored. I think I'm probably going to need more than a weekend to get to all the places in Nova Scotia.

    A change of scenery does you good.
  17. Coronaeus

    Coronaeus Poo-Bah (1,997) Apr 21, 2014 Canada (ON)
    Society Trader

    What an excellent post. Thank for this.
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  18. Electros

    Electros Poo-Bah (2,581) Feb 20, 2007 Canada (ON)
    Moderator Society Trader

    Very much agreed. Thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
    polloenfuego likes this.
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