This week’s Canada’s Craft Beer post comes from our Eastern Canada craft beer guy, David Ort. He's taking a look at infused beers from Ontario, Wellington Brewery and Beau's All-Natural Brewing.
The last days of February and the first ones of March are really a tougher time for local food than the darker and often colder days in January. We've run through our store of homegrown apples, beets and Brussels sprouts and the first spring vegetables are still at least a month away.
For beer, it’s also an interesting time for seasonalists. Imperial stouts, barley wines and high alcohol vintage ales can feel too big and dark, but I’m not ready for the bocks of March. So, this month, we have two very interesting takes on the idea of beers made with herbs, spices and fruit that also fit into the late-winter ethos of foraging whatever you can find. Between the two, the total list of out-of-the-ordinary ingredients includes: elderberries, peppermint, spearmint, heather tips, and lemon balm.
There was a time when beer didn’t equal water plus malt, hops and yeast, and these two options from Wellington and Beau’s do a good job of giving a glimpse into that diversity.
Wellington Brewery 30th Anniversary Ale
It's worth remembering how much the Canadian beer industry has changed in three years, let alone the 30 since Wellington opened. Canada’s oldest independent small brewery deserves a pat on the back for three decades of good beer, and they chose to brew an unusual concoction to celebrate.
The 30th Anniversary Ale twists together a bourbon-barrel aged ale (brewed with elderberries) and an imperial golden ale that’s infused with heather tips. The result is an old-copper brown body with an off-white foam. The smorgasbord of aromas includes green mint, purple berries, roasted coffee and vanilla. Malty-bread flavours dominate the more straightforward flavour.
On paper, the beer’s description reads like a bit of prank (how many 2016 beer cliches can we incorporate into one recipe, guys?) but in the glass it had enough complexity that I wanted a second.
ABV 8.2%, Available in ON
Beau's All-Natural Brewing Embittermint
This is the fifth year running that Beau's All Natural Brewing in Vankleek Hill, Ontario has put together a slate of special-release beers for February. They call the programme Febrewary and say that its purpose is to "give Old Man Winter a kick in the snowpants." Unaided by beer-appropriate holidays or patios, beer sales in winter's shortest month can use any help they can get.
Embittermint adds lemon balm, peppermint and spearmint to the usual IPA base. A finger of white foam sets off the hazy orange nicely. I'm intrigued by the sweet lemon-orange candy aroma. There's a subtle touch of mint as the first sip clears my palate. It's the earthy green of bruised mint, not the sharp freshness of toothpaste.
If anything the herbal additions bridge the gap between IPA's two components: sweet malt and bitter hops. The entire list of Beau's Febrewary offers is here.
ABV 6.7%, Available in QC and ON
Check out all our Canada’s Craft Beer articles.
David Ort writes about food, travel, and craft beer for various online and print publications. His first book, The Canadian Craft Beer Cookbook, is in bookstores and available for purchase online. For more of his thoughts on all things edible and potable follow him on Twitter or get in touch with him at [email protected]