A brief essay on why we love creating stories about Canadian craft beer.
I love the people behind this industry. I’d have to start in Sutton, Québec with Patrick Roy. He’s a big bear of a man who has created the most beautiful craft beer sanctuary in the Eastern Townships. He worked with Eloi Deit at Dunham so he’s experimenting around the edges of flavor profiles. But sit with him and talk tattoos over a fresh pull – well, you’re in for a treat. Which takes me to Outlaw. Not the tattoos, the place. Similar. Outlaw is located in Southampton on the shores of Lake Huron, a tiny town like Sutton. The co-owners bustle shyly around the bar, restaurant and mini-hotel. Did I say you can stay at Brourie Sutton as well? Outlaw has this fabulous branding strategy that harps back to 19th century saloons, card sharks and tough living. Across the country in Alberta, Legends Seven, a startup, is doing something similar – Mat is just having too much fun with branding all around poetic story-telling and gorgeous pre-Raphaelite artwork. Check out their website.
Speaking of labels, I had a wonderful visit recently with Gary Lindsay, one of the three amigos running Driftwood. Their Fat Tug IPA can be found across Canada – a gold standard west coast IPA. They work with the brilliant design team – Hired Guns Creative – out of Nanaimo on their labels. My favourite is Naughty Hildegard ESB, a luscious work of art. In our yet-to-be-released, Issue #3, Crystal Luxmore’s article on ESB’s features Hildegard – ‘citrusy, resiny, or piney American hops and bold bitterness.’ In that article, she also reminds us of the famous Mitchell’s ESB from Paul Hadfield’s Spinnakers (did I mention Spinnaker’s is a spectacular bar, restaurant and place you can stay right in Victoria’s harbour?). Now there is a story – told to me by one of the godfathers of BC craft, Sean Hoyne (who helped Ram McAllister get Fairweather going in Hamilton), about Mitchell and Appleton who started Spinnaker’s and Swans, and went on to style beers for Portland’s famous Deschutes. We’re saving that for another issue.
A mile away from Sean, Gary and Paul is Matt Phillips. Phillips Brewing & Malting began with Matt’s credit card and a bedroll under his desk. Today he runs a shining example of, well, just about everything: stunningly good beer, 360 economy integration, 100 mile sourcing, environmental sensitivity, CO2 recycling…and Matt is also an icon of one of the greatest aspects of craft in Canada – supporting and giving back to the community. He’s in good company – the Sparling family’s Cowbell in Blyth, Ontario; Beau’s in Vankleek Hill; Half Hitch in Cochrane, Alberta; Gahan’s many brewpubs around the Maritimes…the list is very long.
Can I go back to art? 2 Crows in Halifax started by Mark and Kelly Huizink with Jeremy Taylor went to great lengths to include gorgeous graphic design in everything including their taproom. Reminds me of Callister, the contract brewer in downtown Vancouver that is also an art gallery (we covered Adam and Chris in Issue #2). Nearby is Strange Fellows run by the wonderful Iain Hill with thrilling original graphic design by his wife, Christine Mouslon.
I could talk about iconoclasm in the industry: Gino Gesulae at Motor Craft, Windsor and Andrew Murphy of FuckingUnfiltered in Halifax. I could talk about families – the Vanderheide’s at Field House, Abbotsford, the Beauchesnes (Beaus), Allison & Phillip Fontaine at Valonray near Shediac, New Brunswick.
We could do a whole year on farming. I must faire visite à Caux-Laflamme Malting in Saint-Narcisse-de-Beaurivage who works with local grain farmers across Québec and parts of New Brunswick and is promoting organic malts. We covered Matt and Joe Hamill of Red Shed Malting in Alberta and their father’s two thousand acres of barley. The last time I saw them was at Dave Mozel’s Folded Mountain where they talked about starting their own brewery on the farm. At Banff Ave. Brewpub, I ran into Garret Haynes of Troubled Monk who said he might collaborate with them.
Our family had an emotionally moving visit with Devin and Leslie Huffman of Barn Owl, who work closely with farmers and brewers such as the fabulous MacKinnon Brothers (again, in issue#2). I particularly love the story about Chris and Lawrence Warwaruk at Farmery Estate Brewery outside Winnipeg, and their determined road to reviving the family farm and sourcing their own ingredients.
Collaboration is another special aspect of craft. Name one other industry that shares skills, people, ingredients and product formulas – for free? Gary Lohan at Central City comes to mind with his omnibus, annual 12-pack collaboration. But there are many more – for example: Eloi Deit and his team have been very generous with one-on-one collaborations helping many brewmasters add new products to their lineup.
How about women in the industry? You should meet Zoei Thibault, Brewmaster (or should that be Brewmistress? No that doesn’t sound right…) at Ol’Beautiful Brewing Co., Mandie Murphy at Left Field in Toronto, and Lindsey Mrav at GrainandGrit, Hamilton. Then there is SOBDL (in issue #1), plus FreddieLadiesBeer Connection, Ladies Beer League, Brewnettes and Barley’s Angels.
Last but not least, the beer – the quality, innovation and variety of craft beer being produced in Canada vies favourably with anywhere else I’ve been. We write about your individual creations through our Siblinghood of the Travelling Bottle – our way of ensuring objective, insightful, positive reviewing of beer. There are hundreds of great stories of passionate people, their humbling creativity and just plain hard work – but you get my drift. Telling these stories is what we want to do with MASH with your support. Join us, please.
Paul Gilbert, Executive Publisher
(with Thomas, Nancy, Leslie, Bryson, Holly, Sarah, Mary and Evelyn – we’re all family.)