As a Canadian expat, I get annoyed every year when all the other Canadians in LA scramble to get some random Molson or Labatt product to celebrate our country’s birthday. The reality is that Labatt and Molson are owned by international conglomerates, and are barely more Canadian at this point than Budweiser or Stella Artois.
So to celebrate Canada Day in Los Angeles this year I opened up my beer cellar and pulled out a couple of bottles from two of my favourite breweries in Canada: Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co., and Bellwoods Brewery.
Beau’s operates out of Van Kleek Hill Ontario, a small sleepy farm town halfway between Ottawa and Montreal and they release a lot of beer. On top of their flagship ‘Lugtread Lagered Ale’, they release 4 seasonals and dozens of one-offs throughout the year. Last year they also started their ‘B-Side Brewing Label‘, which sees the Canadian brewers bringing celebrated international brewers from all over the world to their brewhouse to brew a beer that will be sold to the local market. These aren’t ‘collaborations’ per say, but a sneaky way for Beau’s to skirt importing laws so that Canadian beer drinkers can get a taste of smaller craft breweries from around the world. This spring, B-Side Brewing Label released Gigantic Brewing’s La Formidable, a belgo-IPA that totally blew me away when I had it in Toronto.
Tonight I popped the cap on Ashnan, a barrel-aged wheat wine that was part of a 4-bottle special release in 2014. Beau’s is more commonly known for their german style beers so this release was a bit of a step outside of the brewery’s standard fair. Ashnan pours a bright copper color with a thick effervescent head. The aroma is full of that chardonnay barrel character which amplifies the tropical fruit. The taste is bitter orange, more tropical fruit and a nice firm zing from the 9.5% ABV. It finishes dry though without too much residual sweetness. This bottle is definitely one for sharing, as its still a bit strong after a year of aging.
My next pick for tonight comes from Toronto’s own Bellwoods Brewery. Only a little over three years old, Bellwoods has become known for their ability to brew just about any style exceptionally well. Not only are their IPA’s world class, but their barrel program is pushing out consistently excellent beers and they recently expanded into experimentation with lagers. Bellwoods is currently building out a much larger production facility that will see this brewery expand into new markets and really start to get the attention they deserve.
Grandma’s Boy is a brett barrel-aged tripel fermented with yellow plums and showcases Bellwood’s skill with mixed fermentation and barrels. The brett has caused this bottle to gush a bit, but not enough cause a messy clean up. It pours a very cloudy, slightly dull gold – there’s definitely some trub that got agitated by the active yeast – with a dense white head that is typical for brett beers. The nose is a big wall of tropical funk with a distinct spiciness from the yeast phenols. The taste is more of the same – a complex balance of tropical fruit, funky tartness and a light honey-like finish. Its still quite dry, and at 11%, hides its booze quite masterfully. The plums are more and more apparent in the finish as it warms.
While I just happened to open two fairly boozy examples, both Beau’s and Bellwoods are breweries that are doing great things right across the board and make me proud to be a product of the Ontario craft beer community. If you ever have a chance to pick up any beers from either brand, definitely don’t skip them. Happy Canada Day from Los Angeles!