In case you hadn’t heard, Canada is turning 150 years old this year.
For beer fans, the good news is that there will be more than poorly made CBC history series to offer. Lots of breweries are jumping into the Canada 150 game, releasing special one-time beers or otherwise trying to commemorate the sesquicentennial. So ditch that hackneyed Molson Canadian (owned by American Molson-Coors) or Labatt Blue (owned by the largest beer corporation in the world, Belgium’s AB-Inbev), and grab some beers that really do reflect Canada.
There are a lot of options, actually. Let’s first dispense with the tacky and lazy. Aforementioned Labatt has rebranded its iconic Labatt 50—available only in Eastern Canada—as Labatt 150. Get it? Toronto’s Steam Whistle has partnered with Hudson’s Bay to release a bunch of co-branded “barware” to supposedly celebrate the anniversary, including bottle openers, special packaging of Steam Whistle beer and an odd-looking cooler. Looking at the stuff I can’t really see a Canada link, however.
More interesting is that Molson Canadian will, for a limited period of time, be packaged in the old-time stubby bottle in honour of the celebration. The stubby-—a short beer bottle with a rounded neck—used to be ubiquitous in the 1960s and 1970s but died out due to the emergence of the American-influenced long neck bottle, which we continue to have today.
As someone who appreciates the stubby and has cases of them for my homebrew, its return, however brief, is a pleasant moment.
On the just-plain-crazy end of the scale, Calgary’s Village Brewing has released a 150 CAN DAY Pack, a case that contains 150—yes, 150—cans of their various year-round beer. The case weighs about 75 kgs, I am told.
More interesting are the celebration one-off beers being made by various breweries. Large independent brewery Moosehead has released a one-time Anniversary Ale to celebrate the occasion. They describe it as a “Canadian Pale Ale” made with ingredients from across Canada, including malt from the prairies and hops from B.C., Ontario and New Brunswick.
Yukon Brewing is going one better (well, 12 better) by creating their Canada 150 Series. Every month during 2017 the brewery is releasing a new one-off beer to celebrate. So far the releases have included a maple wee heavy, a honey ESB and a mimosa kolsch, among others.
The most intriguing Canada 150 project may come from B.C.’s Central City Brewers, which just released a special mixed 12-pack called Across the Nation Collaboration. The brewery partnered with breweries in every single province and territory (except Nunavut which doesn’t yet have one) to create collaboratively designed and brewed beers at their Surrey brewery. One bottle of each of the 12 unique beers are included in the pack. Participating breweries included Yukon, Black Bridge, Half Pints, Beau’s All Natural, and others.
The Alberta entry is created by Calgary’s Last Best Brewing. The styles range from traditional offerings such as hefeweizen, extra special bitter and IPA to more creative interpretations such as a black currant dark ale, rice and honey saison and grisette (a historic Belgian style). The Last Best collaboration is a sour Berliner Weisse with raspberries.
You can find the mixed pack in good beer stores around town. Or better yet, on Canada Day longtime beer institution The Sugar Bowl will be putting every one of the 12 beer on tap as part of its own Canada Day celebrations. Good luck getting through them all in one sitting, however.
Clearly, there is no shortage of ways to celebrate Canada’s sesquicentennial with a Canadian craft beer. Honour our history by drinking some of our present.