Canada is known as a country of beer drinkers, but beer drinkers of a certain ilk. Despite the jingoistic protestations of TV commercials that tout Canadian beer as something to be genuinely proud of, we’re actually well known for pissy, flavourless (but “cold filtered”) swill, which is as entrenched in our identity as toques and maple syrup.
Thankfully, this is changing as gourmet offerings are gradually dethroning the macro lagers. We have the province of Quebec to thank for this, but flavourful craft beer is now brewed across the country. Here are some of the best selections. Seek them out, even though Bob and Doug McKenzie might not approve.
1. Dieu du Ciel Péché Mortel: Craft beer drinkers around the world already place this imperial stout at the top of the Great Canadian Beers canon. A complex stout with coffee aromas to knock you on your ass, this is the warming ale for all your igloo-building parties.
2. Half Pints Humulus Ludicrous: The intensely bitter India Pale Ale style (or, in this case, the Double IPA) is most likely to cause beverage-induced orgasm among beer geeks. It’s undoubtedly Canada’s best example of the sort. At 100 IBUs (International Bitterness Units), novices will find this overly bitter, but it’s well balanced with notes of citrus and roasted malts.
3. Denison’s Weissbier: A banana cream pie in liquid form. Canada’s best hefeweizen comes from this small microbrewery in Toronto, and easily competes with the great German examples of this yeast-wheat style. Set up long rows of picnic tables in the backyard, blast the Kraftwerk and enjoy.
4. Alley Kat Old Deuteronomy: This tasty barleywine from Edmonton’s Alley Kat Brewery is meant to be sipped slowly from a snifter, perhaps while sporting a lovely vest of some sort. I, however, don’t mind drinking this while mowing the lawn, though at 10.2% abv that may not be such a good idea.
5. Unibroue Trois Pistoles: This dark, fruity delight is perhaps the world’s best example of a Belgian-style ale sans Trappist monks and vows of silence.
6. Central City Red Racer IPA: Canada’s best beer from a can, this well-balanced IPA doesn’t pack the punch that Humulus Ludicrous does, but it’s more sessionable, and the can is significantly less dangerous in a drunken bar fight.
7. Cannery Maple Stout: This beer may come as a surprise to those whose only experience with stouts is a dry Guinness. Cannery Maple Stout contains a wonderful smack of sweet maple, which makes it a much more suitable (and flavourful) candidate for the Quintessential Canadian Beer title than most of the stuff hawked at curling rinks across the country.
8. Les Trois Mousquetaires Porter Baltique: This sweet, dark porter is yet another reason why beer is Quebec’s best contribution to Canadian cuisine since poutine. It might be just me, but I’ve found this beer also goes quite well with poutine. On the other hand, I haven’t found a beer that doesn’t.
9. Muskoka Spring Oddity: This is a sweet, yeasty beer, similar to the Belgian Tripel
style. It’s so pleasantly odd, it’s like drinking Scientology.
10. Paddock Wood Black Cat Lager: The only lager worthy of inclusion on this list. Black, roasted and malty, this tasty schwarzbier is the reason why all the oil roustabouts I know are calling Saskatoon, “the new Calgary, but with better beer.”
11. Dieu du Ciel Aphrodisiaque
12. St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout
13. Flying Monkeys Smash Bomb Atomic IPA
14. Yukon Midnight Sun Espresso Stout
15. Garrison Imperial IPA
16. Tree Hefeweizen
17. Charlevoix Dominus Vobiscum Lupulus
18. Half Pints Black Galaxy
19. Driftwood Fat Tug IPA
20. Bushwakker Palliser Porter
21. Pump House Special Old Bitter
22. Dieu du Ciel Rigor Mortis Abt
23. Unibroue La Terrible
24. Le Trou du Diable Dulcis Succubus
25. Black Oak Ten Bitter Years
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Andrew Unger lives and writes in a dystopian Mennonite town, but feels no Orwellian sense of urgency to escape. He is the author of, among other things, the novel Inches from America. He promises that the next one will be better.