By: Briana Tomkinson
At the end of 2019, Canada reached a new milestone with over 1000 craft breweries and brewpubs in operation from coast-to-coast. Not surprisingly, the year also saw the launch of a new national federation of craft brewers associations to lobby the federal government on na-tional policies that affect the industry.
Here’s a summary of some of the notable news and craft beer trends in Canada right now, in-cluding insights into craft beer consumer preferences from British Columbia, and more on the new Canadian Craft Brewers Association. But first, we’ve got to share news about a truly ex-perimental new brew produced in la belle province …
Cricket Stout Anyone?
There’s nothing new about novelty brews, but a unique stout produced by a pair of Quebec microbreweries is sure to get folks chirping.
Just as the name implies, the Stout aux Grillons, a collaboration between La Baleine Endiablée and the Lion Bleu, gets its thick mouthfeel and foamy texture from the addition of thousands of roasted … crickets …
Crickets and mealworms, which are more environmentally sustainable to farm than meat and very nutritious, are beginning to appear in insect protein products on supermarket shelves, everything from pasta to dog biscuits. Loblaws, one of Canada’s largest grocery chains, even began selling its own line of cricket powder in 2018. Yet, for many people, the thought of eat-ing the stuff triggers an instinctive shiver of revulsion.
According to CBC News, Baleine Endiablée co-founder, Jérémie Tremblay, got the idea to brew the buggy beer after being challenged by his friend Maxime Dionne, a local cricket farmer, to create a taboo-busting beverage that would tempt people to give insect protein a try.
Tremblay’s first attempts at incorporating crickets were a bust. Cricket flour made the beer too gooey, while whole crickets gave it a funny taste. The trick, he found, was to roast the arthro-pods, which produced a malty flavor. The unusual additive is used in the same way as grain.
The cricket stout is available at La Baleine Endiablée, located about an hour and a half north-east of Quebec City in Rivière-Ouelle, at the Lion Bleu, in the Saguenay region (two and a half hours due north of Quebec City), as well as through the Lion Bleu’s distribution points throughout the province.
Survey Offers Insights about Craft Beer Superfans
A recent survey of craft beer fans in British Columbia offers a number of insights into the be-havior and preferences of highly engaged beer drinkers, from packaging preferences and brewery tourism habits to the impact of cannabis legalization on beer consumption.
The annual online survey of craft beer drinkers is conducted by Beer Me BC (beermebc.com), a popular Canadian craft beer blog. Not surprisingly, respondents tend to be craft beer enthusi-asts: almost two-thirds of respondents said they had visited 10 or more breweries within the past year, and 70% said they intended to travel more than 100km to visit a brewery in the next year.
The majority of those surveyed said they drank beer three or more days per week, with 41% imbibing three to five days per week, and 18% drinking almost every day. Only 2% said they drank less beer after the legalization of cannabis, and 1% said legal weed has led them to drink more.
For these craft beer superfans, the top factors in deciding what beer to purchase were flavor, beer style, brewery brand and reputation. Price and packaging were ranked as significantly less-important factors.
According to the survey, the top 10 British Columbia craft beer events are:
1. Vancouver Craft Beer Week (May 29 – June 7, 2020): https://vancouvercraftbeerweek.com/
2. Great Canadian Beer Festival (2020 date TBA): https://victoriabeersociety.com/great-canadian-beer-fest/
3. Farmhouse Fest (2020 date TBA): http://farmhousefest.com/
4. Okanagan Fest of Ale (April 17 & 18, 2020): https://festofale.ca/
5. Fort Langley Beer & Food Festival (May 16, 2020): https://www.fortlangley.beer/
6. BC Beer Awards (2020 date TBA): https://www.bcbeerawards.com/
7. Great Okanagan Beer Festival (May 6-10, 2020): https://gibbonswhistler.com/festivals-events/great-okanagan-beer-festival/
8. Whistler Village Beer Festival (Sept. 14-20, 2020): https://gibbonswhistler.com/festivals-events/whistler-village-beer-festival/
9. Clover Valley Beer Festival (Aug. 8, 2020): https://gibbonswhistler.com/festivals-events/clover-valley-beer-festival/
10. Coquitlam Beer Festival (March 7, 2020): https://coquitlambeerfestival.com/
Over the seven years since the survey was first conducted, results have tracked several nota-ble shifts in British Columbia craft beer consumer trends, including maturing demographics and a swing in preference away from purchasing beer in glass containers.
Since the first survey in 2013, Beer Me BC has found the ratio of younger beer drinkers has been shrinking, while the number of respondents over the age of 43 has increased. It indicates that craft beer has staying power, as beer fans continue to choose craft as they get older. Yet it also suggests that fewer Millennials are becoming craft beer fans than Gen-Xers. Beer Me BC notes that trends researchers have found younger adults are drinking less, and are more likely to choose alternative beverages such as ciders and coolers.
Over the years, the Beer Me BC survey has found the number of beer-drinkers who prefer to buy in bottles and growlers has dropped drastically. In 2013, bottles, bombers and growlers were preferred by the vast majority of consumers, with only 10% preferring cans. Tall cans (greater than 355 mL) weren’t even on the radar back then. Yet today, almost half of respond-ents said they prefer tall cans, and nearly two-thirds said they prefer aluminium cans to glass bottles.
New Seal Identifies “Real” Craft Beer
Big Beer is increasingly gobbling up small breweries and marketing faux-craft brands, making it harder for consumers to know when the “craft” beer they’re buying is truly an authentic small-batch brew.
A new initiative by the recently formed Canadian Craft Brewers Association aims to help craft beer fans identify the real stuff through a new certification mark to be added to “real” craft beer labels.
The Independent Craft Seal of Authenticity, a small icon featuring a stylized hop bud, is intended to differentiate beer brands that are produced and sold by authentic Canadian craft brewers from copycat brands spawned by large beer conglomerates.
To use the seal, breweries must be members of the CCBA and apply for an annual license. They must also register the use of the seal, and comply with strict usage guidelines.
The CCBA formed last spring to create a national umbrella organization uniting provincial craft brewers associations, making it easier to educate and lobby the federal government on issues like federal taxation, inter-provincial trade, import/export policy and growth investment, and promote Canadian craft beer nationally and internationally.
In June 2019, the CCBA tallied the craft breweries and brewpubs operating in each Canadian province and territory. There are now over 1,000 craft breweries or brewpubs operating in Canada, or 27 breweries per million people (the U.S. has 22 per million). Ontario has the most breweries in operation (269), while Quebec has the most brewpubs (68) and also has the most breweries in planning (80) out of all the provinces.
All members of Canadian provincial craft brewing associations are automatically members of the CCBA. While the definition of a “craft” producer varies slightly from province to province, all members are licensed to produce beer in Canada, produce no more than 400,000 hectoli-tres of beer (the majority produce less than 5,000 hectolitres), and are independently owned (no controlling shareholder is a large beverage alcohol company).