The Canadian Ready-to-Drink Canned Cocktail Movement

By: Alyssa Andres

Over the past five years, the Canadian ready-to-drink cocktail scene has gone from passé to a huge craze, hitting liquor stores across the country. Blossoming from a limited selection of sugary beverages to a sophisticated array of craft canned cocktails, RTD beverages act as an easy and accessible option for cocktail lovers. As more and more breweries and distilleries make the move to include alternative, ready-to-drink choices to their repertoire, it is clear Canadians love a canned cocktail. The movement has sparked an array of new RTD options across the country, each offering a unique, local flair.

  In 2015, the biggest names in RTD cocktails on Canadian liquor store shelves were Smirnoff Ice, Palm Bay and Mike’s Hard Lemonade. They were most popular amongst teenagers and novice drinkers but left something to be desired amongst cocktail connoisseurs. Still, sales of these vodka-based coolers were on the rise each year as the only portable alternative to beer. As consumers continued to reach for these products to bring along to the beach or a picnic at the park, the concept of the cooler started to evolve, and the idea of a sophisticated, more adult RTD cocktail was born.

  In 2016, a new, more refined canned cocktail arrived on the scene in Ontario. That year Georgian Bay Spirit Co., located in Northern Ontario, released the Georgian Bay Gin Smash, made with their award-winning, handcrafted London style dry gin. The Gin Smash, flavoured with lemon, lime, tangerine and a hint of mint, was an instant hit, earning rave reviews from The Toronto Star that called it “easily the best pre-mixed cocktail to have hit the shelves of the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario).” They could not keep it on the shelves, doubling their sales in 2017.

  The Gin Smash appeals to a more mature audience. The gin is made using wild juniper berries handpicked along the shores of Georgian Bay. It’s light, complex and refreshing while still having some sweetness. Since the remarkable reception of the original Gin Smash, Georgian Bay Distillers has released seven variations of RTD canned cocktails, including a Smashed Tea that combines the original Gin Smash recipe with black and Darjeeling tea. Following the Gin Smash’s enormous success, many breweries and distilleries across the country added ready-to-drink cocktails to their lineup.

  No longer are these RTD beverages marketed explicitly to young adults. Many companies are opting for a dry and often sugar-free alternative to the everyday canned cocktail using natural flavours and sweeteners. On the west coast, Vancouver company Ocean Blu has created a vodka-based beverage sweetened with stevia, a natural alternative to refined sugar. With zero grams of sugar and 100 calories per serving, these drinks are perfect for the health-conscious consumer and a far cry from the limited offerings of the early 2000s. True to its name, Ocean Blu is also dedicated to the environment, using eco-friendly packaging and donating 25 cents from the sale of every six-pack to ocean shoreline clean-up initiatives and marine wildlife conservation, pivotal to the west coast’s ecosystem.

  Further inland in Kelowna, British Columbia, Orchard City Distilling has created their own conscious cocktail, Zen Kombucha, which combines vodka with kombucha and other organic herbs and botanicals in a convenient can. The health tonic/alcoholic beverage is the first of its kind in Canada and hints at a potential future evolution of hybrid RTD cocktails that could cross over into health elixirs and probiotics.

  While British Columbia distillers create health-conscious canned cocktails, in Alberta, Canada, they are crafting a spirit that is unique to the province. Eau Claire Distillery in Turner Valley created Alberta’s first line of craft cocktails. They instill a “field-to-glass” attitude in their small-batch craft cocktails, using local ingredients like spruce and handcrafted techniques, including hand-harvesting and hand-sealing. Master distiller, Caitlin Quinn, has created a unique spirit made with prickly pears that are indigenous to Southern Alberta. She uses the Prickly Pear Equineox, a sweet, barley-based alternative to gin or vodka, in the Eau Claire Equineox Mule. The spirit is naturally sweet, intensely fruity and has hints of watermelon and bubble gum.  The Equineox Mule combines this unusual spirit with a ginger beer made by local brewery, Annex Ale Project, and is a great option for cocktail lovers interested in Alberta’s local flavours.

  The emphasis on local flavours doesn’t stop in the west. The prairies of Canada are also serving up a variety of RTD cocktails. Prairie Cherry and Prairie Pear are the results of a collaboration between Manitoba’s Fort Garry Brewing Company and Capital K Distillery. These RTD cocktails are produced in Winnipeg using small-batch gin made from Manitoba grains and are released seasonally, selling out each summer in liquor stores across the province. Fort Garry Brewing Co. general manager, Scott Shupeniuk, says the duo of gin beverages has been a huge success. They plan to continue releasing these types of beverages despite being predominantly focused on beer most of the year. Many breweries and distilleries are choosing to release variations of their usual offerings to please consumers looking for new drinks to sip on this summer. 

  Canada’s signature summer drink, The Bloody Caesar, has also evolved with the RTD movement. Four variations of the original cocktail are now available at liquor stores across the country, including Pickled Bean, Lime and The Works. Made with Mott’s Clamato juice, vodka, tabasco and Worcestershire, the Caesar is just one example of a classic cocktail that now comes pre-mixed in a can, no bartending skills necessary. This is a huge draw when most bars have been closed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The notion of sitting down and ordering a cocktail at a bar is no longer, so more brands are choosing to offer classic cocktails in a pre-mixed, RTD format.

  So, what’s next in the Canadian ready-to-drink cocktail movement? As single-serving pre-mixed cocktails become more popular amongst consumers, a new line of spirit-forward beverages has started to appear on the Canadian RTD scene. Dillon’s Distillers in Grimsby, Ontario, has created a single-serving Negroni they call The Professor’s Negroni, available at Ontario liquor stores. At 18.4% alcohol by volume, this product is the first of its kind in Canada. It took two years for Dillon’s to get the product on the shelf due to the cocktail’s spirit-forward nature. As of May 2019, Canada set in place restrictions on ABV in canned cocktails. Previously a 568 mL beverage could contain up to 11.9% ABV. Now, a 473 mL canned cocktail may contain 5.4% ABV, while a 568 mL can is limited to just 4.5% ABV. Dillon’s Distillers has gotten around these restrictions by classifying their pre-mixed Negroni as a spirit and serving it in 125 mL glass bottles. It isn’t located in the RTD section of liquor stores; it is placed on the shelves alongside bottles of liqueurs and aperitivos, despite being pre-mixed and ready to pour over ice for quick and easy cocktail convenience.

  The Professor’s Negroni is an example of a truly artisanal RTD cocktail. Dillon’s Distillery crafts all three ingredients for the cocktail, from the Dry Gin to the vermouth to the bitter aperitivo, made using rhubarb, violet and wormwood. The distillery believes this sort of spirit-forward RTD cocktail fits their brand better than a canned drink and allows them to showcase what they do best. The distillery has even tried a kegged version of the classic Negroni, ideal for busy bartenders and extremely cost-efficient for restaurants. As the idea of easy, accessible, pre-mixed beverages continues to evolve, RTD cocktails might be the new alternative to traditional bartending. 

  Presently, new RTD products are hitting the shelves each month in Canada. From seltzers to spiked iced teas to classic cocktails-in-a-can, the options are limitless. Unique cocktail creations are becoming more common with flavours that might be surprising to find. Collective Arts in Hamilton, Ontario, is producing an artisanal dry gin soda with grapefruit, lemon and thyme. Little Buddha Cocktail Company in Toronto makes a premium distilled vodka-based cocktail with grilled pineapple and rosemary that also contains carrot and pumpkin juice. No matter their preference, there’s an option for every cocktail lover.

  With Canadians deprived of bars and restaurants for the majority of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and therefore unable to grab a cocktail made by a proper bartender, the pre-mixed cocktail movement may continue to rise. With seemingly many more days of social distancing ahead, RTD beverages are the perfect option for summer outdoor gatherings and backyard barbeques. Opting for an RTD beverage makes perfect sense for most, as opposed to spending money stocking a bar cart with expensive liquor bottles and taking the time to prepare the perfect cocktail to-go. As the food and beverage and hospitality industries continue to change and evolve through this pandemic, so too will the vision of the RTD cocktail.

Canadian Brewers Struggle to Survive Amid Pandemic-Related Shutdowns

By: Briana Tomkinson

  At the close of 2019, the Canadian beer industry was riding high. The craft beer craze showed no signs of flagging, with triple the number of breweries in operation just five years before. In 2019, Canada had more brewing facilities in operation than ever before. Then, in March, the coronavirus pandemic spread to Canada.

  Taprooms, restaurants and bars are closed, and though some parts of Canada that were less severely impacted by the virus are slowly starting to allow businesses to reopen, it’s far from business as usual.

  There will be no beer gardens and merrymaking at large summer music festivals, no big wed-dings, no corporate shindigs, no Friday night pints in busy bars. Even in places that allow ser-vice businesses to reopen at a fraction of capacity with seats six feet apart, it’s likely business won’t be booming. With an estimated two million Canadian jobs lost in April alone, many Ca-nadians will be at home counting their pennies, not out on the town quaffing beers.

  According to a survey conducted in early May by Restaurants Canada, seven in 10 of those in the foodservice business fear they will run out of money in three months or less.

  Before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada’s foodservice sector was a $93 billion in-dustry, directly employing 1.2 million people serving 22 million customers every day. The in-dustry has since lost 800,000 jobs and is on track to lose as much as $17 billion in sales over the second quarter of 2020, the industry association said.

  While the situation for Canada’s breweries is not quite so dire, many smaller breweries also say they are only months away from closing their doors.

  According to Beer Canada Interim President Luke Chapman, many Canadian breweries are under a huge amount of financial stress. A recent member survey conducted by the industry organization revealed that half of the respondents said they had only enough cash flow to sur-vive for a maximum of six more months.

  In 2019, the number of brewing facilities in Canada increased by almost 13%, from 995 in 2018 to an all-time high of 1,123. Yet, although there was an unprecedented number of beers to choose from at grocery stores and dépanneurs, beer sales in Canada have been falling: do-mestic beer sales were down almost 4% in 2019.

  With fewer sales in an increasingly competitive market, Canadian breweries were already brac-ing for more challenging times ahead, yet nothing could have prepared the industry for COVID-19, Chapman said.

  While relief programs for business owners from the federal government have provided some help to keep employees on the payroll—for now—Chapman noted that with major events can-celed and many restaurants and bars closed, breweries will miss out on the expected bump in summer season revenue.

  “This is a very difficult time, and like everyone, like a lot of other businesses, brewers are just trying to learn as they go and trying to make the best of a bad situation,” Chapman said. “No one knows what the market’s going to look like next week, let alone two to three months from now. It’s a very uncertain time, for sure.”

  Canadian breweries directly employ an estimated 15,000 people; however, Conference Board of Canada figures show beer supports 149,000 Canadian jobs, with a labor income of $5.3 bil-lion. The sector contributes $13.6 billion to Canada’s GDP, thanks to the domestic nature of the industry (in 2019, 85% of the beer consumed in Canada was brewed in Canada). The vast majority of Canadian breweries are small, local operations; 94% produce less than 15,000 hec-tolitres of beer.

  Many smaller microbreweries who primarily sold beer through on-site taprooms and local res-taurants have quickly transitioned to selling packaged beer. Expanding into home delivery has also been helpful for many smaller breweries, Chapman said. Even in provincial jurisdictions that do not permit breweries to offer home delivery service, restaurant partnerships have ena-bled some breweries to have their beer delivered with dinner orders.  

  Yet Chapman said even when these transitions have been successful, for taproom-focused breweries, which can make as much as half of their revenue from tap sales, the additional costs of packaging, distribution and delivery are eating away at their profits.

  “A couple of our breweries say they are selling a similar amount of beer, but costs are up 40 to 50%. They’re just trying to keep staff employed and keep the lights on,” he said.

  In some cases, breweries have also had difficulty sourcing cans, bottles and packaging materi-als due to pandemic-related supply chain issues.

  While closing bars, restaurants and taprooms initially resulted in a slight uptick in retail beer sales, for most craft breweries, this was not nearly enough to offset the steep decline in keg sales, Chapman said. Many shuttered bars and restaurants also returned unopened kegs, forc-ing breweries to issue refunds.

  Rather than dump all this unused product down the drain, some breweries have offered this excess beer to distilleries to produce hand sanitizer.

  “Beer is really the only perishable alcoholic beverage. Both wine and spirits last essentially for-ever, and some get better with time. That’s not the case for beer,” Chapman said. “No one wants keg beer anymore, so there are a lot of brewers left with a lot of product that’s going to go bad.”

  While some breweries have been able to sell hand sanitizer on a cost-recovery basis, most breweries are treating it as a way to give back to the community.

  “I know for a fact there are some that are doing it and losing money in the process,” Chapman said.

  Hand sanitizer has been all but impossible to find on grocery store shelves in many parts of Canada since the first wave of COVID-19 cases were discovered in March. Health Canada has since moved to expedite approvals for distilleries and other companies to start producing the product. In Canada, hand sanitizer is regulated under Health Canada’s Natural Health Product Regulations, part of Canada’s Food and Drugs Act.

  In late March, Spirits Canada, Cosmetics Alliance Canada and the Canadian Consumer Spe-cialty Products Association launched the Hand Sanitizer Manufacturing Exchange in collabora-tion with Health Canada. The Exchange provides support for firms interested in contributing to the manufacture of hand sanitizer to find the materials, services or manufacturing capacity needed for production.

  “People are coming together to do what they can in this crisis, but Canadians need access to safe products. DIY hand-sanitizers, the latest trend on social media is at best ineffective against COVID-19 and at worst potentially dangerous,” said CCSPA President, Shannon Coombs.

  On top of all the other challenges facing Canadian brewers, the federal government went ahead with a planned increase in alcohol excise duties. “We as an industry were a little bit stunned that the government decided to go ahead and raise our taxes in the midst of a pan-demic that is having huge negative impact on the industry,” Chapman said.

  Although the 1.9% increase may not seem significant, he said, for a regional brewery produc-ing 70,000 to 80,000 hectolitres of beer per year, the increase translates to about $50,000 to $60,000 in lost cash flow.

  “It is a material amount of money that’s now been taken out of the hands of the breweries and put in the hands of the government,” Chapman said. “I think from our view, and I think most brewers would agree, that money is better in their hands, at least at this point in time.”

  There is one bright spot for Canadian brewers, Chapman said. Some provincial governments have temporarily lifted some restrictions on the sale and distribution of alcohol that have lim-ited how breweries can serve their customers.

  “These are things we’ve been asking for, for quite a while,” Chapman said. “We’re hoping some of these will stick around after COVID-19 is a distant memory.”

Canadian Food and Beverage Battles COVID-19

By: Alyssa Andres

  The COVID-19 pandemic struck the entire world swiftly and harshly. In March, Canada lost over one million jobs—800,000 of which were in the food and beverage industry. It is estimated that one in 10 Canadian restaurants have already permanently shut their doors, and those numbers will continue to climb as small businesses struggle to keep up with costs without their regular revenue streams. More than ever, business owners have to find creative and alternative ways to make a living and do so while trying to maintain a safe and secure work environment for their customers and employees. As a result, large companies have started offering their support to businesses and individuals in need, and communities have started coming together in an effort to lessen the pandemic’s impact on the hospitality community. 

  The Canadian government is doing all they can to support its citizens as they battle to flatten the curve. The Canadian Emergency Response Benefit was created in March to assist those suffering from job loss. The fund offers $2000/month to any individual who has lost work since March 15, 2020. The government has also lightened restrictions surrounding the sale of alcohol, allowing food delivery services, like UberEats, to deliver alcoholic beverages to people’s homes between 9:00 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. Restaurants can also offer beer, wine and spirits with their takeout menus.

  Breweries, wineries and restaurants that have remained open have had to rework their operations entirely. Most offer free delivery and curbside pickup options for customers to avoid any contact with staff members. Many also offer discounts on their products or other incentives to generate sales. The craft brewery, Half Hours on Earth, in Seaforth, Ontario, is planting a tree for every online order they receive. Pearl Morissette Winery in the Niagara Peninsula, which normally relies on its world-class, farm-to-table restaurant to drive its business, has transformed its operation into an online country market offering curbside pickup. Patrons can purchase ethically sourced meats, eggs and dairy from local farmers as well as pick up bottles of Pearl Morissette wine, which is highly regarded in the region and usually not available for retail purchase. 

  Other initiatives that have spawned in the wake of COVID-19 include Exchange Brewery’s Virtual Ladies Happy Hour. The Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario brewery offers packages for sale that include several of their beers along with a link to a happy hour zoom chat. This type of virtual event allows their loyal following to come together, taste and discuss their current beers while maintaining social distancing.

  The spirits community is also using online initiatives to bring their following together during this period of social distancing. Campari Canada teamed up with Toronto-based online community, Bartender Atlas (http://www.bartenderatlas.com), to create the #camparistircrazy campaign. The campaign brings together bartenders from across Canada to develop Campari-based cocktails using common ingredients from around the home. The competition resulted in hundreds of cocktail submissions from across the country, uniting bartenders at a time when most are struggling with job loss and self-isolation. Corby Spirit and Wine, one of Canada’s leading distributors of wine and spirits, has partnered with WSET (Wine and Spirits Education Trust) to offer the Level 1 Award in Spirits course to 1,500 Canadian bartenders. The four-week online course is an introduction into the world of spirits, providing an opportunity for novice bartenders to make good use of their time off.

  Many businesses are having to use this time to develop new sales strategies. Shawn & Ed Brewing Company and Flat Rock Cellars Winery in Niagara,   Ontario, have partnered with several other local businesses to create “Bloom Boxes” that are for sale through its online shop. The gift box sets include a bottle of beer or wine, a DIY potted plant kit and a bottle of locally sourced hand sanitizer. The initiative aims to bring the community together and support local businesses in a time when they would typically be flooded with tourism.

  Restaurants Canada is also trying to bring the country together in support of hospitality. They have created the #Takeoutday initiative, encouraging people to order takeout meals every Wednesday. This effort supports restaurants and craft breweries across the country battling to stay afloat. The initiative even includes a tandem fundraising livestream event on Facebook, Canada’s Great Kitchen Party, featuring music by famous Canadian artists including Sam Roberts and Tom Cochrane, all in support of Canadian restaurants. You can join Canada’s Great Kitchen Party at Facebook.com/greatkitchenparty.

  Many large businesses in Canada have stepped forward to offer assistance in any way they can. Restaurants that remain open are preparing meals and delivering them to first responders who are working tirelessly to care for the ill. Large hotel brands whose business numbers have declined are instead offering their rooms to frontline workers, who prefer not to commute or decide not to have contact with their family members. Large scale food suppliers like Sysco are helping to support charitable endeavors by donating their excess product to food banks and shelters. 

  Many Canadian breweries and distilleries have transformed their operations into full-time alcohol antiseptic factories. Employees of Dillon’s Distillers in Grimsby, Ontario, have been working tirelessly since March 17, 2020, to provide 40,000 bottles of antiseptic at no cost to 1,300 hospitals, shelters, elderly homes and emergency response personnel. The generosity they’ve experienced from others in support of this cause has humbled the distillery employees. Many local businesses have donated materials, money and time in the effort to help with production. Once the distillery developed a system to provide the alcohol antiseptic to frontline workers, it opened up its order forms to the public to incredible response. The distillery saw over 10,000 orders for sanitizer in a matter of days, forcing it to remove the alcohol antiseptic from its online shop so workers could process the requests already received. The 10-person staff has worked from 6:00 a.m. until midnight, trying to get the orders bottled, labeled, packaged and shipped. The overwhelming number of orders will allow Dillon’s to subsidize the cost of the endeavor and rehire staff they lost due to closures during the pandemic.

  Worldwide, craft breweries have come “all together” in an initiative sparked by Brooklyn-based brewery, Other Half Brewing Company. The All Together collaboration started as a way to support local hospitality professionals by offering an open-source recipe and public label artwork for breweries to use as a starting point to create a unique beer. The concept enables breweries to produce their All Together beer at the lowest possible cost, allowing them to band together to support the hospitality workers that, in turn, support them. Blue Label Packaging Company has volunteered to print labels for the All Together line of beers at cost, and Craftpeak Multimedia has created free social media graphics for breweries to download to promote the initiative. Since launching, 718 breweries from 51 countries around the world have signed on to create an All Together IPA. Many breweries across Canada have joined forces to support the effort. Counterpart Brewery in Niagara Falls, Ontario, is one of them. The new craft brewery has continued to operate through the pandemic, stating that business has been really good, and they’ve continued to be blown away by the support from the community.

  According to SaveHospitality.ca, a coalition of over 500 independent restauranteurs and operators, many restaurants in Canada will not be able to sustain these closures for much longer. Without the proper aid, the entire industry could collapse, taking down a whole system of suppliers, purveyors and distributors with it. Restaurants need help. The coalition has formed a detailed plan for the government of Canada about what the Canadian hospitality industry needs to sustain itself moving forward. The initiative provides information about the short-term and long-term needs of restauranteurs to maintain their businesses in the future. Waiving property taxes and deferring loans are just some of the coalition’s initiatives. The full document, which has been signed by hundreds of restaurants all over the country, is available online at savehospitality.ca. The hope is that the Canadian government will respond to this crisis and support the $90 billion foodservice industry, which accounts for 7% of the country’s workforce. 

  As of now, the future of hospitality remains unclear. What is clear is that we are all connected in this pandemic and should take this opportunity to reflect on the things that really matter. Support your local businesses. Support your neighbors. Order from your local restaurants. Buy local brews from craft producers offering curbside pickup. Let’s get through this and come out on the other side, smarter and stronger.

Cider Saviours: How the Next Generation of Craft Cider-Makers is Saving Family-Run Farms

By: Briana Tomkinson

The agriculture industry is in a period of intense change. Globalized markets are driving com-modity prices down, making it hard for smaller farms to compete. Many mid-sized operations are being snapped up by large conglomerates.

  Additionally, many of the men and women running small and mid-sized North American farms are starting to look forward to retirement. According to Statistics Canada, the average age of the Canadian farmer is 55. Yet, often their children aren’t interested in taking over the family business.

The apple business is no exception. Yet, as many independent growers are discovering, changing consumer tastes are opening up new opportunities for niche producers. For apple orchardists, pivoting from selling apples to launching a craft cider brand can be a lifeline for struggling family-run orchards.

  According to Anelyse Weiler, a college professor of sociology at Okanagan College in Kelowna, British Columbia, and a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Toronto, moving into craft cider production opens up new revenue streams and buffers producers from economic volatility in the fresh fruit commodity market—and can be an effective way to entice grown children to consider returning to the family business.

  “Apple farmers face a slew of challenges in their industry, like the toll of the physical labour on their bodies, the increasing consolidation of apple production companies into huge conglom-erates, and the effects of climate change on their crops,” she said. “Moving into cider produc-tion can help farmers maintain their rural lifestyle instead of getting out of it altogether.”

  As part of her dissertation work, Weiler spoke to 100 people working in the Pacific Northwest craft cider industry about the challenges they face. She found most young cider producers she spoke with grew up in the agriculture industry and saw the struggles their parents faced.

  “For a lot of young people who had grown up on farms, they could observe not only the eco-nomic volatility but the emotional stress put on their parents’ generation and, frankly, the phys-ical cost of being a full-time farmer,” Weiler said. “For some of them, there was no romanticism that went into this idea of farming. They went into it with eyes wide open, and in many cases, wanted to maintain some sort of connection to agriculture, but on their own terms.”

  Weiler said mid-sized farms are finding it more difficult than ever to eke out a profit. Yet smaller farms have more opportunities to sell their products directly to consumers through farmer’s markets, farm tourism, local distribution to restaurants and via online marketing. Sales volume may be lower, but customers are increasingly willing to pay a premium for high-quality “arti-sanal” products.

  “A lot of producers face this ultimatum: get big, get out or get niche,” Weiler said. “And craft cider industries are one way for people to get niche.”

  Many young orchardists in the cider business truly value the interactive service components that go into direct marketing and sales, Weiler said. They also enjoy the chance to connect with customers in a direct way that isn’t always possible when just selling fruits to the commodity market.

  “I think it draws on this emerging craft livelihood movement where young people are interested in the creativity, in the sense of being able to put their unique signature on something in ways that farming for the fresh fruit market doesn’t always allow,” she said. 

  Weiler noted that the high cost of farmland in Canada makes it hard for young people without family ties to enter the orchard business. Young people who want to get into orcharding on their own have to get creative, she said. Some have created micro-cideries using windfall fruit or harvesting from abandoned orchards, for example—even using their own labour to pick the fruit.

Cider by the Numbers

  In Canada, cider sales are booming. In 2018, Statistics Canada reported that Canadians quaffed 181 million litres of ciders, coolers or similar beverages per person—the equivalent of 21.5 bottles for every person over the legal drinking age.

  According to research by Euromonitor, the craft beer craze has sparked interest in other small-batch, artisanal food and beverage products, including cider. The amount of cider sold in Canada more than doubled between 2013 and 2018, from 29 million litres to 63 million. Euromoni-tor projects sales could jump to almost 93 million litres by 2022.

  Sales growth in this category over the past 10 years has outpaced wine, spirits and beer in Canada. Cider and cooler beverage sales had an annual average increase of 6.4% over this period, compared to 4.2% growth in wine sales, and 2.8% for spirits and 1% for beer. Sales of imported cider grew faster than Canadian-produced brands, increasing at an annual average rate of 10.2% versus 5.5%.

  Ontario is the largest apple-growing region in Canada, with over 16,000 acres of trees. Accord-ing to the Ontario Craft Cider Association, cider is now the fastest-growing category of alcohol-ic beverages in Canada. Reporting from the government-run Liquor Control Board of Ontario shows that between 2012 and 2019, sales of Ontario craft ciders soared from $1 million to $16.3 million.

  According to Statistics Canada, ciders and coolers represented 4.2% of total alcohol sales in Canada in 2018, with the largest market share in New Brunswick (6.8%) and the lowest in Nu-navut (0.9%).

Key Dates for Canadian Cider Festivals (as of the date of publishing):

•    B.C. Cider Festival (http://bcciderfest.ca/): May 24, 2020: This year’s event will feature over 30 cideries from the Pacific Northwest and beyond. The festival is connected with B.C. Cider Week, May 23-31, which includes tasting events and tap takeovers throughout the province.

• Toronto Cider Festival (https://www.torontociderfestival.com/): August 28-29, 2020: Fea-tures live music, artisan market, food, an outdoor fire pit, and of course, a cider showcase and tasting events.

Collaboration is Key in Canadian Craft Beer

By: Alyssa Andres

With the number of breweries in Canada growing to over 900 this year, craft brewers need to find new ways to set themselves apart from the competition. A series of rotating taps isn’t enough to draw the crowds to the tasting rooms anymore. There are over 300 craft breweries doing that in the province of Ontario alone. Many Canadian breweries are choosing to team up with other brewers, local businesses and people in the community as a way of creating something newsworthy, both in their beers and in their tasting rooms. It’s no longer an “every man for themselves” mentality in the brewing industry. Collaboration is a key component for some of Canada’s most exciting and successful breweries. It allows them to experiment with new techniques and approaches. It also sparks interest in new products while building a sense of community and assisting other local businesses.

  In downtown Toronto, Canada, craft brewers have to battle to be the latest and greatest in the food and beverage scene. The foodie culture is strong in the city, but Torontonians tend to lose interest quickly, so the battle to stay hip is hard.

  Blood Brothers Brewing has managed to stay at the top of the wave since opening its doors in 2015. Owners and actual brothers, Dustin and Brayden Jones, combine innovative brewing ideas and methodical techniques with beautiful design and packaging, making Blood Brothers Brewing stand out amongst the hordes of other Toronto craft breweries. However, that’s not all they’re doing to keep people’s attention. For the brewery’s newest releases, they’ve teamed up with four other Ontario craft breweries to create “The Blood Brotherhood.” The brewery released four beers on February 22nd, each a different collaboration with a smaller microbrewery in the area; Barncat Artisan Ales, Badlands Brewing Company, Short Finger Brewing Company and Rouge River Brewing Company. The limited-edition series sparked massive interest from the brewery’s online following after only a week of promotion. The Blood Brotherhood Imperial Stout with chocolate, coconut and banana, a collaboration with Barncat Artisan Ales in Cambridge, Ontario, sold out all 200 bottles within an hour of release.

  For microbreweries like Barncat, pairing with a reputable brewery like Blood Brothers gives them exposure and instant credibility in an otherwise volatile market. It’s easy for many new craft beer releases to fall under the radar, but a limited release collaboration creates something one of a kind, and people tend to take notice. At the same time, collaborating allows brewmasters to work with other brewers, sharing new ideas, learning new techniques and utilizing different facilities to make unique products they might not otherwise create.

  Powell Brewery in Vancouver, British Columbia, used this mentality when brewing its Ode to Wallflower Pale Ale. Powell has teamed with East Vancouver distillery, Odd Society Spirits, to create a Citra pale ale aged in Odd Society gin barrels. This limited edition 6.2% ABV beer has incredible personality. It is crisp and botanical, with a slight oak quality and smooth finish. A collaboration like this helps both businesses gather attention and create a hyper-local product that speaks to its location.

  Many craft brewers in the Niagara Peninsula are collaborating with local winemakers to create innovative beers that reflect the region. Exchange Brewery in the heart of Historic Downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake, uses grapes from popular local winery, Pearl Morisette, to create their Grand Cru Ale. The ale is brewed with a hint of spice and aged for one year on pressed grape skins. The result is a dry, fruity ale with a deep colour and smooth body. Nearby, in the Twenty Mile Bench VQA appellation, Bench Brewing Company is also using local wine barrels and grapes to brew their beers. Not only that, but they’re also using a plethora of fruits grown in the surrounding farming region. The result is a roster of beers that showcases the land from where it comes. These collaborations help to support the community and local farmers.

  Collaboration is not only happening in the breweries but the tasting rooms as well. Many Canadian craft breweries are choosing to partner with local businesses to enhance the front of house experience and create something authentically local. At A-Frame Brewing Company in Squamish, British Columbia, owner Jeff Oldenborger works alongside local businesses to create a one of a kind haven for people in the community. Local food trucks serve guests regularly outside the brewery, and snacks are for sale from local vendors such as Spray Creek Ranch Pepperoni and Kaylin & Hobbs Pickles. Oldenborger has even partnered with Trae Designs, a local toymaker that creates sustainable and innovative wooden toys, to create “Okanagan Lake,” a play area for children to enjoy while visiting the space. Combined with regular events and live music, the space is a hub for ongoing collaborations within the community, and a popular retreat for locals.

  On Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, on the eastern coast of Canada, a similar collaboration is happening between local craft brewery, Big Spruce, and Cabot Public House, a popular local pub. The restaurant has orchestrated a regular “Tap Takeover” with Big Spruce, where the pub pours only their beers for a night, offering locals the chance to try a larger selection of their products. The event draws quite a crowd.

  That’s not the only exciting collaboration for Big Spruce. Each year since 2017, the small east coast brewery partners with the Ocean Tracking Network to create a “colla-BEER-ation” that raises awareness surrounding issues that face the ocean’s ecosystem. The beer, Big Spruce’s “Tag! You’re It!” American-style IPA, doesn’t change, but each year the brewery chooses a new oceanic creature to be featured on the label. The 2019 label featured an Atlantic salmon and raised $5000 for marine conservation. This brought the total amount to $56,000 in donations since the project launched. This year’s featured species will be announced in May, and the donations will continue to help support ongoing initiatives to support the ocean ecosystems.

  On the opposite coast, another brewery choosing to collaborate to do good is Surrey, British Columbia’s Central City Brewing Company. Every April, their Red Racer line releases a special edition beer to raise money for autism research. This year the brewery released a Superfruit IPA. Two dollars from every six-pack and $0.25 from every pint sold at participating restaurants go to the cause. Since 2013, the company has raised $600,000 to help battle autism. Red Racer also collaborates with a slew of craft breweries all over Canada to create their “Across the Nation” collaboration pack, originally released to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017. Now in its fourth year, the 12-pack features beers from 12 different Canadian craft breweries, one from each province and territory in the country. Beers range from traditional to entirely experimental, but they each pay tribute to a local monument from their hometown. This collaboration helps put smaller Canadian breweries on the map and builds camaraderie within the industry from coast-to-coast. 

  The ultimate example of craft beer collaboration in Canada is Collective Arts Brewing in Hamilton, Ontario. This grassroots brewery has made collaboration the core spirit of their company. They collaborate every step of the way, not only with other brewers, local businesses and charities, but also with artists and musicians from all over the world. The result is truly remarkable. Each of Collective Arts’ beers displays artwork from a different artist chosen from thousands of applications on a bi-annual basis. To date, over 600 artists have been featured on Collective Arts’ cans. Visitors of the brewery can see the entire collection in the tasting room. A recent three-way collaboration with Chicago brewery Marz Community Brewing Co. and Hamilton Donut shop Donut Monster resulted in the hugely successful “Beady Eyes Pale Ale.” The beer, brewed with blood orange, hibiscus and lactose sugar, to emanate one of Donut Monster’s signature treats, featured art from Hamilton artist Joel MacKenzie.

  Collective Arts’ cans showcase not only artists but also feature different bands and musicians. To take it one step further, the brewery has expanded this alliance and is hosting an event in Hamilton, Ontario, in June 2020. Liquid Art Fest will see over 50 brewers from all over the world pouring their most unique and rare beers. The event will feature live music as well as live mural artists, screen printing and food trucks. Collective Arts has transformed what it means to be a craft brewery and created a company that embodies creativity, community and collaboration.

Canadian craft brewers all over the country are coming up with new ways to join forces and make headlines. Collaboration in the craft beer industry creates the same buzz as a celebrity romance. It’s like a superstar duet featuring two of your favourite bands. Not only does it create a buzz on social media and allow a brewery to network outside of its direct audience, but it inspires innovative ideas and results. It brings communities together and helps local businesses. It encourages camaraderie within the industry and can even support charitable causes. There is no downside to collaboration, especially when the other result is just really good beer.

Suds & Soldiers: Beer and World War I, 1914-1919

By: Doran Cart, Senior Curator, National WWI Museum and Memorial

By the time of World War I, which started in 1914, beer was already an ancient beverage made and consumed by most the nations involved in the war. In light of the long history already written about beer, this article will center on the personal, official and period-printed references of beer during World War I held in the archives of the National WWI Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri.

  Many of the early war photographs show soldiers, especially German, posing for their gone-to-war photographs with beer mugs in hand and often sitting on beer kegs. Ceramic beer tankards were illustrated with scenes of soldiers’ service so they could be reminded of what they had gone through while enjoying their favorite brew. A German/Anglo brewery in Tsingtao, China was in production at the beginning of the war and was there when Japanese forces attacked the German garrison taking control. A graphic illustration of that attack is on exhibition at the museum. The brewery still exists.

  Changes in the opening and closing hours of pubs in England occurred during the war when the situation became dire from many of the war industries’ workers spending more time drinking beer and “other intoxicating liquor” than producing artillery shells and airplanes. The Defense of the Realm (Consolidation) Regulations of 1914 specifically prohibited the sale and consumption “on weekdays 12 noon to 2:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and on Sundays [the same hours].”

  British soldiers wrote in their diaries about beer:

“Hallowe’en was celebrated in our billets – beer, soup, roast beef, plum duff.” A. Stuart Dolden, 1st Battalion, London Scottish Regiment

  October 1916 – “I was amazed to get two bottles of Guiness to drink.” George Coppard, British Machine Gun Corps, after being wounded.

  C.H. Williams, 5th Battalion, the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, British Army, wrote after Christmas of 1916: “We had our Christmas dinner in Albert, France in an old sewing-machine factory.  We had beer for our dinner – plenty of it – and a good tuck-in to go with it!  Roast pork!  Beautiful after bully beef!” [Bully beef was canned processed beef issued as a ration].

  In England in 1918, the Hart Family Brewers produced a commemorative extra pale ale called the “Flyer.” It was brewed to honor Wellingborough, England’s “Own Flying Ace, Major Mick Mannock.” Major Mannock was a Victoria Cross recipient for his World War I actions in which he recorded 61 aerial victories with the Royal Flying Corps (later the Royal Air Force). He was killed over France on July 26, 1918.

  Although the American Expeditionary Forces were technically “dry,” prior to the US 18th Amendment ratified in 1920, enterprising soldiers soon learned where the beer and wine were. One US Signal Corps photograph is captioned: “American soldiers in a captured German trench drinking beer out of steins and smoking cigars.”

  From the papers of Captain Clarence J. Minick, 361st Infantry, 91st Division the following order was found: “Headquarters 3rd Battalion, 91st Division, Sarrey, France, July 24, 1918. Extract General Order No. XXI. 1. “The following regulations for the government of troops billeted in Sarrey are hereby published for the guidance of all concerned: (a) Cafes will be open to troops for sale of light wines and beers during the following hours: 1:30 A.M. to 1:00 P.M. 6:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M. Absolutely no drinking of other intoxicants will be permitted and all cases of intoxication will be summarily dealt with. Wine or beer purchased in cafes will be used on the premises and not carried away in bottles or other receptables.”

  At the Battle of St. Mihiel, France, September 1918, this report of the 353rd Infantry Regiment, 89th Division Intelligence Section related:

  “In the evening of September 13, the Regimental observers established an O.P. [observation post] on the high ground south of Xammes. While occupying this O.P. the observers lived on the fat of the land. An abandoned German commissary in Xammes furnished bread, honey, butter, jam, gold-tipped cigarettes and cigars – from the well-kept German gardens in the vicinity came a variety of vegetables – and crowning all, German beer, wine and schnapps were on tap in former Boche (German) bars (for the ‘dry’ All-Kansas regiment).”

  During the American occupation of Germany in 1919 when the rules regarding consumption of beer and wine had been unofficially loosened, Charles MacArthur, 149th Field Artillery Regiment, related that in his [cannon] battery’s stop in Bittenburg, “we ran into real German beer, a little watery for the famine in grain.”  Another discovery was made in Bittenburg:  eierkuchen, or German waffles.  “With a helmet full of flour and a little corn syrup any hausfrau could produce an elegant set of waffles.”  Evidently, the waffles reached such an esteemed place that “the very name of eierkuchen was transferred to anything that looked appetizing, especially young women.”

  A Captain Biggs related that the clothing worn by German civilians seemed serviceable, but that the “shapeless, heavy shoes” was a noticeable feature.  Much of the material was ersatz [substitute], made of paper products.  Beer was plentiful at 20 to 30 pfennings a glass, but “of a poor grade,” as was the wine.

  As part of the agreement for the occupation of Germany after the signing of the Armistice on November 11, 1918 was one unpopular requirement that all dram shops be closed except during a few hours of the afternoon and early evening.  The sale of any intoxicant except beer and light wines was prohibited.

  A printed announcement of a “Reunion and Smoker” party for the 77th Division’s MP Company on October 25, 1919 at the 77th Division Association Club House in New York City. states that “they will organize an American Legion Post and there will be a keg. Organized by Francis N. Bangs.” Captain Bangs was in the MP Company, 77th Division, AEF.

  A postcard with an inscription, described the outdoor tables in Bourges where the French would gather to drink and socialize, as pictured. Inscription on the back: “the French people like to have this little beer table outside. This is very typical.”

  On a printed card from the YMCA, “The Y.M.C.A accepts no responsibility for money or valuables kept by soldiers during the night. These should be handed for safe keeping to the Leader in charge of the Hut. Overcoats, rifles, or other equipment should be stored in the cloak room. You are urged to leave no articles of clothing or equipment in the cubicle after dressing or about the Hut at any time. By order of the Police, Beer and Spirits must not be brought into the Institute.”

  From the service of Private Walter G. Shaw, 18th Infantry Band, 1st Division. He died at Charpentry in the Argonne in 1918:

  Oct 31, 1917 “I like France fairly Well don’t think I would like to live here always [sic] they have fine roads here. white and red wine can be bought for 1.50F a bottle (30c) some of the soldiers get tanked up on it I don’t like it because it is so sour French people have it with every meal. Champagne can be bought for 9.00F a bottle $1.75 this is extra dry costs about $7.00 in the U.S. Beer costs .30 centimes a bottle 10c….”

 From the service of Corporal Reid Disman Fields, Ordnance Detachment, 13th Field Artillery, AEF:

“Feb. 23/19

Dear Clara:

  No doubt you will be surprised to hear I am going down into Germany. Left Mehnin today 11AM. Am going to the Third army. So far as I know somewhere near Coblenz. So don’t expect I will be back very soon. Tell your mother I will drink her share of beer. Ha! All for the time so Bye Bye, Reid.”

  The roster and menu for Christmas dinner, 1915 from the 133rd Company, US Coastal Artillery Corps, Fort Terry, New York listed that the dinner included oyster stew and crackers, roast turkey, oyster dressing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, creamed corn, creamed peas, stuffed olives, tomato catsup, celery, pumpkin pie, mince pie, cocoanut layer cake, chocolate cake, bananas, oranges, apples, grapes, figs, cigars, cigarettes, apple cider, and bottled beer.

  From US volunteer truck driver, Ned Henschel, December 8, 1918, Verdun, France:

  “…a rumour floated around that there was beer to found in a neighboring village. Another lieutenant and I walked eight kilometres to investigate – and found that it was all wrong; there wasn’t even Pinard!” Pinard was a red French table wine.

  During the Easter Uprising in Dublin of 1916 of Irish citizens against British rule, the British Illustrated War News of May 10, 1916 reported that British troops took cover behind a barricade of beer barrels.

  One postcard shows a “German concrete cellar used as cooler for beer, in woods, Meuse, France.” A British humorous postcard shows a tent surrounded by flood waters with a downcast soldier poking his head out lamenting “‘Ah! If it were only beer.” A German postcard that a Karl Rosendahl in writing to Frieda Rosendahl of Riemsloh, Germany related: “My dear Freidelchen, We are sitting in the Train with a nice glass of beer and send you greetings.” [translated to English].

  A letter from F. Thunhorst of Riemsloh Germany to Carl Rosendahl, June 3, 1915, related that one of their acquaintances “Old [illegible] is still the same and he just keeps going. The beer still tastes excellent, and he still drinks a few pints daily. He sends his greetings.” [Translated from German to English].

  American Dale E. Girton, Base Hosp. #78 wrote on May 8, 1919,

“Hello Rummy:

  I guess that is a fitting salutation for one who has told me in a – past letter he has started drinking Rum, BEER, Wine & Cognac. How about it? Haven’t heard from you for some time and we are expecting to leave Toul for a port of embarkation at any day now, so I thot [sic] I would write you a word so that if I am quite a while.”

  Beer was universal in WWI. It was used to quench thirst, to enjoy in comradeship, to relax and possibly, to help for a moment, to forget about the horror of war.

  From the Archives of the National WWI Museum and Memorial.

Niagara-on-the-Lake: Canada’s Growing Beer and Wine Destination

By: Alyssa Andres

Over the past few decades, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, has become known as one of Canada’s premier destinations for wine. The historical region of Canada sees thousands of tourists each year who come to experience the tastes of Niagara. While there is no shortage of spectacular wine tasting to be done in Niagara-on-the-Lake, the newest phenomenon to hit the area is the craft beer movement. As tourists continue to flock to the area each year, thirsty for the latest and greatest in food and beverage, local breweries have become a spectacle of their own. Now beer lovers can visit the region for a tour of the local craft brewery scene. On these tours, brewers are offering an array of small-batch beers that you are unlikely to encounter anywhere else.

  One of Canada’s oldest towns, Niagara-on-the-Lake was established in 1792. Located where the Niagara River meets Lake Ontario, the region experiences more mild winter temperatures than its neighboring cities and a much longer growing season. Local families have farmed the land for generations, and, for over two hundred years, the town has been home to extensive fields of fruit trees and grapevines. Only in the past decade have tourists, who already flocked to the area for a glimpse of the world-famous Niagara Falls, started to recognize nearby Niagara-on-the-Lake as another must-see destination. Now, a bustling tourism industry has begun to take form in the little town.

  Straying from the large scale, big batch production of modern-day brewers, Niagara-on-the-Lake breweries are producing small-batch, handcrafted beer, which allows them to experiment more with their unique personality and flair. Focusing on natural and more traditional production methods, Niagara craft brewers are taking us back to the roots of the region. The breweries tend to focus on seasonal ingredients, traditional brewing methods and sustainable business.

When it comes to style, the region knows no bounds, producing styles ranging from classic and traditional to completely out of the box. Better yet, most tasting rooms offer an array of rotating taps that change regularly, so you can sample an Eisbock made with skins from icewine grapes on one day and a milk and cookies porter made with actual chocolate chip cookies on another. This rotation keeps tourists and locals on the lookout for the latest and greatest of Niagara beers.

Setting a Path

  The first craft breweries started opening up in Niagara-on-the-Lake in 2011, back when the tourism industry was still growing. The Niagara Oast House was one of the first craft breweries to open their doors to the public. Since then, they have become a hub in the community and a prized destination for tourists.

Set inside a historic barn built in the 1800s, Oast House creates seasonally inspired beers using on-site well water. Upstairs, the barn has been converted into a German-style bierhall that overlooks fields of grapevines and hosts events of up to 80 people. In the back of the brewery, Oast House has an incredible patio complete with an outdoor bar and a stage set atop a farm truck for live performances. S

Staples like the Oast House Barnraiser Country Ale and Pitchfork Porter can be found across Canada, and new, innovative beers are being released constantly. You will find an array of unique offerings, such as their Oast House Verjus Sour, the first of its kind, made from pressing under-ripe pinot noir grapes and combining them with three different malts and a unique yeast strain created in-house.

That’s just one example of Oast House’s original recipes. The brewery is continually concocting new and innovative methods of production, releasing new beers regularly. They are a must-visit when touring Niagara’s craft breweries. When visiting, be sure to enjoy the offerings of the brewery’s restaurant, Brushfire Smokehouse. Their menu is well known to be some of the best BBQ in the area.

  The other brewery that paved the way for craft beer in Niagara-on-the-Lake is Silversmith Brewing Company, which poured its first beers in 2012. Silversmith Brewing is housed in an old Anglican Church built in 1884 that’s been transformed into a brewery and restaurant space complete with vaulted ceilings and incredible stained-glass windows. It also boasts live music and community events. The brewery’s signature Black Lager has been the star of the show since the brewery first opened its doors. Their traditional Schwarzbier is a local favorite with notes of coffee and chocolate on the nose and a smooth, crisp finish. It is a must-try when doing a beer tasting in the area. 

  This year brings on an expansion for the Silversmith Brewing Company, an indication of its continued success. The brewery has been working hard to complete renovations on a new event space and larger brewing facility, set to open this year.

Creating a Legacy

  These two businesses made way for others, and, since the early part of the decade, Niagara-on-the-Lake has seen close to a dozen new craft breweries open their doors to rave reviews. Bench Brewing Company is one of the newer craft breweries in the Niagara region that is especially thriving. They are taking the idea of local and bringing it to a whole new level.

Located in the Twenty Valley, also known as “The Bench,” Bench Brewing Company sits in the heart of Niagara fruit and wine country. Surrounded by orchards and vineyards boasting everything from cherries to peaches, this craft brewery decided to embrace its landscape and create beers centered around the local produce that so abundantly surrounds it. Here, they use everything from elderflowers to spruce tips to craft an award-winning line of beers.

  Bench Brewing not only ages their beers in French Oak foeders previously used to house Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but they even age their beer on the skins of the grapes themselves. Their Folklore Dark Sour Ale is aged on Cabernet Franc skins taken locally from the Twenty Valley. The sour ale earned Canada’s country winner in the Experimental category at the 2019 World Beer Awards, an annual competition that sees thousands of beers from all over the world.

Bench Brewing placed in several competition categories, including awards for their Clean Slate Pale Ale and their Plum Grove Sour Ale. Acknowledgments like these help to support the region’s growth and development as well as the international reputation of Canadian craft beer.

  As the region’s wine and beer industry continues to grow, the local Niagara College has developed programs to support the education of skilled workers in the industry. The college now offers several full-time programs on winemaking, brewing and distilling. Niagara College Teaching Brewery is honing in on the next generation of Niagara brewers, who will continue the tradition of craft brewing in Niagara. The two-year Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management program started in 2010 and has since seen over 150 brewers graduate with almost 100% employment rate. The college works to drive a growing number of young people to the area who will be the next leaders in the industry and help build more local businesses.

  The teaching brewery has an impressive facility with an on-site hop yard and the capabilities of producing 1000L of beer at a time. Students cover everything from brewing and evaluating beer to packaging and selling it. The college also sells the beer to the public at its tasting room. The line of beer is fittingly named Beer 101, and each can has a label that comes with a lesson on the corresponding style of beer.

The label includes the flavor profile of each beer, its history, ingredients and proper food pairings. Beers from lagers and IPAs to Saisons and sours are available for tasting and purchase in the retail store. You can also find them at several bars and restaurants in the area.  

From a little farm town to a bustling tourist hub, Niagara-on-the-Lake and the surrounding region has come a long way from its humble beginnings. Now home to almost 100 wineries and nearly a dozen craft breweries, Niagara-on-the-Lake has an opportunity to change the way people think of Canadian food and beverage.

Through standing by traditional values, practicing sustainable approaches to business and putting out diverse, quality products, the town continues to nurture and perfect the art of craft brewing and winemaking. Whether you’re a wine lover or you prefer the tastes of a quality craft brew, mark Niagara-on-the-Lake down on your list of the next must-see travel destinations

New & Notable in Canada: Crickets, Craft Beer Superfans and a New Seal of Authenticity for Craft Breweries

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). 

Will Cannabis Beverages Cannibalize Beer Sales?

By: Briana Tomkinson

Cannabis was legalized in Canada a year ago; however the production and sale of edibles, in-fused beverages and tinctures, remained illegal—until now.

  The first legal cannabis-infused drinks and edibles are expected to hit shelves as early as De-cember. Many have been designed to produce a high mimicking the effects of alcohol in terms of onset, intensity and duration.

  While the federal government officially legalized edible cannabis products on Oct. 17, produc-ers still need to obtain Health Canada approval, a process that industry insiders expect to take a minimum of 60 days.

  Some products will include only CBD, a non-intoxicating compound found in cannabis, while others will have THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana that produces a “high.”

  According to a report from Deloitte, the cannabis-infused beverage market will be worth an estimated $529 million per year in Canada, most of which will be on top of existing cannabis spending. Deloitte predicts sales of these beverages will come at the expense of beer, wine and other alcohol as “cannabis-curious” customers experiment with marijuana instead of booze.

  The Deloitte report notes that alcohol and tobacco companies are looking for opportunities to enter the legal cannabis industry to avoid losing market share. Pharmaceutical companies are also entering the market, as consumers turn to CBD oil and cannabis to self-medicate.

Mild High Aimed at New Cannabis Consumers

  Deloitte predicts cannabis-infused beverages will appeal to older, often female, Canadians who are concerned about the adverse effects of alcohol and are interested in trying cannabis yet are turned off by the idea of smoking it.

  Most producers of THC-infused drinks are aiming for a formulation that triggers a high within about 15-20 minutes and lasts no more than a few hours. This effect is in contrast to most cannabis edibles and oils, which are slower to take effect and produce a high that can last as long as six hours.

  Unlike beer or wine, there’s little risk of a hangover from cannabis beverages. Some varieties can also boast they are low-calorie drinks, which could appeal to more diet-conscious con-sumers. Prices are expected to be similar to that of craft beer; however, the beverages can on-ly be sold at legal cannabis outlets, not grocery stores or alcohol retailers.

  In October, Ontario-based Canopy Growth Corp announced the launch of 13 cannabis-infused drinks, some boasting as few as five calories per serving. The drinks range from pure distilled cannabis, intended to be mixed with sodas or other beverages, to pre-mixed blends of canna-bis with tonic, ginger ale, cola, soda and fruit-infused sparkling water.

  Unlike some legal producers in the U.S., Canopy Growth’s lineup focuses on low-dosage bev-erages with an effect similar to that of a single beer or mixed drink. According to the Ottawa Citizen, while Health Canada allows a THC concentration of 10 mg per package, 10 of Canopy Growth’s 13 products will have 2.5 mg or less, producing a mild high aimed at appealing to inexperienced cannabis users looking for an alternative to alcohol.

  Truss Beverage Company has also announced it will be ready to release cannabis-infused beverages in December, including CBD-infused spring water and THC-infused drinks. Compet-itor Fluent Beverage Company said it would be prepared to release CBD-infused beverages but is still working on formulations with THC. 

Beer Brands Push Into Cannabis Beverages

  Ever since Canada legalized the sale and consumption of cannabis, big beer companies have been teaming up with cannabis companies to develop cannabis-infused beverages.

  Canopy Growth, for example, has benefited from billions of dollars of investment from U.S.-based Constellation Brands, maker of Corona. Truss Beverage is the product of a joint venture between Molson Coors and cannabis producer Hexo, and Fluent Beverage is backed by An-heuser-Busch, who has partnered with British Columbia-based pot producer Tilray.

  In June, Bloomberg reported that Molson estimates cannabis beverages will make up 20-30% of Canada’s legal cannabis market. However, a report by Deloitte estimated drinks make up just 1% of sales by value and volume in U.S. states where pot is legal.

Marketing, Labeling Restrictions on Cannabis Beverages

  If cannabis beverage producers want to steal market share from beer and wine, they need to overcome the strict limitations on marketing, packaging, labeling and distribution imposed by Health Canada.

A Cider House Divided: Meet the Only Canadian Cider House to Operate in Two Provinces

By: Briana Tomkinson

The craft cider industry in Canada is small but growing. Consumers in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, are increasingly turning to cider when selecting alcoholic beverages, and the drink is trending upward in other provinces as well.

  Yet as one Quebec cider producer found, it’s harder than it seems for Canadian cider houses to expand sales into other provinces, even when their production facilities are virtually next door. 

  Sarah Cole Cider was founded almost five years ago by Pierre Bissonnette and wife Nathalie Laurin in small-town Lachute, just over an hour’s drive from Montreal. Bissonnette’s back-ground was in the textile industry, but he was ready to make a career change and set his sights on entering the craft beverage industry. 

  Bissonnette considered opening up a microbrewery but decided there was too much competi-tion in the beer industry. He flirted with the idea of making wine but decided in the end to ex-plore the emerging cider market. It didn’t hurt that he already owned an established orchard.

  For 23 years, Bissonnette had lived with his family on a sprawling equestrian ranch in St.-André-d’Argenteuil, just outside of Lachute, and he had always dreamed that it could be more than just a beautiful place to ride horses. The property features a sugarbush and a small vine-yard, but in the end, it was the orchard that inspired Bissonnette to reinvent himself as a craft cider producer. The cidery’s name comes from two of Bissonnette’s horses: Sarah and Cole.

  Contrary to some other Canadian cider producers, who have followed the craft beer trend of developing a large variety of creatively flavored products, Bissonnetted decided to zero in on perfecting a limited selection of distinctive dry ciders. He narrowed the recipes down to three: Whip, a European-style dry cider, Snaffle, which he likened to a Prosecco, and a non-alcoholic option cheekily dubbed Mountie, the nickname of Canada’s Royal Mounted Police.

  “Dry cider was missing in the market. Customers found most ciders too sweet,” he said. “The ciders on the market that were dry were tasteless.”

  Initially, Bissonnette focused on selling bottled cider in grocery stores and dépanneurs (what Quebecers call the convenience stores that sell alcohol), but quickly realized the difficulty of standing out on crowded shelves as a still-unknown brand. He decided to switch gears and concentrate on getting his cider into Montreal bars and pubs, and getting customers to try Sa-rah Cole’s distinctive taste.

“Our strength is taste,” Bissonnette said.

  Montreal’s bar and pub owners are a chummy bunch, and Bissonnette said he found once he was able to place his cider in a few top-flight locations like the Burgundy Lion pub and Bier-Market, and hotels like the Fairmont and Sheraton, it became easy to get Sarah Cole on tap in other local hot spots. “It’s a small world. Once one pub discovers us, a whole bunch follow,” he said.

  When Bissonnette submitted Sarah Cole’s flagship Whip cider to judges at the World Cider Awards in 2017, he didn’t expect much to come of it. When he won the Canada Sparkling Dry Award, it turned out to be a game-changer. Doors began to open for Sarah Cole, and Bis-sonnette began to set his sights on growth beyond Quebec. In particular, he hoped to break into Ontario, where sales of locally made craft cider grew 54% between 2015 and 2016. How-ever, cross-border distribution of his cider would be more challenging than expected.

  “If you have a vision to sell outside your own province, it is tough,” he said. “It’s the provinces that make the barriers.”

  One of those barriers was taxes. When he did the math, Bissonnette found that factoring the cost of paying taxes in both provinces would require him to increase the price of Sarah Cole cider beyond what the Ontario market would bear.

  In Ontario, Sarah Cole cider would be primarily distributed through the provincial Liquor Con-trol Board of Ontario, which regularly spotlights homegrown products. Although Lachute is less than a half-hour from the Ontario border, being on the wrong side of that line would exclude Sarah Cole from being featured alongside the locals.

  Strategically, Bissonnette decided there was an advantage in entering the Ontario market as an Ontario cider house, as opposed to a Quebec import.

  That’s how Sarah Cole came to be in the unique position of having not one but two cider hous-es, making it a “local” producer in both Ontario and Quebec. It’s been one year since Bis-sonnette took the leap and opened an Ontario production facility in Vankleek Hill, right across the street from craft beer heavyweight Beau’s Brewing, and he said the risk has paid off.

  “Cider sales are just not comparable between Quebec and Ontario. Here in Ontario, the people already love cider; you don’t need to convince them,” Bissonnette said. “In Quebec bars, there is often only one cider on tap. In Ontario, there can be up to four or five.”

  Bissonnette said there is also a noticeable difference in culture among Quebec cider-makers compared to Ontario. In Quebec, he said, the cider industry is very competitive and tends to be marketed like wine. In Ontario, more cider producers are taking their cue from craft beer.

  According to information on the cider industry released by the provincial government, there are now 70 businesses producing cider in Ontario. The craft cider industry is now estimated to contribute $12.7 million to the provincial GDP. Cider sales at the LCBO in 2017-2018 were over $11.5 million, an increase of 42% from the previous year.

  According to the latest data from Statistics Canada (from 2016-2017), while beer remains the booze of choice for Canadians, representing 40% of total alcohol sales—$9.1 billion annually—the market share of other beverages is growing. Wine sales are growing, and now represent 32% of total alcohol sales.

  On a per-capita basis, Canadians of legal drinking age drink an average of just over 200 cans of beer per year, compared to only 20 cans of cider. While the market share of ciders, coolers and similar beverages remains tiny in Canada, this segment of the alcoholic beverage market is dynamic and growing.

  Tastes have been gradually trending toward cider and coolers over the past decade, with an average annual sales growth rate of 6.4% in this category since 2007. Growth of imported beverages in this category was stronger than Canadian products, increasing 13.9% annually compared to 4.6% for domestic brands.

  Sales of ciders, coolers and other refreshment beverages in Canada totaled $0.9 billion in 2017, an increase of 8% year-over-year. Ciders and coolers are most popular in the Yukon, with 7.2% market share, and least popular in Quebec, representing just 1.2% of alcohol sales.

  In May, the governments of Canada and Ontario announced a joint investment in Ontario craft cider production through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership to support cideries to expand into new markets and increase productivity.

  Canadian consumers’ growing interest in cider is now drawing attention from larger beer manufacturers, Bissonnette said, which is increasing competition in the industry. Canadian beer giant Labatt bought Quebec’s Lacroix cider last fall and is using its marketing muscle to edge out smaller players like Sarah Cole.

  Although Bissonnette has lost some market share to Lacroix since the acquisition, he said there is a silver lining: in promoting Lacroix, Labatt must convince Canadians to consider cider as a beer alternative, which could ultimately increase the number of consumers willing to give other ciders a try as well.

  “The cider industry has been sleeping,” he said. “No cider house has the money to put cider on the map like Labatt does.”