West Avenue Cider House Pushes the Limits of Apple Cider

By: Alyssa Andres

Over the past decade, the cider industry in Canada has taken off, with over 150 cideries across the country and 55 in the province of Ontario. The cidery that continues to stand out amongst the crowd is West Avenue Cider House. Since establishing in 2012, West Avenue has drawn massive attention from cider lovers and connoisseurs alike, winning awards nationally and internationally for their line of ciders. The Ontario cidery not only uses traditional, slow fermentation methods and an array of Heritage apples to create their unique brand of apple cider, but owner and head cidermaker, Chris Haworth, also experiments with alternative techniques and approaches to cidermaking, creating never before seen products that are changing the way people think about apple cider.

  Haworth started his career as a chef in the U.K., working in some of London’s best restaurants, including Quo Vadis, owned by three Michelin star chef, Marco Pierre White. Haworth made the move to Canada in 2005 with his wife, Amy Robson, and that is when he started to take an interest in fermentation, brewing beer at home as a part-time hobby. As the couple got settled in Canada, Haworth noticed there were a lot of apples in Ontario, but not a lot of apple cider. It was in 2008 that he decided to leave the kitchen and make the shift into full-time cidermaking.

  Haworth takes a very traditional approach to cidermaking. All of his cider is made by traditional methods using slow fermentation. He only ferments when there are apples on the trees because he is focused on quality ingredients and authentic flavors. While many cideries can take only three weeks to get from ferment to shelf, West Avenue cider takes six months to go through the same process. Haworth believes this is what sets his cider apart. The cool ferments lend his ciders more complex aromatics and distinct flavors that are native to Ontario and cannot be reproduced anywhere else. He adds yeast from previous batches of cider to his new ferments to encourage this unique West Avenue flavor.

  Haworth’s first release, the West Avenue Heritage Dry, is a 6.5% alcohol by volume, traditional cider made from 100% Heritage apples. The cider took home “Best Cider in Ontario” at the 2014 Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Convention Hard Cider Competition and a silver at the 2014 Great Lakes and International Cider and Perry Competition. It continues to win awards each year, as does the cidery itself. West Avenue has taken home “Best Cidery in Ontario” four years in a row at the Golden Tap Awards.

  After mastering the art of the dry apple cider, Haworth started to experiment with blends, releasing West Avenue Cherriosity Cider in 2015 – a mix of Heritage apples and Montmorency cherries from Niagara. Cherriosity took home a silver at the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Convention that year and won Best in Show at the 2015 Royal Winter Fair. The two ciders – Heritage Dry and Cherriosity – are mainstays at West Avenue Cider House and can be found in liquor stores across Ontario. 

  After experiencing such success with his first two releases, in 2015, Haworth decided to move his growing business to Freelton, Ontario, just north of Hamilton, purchasing a 75-acre piece of land and starting his own organic apple orchard. Since then, Haworth has become what he calls an “apple collector,”  planting over 6,000 apple trees and over 110 different varietals of Heritage apples on his property, with more on the way. Some of these species of apples are 200 to 300 years old and are extremely uncommon.

  Right now, Haworth’s trees are still young, but he says the quality of the fruit is increasing from year-to-year and the true characteristics of the apples are starting to come through. He ultimately wants to capture the unique terroir of his orchard and figure out which varietals thrive in Ontario and where, in the orchard, they produce the highest quality fruit. He is also learning about the different flavor profiles of his extensive varietals of apples. Some of the apples are so high in natural sugars that they can reach 35% ABV when fermented on their own. Others are extremely high in acidity.

  In the long run, Haworth wants to determine the perfect blend of apples to make the ultimate apple cider. He has started planting several other native Ontario fruits, herbs, edible flowers and shrubs on his property to use in his ciders. He currently has 10 varieties of pears and other unexpected additions like sea buckthorn, black locust, elderberry and sumac, just to name a few. He says it’s like he’s trying to create his own cookbook of sorts with a multitude of cider recipes and concoctions that he has developed over the years.

  He is able to focus more on his experimental ciders since opening a tasting room on the property in 2017. The tasting room has a growler program that Haworth says has really taken off. Guests can come and fill their growlers with the latest on-tap offerings, and Haworth doesn’t have to worry about the cost of bottling. Currently, West Avenue is producing half a million pints a year. Haworth estimates the production is 50/50 experimental versus traditional flagship ciders he sells to restaurants and retailers. He has taken full advantage of this opportunity to experiment and has an extensive number of offerings in the tasting room in various styles and flavor profiles.

  Haworth is continuously searching for new approaches to create a remarkable cider. Just as a chef continues to learn different kitchen techniques, Haworth continues his education in cidermaking. Once he masters one method, he moves on to learn another. He has also begun to study winemaking and is now experimenting with using traditional winemaking techniques on his cider. As a chef, he says it started with the idea of not leaving any waste and using all of his raw materials. When he saw wineries throwing out their pressed grape skins, he decided to take them and add them to a vat of fermenting apple juice. The result was a beautiful rosé-colored cider, with bright fruit and mild tannins that won a silver medal that year in an American competition. A lightbulb went off in his head.

  From there, Haworth started buying grape juice from local producers and creating wine-cider hybrids. Rhineapple, one of the tasting room’s current offerings, is a blend of 35% Niagara Riesling grapes and 65% Northern Spry and Snow apples. This 9.2% ABV traditional method sparkling wine-cider hybrid is bright and floral with pear and honey notes. The apples and grapes are fermented together in bottle using an in-house strain of yeast. Haworth also experiments with wild yeast that is naturally occurring on the skins of the apples. He uses it to produce ancestral style ciders. One of his latest ciders, Pommerage, uses a Meritage blend of grapes fermented in oak before being combined with apple cider. At 11% ABV, this unique hybrid is a perfect substitute for wine and pairs excellently with food.

  Haworth is also experimenting with the use of a variety of barrels – from wine to tequila to rum. Genevieve is an apple cider aged in gin barrels and blended with ginger, peach, lavender and lactose. The barrels add depth and complexity to ciders rarely found in the industry. It is obvious when visiting the West Avenue tasting room that there is a chef at hand.

  Haworth is even making “ice cider,” made in the same way as ice wine – by pressing frozen apples, so the sugars are incredibly concentrated. Northern Lights is an ice cider aged for five years in cognac barrels, producing a syrupy sweet cider with an incredible body and notes of caramel, pecan and orange zest.

  Firecracker is a dessert-style cider made using a totally different technique – a maple syrup evaporator. Instead of freezing the apples to concentrate the sugars, Haworth wanted to try using the same method as maple syrup, essentially cooking the apples over a Maplewood fire to evaporate the water. The result is a thick and viscous 8.5% ABV cider with maple, nut and smoke notes. It’s perfect for sipping around a campfire.

  It’s hard to fathom what is next for Chef Haworth. Each year, he continues to hone his cidermaking skills and try new and innovative methods. He says, ultimately, for him, the obsession is to be able to create the “perfect cider.” Just as a winemaker seeks the perfect blend of grapes, he believes there is the perfect blend of apples. He says that in five years, he should be at the point where he has figured out that perfect blend, whether it be a blend of three different apples or ten. That is something cider lovers should look forward to.

COVID-19 Continues to Impact Canadian Craft Beer Industry

By: Briana Doyle

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to reshape the craft beer landscape in Canada. Unlike in the spring, when businesses closed from coast-to-coast, what breweries are experiencing to-day is very different depending on where they are in Canada.

  Breweries in the Maritime provinces — Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador — are almost back to business as usual, thanks to the Atlantic Bubble. Strict mask-wearing and sanitation rules, along with aggressive contact tracing, have left this part of Canada with some of the lowest rates of COVID-19 in the world.

  Like Australia and New Zealand, the remote Maritime region has benefited from its isolation. This region has almost completely eliminated cases of COVID-19 thanks to strict travel re-strictions that require anyone entering the region — including fellow Canadians — to self-quarantine for 14 days. The only other Canadian region with a similar requirement is the Northwest Territories, which also has a low number of cases.

  Even here, however, festivals and events have been canceled, restaurant and pub seating ca-pacities are reduced and gathering limits have been imposed to reduce the risk of super-spreading events that could lead to a resurgence of COVID-19.

  In Quebec, by contrast, breweries and brewpubs, like bars and restaurants, were forced to close again this fall as partial lockdowns were reimposed to quell the spread of COVID-19. When this column was written, it appeared that other provinces, including Ontario, British Co-lumbia and Alberta, were heading in the same direction.

  For breweries in Canada’s COVID-19 hot spots, the playing field is far from even. Each prov-ince has responded differently to the pandemic. In Ontario, for example, home delivery has emerged as an important sales channel for craft breweries. Taprooms that were focused on servicing their local community are now launching full-fledged e-commerce websites and ship-ping beer anywhere the rules allow.

  The province has relaxed certain rules around alcohol delivery, which has opened up new op-portunities for brewpubs to sell beer from other breweries — something the craft beer industry has been lobbying for over many years. Dominion City in Ottawa, for example, is now offering a “Friends of the Dominion” variety pack featuring a handpicked selection of Ontario beers. The package comes with a bag of chips — the token “food” item to meet the restaurant license re-quirements.

  In areas hit hard by the second wave of the pandemic, many breweries are struggling to stay afloat. To offer some of these producers a little lift, Canadian brewery supplier, Hops Connect, created a pandemic beer called Isolation Nation, a light and refreshing ale with notes of man-darin, lemon and tea. The company provided the hops and malt required to produce it, at no cost, to 45 breweries from coast-to-coast to help them make a little extra cash. The beer is made from Canadian-grown malt and locally produced Sasquatch hops.

  The first brewery to launch its version of Isolation Nation was the New Maritime Beer Company in Miramichi, New Brunswick. The brewery opened in 2020 and brewed its inaugural batch of beer just two days before the first pandemic shutdowns in March. Co-founder Adam Lordon told CBC News that it was hard to think of worse timing for the shutdown. “It was pretty much at the beginning and the worst possible timing. The startup phase is certainly challenging enough and can be stressful enough in the best of times,” he said. To pay it forward, the brew-ery is donating a portion of profits from the sale of this beer to the local food bank.

  New Maritime Beer Company is still in business, for now at least, but many other Canadian craft breweries are closing operations or seriously considering it. After six years in business, Ontario’s Abe Erb Brewing announced in October that it would shut all four of its locations in Waterloo, Kitchener, Ayr Village and Guelph.

  In Alberta, Mill Street Brewery announced in late October that it would close its Calgary brew-pub due to COVID-19. Mill Street’s other brewpubs in Toronto, Ottawa and St. John’s will re-main open.

  In British Columbia, Central City Brewers + Distillers also closed one of its Red Racer Tap-houses in downtown Vancouver after five years.

  In April, a survey of craft breweries conducted by the Canadian Craft Brewers Association found that 44% reported a year-over-year drop in revenue of 50% or more when the pandemic hit in March. 

  Most breweries who responded to the survey reported having cash reserves for only three months or less. Although the federal government has introduced financial support programs for businesses, many craft breweries did not meet the requirements for financial aid. Establish-ments in business for less than a year did not qualify for many programs, for example, while other programs specifically excluded alcohol-based enterprises. 

  With restaurants and bars closed in many parts of the country, more Canadians are eating and drinking at home these days. A poll released in June by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction found that one in five Canadians who drink alcohol and have been staying home more since the pandemic drink more often than before the onset of the pandemic. About 20% said they have a drink every day.

  “It is reassuring to see that for the majority of Canadians, alcohol use has either decreased or remained stable since the onset of COVID-19,” said Dr. Catherine Paradis, senior research and policy analyst at CCSA. “However, from a gender perspective, there is concern. On average, female consumers of alcohol are reporting 2.4 alcoholic drinks per occasion — which is above the low-risk alcohol drinking guidelines — and about 12% are reporting they consume alcohol in excess when they drink. By doing so, women are putting themselves at risk for short- and long-term negative health consequences.”

  As awareness grows of the negative health impacts of alcohol, a growing number of millennial beer-lovers are now looking for low- and no-alcohol beer alternatives. Between 2013 and 2018, nonalcoholic beer sales increased more than 50%, and over the past year, the category has grown 12% in total volume.

  In a press release announcing the launch of alcohol-free Budweiser Zero in Canada this fall, the company noted that consumer data reveals the 19-to-34-year-old age group, including mil-lennials and older members of Generation Z, led all demographic groups in consumption vol-ume of nonalcoholic beer.

  These “sober-curious” consumers aren’t necessarily teetotallers but are seeking responsible alternatives when they do not wish to drink booze, whether for health reasons or because they don’t want to drink and drive.

  According to Budweiser’s research, 64% of no- and low-alcohol beer is consumed by those in the 19-to-34 bracket. Women most often choose nonalcoholic beer as an alternative to sugary drinks, and men see it as suitable for a variety of social occasions.

  It isn’t just big breweries that have noticed this consumer trend. This fall, Beau’s Brewing in Ontario joined a growing number of breweries offering lower-alcohol options for customers, with the introduction of Lug Tread 2.5% — a lighter version of its flagship brew.

  Beau’s designed the layered ale to mimic the taste of the company’s most popular beer, Lug Tread, with a blend of barley malts and wheat delivering fresh grain flavor and a satisfying mouthfeel. The brew has mild herbal and orchard fruit notes and a clean finish. 

  “This is no watered down, bland ‘lite’ beer,” company co-founder Steve Beauchesne told Na-tion Valley News. “We’ve put time and care into developing this recipe, and we’re super happy with the results. This is a low alcohol beer that actually tastes like craft beer.”

  The beer is available in single 473mL cans at provincial liquor stores and the brewery, and will also be in the brewery’s six-pack winter sampler.

  In the spring, Toronto-based Rorschach Brewing also launched a nonalcoholic offshoot, Free Spirit Brewing, which debuted with the 0%, low-calorie Adventure IPA. The beer is available in cans and on tap at the brewery.

  Microbrasserie Le BockAle, based in Drummondville, Quebec, has gone even farther. The company has made a name for itself producing nonalcoholic craft beer, which it distributes throughout Quebec and Ontario. In June, the company also launched an e-commerce website offering free shipping across Canada. Le BockAle offers three core beer varieties, Découverte IPA, Berliner Sonne Berliner Weisse and Trou Noir Stout, as well as occasional limited-edition releases.

  Likewise, Toronto-based Partake Brewing has developed a line of five low-calorie, nonalcohol-ic craft beers that have proven popular in Canada: a red, IPA, blonde, pale ale and stout. Now the company is getting set to expand into the U.S. In September, Partake announced that it raised $4 million of Series A capital in a funding round led by San Francisco-based CircleUp Growth Partners.

  The new funds will accelerate the company’s growth, specifically in the U.S. market, by allowing the brand to secure key hires, grow its distribution and retail network and build consumer brand awareness. This growth will support Partake Brewing’s expanding coverage with retailers such as Total Wine & More and Whole Foods Market.

Canadian Brewery Turns Wastewater Into Beer

Advancing Canadian Wastewater Assets (ACWA) has partnered with Village Brewery and Xylem Inc. to brew Alberta’s first beer made with reused water. Christine O’Grady is the ACWA employee who led this project, and Jeremy McLaughlin is the Brewmaster from Village Brewery.

By: Briana Doyle

It’s one thing to turn lemons into lemonade, but will customers buy turning wastewater into beer?  On August 22, Village Brewery released a blonde ale produced in collaboration with University of Calgary researchers and the U.S.-based water technology company, Xy-lem, to create a limited-edition ale from water sourced by a Bow River wastewater treatment plant. The purpose of the project was to address water scarcity by proving that “dirty” water can be safely purified for drinking purposes. 

  The beer’s launch was initially pegged for March 22, which is U.N. World Water Day, but was delayed due to COVID-19.

  “There’s a mental hurdle to get over of how inherently gross this could be,” said Jere-my McLaughlin, head brewer at Village Brewery. “But we know that this water is safe, we know that this beer is safe, and we stand by our process.”

  Before brewing, the water was tested by Alberta Health Services to ensure it met pro-vincial quality standards for drinking water. The partially treated water was purified us-ing ultrafiltration, ozone, ultraviolet light and reverse osmosis. 

  “This beer shows that water reuse can be a safe and important part of our sustainable future,” said Christine O’Grady, program co-ordinator at Advancing Canadian Water Assets, another key partner in the project. “Wastewater can be treated using advanced treatment technology, making it into a reliable and safe water supply for many uses.”

  ACWA is a unique test bed and research facility where researchers, municipalities and industry professionals collaborate to improve wastewater treatment and monitoring technologies. It is a partnership between the University of Calgary and the city of Cal-gary.

   Reusing wastewater where possible is a practical solution to improve sustainability of our freshwater resources, O’Grady said, because it can reduce the amount of freshwa-ter needed for human consumption, lowering the demand for freshwater sourced from sensitive ecosystems.

  “AHS was happy to be part of this project to help develop a water safety plan and en-sure the water met drinking water standards,” said Jessica Popadynetz, AHS public health inspector. “With the right measures in place, alternative water sources such as wastewater, grey water, rooftop collected rainwater and stormwater can be made safe for many potable and non-potable end uses.”

  Xylem has been involved in similar projects to explore potable water reuse in the pro-duction of beer, wine and spirits throughout Europe and the U.S. In 2019, they part-nered with the city of Manchester, Heineken’s Manchester brewery, and the Manches-ter City Football Club to produce “Raining Champions,” a limited-edition beer brewed with purified rainwater collected from the rooftop of Manchester city’s Etihad Stadium.

  The company was also involved in the Pure Water Brew competition in Oregon last year, which challenged local homebrewers to create the best beer possible using sew-er water from Clean Water Services’ Durham treatment facility in Tigard, Oregon. The water was run through an additional high purity water treatment system. Brewers were then able to use the high-purity water, along with selected minerals, to custom-tune the water in order to modify the flavors of their beer.

  “Water scarcity continues to be a global challenge as populations keep growing,” said Albert Cho, vice-president and general manager of Xylem Inc. “Innovation and reuse are essential parts of the solution. Xylem is proud to partner with Advancing Canadian Wastewater Assets and Village Brewery in Calgary to demonstrate how we can all make this happen together. And we’re excited to try the beer!”

Upstart Alberta Brewery Takes the Crown in 2020 Canadian Brewing Awards; Quebec-Made Gluten-Free Red Wins Beer of the Year

  The verdict is in: Canada’s best brewery in 2020 is a three-and-a-half-year-old brewery in Calgary.

  Common Crown Brewing Company took top honors at the Canadian Brewery Awards, an annual competition that judges Canadian-made beer based on blind tastings from certified judges. The competition is open to domestic breweries of any size from across the country.

  In addition to winning Brewery of the Year based on the strength of the beers submit-ted, Common Crown was also awarded three gold medals for specific beers: the Ploughman Wheat Ale in the North American-style Wheat category, Andy’s Wee Heavy Scottish Ale in the Scotch Ale category, and Coppersmith Brown Ale in the Brown Ale category.

  The prize for Beer of the Year, however, went to Montreal, QC’s Brasseurs Sans Gluten for its chestnut-infused Glutenberg Red. The brewery’s Glutenberg brand, which launched in 2011, is not just a Canadian phenomenon; the company said half of all production is exported to the United States. 

  In addition to the company’s flagship blonde, pale ale and red beers, the Glutenberg line also includes some more unusual varieties, including a gose, stouts and a double IPA.

  To achieve a 100% gluten-free beer, the company brews strictly with gluten-free grains such as millet, buckwheat, corn, quinoa and amaranth, sourced primarily from farmers at nearby Ferme Sans Gluten. After brew day, spent grain is returned to the same farm, where it is used as compost in the millet and buckwheat fields that supply the brewery.

  Sales at Canadian microbreweries across the country were hit hard this year when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the whole country went into a months-long lockdown, and Common Crown was no exception.

  Co-founder Damon Moreau told Global News that being able to quickly pivot to home delivery when the pandemic hit helped “keep the lights on” when on-premise sales at the brewery and local restaurants and bars plummeted during confinement.

B.C. Brewery’s Popular Charity Program Returns After Pan-Demic Pause

  In September, British Columbia’s Fernie Brewing announced the return of its popular fundraising program for local charities.

  The brewery’s established Cheers for Charity program, in which a portion of sales from flights in the tasting room is given to a different local charity each month, was put on ice during the spring quarantine.

  Although the taproom has now reopened, tasting flights are still not permitted by local health order. Cheers for Charity will return in a slightly different format. One of the brewery’s 12 beers will now be selected as a “featured beer,” and proceeds of all sales of that brew will be given to the charity of the month.

  Since it launched in December 2013, Cheers for Charity has raised more than $150,000 for local charities, groups and clubs. The program is designed to support Fernie-based community groups.

  Past beneficiaries have included the Old Type Music Society bluegrass appreciation group, Fernie Friends of Refugees, WildSafe B.C., wildfire relief efforts and more. September sales will contribute to a fundraising effort for a new ultrasound service at the local hospital.

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