A Guide to Some of the Best Canadian Beer Fests

By: Briana Tomkinson

The popularity of craft beer in Canada has fueled the growth of beer festivals across the country. Some, like Craft Beer Week events in Vancouver and Ontario, are primarily dedicated to showcasing local brews, while other festivals, like Montreal’s Mondial de la bière, are opportunities for beer-lovers to explore new tastes from across Canada and around the world.

Mondial de la bière

  At the 26th annual Mondial de la bière, held in May 2019, an estimated 80,000 visitors flowed through the kiosks at Windsor Station in downtown Montreal. Visitors were keen to sample some of the 450 beers, ciders, meads and spirits from at least 90 craft beverage producers—including 35 from Quebec.

  While the included the usual branded brewery kiosks, it also featured the Petit Pub where visitors could try a selection of beer varieties from eight countries: Belgium, Brazil, Canada, the U.S., Italy, Norway, the Netherlands and Switzerland. Although admission was free, visitors could buy coupons for two- or four-ounce samples, ranging in price from $2 to $8 CAD.

  Quebec distilleries were a notable presence at the event, offering many creative tastes like les Subversif’s maple gin, produced in a former church in Sorel-Tracy; and Franklin-based Sivo’s rhubarb liqueur. Sivo was the first in Quebec to create a single-malt whisky in 2017 and is now known for its complex herbal liqueurs as well. Quebec’s first locally produced bitter Italian-style apératif, Amermelade, by Montreal’s Les Spiritueux Iberville was also available for sampling, along with the company’s Amernoir, a bitter amaro-style digestif with notes of coffee, cocoa, sarsaparilla, mint and orange.

  The event featured Quebec breweries proudly touting their sour beers. La Souche’s Canadian Brewing Award-winning Limoilou Beach beer stood out, in particular. The brew incorporates locally sourced ingredients unique to the northern Boréal forest, such as tart wild berries, Labrador tea and pine tips.

  The Mondial de la bière was founded in Montreal in 1994, and has become one of America’s most important international beer festivals. In addition to the original Montreal event, there are now three other Mondial de la bière festivals organized around the world, including one in Europe (mondialdelabiereparis.com), and two in Brazil. The events in France and Sao Paulo took place in late May and early June, and the seventh edition of the Rio de Janeiro Mondial de la bière (mondialdelabiererio.com/en/) is September 4-8, 2019.

Just wait, there’s more…

  If you missed out on the Mondial de la bière, don’t fret—there are similar events held across Canada throughout the year. Here are some of the most notable.

  Festibière (festibiere.ca), held in Gatineau in June and February, is another Quebec beer festival. The June festival drew more than 30,000 people over three days and featured over 300 beers from more than 30 Quebec breweries. The winter edition in February is more intimate, drawing closer to 10,000 people.

  In July, the Toronto Festival of Beer (https://beerfestival.ca/) pairs craft beverages with food and music. This year’s headliners include Ashanti and Ja Rule. The event will feature samples of over 400 beers from more than 90 brewers.

  Brewfest (http://brewfest.ca/) takes place in Ottawa in February and Toronto in March. The February event coincides with Ottawa’s annual Winterlude festival, a significant tourist draw at the famously frigid time of year. The Toronto event features over 150 beers from breweries in Quebec and Ontario, as well as gourmet eats from popular local food trucks.

  Alberta Beer Festivals (albertabeerfestivals.com) organizes six events throughout the year in Calgary, Edmonton, Banff and Jasper. Their Calgary International Beerfest, home to the Canadian International Beer Awards, is one of Canada’s largest beer festivals. The beer fest, held annually in May, features over 700 beers from more than 200 breweries. Another of their events, the Jasper Beer & Barley Summit, held in February, is a two-day mountain retreat at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, featuring food and beer pairings and seminars from top brewers, distillers and other industry leaders.

  In British Columbia, Vancouver Craft Beer Week (vancouvercraftbeerweek.com) is the event to watch. Held in late May and early June, it’s a 10-day party celebrating the city’s thriving craft beer scene, including a two-day festival at the PNE Fairgrounds in June, as well as events at breweries, restaurants and bars throughout the city. This year’s events included beer bike tours, tap takeovers, special beer pairing menus at local restaurants, and a three-hour sunset cruise featuring craft beer, snacks and a DJ.

  Another notable summer festival in B.C. is Farmhouse Fest (farmhousefest.com), held in July at the University of British Columbia’s 24-hectare model farm. Farmhouse Fest is an ode to farmhouse-style beers and ciders—the funky, fruity, peppery, tart, dry and sour. Participating breweries include local breweries as well as specialty producers from throughout Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Spain, Sweden, Belgium, Chile and Australia.

  August in the Maritimes brings the Seaport Cider & Beer Festival (seaportbeerfest.com) to Halifax, Nova Scotia. The two-day event features over 300 beverages from producers in 20 countries. This year they’ve added a new feature: the Maine Beer Box, a pop-up taproom in a shipping container featuring 78 craft beer taps from breweries in Maine.

  Another major East Coast beer fest is New Brunswick’s Fredericton Craft Beer Festival (http://frederictoncraftbeerfestival.com/) in March, which features over 200 varieties of beer, cider and mead.

  In remote Whitehorse, the Yukon Beer Festival (yukonbeerfestival.com) in October brings a taste of craft beer and ciders from around North America to delight beer fans in the Great White North. Last year’s event featured over 100 different brews.

  Some larger craft producers, like Beau’s Brewing in tiny Vankleek Hill, Ontario, have created their own marquee events. Beau’s Oktoberfest (beausoktoberfest.ca) has become a significant fall music and beer celebration, featuring not only Beau’s brews but also a mini-beer festival with over 50 rare or exclusive beers from Canadian craft breweries. The New Pornographers and Shad headline the September festival, along with Jenn Grant, Neon Dreams, Birds of Bellwoods, Caravane, John Jacob Magistery, and What If Elephants. The 2018 event drew over 17,000 people, and since its launch 10 years ago, has raised approximately $711,000 for area charities. 

  The beauty of beer festivals is the opportunity for brands to make a personal connection with beer fans, tell their story, and above all, to entice more people to taste the unique product they have to offer.

Gaining Ground in Grimsby: Mountain Top Hops

By: Adrienne Roman

It’s no wonder the International Herb Association named it the 2018 Herb of The Year.  The history of the Humulus Lupulus, better known as the hop plant, was first documented in the 1st century AD when its female cones were used for beer preservation on long nautical journeys from Europe. A flowering perennial with an abundance of uses, the plant’s hop cone is best known for adding bitterness or aroma to beer and is a popular crop choice among both small scale and larger commercial farmers in Ontario.

According to the 2018 market and acreage update from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Farms and Rural Affairs, this cousin to cannabis took flight in Ontario between 2011 and 2017, helped by boron-rich soil and the humid temperate climate.

After a notable decline in hop production due to disease and Prohibition in the early 20th century, Canadian brewers have traditionally relied on the importation of the majority of their hops from Europe and the US Northwest. With the explosion of the craft beer industry in recent years, Ontario brewers are once again enjoying the demand, and many are buying fresh hops from local sources whenever possible.  Whether appreciated for its culinary, medicinal or ornamental use, Ontario is currently producing over 30 aromatic and bittering cultivars providing brewers and consumers a variety of hop options.

Quality Over Quantity

Phil Barry decided he wanted to investigate crop options for his custom-built 18-acre farm in Grimsby, Ontario. Above all, the Burlington Fire Department Captain and Platoon Chief aspired to build a small-scale operation that focused on quality over quantity. Mountain Top Hops was born from the desire to grow a reliable local product and connect with his community. Having spent many years living and working in the farming community of Oakwood, Ontario, Barry decided to try out his first 2-acre hop test plot build in 2016. With some valuable direction from Kyle Wynette of the Tavistock Hop Company, third place winners of the 2019 Great Ontario Craft Beer Competition, he set up a plan and a soil-testing program with The Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs. Wanting to support Canadian businesses, he sourced his Waterford Lodgepole pine from British Columbia, and aircraft cable from The Good Rope Company in Oakville, Ontario.

Equipment and agronomics aside, Barry understood the potential risks of working with this often labor-intensive crop and the challenges he would need to address. “There were issues with time, commitment, careers, and of course the substantial investments in infrastructure and specialized equipment,” he said.

As with any worthwhile enterprise, Barry and his wife, Rebecca were confident that patience, combined with a solid foundation of knowledge, would balance out any of the difficulties along the way.  North American hops are often thought to have a higher resistance to Downey mildew than some of the European varietals, but tackling pest control for aphids and spider mites was more of an initial concern than soil fertility or disease.  His test build proved successful, and he’s expanded over the 2017/2018 seasons, resulting in wet hop sales to The Exchange Brewery in Niagara-On-The-Lake.  Mountain Top Hops also supplies pellet hops and is planning on increasing the hop yard to six acres within a few years. Their cultivars currently include Centennial, Newport, Cascade, and Cluster. According to the 2017 Hop Growers of America statistical report of acreage grown in the Pacific Northwest, Cascade remains at the top, followed by Centennial, Citra HBC 394, and Simcoe YCR 14.

“My favorite is Cascade, I love the citrus aroma, and in my opinion, I feel it’s the backbone of a great IPA,” Barry said.

Mountain Top Hops also grows the noble hop Hallertau, AlphAroma, Yakima Gold, Perle, and Crystal. With 1200 plants and 600 lbs harvested in their second year, they’re in a good position for expansion.

With breweries buying hops from all over the world, “the true challenge lies in consistently making a good quality product,” said Albert Witteveen, President of the Ontario Hop Growers Association (OHGA).  “It’s a maturing industry; people want to drink great beer.

Witteveen told Beverage Master Magazine Ontario is particularly suited for growing Canadian hops. “Geographically we’re not like anywhere else, our moderated weather between the Lakes puts us in a good position compared to other locations that deal with more volatile weather patterns. “

Locally Sourced

A greater appreciation of high-quality products has many Canadian consumers giving their business to smaller, more intimate brewpubs where they can enjoy a personalized experience and a sense of community. The food and beverage movement in Ontario has brewers exploring innovative recipes that are moving away from the mainstream, and sourcing local ingredients like malt, honey and fruit whenever possible.

There will always be an abundant supply of high-alpha hop varietals from the commercial producers in Yakima Valley, Washington, or Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho, but with Ontario’s craft beer sales exceeding $300 million in 2018, the need for quality hops is rapidly expanding.  Ontario breweries are working on local experimental projects and increasing collaboration with brewing programs like Durham College’s Centre For Craft Brewing Innovation to highlight local brands. This state-of-the-art location features a 50-liter pilot brew line and lab, allowing brewers the opportunity to work with advanced technology and micro-analytical services, and “conduct scientific analyses to ensure the analytical and microbiological integrity of the beer, supporting this growing sector of the local economy. “

With brewers and farming communities developing craft industry networks, there’s also increasing support coming from New York and Michigan to promote some of Ontario’s distinguished brands.

More Than Beer

Microbreweries are forging forward and according to Witteveen, “Nano-breweries are gaining popularity, and farmers are seeing their longevity there. “ Even smaller in scale than a microbrewery, nano-breweries typically produce less than 3,000 barrels annually.  Farmers can now diversify their product line with the addition of brewing capability on their property, and simultaneously expand sales locally, regionally, and internationally.

With approximately 400 different compounds found in hop oil, it’s readily used in many products in the culinary and medicinal arenas that extend well beyond the craft beer market.

The lupulin found in the hop cone glands is recognized for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial qualities and used as a pain reliever, nervous system relaxant, and antimicrobial. The plant-derived compounds present in lupulin are thought to influence the human endocrine system. Researchers at The University of Kentucky are looking at the promising test results from studies utilizing hops to control fructan fermentation in the treatment of laminitis in horses.

Ontario Values

Barry’s farming philosophy closely echoes the principles that are found in the fire service. Mountain Top Hops was established to give his three children the opportunity to better understand the importance of integrity, adapting to change, honest hard work, and patience.

Ontario farmers are rooted in these same values, connected to their land and to each other. Vital relationships of trust form when consumers understand where their products originate and get to hear the personal story behind the brand.  Last year the province of Ontario supported the craft beer industry with funding from The Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation, investing over $5 million in 16 microbreweries.  The 2018 budget has this support increasing to $150 million by 2021.

Locally bought hops are boosting Ontario’s agricultural economy, and the governments commitment to continue supporting the craft beer industry is allowing many local farmers the freedom to expand their operations, increase tourism, and create new jobs and opportunities for emerging local businesses in communities across Canada.

Nelson-Jameson and 3M™: Driving the Fight Against Food Allergens

By: Nelson-Jameson

With industry demand calling for new innovations in allergen testing, Nelson-Jameson is proud to offer 3M Allergen Protein Rapid Test Kits.

These kits are a qualitative immunochromatographic assay for rapid in-plant monitoring of specific food allergens, and are designed for accurate detection of processed and unprocessed allergen proteins. With results available in 10 to 12 minutes, these fast, easy tests can be used for clean-in-place (CIP) final rinse water, environmental swab samples, raw ingredients and finished food products. We currently have the following test kits available: Almond, Bovine Total Milk, Cashew, Coconut, Egg White, Fish, Gluten, Hazelnut, Peanut, Pecan, Pistachio, Soy, and Walnut. All test kits include 25 tests per kit.

Nelson-Jameson also offers 3M’s line of Allergen Protein ELISA Test Kits for both processed and unprocessed target allergen proteins. For additional information visit nelsonjameson.com or call us at: 800-826-8302.

Nelson-Jameson has been an integrated supplier for the dairy and food industry since 1947. Product lines include safety & personnel, production & material handling, sanitation & janitorial, processing & flow control, laboratory & QA/QC, and bulk packaging & ingredients. The company is headquartered in Marshfield, Wisconsin, with other locations in Turlock, California; Twin Falls, Idaho; York, Pennsylvania; Amarillo, Texas; and a sales branch in Chicago, Illinois.


By: April Ingram

Don’t want to leave the party to pick up the missing ingredients to make your signature cocktail or to try a new recipe? Wish you had options to save time, or you don’t want to head out into the elements to go pick up your favorite alcoholic beverages? Canadians can now enjoy greater options for their alcoholic beverage home delivery, including a wider selection of craft beverage products with Drizly.

In Canada, liquor laws are regulated by each province individually, and some have permitted home delivery of wine beer and spirits for decades. The original alcohol delivery service, Dial a Bottle, was taking orders by phone and delivering bottles before apps or even the internet existed. Today, the home delivery marketplace is flooded with options that make home delivery of alcohol nearly as easy as Uber Eats, and the competition is fierce, leading to lower delivery fees and extra service perks. E-Commerce companies are working with the complete inventory of local, leading liquor retailers and delivering them within 60 minutes to adults of legal drinking age at their homes and even to their offices.

Amazon for Liquor

Drizly, a pioneer and the world’s first and largest alcohol e-commerce marketplace is now launching their services in the city of Vancouver, the province of Alberta, and throughout 26 U.S. states. They’ve been called the “Amazon for Liquor” or “Uber Liquor,” and their approval to operate in Vancouver has been noted as quite the accomplishment, considering that legislative regulation has so far prevented the actual Uber from being allowed within the entire province. Drizly has already been serving consumers in parts of the neighboring province of Alberta for over two years.

Drizly works with local retailers, including Liquor Depot, to bring adults of legal drinking age a wide selection of beer, wine and spirits, with delivery in under 60 minutes through Drizly.com and the Drizly app.

By providing access to inventories from local retailers in each market, the service gives customers a wide selection of beer, wine and spirits at reasonable market prices. In addition to a wide variety of adult beverages, Liquor Depot’s range of popular soft drinks, juices, ice and other mixers, are also be available on the Drizly platform. Customers schedule a delivery or in-store pickup. The Drizly’s mobile app and website are deep wells of information, offering cocktail recipes, pro tips and popular adult beverage trends.

Delivery in Vancouver is a flat $4.99, and customers have to purchase a minimum of $20 worth of products from Liquor Depot and Liquor Barn to qualify for delivery.

Simplified Age Verification

Alcanna, formally known as Liquor Stores N.A. Ltd., is North America’s largest publicly traded alcoholic beverage retailer and includes a chain of more than 240 stores operating in Alberta, British Columbia, Kentucky and Alaska, with both Liquor Depot and Liquor Barn under its banner. They carry a vast selection of craft beers, ciders and spirits, some of which are not available in provincially run liquor stores.

Although other liquor delivery services exist in the area, Drizly’s verification software ensures that liquor is kept out of the hands of minors. Age verification made the service even more appealing to Alcanna when it was looking for a platform to sell its products on demand.

“Vancouver has been thirsting for everything that Drizly facilitates, not least online access to our vast inventory, an intuitive shopping experience and the convenience of delivery in under an hour. It’s a win-win in every sense of the term,” Fran Coons, Vice President of Operations at Alcanna said in a press release.

By equipping retailers with technology that can verify age and identification, Drizly helps business owners protect their liquor licenses. Their retail partners are provided with a device to scan barcodes on official forms of identification. Drizly’s proprietary ID verification technology enables delivery personnel to verify IDs with accuracy that goes well beyond a manual review. The scans collect the customer’s name, date of birth and the ID expiry date, and the device can determine whether the ID is authentic. Once age and identity are confirmed, the scanned information is deleted from Drizly’s records, so there is no concern about collection or storage of personal information. Retailers aren’t required to use the device and can choose to use the scanner for every delivery or only when employees suspect the customer is underage.


Provincial regulations alcohol delivery services are required to follow under their licensing agreement do not allow delivery services to store liquor themselves. Instead, they must take orders from a verified adult, then purchase the order from a retailer or general merchandise liquor store licensees such as Liquor Barn or Liquor Depot, and deliver the liquor to the adult who ordered it at a place where it is lawful to store or consume. The delivery service license in Alberta is considered a Class D liquor license and costs $200 annually. In British Columbia, licensed establishments are permitted to sell their products online and deliver them to customers only between 9:00 am and 11:30 pm and orders must be delivered on the same day they were placed.

Additionally, in British Columbia, anyone involved in the selling or serving of alcoholic beverages is required to complete “Serving It Right” training.  Serving It Right is British Columbia’s mandatory self-study course that teaches licensees, managers, sales staff and servers about their legal responsibilities when serving alcohol, and provides practical techniques to prevent problems related to over-service. This training is extended to and required for alcohol delivery personnel as well.  All Drizly delivery drivers are Liquor Depot and Liquor Barn employees, so they go through the same training as in-store staff, knowing how to recognize whether someone should not be served and when a customer may be a minor.