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 ( 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 ( August 28-29, 2020: Fea-tures live music, artisan market, food, an outdoor fire pit, and of course, a cider showcase and tasting events.

Collaboration is Key in Canadian Craft Beer

By: Alyssa Andres

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  British soldiers wrote in their diaries about beer:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Feb. 23/19

Dear Clara:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hello Rummy:

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

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

  From the Archives of the National WWI Museum and Memorial.

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

By: Alyssa Andres

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

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

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

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

Setting a Path

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creating a Legacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By: Briana Tomkinson

At the end of 2019, Canada reached a new milestone with over 1000 craft breweries and brewpubs in operation from coast-to-coast. Not surprisingly, the year also saw the launch of a new national federation of craft brewers associations to lobby the federal government on na-tional policies that affect the industry.

  Here’s a summary of some of the notable news and craft beer trends in Canada right now, in-cluding insights into craft beer consumer preferences from British Columbia, and more on the new Canadian Craft Brewers Association. But first, we’ve got to share news about a truly ex-perimental new brew produced in la belle province …

Cricket Stout Anyone?

  There’s nothing new about novelty brews, but a unique stout produced by a pair of Quebec microbreweries is sure to get folks chirping.

  Just as the name implies, the Stout aux Grillons, a collaboration between La Baleine Endiablée and the Lion Bleu, gets its thick mouthfeel and foamy texture from the addition of thousands of roasted … crickets …

  Crickets and mealworms, which are more environmentally sustainable to farm than meat and very nutritious, are beginning to appear in insect protein products on supermarket shelves, everything from pasta to dog biscuits. Loblaws, one of Canada’s largest grocery chains, even began selling its own line of cricket powder in 2018. Yet, for many people, the thought of eat-ing the stuff triggers an instinctive shiver of revulsion.

  According to CBC News, Baleine Endiablée co-founder, Jérémie Tremblay, got the idea to brew the buggy beer after being challenged by his friend Maxime Dionne, a local cricket farmer, to create a taboo-busting beverage that would tempt people to give insect protein a try.

  Tremblay’s first attempts at incorporating crickets were a bust. Cricket flour made the beer too gooey, while whole crickets gave it a funny taste. The trick, he found, was to roast the arthro-pods, which produced a malty flavor. The unusual additive is used in the same way as grain.

  The cricket stout is available at La Baleine Endiablée, located about an hour and a half north-east of Quebec City in Rivière-Ouelle, at the Lion Bleu, in the Saguenay region (two and a half hours due north of Quebec City), as well as through the Lion Bleu’s distribution points throughout the province.

Survey Offers Insights  about Craft Beer Superfans

  A recent survey of craft beer fans in British Columbia offers a number of insights into the be-havior and preferences of highly engaged beer drinkers, from packaging preferences and brewery tourism habits to the impact of cannabis legalization on beer consumption.

  The annual online survey of craft beer drinkers is conducted by Beer Me BC (, a popular Canadian craft beer blog. Not surprisingly, respondents tend to be craft beer enthusi-asts: almost two-thirds of respondents said they had visited 10 or more breweries within the past year, and 70% said they intended to travel more than 100km to visit a brewery in the next year.

  The majority of those surveyed said they drank beer three or more days per week, with 41% imbibing three to five days per week, and 18% drinking almost every day. Only 2% said they drank less beer after the legalization of cannabis, and 1% said legal weed has led them to drink more.

  For these craft beer superfans, the top factors in deciding what beer to purchase were flavor, beer style, brewery brand and reputation. Price and packaging were ranked as significantly less-important factors.

  According to the survey, the top 10 British Columbia craft beer events are:

1.  Vancouver Craft Beer Week (May 29 – June 7, 2020):

2.  Great Canadian Beer Festival (2020 date TBA):

3.  Farmhouse Fest (2020 date TBA):

4.  Okanagan Fest of Ale (April 17 & 18, 2020):

5.  Fort Langley Beer & Food Festival (May 16, 2020):

6.  BC Beer Awards (2020 date TBA):

7.  Great Okanagan Beer Festival (May 6-10, 2020):

8.  Whistler Village Beer Festival (Sept. 14-20, 2020):

9.  Clover Valley Beer Festival (Aug. 8, 2020):

10. Coquitlam Beer Festival (March 7, 2020):

  Over the seven years since the survey was first conducted, results have tracked several nota-ble shifts in British Columbia craft beer consumer trends, including maturing demographics and a swing in preference away from purchasing beer in glass containers. 

  Since the first survey in 2013, Beer Me BC has found the ratio of younger beer drinkers has been shrinking, while the number of respondents over the age of 43 has increased. It indicates that craft beer has staying power, as beer fans continue to choose craft as they get older. Yet it also suggests that fewer Millennials are becoming craft beer fans than Gen-Xers. Beer Me BC notes that trends researchers have found younger adults are drinking less, and are more likely to choose alternative beverages such as ciders and coolers.

  Over the years, the Beer Me BC survey has found the number of beer-drinkers who prefer to buy in bottles and growlers has dropped drastically. In 2013, bottles, bombers and growlers were preferred by the vast majority of consumers, with only 10% preferring cans. Tall cans (greater than 355 mL) weren’t even on the radar back then. Yet today, almost half of respond-ents said they prefer tall cans, and nearly two-thirds said they prefer aluminium cans to glass bottles.

New Seal Identifies “Real” Craft Beer

  Big Beer is increasingly gobbling up small breweries and marketing faux-craft brands, making it harder for consumers to know when the “craft” beer they’re buying is truly an authentic small-batch brew.

  A new initiative by the recently formed Canadian Craft Brewers Association aims to help craft beer fans identify the real stuff through a new certification mark to be added to “real” craft beer labels.

  The Independent Craft Seal of Authenticity, a small icon featuring a stylized hop bud, is intended to differentiate beer brands that are produced and sold by authentic Canadian craft brewers from copycat brands spawned by large beer conglomerates.

  To use the seal, breweries must be members of the CCBA and apply for an annual license. They must also register the use of the seal, and comply with strict usage guidelines.

  The CCBA formed last spring to create a national umbrella organization uniting provincial craft brewers associations, making it easier to educate and lobby the federal government on issues like federal taxation, inter-provincial trade, import/export policy and growth investment, and promote Canadian craft beer nationally and internationally.

  In June 2019, the CCBA tallied the craft breweries and brewpubs operating in each Canadian province and territory. There are now over 1,000 craft breweries or brewpubs operating in Canada, or 27 breweries per million people (the U.S. has 22 per million). Ontario has the most breweries in operation (269), while Quebec has the most brewpubs (68) and also has the most breweries in planning (80) out of all the provinces.

  All members of Canadian provincial craft brewing associations are automatically members of the CCBA. While the definition of a “craft” producer varies slightly from province to province, all members are licensed to produce beer in Canada, produce no more than 400,000 hectoli-tres of beer (the majority produce less than 5,000 hectolitres), and are independently owned (no controlling shareholder is a large beverage alcohol company). 

Will Cannabis Beverages Cannibalize Beer Sales?

By: Briana Tomkinson

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mild High Aimed at New Cannabis Consumers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beer Brands Push Into Cannabis Beverages

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

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

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

Marketing, Labeling Restrictions on Cannabis Beverages

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

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

By: Briana Tomkinson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Our strength is taste,” Bissonnette said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fernie Distillers: Thinking Outside the Box

By: Adrienne Roman

The first licensed craft distillery in Fernie, East Kootenays, British Columbia, opened its doors July 1, 2018, and there’s a good reason why their vodka, gin and liqueurs are flying off the shelves. Husband and wife team Jillian Rutherford and Andrew Hayden dedicate themselves to expanding sustainable practices, preserving Fernie’s industrious history, and providing small-batch, high-quality spirits individually created with local, seasonal ingredients.

The Present Is The Key To The Past

  Fernie’s name originated with prospector William Fernie, founder of the Crows Nest Pass Coal Company, who, along with Colonel James Baker, was influential in the development of the first mine in Coal Creek, just east of Fernie, in 1897.

  By 1898, the Canadian Pacific Railway also came to Fernie, transporting coal and supplying goods. With the rapid growth in mining, logging quickly became the second-largest industry. Unfortunately, with its mainly wooden foundations, two tragic fires in 1904 and 1908 completely devastated the town, but it was rebuilt using brick and stone in 1910.

  Rutherford told Beverage Master Magazine how this relates to the distillery. “In Geology, looking at modern environments like beaches and reef systems helps to find and identify similar features in the rock record. The present is the key to the past. If we flip that around, we feel that Fernie’s past informs our present. We are here because of what Fernie used to be—a mining- and rail-influenced community—and it’s important to remember how we arrived here, not just what we are now. We decided to incorporate Fernie’s history in our branding because as great as the outdoor recreation is here, the town is more than a one-trick pony. We have history.”

A Focus on Fruit

  Collaborating with local talent who also support their community, Rutherford and Hayden understand the importance of initiatives in place that keep both the people and the wildlife of Fernie safe. With a large number of fruit trees in East Kootenays, local Initiatives like “Apple Capture” and “WildsafeBC” help to ensure appropriately controlled harvests. Fruit is picked and managed to avoid falling and rotting, which can attract large deer and bears to the area. The mash supply from the production of their vodka and gin also helps to feed local farm animals. 

Mixology Manifestos

  The bar and tasting lounge at Fernie Distillers has a welcoming atmosphere and unique cocktails, where traditional takes a sharp turn in favor of modern creations with a twist. “The big window into the production room gives our guests the opportunity to see the stills and other tanks,” Rutherford said.

  Plastic does not feature in any of their cocktail presentations. Instead, decorative garnishes are made from an array of fruit, including apples, kiwis, strawberries, lemons, oranges, and pineapples. “A really great garnish should be clever, it should elevate a drink, and it should enhance the carefully mixed flavors. It should surprise and entice, and most of all, it should look and taste fantastic. In short, it should be an integral part of the drink, not a limp afterthought,” Rutherford said.

  There are several interesting DIY garnish ideas listed on the Farewell Umbrellas blog post on their website. Their cocktail menu changes with the seasons and is known for its creative approaches.

  Andy Ward, Fernie Distillery’s bar manager, named the FD G&T as the most popular cocktail. Rutherford added, “It doesn’t sound exciting, but it’s so delicious, and a familiar and approachable choice. We get people from all walks of life visiting us, and not all are adventurous for the first drink. When they come back after a great first experience, they often branch out, maybe with a stinger or a martini.” The FD G&T is made with gin, lemon sherbet, lime juice, and house-made lavender bitters topped with tonic.

Tools of Transformation

  Recycled materials are seamlessly incorporated into a number of the distillery’s features.

  A section of the old Calgary Molson Brewery bottling conveyor belt acts as the front face of the bar. It was given to the distillery by a friend who reconditions brewery equipment. Repurposed doors are part of the decor. The bar shelves are refinished slabs of British Columbia Douglas fir, previously part of horseshoe pits where the patio now sits. Similarly, their bar top is salvaged British Columbia Douglas fir timbers from 1903, once used as power pole cross beams by AltaLink in Southern Alberta.

Sustainable Spirit

  True sustainability is much more than just a word. Visibly expanding its many branches through smaller steps, together with the implementation of new and innovative ideas, remains an absolute priority for the team at Fernie Distillers.

  They’re actively working to reduce their environmental impact in many ways, and hope that their efforts will influence others to follow suit. By locally sourcing ingredients and reducing their carbon transportation footprint, they’re building connections with their community, and in turn, supporting the economic structure of the area. The distillery has also gone green with their Yarai acrylic barware, and only use recycled paper bags for all the sales in their shop. Neighboring businesses have also abandoned plastic. Rutherford and Hayden believe that spreading the word about these initiatives will help create an environment where sustainable practices are increasingly accessible, better understood, and more easily implemented.

  A project in sustainability was Rutherford’s latest brainchild. She wondered what could be done with the distillery’s hundreds of continuously used barley bags. After speaking with the sewing room teacher at The Fernie Academy School, a progressive student project took flight. Starting in September 2019, students will work to reconfigure them into attractive reusable shopping bags, and 100% of the proceeds from the sales will go directly to the school.

Fernie Fog and No.9 Mine

  A Fernie Distillery best seller, Fernie Fog liqueur was born from the idea of creating a black tea and bergamot infused blend with just the right amount of demerara sugar and vanilla. “It’s versatile and unique, and has really struck a chord with our customers,” Rutherford said.

  Their No. 9 Mine Vodka is wheat-based and rich in flavor, acknowledging the history of the Fernie miners who toiled below ground during the mine’s prosperous operation. Although dismantled in 1958, the mine’s remnants still sit along the Coal Creek Heritage Trail. Visitors to the area can still view the conveyor building, decaying ventilation fans and blocked tunnel entrances. 

  Infused with juniper, citrus fruit, and botanicals, the distillery’s blog deems Fernie’s Prospector Gin, “a clean, pure spirit, which can be perfectly flavored by the distiller or mixologist, or enjoyed in its most honest and raw form.”

  The distillery produces new spirits and liqueurs seasonally. They recently released 5th and Park Damson Gin, made with locally grown damsons that are picked just 500 meters off the property in Fernie Gardens.

The Usual Suspects and The Oddballs

  There’s a little something for everyone at Fernie Distillers, from that refreshing daiquiri made with pineapple and green cardamom-infused vodka, to an old fashioned stinger on hand-cut ice. Looking for different and unusual? They’ve got that covered too. Try the vodka espresso, a smooth mix of their No. 9 Mine Vodka, Fernie Fog, cold brew coffee, demerara sugar, Miraculous Foamer bitters, house coffee, cacao bitters and nutmeg.

  Whether skiing the slopes in winter or biking the beauty of the Elk River Valley trails in the summer months, Fernie Distillers offers guests excellent service and products. Their success is fueled by the dedication of those who live and work in a vibrant and historic town dripping with myth and legend.

With less than 200 bottles per batch and one of the industry’s few female distillers at the helm, Fernie Distillers proudly recognizes and celebrates all that Fernie has to offer, one exceptional spirit at a time.

  Fernie Distillers is open every day of the week except Tuesday. Fall cocktail hours are 4-10 p.m. on weekdays and 2-10 p.m. on weekends throughout ski season.

For more information, visit their website at…

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 (, 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 ( 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 (, 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 (, 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 ( 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 ( in March, which features over 200 varieties of beer, cider and mead.

  In remote Whitehorse, the Yukon Beer Festival ( 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 ( 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.