Canada’s West Coast arguably has some of the best hops around, while here in Alberta, we boast about our top-notch barley, and for good reason. Canada may be cold, but there are some beautiful ingredients to work with here, and it shows in our beer.
Quite a few breweries have made special releases to celebrate Canada’s 150th Birthday, but I have chosen to focus solely on small batch craft beers from Alberta or BC that are oh-so-Canadian! I will list a few more at the end that still deserve mention, however.
With most having just come out this week, I’ve been scrambling (aka cycling around the city in 30-degree heat) to pick them all up. So for the sake of time, and my liver, I won’t be trying them all in advance. I need to save some for the big Canada Day celebration too, right!? With that settled, from West Coast to Calgary, here are the beers you should be drinking to celebrate this incredible milestone in Canadian history!
Lighthouse Brewing Company – Canada 150 Heritage Ale
American Strong Ale – ABV 6.3% – IBU 14
A salute to lighthouse keepers across Canada; Lighthouse Brewing’s Heritage Ale is malt-forward with maple notes and a hint of smoke to represent the oil lamps that used to keep lighthouses bright. I asked Brewer, Adam March, why the lighthouse was chosen to name the brewery; “a Lighthouse is a beacon, a guiding force in what may at times be tumultuous or confusing seas,” he said. Adding that as Lighthouse Brewing has grown into a strong and established company, they have started to see themselves fitting that name more with time. For this beer, they wanted to showcase the Canadian ingredients while still having a balanced flavour. Pairing well with sweet barbeque flavours, I am excited to be saving this one to celebrate with on Canada Day!
Find it: In select liquor stores across BC and Alberta.
Mt. Begbie Brewing Co. – Confederation 150 Maple Cream Ale
Maple Cream Ale – ABV 5% – IBU 12
Mt. Begbie stayed true to their more than two-decade old, award-winning, cream ale recipe and added 100 gallons of organic maple syrup from Quebec to sweeten the deal. “We wanted to do something special,” says Director of Sales and Marketing, Darren Shewchuk, who added that, since maple beers often tend to be darker and this needed to be light enough for summer, the cream ale base seemed a good fit. They initially made one small batch only, as BC Liquor was unable to carry it. But Darren credits their use of the Canada 150 logo, which they applied to include on the label back in January, for helping to convince them to take the beer. As a result, the team needed to brew an additional two larger batches to meet demand! Fun fact: Mt. Begbie was the most recent winner of Brewery of the Year at the Canadian Brewing Awards, congratulations!
Find it: At government and private liquor stores across BC, and on tap at some local pubs. The tap room at their new location will be opening in August.
Jasper Brewing Co. – Crisp Pils
Pilsner – ABV 4.8% – IBU 34
Approachable and polite; that’s a Canadian for sure, eh? The first beer I think ever to be described as “apologetically hoppy,” This beer was made with these traits in mind and being easy-drinking and light, perfect to share with friends or around the campfire. I was able to get a sneaky can of it in advance of the July 1 release (thanks, Adam!) and try it out on a hot summer afternoon. It pours crystal clear, golden, and seemly forever bubbling, so I get where the name came from. If there were any beer I could choose to swim in, I’d be diving into a pool of Crisp Pils, no doubt! The only problem? It is in fact so refreshing that in the time I have typed this paragraph, it’s almost gone!
Find it: On tap at National on 17th, Last Best Brewing, or for sale across Alberta in 6-packs or 24-packs of 355ml cans. (If you are up in Jasper, they also created a Centennial and a Half ISA which is exclusively available at that brewery)
Blindman Brewing Company – Red + White IRA Batch 150*
India Red Ale – ABV 6.0% – 50 IBU
Blindman Brewing saw the intersection of their 150th batch and Canada’s 150th birthday coming up, and couldn’t think of any reason not to create a commemorative beer. The timing may have been misaligned, by five batches; it IS Blindman Brewing after all, but this beer still hits all the right notes. All-Canadian ingredients, septuple-hopped, (yup, that’s seven varieties) and packed in stove-pipe tall cans the size of a true Canadian pint, it passes the test of a real Canuck. The brewers managed to make the mix of hops blend together so well with the malt that I wouldn’t have guessed it was 50 IBU’s if someone hadn’t told me. I also was unaware that the ability to pour a glorious full pint from a can at home would be so satisfying!
Find it: Across Alberta in 4-packs of 568ml tall cans or, of course, at the brewery.
Banff Ave Brewing Company – Spruce Tip Red Lager
Red Lager – ABV 4.9% – IBU 24
Now, you may have noticed this is the second Canada 150 brew from Bearhill Brewing, and I’ll warn you now, there is also a third. But no matter what my Canadian instincts tell me, I’m not going to apologize. Why? Because they are making damn good beer! Banff Ave Brewing has created a lightly hopped red ale with a subtle hint of spruce from spruce tips hand-picked in Canmore by the staff. When asked about the choice to add such a unique ingredient to this smooth red lager, Head Brewer Miranda Batternick said, “there are so many spruce trees around the brewery in Banff, and they are quintessentially Canadian.” She added, having had spruce flavoured beers in the past she appreciates their unique flavour and how they naturally compliment hops. This beer will only be available at the brewery for a limited time so here’s your cue to head to the Rockies!
Find it: From July 1 at Banff Ave Brewing Co., on tap or in 650ml bottles.
Last Best Brewing & Distilling – Berry Smooth Berliner Weisse
Raspberry Berliner Weisse – ABV 3.5% – IBU 15
I already went over this beer in my recent article about #YYCBeerWeek, but when something is awesome, I don’t mind repeating. In the words of Brewing Operations Manager, Phil Brian, “there’s nothing more Albertan than barley, wheat, and cows!” And a lot of barley, wheat, and the lactic bacteria from cows make up this light sour ale which has a fittingly red-hue. One ingredient that wasn’t mentioned? You can tell this beer was brewed with a lot of love *every brewer involved cringes.* But, seriously, Last Best Brewing did Alberta proud with this unconventional style choice to showcase Alberta beer in the Red Racer Across the Nation Collaboration 150 Pack.
Find it: For a limited time, as a part of the Red Racer Across the Nation Collaboration 150 Pack. The brewery is officially tapped out, but they have a couple of other Berliner Weisse beers on right now that are insanely good!
Russell Brewing Company – IP’eh
English Style India Pale Ale ABV 6.5% IBU 45
Ok, not a commemorative brew, but I just had to include an honourable mention on this list, ’cause a beer that’s named IP’eh is as Canadian as a beaver riding a moose. As a part of their small batch series, Russell Brewing didn’t hold back, hopping with both Williamette and Pacific North West Cascade, and finishing with a dry hop of Cascade flowers. I am glad I included it in this list, partly because General Manager, Steve Schafer responded to my inquiries with an email titled,”Thanks for thinking of us eh’.” But also because the beer was originally produced and aptly named due to another time of Canadian pride, the months leading up to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver!
Find it: In 650ml bottles, year-round at select liquor stores (including Co-op) across Alberta and BC.
If you’re looking for even more Canada 150 brews, check these out too:
- Big Rock’s Canada 150 Variety Pack has six beers representing various parts of Canada. I haven’t included it here because it is too many beers on its own, but I imagine I will be picking this pack up soon and have a little idea as to what I may want to do with it. Side note: I’m loving their new branding, particularly on this pack.
- The one everyone has already been talking about; Central City Brewing’s Red Racer Across the Nation Collaboration Pack includes collaborations with breweries from across the country. All the brewing took place in Surrey, BC but for the sake of this article, I can’t dig into all 12 of those.
- Mill Street Brewery just released a limited run Red Ale from their Toronto location; if you collect beer bottles, this is one you want!
- Innis & Gunn has a 150-day oak-barrel aged Maple & Thistle Rye Ale which is probably better enjoyed on Canada’s 151st birthday since it will continue to mature.
- Moosehead Brewing are also turning 150 right alongside Canada, and I wasn’t aware (or forgot) they are still independently owned, good on them!
I hope everyone has a fantastic and fun Canada Day with good food, good company and, of course, good beer! Happy Birthday Canada!