Mixed beer packs showcase craft beer's bounty

Ontario Craft Brewer's Discovery Pack (Supplied)

Ontario Craft Brewer's Discovery Pack (Supplied)

Jordan St. John, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:52 AM ET

When it comes to craft brewing, there is strength in numbers.

Besides natural competition, the sheer number of craft breweries that keep springing up (two have opened in Toronto alone since I started writing this sentence), would be a good example of why this is.

Craft breweries are not known for their marketing budgets, which tend to stretch just far enough to come up with a branded booth for events and an employee who can write press releases.

Organizations like the Ontario Craft Brewers and the B.C. Craft Brewers Guild allow for a certain amount of lobbying strength with provincial governments, but far more importantly, they allow for mixed six pack releases that showcase the efforts of their members.

The B.C. Craft Brewers Guild released the Natural Selections six pack recently to mixed reviews. The highlights in this case were Switchback IPA from Lighthouse Brewing in Victoria and IP’eh from Russell in Surrey. The former is light orange in colour with some significant lemon and pine on the nose.

The latter beer falls squarely in the middle of the English IPA category, with familiar toffee and caramel sweetness on the palate. It being the first time that the BC Brewers Guild had attempted a release like this, one wants to tread lightly. If there is a criticism of the selections offered, it is simply this: They were too similar.

They could learn from the current rebranding of the Ontario Craft Brewer’s Discovery Pack. The current version might be the 14th in the series, but that simply means that they’ve learned from past versions. They’ve renamed it the Brewmaster’s Choice pack, creating in the consumer the notion that there might be a person actually creating these things. In addition to that, the selection is a pretty decent representation of the brewing scene in Ontario as it stands.

The old school is represented in the form of Amsterdam Natural Blonde Lager and Wellington County Dark Ale. These may not seem the most exciting choices, but they are each solid beers that have survived over a quarter of a century. The province’s second wave is represented by Cameron’s Auburn Ale and Lake of Bays 10 Point IPA, which represent a move towards the hoppier hybrid of English and American styles that Ontario was at one time known for.

There are two big, flavourful bruisers representing the new class of Ontario beers. Muskoka’s Twice As Mad Tom is a big, bitter-but-balanced Double IPA that pushes the limits on hop character. Nickel Brook’s Bolshevik Bastard Russian Imperial Stout is a great choice for the pack because it’s not available at retail outside of it.

The range is such that there’s something for everyone. That’s the message you want to convey to consumers.

Jordan St.John writes about beer at Saintjohnswort.ca. He is currently writing a book about the history of beer in Ontario.


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