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Beaumont's Journal
Taking Canada to Sweden
My trip to Stockholm began back in 2005, although it took until September of 2007 before my feet actually touched Swedish soil. It was one long and roundabout trip.

This unique odyssey got its first breath of life when I received an out-of-the-blue e-mail from one Jörgen Hasselqvist of the Oliver Twist bar in Stockholm. It was sometime in late 2005, and Jörgen’s purpose in writing was to gauge my interest in attending the 2006 Stockholm Beer & Whisky Festival. More than simply attending, actually: Jörgen also wanted me to be an active participant.

The idea Jörgen proposed was for me to assemble a selection of Canadian craft beers and escort them to Stockholm, so that interested Swedes could taste firsthand what is going on beer-wise in my home country. It sounded to me like a fine idea, but since its actualization depended entirely on Jörgen finding a way to get said beers safely and at least relatively cheaply to Stockholm, all I could do was wait after offering my emphatic “Yes!”

Had everything worked out at the time, I would have visited Sweden much sooner than I ultimately did. But the Canadian Embassy took a year or so to develop sufficient enthusiasm to back the project, so all plans were deferred for a time. Thus it was in the summer of 2007 that I finally started rounding up my beers.

Now, brewers being the busy and easily distracted souls that they are, I anticipated the development of a list of 10 cross-Canada breweries, each contributing two or three brands, to be at least a bit of a challenge. Surprisingly, it wasn’t. Almost without exception, the brewers I chose were enthusiastic about the project and, even with summer sales taxing their stocks to the max, were happy to contribute the equivalent of 10 cases each of at least two of their brands.

My end of the planning wasn’t exactly an easy task, mind you. First off, I unilaterally decided that the breweries chosen for Stockholm had to represent both a geographic cross-section of the country and stylistic diversity. Additionally, emphasis had to be given to bottling breweries, since there was no guarantee that kegs could be returned. Finally, at Jörgen’s request, I needed to compile a mix of approachable styles and “out there” brands.

Ultimately, I set out my brewery goals as follows: Two breweries from British Columbia; one each from Alberta and Saskatchewan; two breweries from the country's most populous province, Ontario; three from what is unquestionably the most interesting province for beer in Canada, Québec; and one from the most beer-savvy province in the Maritimes, Nova Scotia.

There was not a brewery or beer in the lot that I wasn’t proud to present to Scandinavia's beer-faithful.

In the end, I couldn't get a pair from B.C. to commit and so was grateful when a very worthy brewery from Ontario stepped in to fill the gap. The final list, then, represented the finest cross-section I was able to pull together on relatively short notice. (I doubt that a true “best of” list could have been compiled, given the diversity of Canadian beer and brewing.) Suffice it to say that there was not a brewery or beer in the lot that I wasn’t proud to present to Scandinavia's beer-faithful.

From Victoria, B.C., Spinnakers Brewpub sent along its time-honored, unapologetically British-styled Mitchell's ESB and its excellent American-British hybrid 20th anniversary pale ale, originally known as Twenty but now sold as Iceberg. Rounding out the B.C. contingent was a small selection of Spinnakers’ new and potent Belgian-inspired fruit beers.

Alberta’s Alley Kat Brewing offered its Full Moon Pale Ale, a moderately hopped and well-balanced ale, at my request. Alley Kat also suggested its filtered Herbstweizen, a true Bavarian-style wheat beer named after the owner-brewer, Neil Herbst. After evaluating the sample they sent to Toronto, I settled on it as one of the tastiest kristal weizens I’ve ever encountered, and I happily included it in the mix.

To the east, the Bushwakker Brewpub of Regina, Saskatchewan, contributed both owner Bev Robertson and his American-style Summer Wheat, London-style Palliser Porter and somewhat Bohemian-esque Stubblejumper Pilsener. Bev made the trip on his own volition, and although he didn’t seem completely happy with the way his beer weathered the trip across the Prairies and over the Atlantic, he did in the end appear happy to be there.

Ontario’s three-spot of breweries were all Toronto-centric, with Mill Street Brewing coming from the city’s east end, the King Brewery operating just to the north of Toronto, and Black Oak Brewing hailing from my parents’ chosen suburb, Oakville.

From Mill Street came the Tankhouse Ale, a vaguely American-ish pale ale; the Original Organic Lager; a serviceable helles; and a delicious, freshly roasted-coffee–flavored Coffee Porter. This last beer reflects the curious popularity of coffee beers in the Toronto region, which dates back to when the C’est What beer bar pioneered the segment years ago with its custom-brewed Coffee Porter. To my mind, however, the Mill Street offering is the best of the lot.

Demonstrating aptitude for both the Bavarian and Bohemian, King sent along its quenching, unquestionably Czech-influenced Pilsner and the flavor-filled dunkel, known simply as King Dark Lager. Black Oak worked the ale side of the equation with a blonde, a fruity-hoppy Pale Ale and a rich, suitably nutty and chocolaty Nut Brown Ale.

La belle province du Québec contributed some of the country’s most unusual and exceptional ales, including the only draft in the lot, the Dieu du Ciel brewpub’s Aphrodisiaque, a seductive, vanilla bean– and cocoa-flavored dark ale; and a barley wine called Solstice d'Hiver. The latter wasn’t in the best of shape, having been held over from the previous winter and, to me, at least, showing signs of oxidization, but was a hit at the show nonetheless. From Brasserie McAuslan came one of the world’s finest oatmeal stouts, the St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout, and the flavorful, Québécois St. Ambroise Pale Ale, both recently introduced to the Northeastern U.S. market by Eurobrew.

As the only brewery already present in the Swedish market, Unibroue had the option to show pretty much whatever it wanted. It maximized the interest factor by offering Quelque Chose, a spiced cherry ale meant for mulling; La Terrible, a fascinating, 10% alcohol black ale; and the flavorful but slightly mild-mannered tripel, Eau Bénite.

Rounding out the field from the East Coast were three ales from Halifax’s Propeller Brewing Company: Propeller Extra Special Bitter, Propeller London Style Porter and Propeller IPA. While all three demonstrated great character, it was the IPA that was the most impressive, both to me and to the assembled tasters in Stockholm.

That was my Canuck contingent, and well-received they all were by the Swedish beer cognoscenti. Next issue I’ll tell you all about the domestic representation at the fest.




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