Brewer's Blog

Regional Differences

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Canada's a big place, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that breweries from coast to coast exhibit vast differences in brewing ideology. There's an odd mix of politics, the local water's mineral content, the provincial liquor authority, and so much more that all play into the unique quality of a beer.

We see these differences played out in the mature American craft beer market with East Coast IPA's like a DFH 60 Minute vs. West Coast IPA like Green Flash IPA. Worldwide, we see the differences with a great malty example of an English Barleywine like JW Lees vs. a ridiculously hoppy American Barleywine like Avery's Hog Heaven which verges on Double IPA territory.

What got me thinking about this was the recent release of the Brewer's Association's 2011 Style Guidelines. This nifty document serves to neatly classify beers for judging purposes at competitions in the states such as the World Beer Cup or the Great American Beer Festival. Every year, brewers look at these guides and scratch their heads wondering where they could classify some of the beers from their roster if they were only willing to pigeonhole their creations and try to win a medal of some sort.

What the guide doesn't do is seriously take Canada into consideration when formulating their opinions of what differentiates certain beers from others. Quite honestly, that's a great thing because as Canadians we're likely to never be subjected to an awards ceremony where someone says "and the award for the best Prairie-Style Northern English IPA Whisky Barrel Aged On Apple Wood with Fresh Lakeside Hops goes to:"

Such is the strangeness of the Brewer's Association's task: every year, some brewery puts out an unclassifiable boundary pushing beer that beer lovers rave about and the constant one-upsmanship generally ends in a pissing match over that particular beer's defining characteristic. So they throw in a new category until slowly they have 140+ styles defined where once there were 8-12. I was kinda hoping that this year, they'd classify the freeze distilled slop that was bottled in a taxidermist's squirrel from the guys at Brewdog in Scotland. God knows what the world needs is all the brewers trying to one up each other with their taxidermy skills rather than their actual brewing.

Having worked in three different western provinces, I can safely say beer lovers in Canada have been more willing to accept these regional differences for the sake of better DRINKING beer. You know, the kind of beer you'd prefer to have a few pints of rather than a few ounces because it's just that good. People from all over Canada travel and are surprised that somewhere like (insert Canadian city name here) has something decent to drink.

It's not like the brewery they "discovered" was the best or better than any local brewery, it's just that it's different.

And in true Canadian form, simply being different is worth celebrating.

Labels: ,