What's on tap? Craft beer book authors share top N.B. picks
East Coast Crafted explores craft breweries and brewpubs in Atlantic Canada, including 29 in New Brunswick
Christopher Reynolds jokes that if he had written a book about East Coast craft breweries 10 years ago, it would have been a pamphlet.
Instead his newly released book, East Coast Crafted: The Essential Guide to the Beers, Breweries, and Brewpubs of Atlantic Canada, is nearly 400 pages of stories, beer reviews and colour photos.
People are realizing now that beer can come in all colours and aromas and flavours and so now that they have the choice, they're not going to go back to just one thing.- Author Christopher Reynolds
Reynolds, who is the co-owner of Stillwell, a craft beer bar in Halifax, said he often brings in New Brunswick brews.
"For us it's just exciting. We're beer fans first and so to see interesting, wonderful, flavourful, really well-made beer coming out of these towns and cities — it's thrilling."
Co-author Whitney Moran came up with the idea to write the guide to craft beers in the region.
Stories behind the suds
She and Reynolds agree that besides sampling the suds, the best part of writing the book was sitting down with the brewers.
"I'm familiar with a lot of the beers as a beer fan, but I wasn't as familiar with the stories behind the people behind the beers and so it just really enriched the story for me," Reynolds said.
Moran said while the rest of Atlantic Canada is heavily influenced by the English styles, in New Brunswick brewers are on the "hyper-local train right now," with beer representing the landscape.
"Hopefully, you can taste the creativity and the tenacity in the beer and I think we're good at being experimental while also creating beer that's really accessible," Moran said.
"We know that we don't have a huge population, we can't alienate our drinkers, so I think we make a lot of palatable but very interesting beers and it can compete with some of the best beer in the country."
Reynolds believes the rise in the popularity of craft brewing in New Brunswick stems from a long history that included prohibition then decades dominated by a couple of national breweries.
"People are realizing now that beer can come in all colours and aromas and flavours and so now that they have the choice, they're not going to go back to just one thing."
Brewers pushing boundaries
Reynolds said he was intrigued by two New Brunswick craft brewers who are pushing the boundaries in different by equally important directions.
The first is Patrice Godin from Acadie-Brou in Moncton, which is the region's first Acadian brewery.
"He brewed the first commercially available sour beers in Atlantic Canada," Reynolds said. "He is seemingly dedicated to keeping things quite small, which allows him an incredible amount of freedom in terms of brewing an enormous amount of styles."
The second brewmaster Reynolds said is "doing everything right" is Andrew (Esty) Estabrooks of Foghorn Brewing Co. in Rothesay.
"Andrew is dedicated to refining classic — especially English — styles of beer. This is a bold move in 2018 I think … but it is a great path forward. If everyone is experimenting who is brewing the tried and true stuff well?"
Women making their mark
During her research for the book, Moran was most inspired by brewmaster Wendy Papadopoulos of Big Tide Brewing Co. in Saint John.
Her interview with Papadopoulos was the first time she had visited Saint John, and Moran said she immediately fell in love with the city and its "mighty craft beer and food scene."
Papadopoulos has been brewing in Atlantic Canada longer than any other woman in craft beer, with nearly 30 years of experience.
"As a woman who has faced discrimination simply writing about this male-dominated industry, I was completely inspired by Wendy's professionalism and brewing acumen," Moran said.
In addition to that, Moran was struck by the willingness of Papadopoulos to share her knowledge with those who want to learn the craft, and her creativity.
"Every year she brews a beer especially for the Saint John library — a beer than tastes like the library. The first year it was a whisky pale ale. Isn't that just fantastic?"
After visiting 29 breweries across New Brunswick, Reynolds notes the sense of community among brewers.
"In the Moncton area alone there's several breweries that have opened and most of the brewers know each other. Many of them have helped each other open up, and so there's definitely a community thing that helps to make it spread."
Top New Brunswick picks
1. TrailWay Brewing Co., Fredericton - Luster Session IPA
A hazy, hop-forward session ale brewed with Citra, Galaxy and El Dorado. Lower alcohol but fully flavourful this is a summertime go to but tastes great all year long.
2. Maybee Brewing Co., Fredericton - Sumac Witbier
A Belgian witbier with a spunky tartness from locally foraged sumac berries. Refreshing and lip-smacking — this is beer candy.
3. Foghorn Brewing Co., Rothesay - Bryan Dry Irish Stout
A top-notch dry Irish-style stout with the roasted-coffee and dark notes you'd expect. It's the perfect blend of easy drinking and full-bodied and flavourful (added oatmeal helps), with a nice, lingering bitter finish. A winter must!
1. Foghorn Brewing Co., Rothesay - Grover Golden Ale
I like this one a lot because it nails the British golden ale style. It's characterful, flavourful and totally quaffable, which is usually what I'm looking for in a beer!
2. Grimross Brewing, Fredericton - Braunschweig German Pilsner
I'm a huge sucker for good German-style pils and the Dixons have nailed it with this one. For me it's an almost poetic beer style because it's so difficult to brew well, yet deceptively easy in the glass. How does all that hard work taste so effortless? Braunschweig is on the lighter-tasting end of the spectrum, too, so it's definitely a good one for wooing your friends and family off the industrial stuff.
3. Acadie-Broue, Moncton - La Patente Sticke Alt
Patrice Godin is a student of the great Düsseldorf specialty altbier. La Patente is his take on the stronger version but it's no less drinkable with a perfect balance of bitterness and crispness against the robust, malty, round flavours you'd expect from this deep copper brew.