Province's craft beer industry maturing to appeal to everyone's tastes
Industry has grown from only a handful of breweries a few years ago to more than 20 operations now
They may be a little behind the rest of Canada, but Saskatchewan's craft beer brewers are coming into their own with some award-winning beers.
From a small handful of craft breweries just a few years ago, there are now more than 20 in the province.
From ales to lagers, porters and pilsners, there's now a local brew for everyone.
"I remember a few years ago I used to go away on work trips store I would be travelling with my family and try stuff from different places and it was really good. Then you come back to Saskatchewan and it would be like, OK," said Joel Gasson, a beer connoisseur and employee of Happy Hour, a local liquor store in Pilot Butte.
"(Now) I'm excited to come back to Saskatchewan and drink what we have to offer because I would be willing to put it up against a lot of brewers across Canada and probably even North America."
Gasson said it only makes sense that Saskatchewan would make great beer as all the ingredients are grown here.
What goes into a great beer
It's more difficult than people think to make a great beer, Gasson said.
The basic ingredients are simple — water, barley, malt and hops — and easily accessible to Saskatchewan brewers.
But the differenace lies in the quality, equipment and brewmaster know-how.
Gasson said it all starts with having the best water.
Water was a big reason why Nokomis Craft Ales owner Jeff Allport chose Nokomis, Sask. to set up his brewery, Gasson said.
Once you have the water, you need the best possible ingredients you can find, he added.
"It's not always the cheapest thing to do, but in the end it just works out to a superior product that you won't find anywhere else," Gasson said. "It's about keeping it simple with the basic ingredients done well with a high quality version and no cheap fillers."
Brew flavour trends
Gasson said the major trends right now are hazy New England IPA-style beers, and fruit and sour beers.
The hazy beers "are generally very juicy in flavour and they offer a big citrus flavour," Gasson said.
The fruit and sour beers range from very tart to having almost no tartness depending on the style.
Gasson thinks those trends will continue, but he also sees more traditional IPAs — that may appeal to a broader audience — making a comeback.
"There was a time when brewers used to try to outdo each other to see who can make the most bitter, face-melting kind of beer," he said. "But I don't think that's really a trend anymore."
The big beer players
Gasson said there are four big players in the province right now — Black Bridge Brewery out of Swift Current, Rebellion Brewing Co. and Pile O' Bones Brewing Co. in Regina along with Nokomis Craft Ales.
From Pile O' Bones Red Ale to Nokomis's IPA to Rebellion's Cerveza Style and Black Bridge's Wheat Burst, there is a beer for everyone.
And that's not to mention all the seasonal beers, Gasson said.
Then there are smaller companies, such as Malty National Brewing in Regina, that create brews like Weird Fiction — which features salted dill.
"They're kind of more than mad scientists," Gasson said. "They're willing to try different things and they always have different offerings."
Saskatoon also has some stellar brewers, like Shelter Brewing Company, which makes a number of great sour beers and goses, Gasson said.
There's also 21st Street Brewery in the basement of Winston's Pub in the Senator Hotel.
"They have an Uptown Brown that is very good and a Modern Lager," Gasson said, adding they also brewed a Creamsicle beer.
"It's got a little bit of a creamy orange flavour to it," he said.
And of course there's Paddock Wood Brewing Co, the pioneers up in Saskatoon, and their classic 606 IPA, Gasson said.
There are always people within the industry who like to seek out new flavours.
"I know some of the guys at Nine Mile (Legacy) up in Saskatoon that push the limit," Gasson said. "And in Regina there's a place that recently released one with leftover Halloween candy. We've seen beers with cucumber, we've seen beers with jalapenos, with Sriracha."
Gasson said the public has embraced all of these local beer-preneurs.
"A lot of people are choosing to support local business now instead of big business.," he said. "They know that the money they're spending is staying in their community and they're staying with people who truly care about the community as well."
- A previous version of this story said Joel Gasson owned Happy Hour. In fact, he is an employee.Jan 02, 2020 7:58 AM CT
with files from The Morning Edition and Saskatoon Morning