Quebec has always been the central hub for craft beer and beer production in Canada. According to beercanada.com, Quebec had the most licensed breweries compared to all territories in Canada. While craft beer was already in full force in Quebec, other provinces and territories have seen a large increase over the years for example, Ontario (now equal with Quebec) having increased by 27.7% from 2013 to 2014 alone. Quebec has only seen an increase in 7.7% from 2013 to 2014. Since 2009 the Atlantic, Pacific and Ontario territories have doubled the amount of Licensed brewers and overall Canada has had an 80% increase since 2009 in breweries with half coming from Quebec and Ontario. As the numbers suggest, the largest increase by hectoliters is in the lower hectoliter range which directly points to the rise in Craft Breweries. Of course in the market today any new breweries that open their doors are considered Craft breweries or Microbreweries. There’s a confusion and has been an ongoing confusion as to what is considered a Microbrewery. Microbrewery or craft brewery are two terms which are used in today’s beer market to define breweries that are using an alternative approach and creating unique experimental beers unlike their larger corporate competitors. Although those two terms are used in the colloquial manner, which sub category a brewery falls under is actually determined by the amount of beer they brew per year according to Brewers Association. Below you can see a table listing the different definitions and their annual brewing amounts.
To put these definitions into action for example, AleSmith Brewing Company currently produces about 15,000 barrels per year so it falls under the category of a Microbrewery. Currently Sierra Nevada produces about 800,000 barrels per year and Stone produces about 287,075 barrels per year. Since Sierra Nevada and Stone produce more than what is currently defined as a Microbrewery the term Craft is often used to describe them. Craft beer does not have any definition based on quantity of beer produced annually, rather it’s an all-round definition of beer that is brewed with a delicate art or craft. Or in other words, Beer that is not AB InBev, SABMiller, Heineken International, Carlsberg Group to name the top 4. A prime example of the use of the definition of Craft Beer is with Boston Beer Company, also known as Samuel Adams. They are considered one of the top 10 largest breweries in the world producing 4,100,000 barrels per year. However, they started small, and reached a grand scale through the years. But they are not what we consider a Macro Brewery although by definition that is where they belong, we consider them a Craft Brewery because the produce beer with care, with ingredients and with flavor. So the definition is a bit of a grey area, but for all intents and purposes any brewery that produces artisanal beers is considered a Craft brewery.
From the statics on these chart, courtesy of Beer Canada, we can see that there is a great rise in Craft Breweries in Canada over the past 5 years. Since moving to Montreal in 2011, there has already been a 40% growth until 2014. And trust me I can tell! Since starting my craft beer journey here in the great north, I have had to visit a handful of speciality stores to get some good craft beer because that was the only place where it was available. Now, I can go to IGA, Metro, Super C, as well as some random depanneurs, (Corner stores). A few weeks back, I was out for dinner with my wife and some of our friends. There was a small gathering of some other friends at my friend’s place as well, so I decided I would pick up some good beer and head over there after completing dinner. At first I was a bit bummed because I knew the only beer I would be able to get my hands on is going to be boring old piss water beer. So as I was walking, I found a depanneur, stepped inside thinking id be picking up a sixer of Molson or something similar. But to my surprise, this depanneur (not a specialty beer store in any manner, just a hole in the wall on a secluded side street off St. Laurent), had a large array of Craft Beer! The industries growth is not only noticeable by numbers of breweries, but its noticeable by demand, the increase of craft beer options on shelfs in grocery stores and random depanneurs alike and is due to the increase of demand from the consumers. When I first came here, the demand for craft beer was most likely fairly low to mid. But today, that number has vastly increased. I took my friends to Vice & Versa for my birthday celebrations this year, and these are friends who always try my IPAs and hate them (even Lawson’s Sip of Sunshine), but a night I was at first felt nervous about turned out to be a delightful night. Everyone told me the next morning it was a nice change to drink GOOD beer, chat and eat some grub. It is starting to dawn on me that once you get a taste of what is called craft, there’s a fervor inside of you that keeps thinking back to the feeling of sipping that amazingly delicate beer and you instantly crave it. I tried the Blanche & Noire Saison this weekend on Saturday after picking up a growler from the Ma Brassarie Bottle release and I can still taste it. And man, do I want more? Yes! If I could id have it tonight! But I guess I’ll have to wait till its release again.
One more important point lending its hand to the rise of craft beer and its popularity in Canada is the increase of good beer! An increase in craft breweries doesn’t mean an increase in good beer. All breweries start somewhere, and progressively get to brewing good competitive beer. But with the increase of Craft Breweries and Market Demand, the market has in turn become more competitive. Meaning, the breweries want to brew better beer. For example, Tribale Pale Ale from Ma Brasserie, a new brewery which just started and is currently in process of building their Tap Room is absolutely fantastic! I picked up a 4pk from their 1st Bottle Release on Nov 21, and honestly. Having come from California, I compare my Pale Ales and IPAs to California often, and Tribale Pale Ale from Ma Brassarie can compete with Pale Ales from California! And I love that Quebec/Canada is slowly learning how to produce that amazing Pale Ale and IPA style, popularized by the West Coast. There are two distinct set of IPA styles, but that’s another talk altogether. Another notable new brewery producing some great beer is Unfiltered Brewing from Nova Scotia, I had the honor of having their DIPA Twelve Years to Zion, and it was honestly comparably to a lot of USA DIPAs, although not super hoppy. But everyone knows that anyone can brew a hoppy beer, it’s a good balanced beer that is hard to brew. Thisin no way means that Canada was lacking good beer, I am strictly talking about IPAs, Pale Ales, and DIPAs. Canada always had some amazing beer!! Some of the browns, reds and stouts I have tasted from Quebec do not rival those in the US. And the greatest style to come out of Quebec, is a nice Blonde. It’s not your standard blonde, it’s not a lager. It’s a blonde, a nice light hop profile with citrus and floral aroma and flavour.
Written by HopCitizen, Photography by HopCitizen