Friday, September 1, 2017

Your Guide to Extreme Beers at the 2017 Great Canadian Beer Fest

Craft beer is an ever-changing beast. What was "extreme" or innovative one year may be commonplace the next. And in a year's time, a style that was barely on the radar (hello New England-style IPAs) can proliferate. So it's always with great anticipation I approach the Great Canadian Beer Festival—celebrating its 25th anniversary no less—to see what's new and what's cutting edge. Like a lot of craft beer diehards, I want to try something I've never had before.

That's why every year I comb through the listings of what beers will be poured to find what I think will be this year's cool, interesting brews that are worth shelling out a token for. This is one beer drinker's opinion and keep in mind I wrote the Brewtal Truth to Extreme Beers, so I definitely have my biases. I don't only drink extreme beers, but when I'm at a festival where a lot of breweries still mostly pour their core brands, I'm looking for something to challenge me.

So without further ado, here's my list of the extreme beers—something that goes a little bit (or a lot!) beyond the norm—to seek out at the 25th Great Canadian Beer Fest. And if you don't already have tickets, there are still some left, which you can order here.

(Congrats should also be given to Gerry Hieter who's been making this great gathering happen faithfully every year for a quarter century. Thanks for all you do for great beer in Victoria, Gerry.)

Captain Cooper's Tart Cranberry Ale
For the last few years I've complained about that fact that more brewers aren't using wild yeasts to brew their beer, but this year they are very much part of the mix. This "wild sour" was brewed with cranberries and should be a good one for slaking your thirst in the summer heat. 
713 Balsamic Stout (Cask) 
If someone offers you a "Balsamic Stout" you politely say "hell yes!" For this cask of their Oaked Stout, Faculty infused it with a balsamic reduction, which is just plain brilliant. 
Anytime any brewery brings a steinbier, I will recommend it. It's an obscure German lager style whereby hot chunks of granite are used to caramelize the wort in the brewing process. There's something primal and elementary about this that I'm personally fascinated by. Plus it tastes good, and this one is a collaboration with actual Germans at Freigeist Bierkultur.

Cherry High
Brettanomyces yeast and cherries are a killer combination. The funk and the fruit are a perfect pairing. For that reason alone, you should try this. 

Year V (Cask)
Moon's anniversary brew is, no exaggeration, my first stop every year, because it never fails to utterly impress. Year five's delight is a Citra dry-hopped Imperial wheat wine blended with barrels from last year's Year IV ale. Wow. Can't wait.  

Wild Saison
Approach with caution if you're a wild ale/brett newbie. This saison is 100% Brett C fermented so the funk will be strong in it. However, the addition of fruit puree in the secondary fermentation will no doubt tame that funk a bit. 

Pitch Black Chamomile Pilsener
Lucifudge (Friday Cask)
OK, the only thing more insane than a "Pitch Black Chamomile Pilsener" (I HAVE to know what that tastes like), is a cherry chocolate porter (sort of) named after a Danzig album. Hilarious!

Buenos Dias Gruit Ale
When Beau's gets all crazy, you can rest assured it'll taste great. These Ontario vets are crafty and clever. This low-alcohol, hop-free ale is brewed with organic lime juice, orange and lime peel, and is accented with hit of sea salt to complete the Margarita reference.

Lusty Chocolate Oatmeal Stout
For those who love dark, malty brews, this oatmeal stout sounds like liquid love. It's brewed with specialty chocolate malts and cocoa and conditioned on locally roasted cocoa nibs. So much good in one beer. 

Field House X Brassneck - Wild Brett Wasp Ale
If you haven't had any previous versions, this is a must-try sour ale that was fermented with yeast harvested from a wasp's gut, and finished with brettanomyces. It gained additional character from airborne yeast exposure in a coolship (open-air fermenter) with elder flower and hops. Wow. 

And while you're at Field House, try everything else.

Bois Savauge
Townsite's Bois Sauvage wild, funky, barrel-aged brews are incredibly complex with notes of bright fruit, light funk and earthy wood. 

Éphémère Sureau
As a longtime fan of Unibroue's Éphémère series of light and effervescent fruit-flavoured wheat ales, I've gotta know what a version with elderflower and elderberries tastes like. 

They had me at "four-year barrel aged." I implicitly trust Four Winds when it comes to barrel-aged brews, so I'm sure this dark American-style sour ale, conditioned on black currants, will absolutely slay. 

Framboise (cask)
Spinnakers has been hitting quite a groove recently with some beer/wine crossovers. Their version of a sour framboise was put in red wine barrels with fresh local raspberries and given a year to mature. Should be fruity, funky and earthy.

Lastly, don't miss The Drake Cask Tent, where several breweries who won't have their own tents this year will pour their brews.  

Adem Tepedelen is the Victoria-based author of the Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers: An All-Excess Pass to Brewing's Outer Limits. Autographed copies are available locally at Cook St. Liquor (230 Cook St).


Ian Lloyd said...

Great minds think alike. Looking forward to most of these same beers. Looking forward to our once a year visit

Brewtal Truth said...

Hahaha I purposely try to avoid reading yours in advance so I'm not unduly influenced. Yeah, I'm looking forward to our annual meet up. See you in a week.

Derek said...

Except for one or two beers that were not there or ran out and the occasional deviation (Hathi's mango heff was amazing), my crew of friends and I followed and completed your list (starting with Moon, of course) on Friday and just free-wheeled on Saturday. I think we'll be doing that from now on. Thanks for making this list.

Brewtal Truth said...

Hey Derek. Thanks for reading my post and for taking the time to leave a comment. That's awesome that you tried them all. I had a great time doing the same (plus a few others) over the course of both days. As you discovered yourself, there were a lot of good, interesting beers there this year, but when I make my list, I try to keep it a reasonable length. I'm looking forward to doing another GCBF post next year. And maybe I'll get off my lazy butt and do some other posts on this blog in the meantime! BTW, I'm on Facebook under The Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers. Cheers!