Three great Canadian lagers worth trying
Originally posted in the Brandon Sun - February 17, 2017
I haven’t been a lager or pilsner fan since the mid 2000s but when watching a hockey game, a curling match or playing crokicurl at the Forks in Winnipeg, I get a craving for a lighter, crisper beer than my typical bitter forward IPAs, my coffee and dark chocolate forward porters and stouts or my citrusy, grainy and yeasty Belgian ales. Watching sports deserves a good, crisp beer and lagers tend to be the best choice each and every time. Sure, you could settle with a case of Bud Light or Budweiser and hear that goal light go off 30 seconds before your NHL Game Centre Live account shows the goal, but I know you want a good lager, in fact - you want a craft lager made in Canada by small breweries with the best Canadian (including Manitoba) ingredients possible. This week I’ve chosen three lagerish beers of different styles that pair well with your favourite sport, wings, poutine or pizza and are 100% Canadian owned and operated.
Lake of Bays Top Shelf NHL Alumni Vienna Lager - It made sense to have the first review for this week’s column to be a beer that’s associated with the NHL Alumni Association because hockey players like beer too! With this being Western Manitoba, I assume many of you have had Molson's OV (Old Vienna) over the years, this is the style of beer Baysville, Ontario’s Lake of Bays Brewing intended to make for their Top Shelf Lager, but I’m sure it will taste better than OV. Top Shelf pours an amber lager with a high amount of micro-carbonation taking place in the beer itself but not quite fizzy. It has a light amount of off-white head on top, mostly closest to the rim. The aroma is a crisp, light on the nose but gives off a good deal of grassy tones that you can find in most popular lagers available here. The taste is a malt forward lager with notes of caramel right from the beginning, sweeter than an OV by far. There’s flavours of toasted bread, light grassy hops and a hint of some sort of fruit that I can’t put its name on.. perhaps melon? It can’t be that though. It’s light on the palate, leaves only a light grassy aftertaste and no presence of creamed corn like Molson’s take on a Vienna Lager. The beer is somewhat grainy, a bit too sweet but most beer drinkers will be able to drink this without any cringing. 3/5 Pints
Beau’s Lug Tread Lagered Ale - Vankleek Hill, Ontario’s Beau’s All Natural Brewery has been selling their beer in Manitoba for only six months now but their beer is selling out really well no matter where you go! The fact that all of Beau’s beers are certified organic is likely the reason why they have such a loyal cult following here in Brandon, even if craft beer drinkers tend to gravitate to different breweries any time they go to the LC or vendor. Lug Tread is their most popular product by far, a “Lagered Ale” which is a simplified version of saying “Kölsch”, which is the exact same style as Half Pints’ St James Pale Ale. Lug Tread pours a clean, crisp, light yellow body with a good amount of micro-carbonation and a moderate amount of snow white head on top, a tad frothier than your typical Canadian lagers. The beer is sweet up front yet crisp and has a bit of a hint of lemongrass in the background, light amount of earthy hop presence at the very end. Lug Tread is very easy to drink and it’s actually my go-to lager-styled beer. 4/5 Pints
Torque What the Helles Lager - While lagers aren’t that well liked by popular up-and-coming craft breweries, many of them still create them to attract the average beer drinker - you. Winnipeg’s Torque Brewing’s What the Helles lager sure gives a bit of a punch compared to most lagers. The beer pours just like your regular lager - pale golden straw with a moderate amount of micro-carbonation and a light amount of white head on top. The aroma is very grainy, a touch skunky but very easy on the nostrils, a bit reminiscent to Molson’s Old Style Pilsner but with more of a grainy, sweet malt presence to it. The taste is sweet with the flavour of soaked barley in a grainery, a light grassy hop flavour that makes it hoppier than a Budweiser but it’s not in anyway too bitter for the typical lager drinker. The beer is mostly a bit of a grainy, sweet presence with flavours that are reminiscent of Fort Garry’s Pale Ale.. which isn’t surprising seeing that two of their brewers originally started at Fort Garry. For me, it’s very easy to drink, sweeter than your typical lager but I would enjoy this while watching any sporting event. Many of you have never tried a German-style Helles lager so this is a great example of what to expect from the style. 3.5/5