During 2012, I probably sampled more Canadian beer from a broader selection of breweries than I have at any time since researching my second edition of the Great Canadian Beer Guide in 2000. This, of course, makes the challenge of selecting a brewery of the year all the more difficult.
Nonetheless, a decision must be made, and in reviewing my notes and local writings, two operations repeatedly came to the fore, one from Québec and the other from British Columbia.* Although it was a difficult choice to make, I ultimately decided to look east rather than west and proclaim MicroBrasserie Charlevoix my Canadian Brewery of 2012.
While many breweries in my home and native land are crafting great beers these days, few are as across-the-board impressive as is Charlevoix, taking into consideration both their Belgian-influenced Dominus Vobiscum line and rather less heralded Vache Folle beers. In the former group, the new Saison stood out as a most impressive bit of beer-making, with a spicy-citrusy-grapey character and suitable-to-the-style hoppiness drying and bittering the finish. Added to the already outstanding Triple, Lupulus and Brut beers, it makes for a stunning profile, indeed.
(And more good news for the Dominus line-up: I’m told by brewery president Frédérick Tremblay that a brown bottle has finally be sourced for the beers, so the skunkiness that has occasionally affected the Lupulus should thankfully soon be a thing of the past.)
On the Vache Folle side of things, the addition of a RyePA was slightly less successful, but ameliorated by the existing presence of the chocolaty, raisiny, joyfully boozy Imperial Milk Stout. Not that the 6% rye pale ale was bad, mind you, just that among such a crowd of superbly constructed and flavourful brews, its faintly immature profile leaves it somewhat wanting.
For these wonderful brews and the promise of the future, MicroBrasserie Charlevoix is my choice as Canadian Brewery of the Year for 2012.
(*Runner-up, by the way, was southern mainland brewer Central City, who should almost be in a class of their own thanks to their outstanding Red Racer Pale Ale, perhaps the best of its style in Canada, and almost as impressive Red Racer IPA.)
Tuesday: 2012′s U.S. Brewery of the Year!