Betrayal or good business? Savvy or servile?
I’m not sure what to make of the many craft breweries galloping to get market share in the seltzer wars popularized by White Claw.
Seltzers infused with alcohol and fruit flavours have become huge, occupying a space in the market some of us thought would be filled by ciders. Alcohol seltzers are boozy, tasty and because they are low calorie, pose less risk of causing love handles.
But my romanticized view of craft breweries has me wondering if concocting these white wine substitutes is better left to the craft distilleries. In the same way, I hope my craft brewery is independently and locally owned with entrepreneurial backstories, I expect them to serve beer, period.
Alas, one of my top 10 favourite breweries has capitulated to the fad.
Muskoka, the brewery/tourist attraction that’s a grateful parent’s 10 minute-drive from Santa’s Village in Bracebridge, is in the cooler race.
Not surprising. The brewery, which gives us Mad Tom IPA and annual beers that taste like ice cream, has for years doubled as a gin joint.
Its seltzers, available in single tall boy cans or mixer packs of smaller cans, include peach and blackcurrant sparkling vodka water (5 per cent alcohol, zero sugar, 100 calories in a 355 ml can), pineapple and raspberry, coconut and lime, and field berry and lemon.
It’s about as far away from a Twice as Mad Double IPA as you can get.
In London, where Black Fly holds sway as the go-to vodka cooler maker, there’s also a dual-stream beer-and-seltzer producer ready to mark its one-year anniversary in May.
Bangarang’a lineup boasts a pink lemonade flavour. And as if to get its dukes up in a seltzer fight that now includes the likes of Corona and Bud Light seltzers, Bangarang has been hosting virtual boxing lessons to connect with fans and keep them fit while waiting out the pandemic. Banarang is part of Equals Brewing.
What’s it all mean for you, the drinker? Choice, of course. While I’ll always reach first for a beer with little fruit character, there’s an undeniable lure on warm and sunny spring days to quaff a spiked seltzer, fizz and all.
Even if that has me taking a Detour from Muskoka’s core competency.
DOWN THE DRAIN
If you like your beer delivered with the environment in mind, one word: Muskoka.
The packing peanuts they use are biodegradable. Water-soluble and non-toxic, they can be washed away in your sink.
FADING DAYS FOR BEER STORE
When you think of the Beer Store, do you think of lugging home a case of 24 of the same beer?
In a variety-filled world of beer, buying a case of sameness is outdated, unimaginative, and boring. So, too, might be shopping at the Beer Store. The retail network owned by the major brewers reported a $50.7-million loss in 2020 as consumers turned to buying at grocery stores, the LCBO and directly from restaurants or breweries.
The most pressing question if Beer Store locations start disappearing as losses mount might be, “Where do we take our empties?”
Pretty sure no one’s going to miss two-fours.
NEW AND NOTED
Down the road from Muskoka Brewing, Sawdust City has released the final two new beers in its lager series brewed in collaboration with Brew Culture, the hop seller in Bracebridge. Gravenhurst Steam, a California Common or Steam Beer style, was fermented at warmer temperatures to give a slight fruitiness alongside the caramel malts and minty hops. DAD (Dave’s Affordable Dortmunder) features Perle and Saaz hops, giving some spice to the beer. “I decided to make my dad his favourite style of beer,” lead brewer Noelle Stapinsky said in a news release. “This style is hard to find in Ontario and not many breweries make it. As a brewer I’ve always leaned toward making darker beers such as stouts, dunkels and porters. So, writing a lager recipe and trying to understand the water chemistry of the region this style originally came from was incredibly interesting for me.” Both are available for delivery Ontario-wide through the brewery.
Four hundred litres of fresh maple sap was used instead of water to brew Maple Sap Ale at Refined Fool in Sarnia. For good measure and flavour, they added maple syrup from Rokeby Maple Products. Sweet.
At Storm Stayed in London, they added maple syrup to Brekky. The pastry stout also has cinnamon.
Beer has become whisky in Nova Scotia. Eighteen years ago, Glenora Distillery distilled some Alexander Keith’s IPA, put it in bourbon oak barrels, and waited for 18 years. Now, Alexander Keith’s Single Malt, with its taste of barley, is on the market.
Like your beer as dessert? Half Hours on Earth has two to try. Fleet Awakening is a raspberry, white chocolate, rosemary, vanilla pale ale. Polar Lightning Strike is a blueberry, marshmallow, lemon vanilla, shortbread square pale ale.
If only Prince were alive. Upper Thames in Woodstock has Supersonic Purple Tart Pale Ale. It looks purple when the sunlight hits just right. The flavours are lime and lychee.
Wayne Newton is a freelance journalist based in London.