Muskoka Beer Festival

Since moving down to the Niagara region I've been cultivating my wine palate, and my taste for beer has been neglected.  So I was quite excited to try some local,craft and micro brews at Muskoka Beer Festival, especially since my own college's new Brewmaster and Brewery Operations program was also being highlighted.  I tried a wide variety of ales and lagers -- way way way too many to talk about and picture here!  But I was genuinely most impressed by the knowledgeable people I got to talk to!  After the pictures and highlights I wanted to share what I learned about wheat beers, so make sure to scroll down :)

Highlight of the day was definitely Great Weiss North -- arguably the most Canadian Beer with one ingredient from every province and seriously one of tastiest most drinkable glasses of beer I've ever had!  I'm proud to say the test batch was brewed at my my home campus' Teaching Brewery at Niagara College in collaboration with Gravenhurst's own brand new (not even open yet) Sawdust City Brewing!

On that note -- since we know my mantra is support local .. it doesn't get much more local than Sawdust City Brewing Co  in Gravenhurst (above left) and Muskoka Brewery in Bracebridge (above right)

Next I went on a quest for fruit/citrus flavoured beer, since those are often my favourite and perfect for a hot summer afternoon.  I tried so many I lost track but the two standouts were Garrison Blackberry Wheat (above right) and Mill St. Lemon Tea Ale (not pictured)  Winner for most unusual was Dieu du Ciel's Rosée d' Hibiscus (above left) which I tried because I love hibiscus tea and admittedly because the label was so lovely!

Its never a good idea to drink on an empty stomach (especially for 6 hours) and with all the delectable food around, who could resist?  For lunch, while still intelligently imbibing I decided on the sophisticated options offered by the chefs at Touchstone Resort.  To start: a salad featuring local ingredients: grilled watermelon, peaches and sliced red onions from a farmers market, Brooklands Farm baby lettuce, Four Season's rainbow sprouts topped with Johnston's cranberries and a Red Maple Desert Wine dressing.  Then: a Bison burger with carmelized onions and garlic aioli on sweet potato fries with chipotle mayo.  Considering I was coming for the beer, I was suitably impressed by the food!

After hours and hours of drinking and glasses and glasses of beer though .. elegant cuisine was the last thing on my mind.  Comfort food in the form of a wood fired pizza was just perfect!  I was fascinated by this portable brick pizza oven belonging to All Fired Up in Muskoka -- never seen anything like it!  And the pizzas were still very incredible culinary creations -- ours had prosciutto, tomatoes, onions maybe?.. and lots of other tasty toppings which I can only vaguely remember as I could barely see it at that point LOL

All in all.. a fantastic day!  Cheers!

I started off my day in a sampling class taught by Roger Mittag, a veritable professor of beer while I could still think and write (relatively) coherently!  I chose Weizen is Knowing (a discussion of wheat beer styles) because I was pretty sure my favourite drinks were all wheat beers, but was completely confused by the category.  I took quite a few pages of notes, but here's the basics of what I found out...

Wheat Beer (White Beer) is just as the name sounds - beer that is brewed with a large proportion of wheat and pale/hazy "white" in colour.  Most are top fermented and unfiltered which leads to a cloudy appearance, and some are "bottle conditioned" meaning the suspended yeasts cause a secondary fermentation after being bottled.  But beyond that its a broad category that is difficult to define.  Breaking it down further Roger explained the two main types of Wheat Beers are influenced by their region of origin.

German Weissbiers are cloudy, unfiltered, medium amber coloured brews with a light body, spritzey taste and aromas/flavours of banana and clove produced by the yeasts they contain.  Also known as hefeweizen or hefeweiss (the prefix hefe means yeast) in reference to the unfiltered appearance.

Belgian Witbiers are also hazy, unfiltered, light bodied beers but paler straw yellow in colour and with a more citric/tangy taste.  The aromas/flavours are of orange peel and coriander, added to the beer in the form of gruit.  This style is sometimes just called wit, the Belgian word for white.

Wheat beers that we sampled: St. Ambroise Apricot Wheat Ale, Garrison Blackberry Wheat, Muskoka Summer Weiss, Mill St Wit, KLB Raspberry Wheat Ale and mentioned but not sampled: Blanche de Chambly

Knowing which wheat beer you want is only half the story -- the rest is in using an appropriate glass and a proper pour.  Along with those two basics, its good to note that the unfiltered sediments in wheat beers can settle to the bottom of the bottle, so it should be inverted before serving or gently rolled upside down, between your hands.  I feel empowered to properly enjoy my favourite brews!

If you are, like me, thirsty for more knowledge check out Roger's website, blog and classes at:

1 comment: