The reason for this horror show? Simple. Beer In Canada HQ has moved. Unfortunately, most of the beer paraphernalia had to get packed into storage, as it was unable to make the trip (for now, anyway). Armed with little more than my BBbarfly, a review copy of Beer For Dummies, and a keychain bottle opener, I set out to find the site a new headquarters in the far north. With little hope of finding craft or even decent import beer, I boarded a plane a week ago and, by the end of that day, found myself in the remote wilderness community of Fort Smith, Northwest Territories.
For those about to ask if your humble editor is joking, I assure you that I have indeed moved to the NWT, home of the polar bear licence plate, ravens the size of housecats, and the northern entrance to the largest national park in Canada (look it up if you don’t believe me; it’s called Wood Buffalo National Park). Now just barely north of the 60th parallel, I am celebrating my first full week in the true Great White North with a couple of bottles of St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout from McAuslan Brewery.
Now, there’s good and bad news regarding this sudden move to the banks of the mighty Slave River.
First, the bad news. The website has been put on hold the last month as I packed up my belongings, put much of them into storage and packed a simple 110L backpack full of clothing and other various items to take with me to the NWT. I’m behind on writing what should be an interesting read on the role importers play in the Canadian beer market, and I know the importers I interviewed are wondering what happened to that article. I’ve also missed several important beer events back in Toronto, although the silver lining there was I got to have one final drink with Greg Clow of Canadian Beer News, new friend Michael Hornall of Chaos in Moderation, and Ken Woods, owner of Black Oak Brewing, who has ignored my hints that he should be distributing his beers in the territories (come on, dude, work with me here). Besides missing all of the great pubs and beers available in the GTA, I’ll also miss several of my beer geek and brewing buddies, who are far too numerous to mention by name (mostly ’cause I know I’ll miss somebody); but believe me, you all made an impression and I hope we can do drinks next time I’m back in TO.
And now the good news. Arriving in Fort Smith, one of my first stops was the Fort Smith Liquor Store (not my idea, actually; seriously, it was the roommates’ idea), where I discovered, completely to my surprise, that the craft beer and import selection was better than expected. Several beers from McAuslan, Dieu du Ciel, an apricot brew from Alberta’s Alley Kat Brewing, and various imports (including Rochefort 8 from Rochefort Brewery) are all readily available. Sure, the Fort Smith Liquor Store is no LCBO, but I thought my selection would be strictly limited to macro-lagers.
Additionally, the north and the west are both do-it-yourself communities, particularly outside of the larger cities. I’ve already heard of a handful of homebrewers in Fort Smith and nearby (ha! it’s a three-hour drive away) Hay River, and I hope to tap into that community and get back to one of my favourite hobbies.
So for now, I’ll sign off. Look for that article on Canadian beer importers soon. And also keep an eye out for a profile article in the works on Yukon Brewing out of Whitehorse, Yukon.