We are living in the most exciting time for beer, ever. In 2015 there were 640 licensed breweries in Canada — an increase of 108 per cent in the previous five years, according to Beer Canada, and more than at any other time in the country's history.
That's all to say there is some damn fine beer being made in Canada at the moment, but it's practically impossible to taste it all.
Many breweries only peddle their cans in their neighbourhoods, cities or provinces, meaning more and more of us are drinking hyperlocally at our taprooms, taverns and brewpubs.
I'm here to do all the drinking you don't have time for, and pass on the most stellar brews to you. This column will shine a light on the little outfits, pulling from every province and territory, and also highlight commercial brews that are easier to come by. So if I haven't listed a beer near you one week, please check back next time.
Here are three beers I'm loving right now:
Milk Stout, Black Bridge Beer, Swift Current, Sask. ($2.79/355 ml)
Husband-and-wife team Kari and Clayton Stenson are making luscious ales out of their two-year-old brewery in the windy town of Swift Current. Their Milk Stout is my favourite: Made with five different types of malt barley, wheat and oats, this jet-black brew will shatter misconceptions about dark beer being bitter and foreboding. Notes of dark chocolate, figs and plum, with a ribbon of creamy sweetness, ride on a smooth, silky body. (Available in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.)
La Saison du Tracteur, Le Trou du Diable, Shawinigan, Que. ($5.80/600 ml)
Just about every brewery worth its salt will attempt a Belgian-style saison this summer – few will best this simple, New World take from one of Quebec's most celebrated breweries. A rustic, peppery base is judiciously hopped with American Simcoe hops for a dry, tropical-fruit-studded thirst-quencher that pours like unfiltered sunshine with a foamy white cap. (Available in every province and Yukon.)
Old Fashioned, Henderson Brewing Company & The Martini Club, Toronto ($10.95/600 ml)
Let's get this straight right away: This collaboration beer from Toronto's Henderson Brewing and cocktail experts at the city's Martini Club doesn't taste like a true old-fashioned. But those expecting a carbon copy are missing the point – beers like this are a showcase for brewer creativity. And when they're thoughtfully executed, like this one made with 10 per cent rye, botanicals and lightly aged on whisky staves, they're a delicious riff on a classic flavour combination. This ale begins with a sip of toast and dark honey and a splash of orange peel and cardamom, before moving to a caramel centre and warming finish of oaky tannins and firm bitterness. This 10 per cent ABV brew will either pique your interest or piss you off – either way it's a great conversation starter. (Available in Ontario only.)
Crystal Luxmore is a Certified Cicerone and co-founder of The Beer Sisters. Every two weeks she'll bring you the best tipples to try coast-to-coast. Reach her @crystalluxmore (Twitter/Instagram) or e-mail her, firstname.lastname@example.org.