The craft beer renaissance

Everyone is familiar with how seasons change.

From the colour of the leaves to the temperature, from wearing winter coats or flip flops, from winter ales to summer lagers.

Wait, what?

Beers are seasonal now?

That’s right, even beer has started to change with the season and the growing popularity of craft beers is driving that change.

Craft brewers are different from big corporate brewers in size and scope of production as well as their methods. While Molson and Labatt may be content to churn out the same beer day in and day out, craft breweries brew smaller batches and are free to experiment and create different brews and flavours.

Raspberry, apricot, pumpkin, ginger, and cloves are all flavours making appearances in beer to change the way people drink.

This craft beer renaissance is also the product of changing attitudes around beer, according to Sandra Wall, a product consultant for the LCBO. She says people like to pair different beers with different foods similarly to wine pairings.

“Craft beer is popular because it’s different,” Wall said. “Domestic beer is all so similar.”

Sales of craft beer have increased drastically, and according to the LCBO 45 per cent of all craft beer is sold in the summer months. Figures from the LCBO show that between 2009 and 2014 craft beer sales have increased from approximately $15 million to just over $50 million.

5 Paddles Brewing Co. is a brewery in Whitby that’s enjoying the craft beer boom, according to Spencer McCormack, one of the brewers.

“Right now it’s fantastic. We started at the nano brewery but now we’re moving to a bigger facility,” He said. “And that’s on the backs of Durham being thirsty for good beer.”

McCormack said that he started out as a “beer nerd” in a Durham home brew club. They met every month and drank beer that people made in their garages and backyards.

In that same vein 5 Paddles is very experimental because they don’t stock the same beer twice and they don’t have a flagship product. What you buy there one week may not be available the next. According to McCormack, “people love that experimentation. We want people to be excited every time they come in.”

Part of the change comes from demographics. Wall says that many people over all age groups are willing to experiment but that young people, aged 19 to 24, are more willing to try new things.

“People are gravitating more towards craft beers,” Wall said. “Coolers and hard liquor will always have a place but people are more willing to get a nicer beer.”

Another big draw is the locality. According to Wall, there are 35 different craft breweries in Ontario and anyone can visit for a tour and to buy beers that may not necessarily be sold in stores or try new recipes before they reach the market.

Seasonal beers are another trend gaining in popularity driven by craft breweries. Pumpkin spice ale, winter ales, and crisper summer lagers come and go with the seasons so people can look forward to what their favourite breweries will do next.

“I have people tell me they’re excited to try the new winter sampler packs,” said Wall. “People are looking forward to next summer’s beers as well.”

While people get excited for the LCBO sample packs, 5 Paddles Brewing Co. is moving to a new location on Hopkins Street in Whitby and their beer is available exclusively in their own store. The new location will open December 5.