One big difference between the U.S. and Canada in terms of beer lies in the pricing structure: Canada taxes beer (and other forms of alcohol) to the extent that a "case" (12 x 12 oz bottles) of craft beer typically runs around $26.00 US (plus a 10 cent deposit per bottle.) Similar to the U.S., Canada regulates the sale of alcohol by province (what states in Canada are called) - therefore where and when you can purchase beer/wine/spirits is dependent on where you are. Unlike the U.S., however, Canada does not have any dry counties.
Beer in Alberta liquor stores is typically sold chilled at the back of the stores in a walk in refrigerated room, and the assortment of 12 bottle sampler packs is quite amazing with local, domestic, and international brews that would rival some of the best Florida sales outlets. Shelf space for craft brewers wares is slowly expanding to take over the once dominant Molson Canadian and Labatt's Blue strongholds, and that is good news for the craft beer lovers in Canada.
For my sampler packs, I chose a "Hopbox" of four IPA varieties from Phillips Brewing Company in Victoria, British Columbia featuring: Skookum Cascadian Brown Ale; Krypton Rye IPA; Growhop Series Chinook IPA; and Hop Circle IPA.
Skookum Cascadian Brown Ale (6.5 percent A.B.V.). It was coincidental that I poured this deep brown heavy malted IPA into an A&W root beer mug - but the color was definitely deep root beer. The aroma was a distinct blend of a more traditional brown ale and an IPA - with surprising chocolate-like notes that surpassed any organic type of flavor more typical of American IPAs. Of the four brews, this one was my second favorite.
Krypton Rye IPA (6.5 percent ABV) - the description on the label was the best part of this IPA: "Better tasting than a speeding bullet, Rye PA will be hard not to drink in a single gulp. Spicy rye malt and big citrus hop flavors make Krypton the perfect IPA for your fortress of solitude. Hop, hop and away!" The notes were definitively rye with a lingering IPA aftertaste that was stronger than the in-the-mouth flavor. I've tasted better Rye Ales (notably Sierra Nevada's Rye) and the one won't be in my list of fav's anytime soon.
Growhop Series Chinook IPA (6.5 percent ABV) - this was my number one pick and if I lived in Canada, it might become one of my best pick IPA's in North America. The heavy floral and grapefruit notes dominated the aroma and the full bodied IPA flavor (strong with a lingering smooth finish on the tongue) was worth the wait after the first two IPA's above. A definite top five of my favorite IPA's.
Hop Circle IPA (6.5 percent ABV) - Hop Circle was the most bitter IPA I think I've tasted for a long time. Hardly any IPA aroma and if I didn't know better, I would have guessed it was a typical overseas bitter pilsner from the sharpness of the flavor. The label suggested that "the gravitational pull of this IPA will have you searching the galaxy for another close encounter of the thirst kind." This was definitely true - but it was not in search of another Hop Circle IPA
Be sure to attend our upcoming Tampa Bay Tapped 's BeerWitched Happy Hour on August 23, 2012 from 6-9 pm at Ale & The Witch in downtown St. Petersburg. I am on the board of Tampa Bay Tapped (a not for profit organization dedicated to providing beer education with the proceeds going to charity.) For a mere $10 admission, you get an engraved tasting glass, a short craft beer seminar at 7:30pm (with a couple of local beer tastes), appetizers, $1 off draft beer (32+ varieties) with proceeds going to the Children with Aids Foundation.