Ontario Brewer PodcastSince 2010, I have been preparing and hosting the Ontario Brewer Podcast series for the Ontario Craft Brewers Association. These podcast feature interviews with Ontario brewers on a range of different topics.
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Posted April 9, 2013 | 1:15 am, by Mirella
Last month, I became a member of the Ontario Hop Growers Association. I also had the pleasure of attending their conference on Saturday, March 9th, where Québecois hop agronomist Julien Venne presented an advanced course in hop growing. The talk was fascinating and it was great to learn more about how to best select appropriate and relevant hop varieties to grow in Ontario.
I’ve actually been following the growth of the local hop industry for a few years now, ever since I started working in the beer industry in 2007, because I think this hop growing revival is really exciting.
Southern Ontario used to be a well-known hop growing region. Unfortunately, in the 1920s, our hop bines were devastated by downy mildew. This blight, coupled with the advent of prohibition, destroyed the Ontario hop growing industry.
The reason I’m excited about this local revival in hop growing is because hops have the potential to imbue beer with an Ontario signature, and their presence could lead to our brewers developing their own distinct Ontario beer styles.
Hops are the one ingredient that give an unmistakeable local signature to beer. If a brewer is making a Czech style pilsner, for example, s/he has some flexibility in the water, malt and yeast used but must use the Czech Saaz hop in order for that beer to have the right character. Another classic example I could cite is the American hop industry that started developing boldly aromatic & bitter hop varietals in the mid 1900s. These hops are so distinct that, when their character is obvious in a beer, this beer is automatically classified as an “American Style – .”
It’s going to take some time, of course. Our hop industry is in its early stages and yields are fairly low. Still, brewers have started brewing smaller batches of beer with these hops and familiarizing themselves with the flavours they impart. For the time being, Ontario brewers are mostly reproducing existing styles and simply substituting local hop varietals. As both the hop and beer industries grow, however, it is possible the features of our hops will inspire new recipes that will complement their particular character and then we’ll have our very own distinct Ontario beer styles… I’m excited to see what the future holds!