Sunday, November 25, 2012

100 Grey Cups

For Edmonton Eskimos fans the 100th Grey Cup is a bit of a dilemma. Who to cheer for? The pitiable Toronto Argonauts or the detestable Calgary Stampeders? Most folks I have talked to will cheer on former Eskimo quarterback (and St. Albert resident) Ricky Ray, and thus the Argos. A clear case of the lesser of two evils.
But as Canadians of a certain age understand, Grey Cup is not really about the game. As Stephen Brunt's new book 100 Grey Cups: This Is Our Game shows, the grey Cup is a celebration of Canada, of nostalgia, of community and of course, beer.
I noticed Calgary's Avenue Magazine posted a list of 10 Great Grey Cup Beers but was puzzled by their selection. Only four of the ten are Canadian, none are from Calgary, and most are big, intense beers meant for sipping by a fire, not watching football. Here's my own version of 10 Great Grey Cup Beers, from west to east.
Halifax: Propeller ESB (Extra Special Bitter), from Propeller Brewing. It is a shame Halifax does not have a CFL team - they should. There are many football fans in the Maritimes, and a pseudo-team has floated about for ages (the Atlantic Schooners). Halifax is a great beer town as well, with two excellent craft breweries, Garrison and Propeller. I quite like Propeller's Anglo-focussed beers, including the delicious ESB.       
Montreal: The recovery of the Montreal Alouettes is one of the best stories of the CFL in the last few years. And the Montreal craft beer scene is an even better story. Dieu du Ciel continues to innovate while pioneer McAuslan continues to impress. McAuslan's delicious St-Ambroise Pale Ale remains a personal fave.
Ottawa: The CFL is coming back to Ottawa in 2014, and that's a good thing. Finally Winnipeg can move back to the Western conference. So, for a team that doesn't exist yet, a beer we can't get yet in Alberta, Beau's Lug Tread Lagered Ale from Beau's All Natural Brewing in Vankleek Hill, near Ottawa. I look forward to the day we can get Beau's beers in Alberta.
Toronto: It was very nice of Edmonton to give Toronto our star quarterback so that the Argonauts could make it to the 100th Grey Cup in Toronto. Don't say we don't do anything nice for Toronto. There are many great beers to choose from in Toronto and area, but perhaps I should go for a beer brewed in the shadow of SkyDome, where the Grey Cup is being played (yes, SkyDome - I'm old school). Steam Whistle is located a Ricky Ray long bomb away from the field. Their Steam Whistle Pilsner is an excellent football beer, when you may need to have more than one!
Hamilton: With a new stadium coming soon, the Ti-Cats are on the way back, one presumes. As to Hamilton craft beer, well that's a mystery to me. But the great band the Arkells are from The Hammer, and Wellington Brewery just northwest in Guelph has the excellent Wellington Arkell Best Bitter... Okay, a stretch.
Winnipeg: Poor old Blue Bombers. That's all that needs to be said. Let's focus on the great beer brewed by Winnipeg's Half Pints Brewing, shall we? Their Little Scrapper IPA seems appropriate for football watching.
Calgary: I love you Calgary but you know we up north can't cheer for your teams right? Good. We're happy to drink your beer however. Indications are that Big Rock has awoken from its multi-year slumber and is putting some effort into making beer again. Some promise has come from recent seasonals and one-offs, including their good new Czech pilsener, Saaz Republic Pils. Word has it that Big rock is going to keep Saaz on as a year-round beer. If true this means a delicious new beer for the Edmonton Folk festival beer tent. Still, a word of advice: Don`t fear the hops, Big Rock - we love'em!

Edmonton: It's a great shame that the home of the Eskimos, Commonwealth Stadium, does not serve a local beer. Molson does not brew in Alberta! Commonwealth, a city-owned facility, should take a tip from some US stadia and serve local beer. Support your local brewers, like Edmonton's own Alley Kat Brewing. For the big game you can't go wrong with Alley Kat's world-beating Full Moon Pale Ale.
Vancouver: Van has a lot of things going for it - do they really need winning sports teams? No, I think not. One thing lotuslanders have going is access to a lot of great beer from around Cascadia. Driftwood, Phillips , Steamworks - so much good BC beer. Venerable Granville Island Brewing has suffered growing pains, with their beers seeming a bit dated now. But Brockton IPA is a decent brew and Granville has been doing some interesting seasonals. Interesting is how I would refer to their Lions Winter Ale seasonal. The strong vanilla taste is not for me, but I know several people who LOVE this beer.
Enjoy the beer, Canada, and the game as well.

Edit: How embarrassing, I forgot Saskatchewan. Or did I? ;) Where do the Roughriders play again? Regina: Yes, there's Pil. Let's move on, shall we? As the Roughriders represent all Saskatchewan I'll head north for one of indie Great Western Brewing's brews. Their Original 16 is a very quaffable "Canadian pale ale" that would match well with the watermelon Riders fans appear to enjoy while watching football.       


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