First Draught: Innis & Gunn’s Canada Day beer
By David Ort
Nothing pleases a polite Canadian more than a touch of subdued, international recognition, kind of like when British brewer Innis & Gunn releases its annual Canada Day beer. This brew is probably more specifically patriotic about our national holiday than any beer from a Canadian brewer. The quid pro quo reason for the special release is that Innis & Gunn is the best-selling bottled British beer in Canada.
The general story behind Innis & Gunn’s barrel-aged ale innovation is pretty well-known. It was originally developed to make a whisky with a “beer finish” (Scotch whisky is aged in oak barrels that have had a variety of previous tenants — such as bourbon, rum and sherry — and a distiller wanted to add ale to that list). Eventually, Dougal Sharp, one of the folks behind Innis & Gunn, noticed that the beer used to flavour the barrels was more than drinkable, and he quit his job to market it.
For this fourth annual release, Innis & Gunn opted to not use the Canadian whisky barrels it has employed in the past, so this will be a new experience for connoisseurs of the beer. Still, the tradition of featuring a Canadian artist will continue: the box that houses this year’s beer will be decorated with Gary Whitley’s painting of sugar maple saplings, Emblems.
The beer pours a dark, red-tinged (appropriately, right?) amber with a light, white cap. The faintly sweet, raisiny aroma leads into a flavour that is a touch less sweet, but backed with complex undertones of dark, dried fruit, accented by vanilla. The warmth from all that alcohol (7.7 per cent) means that I wouldn’t pop this open without at least both feet in a cool lake and the sun well on its way behind the horizon.
There are many great Canadian beers that I’m sure will find a place in all of our Coleman coolers this weekend. To celebrate the birthday of our Dominion, whose story has been so much about cultural inclusiveness, it seems appropriate to save at least one spot for a beer from overseas.
Innis & Gunn Canada Day 2012, $4.95. Available at the LCBO (#247288)
When David isn't busy drinking beer for his articles here, he writes about food and drink for Toronto's online publications including his own site, Food With Legs. For more of his thoughts on beer and life in general follow him on Twitter.