Northern B.C. has always been known for it’s beautiful landscape – luscious forests, mountainous terrain, diverse wildlife, and yes…cold winters. This is nothing new. There is, however, an emerging aspect of this region that warrants our attention. Craft beer has spread like wildfire across B.C.’s northern cities, bringing amazing local products to the glasses of people living outside of the industry’s spotlight. These micro breweries have started to make an impact on their communities and form a bond with each other; something the craft beer industry is accustomed to.
Born and raised in Quesnel, I can attest to the community nature of a small town. It’s common to know your neighbors. Hell, you may even be close friends. Wandering downtown you’re likely to bump into familiar faces, and stop to chat. If you’re like my dad, it might be hard to walk anywhere without getting into a five minute conversation with a local about who-knows-what. I bring this up because the craft beer industry shares a community aspect similar to that of small B.C. cities. Whether it’s providing supplies to another brewery when they’re in a crunch, collaborating on a new seasonal offering, or sending support during successes and in times of need, local breweries have banded together to form a tight-knit community. Although these breweries are competing for consumers and tap space at local bars, they’ve realized that this shared success benefits the industry on the whole.
For breweries in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island, this support is often only a few blocks away due to the sheer number of breweries in the area. For their northern friends, the next brewery is often hundreds of kilometers away. For four breweries, this distance hasn’t stopped them from collaborating to bring something truly unique to the table. Partnering for the “4 the North” collaboration four pack, Barkerville Brewing Co. (Quesnel), Sherwood Mountain Brewhouse (Terrace), Three Ranges Brewing Co (Valemont), and Wheelhouse Brewing Co. (Prince Rupert) have banded together to create a mixed pack of limited release beers – one from each brewery.
The box’s artwork was designed by Margaret Hanson Design Co, featuring a linocut-style illustration that pays homage to the landscape and wildlife of Northern B.C.
I received my very own “4 the North” pack for Christmas from my parents (thanks Mom and Dad!) and had been eagerly waiting to crack them open for a tasting session. I decided to finally try them out this past week with my good friend and photographer, Luke Mikler.
Holy Moses Chocolate Porter (4.2% ABV, 22 IBU)
BARKERVILLE BREWING CO. – QUESNEL, B.C.
Holy Moses is a light-bodied porter that boasts a nice flavor profile. The chocolate malt tones are present up front, with subtle bitter finish. Coming in at 4.2% ABV, this is a brew that you can enjoy a couple bottles of without going overboard. I picked up a few for myself while I was home in Quesnel for Christmas, and they haven’t lasted long. This is without a question one of my favorite beers from Barkerville Brewing.
Skeena Sunshine Saison (6% ABV)
SHERWOOD MOUNTAIN BREWHOUSE – TERRACE, B.C.
The Skeena Sunshine Saison is a bottle-conditioned Belgium Farmhouse Ale. Like most bottle-conditioned beers, it pours slightly cloudy due to its unfiltered nature. The hazy yellow color is quite nice.
This beer is fairly fruity, with banana and mango notes. Subtle spice undertones balance out the beer’s sweetness. Mellow hops add to the complexity of this beer, and provide an extra punch of flavor. Skeena Sunshine is a fantastic saison with just the right amount of sweet, spice, and hops. Well done Sherwood Mountain!
Acheron’s Breath Imperial Red Ale
THREE RANGES BREWING CO – VALEMONT, B.C.
The Acheron’s Breath Imperial Red Ale carries a beautiful dark red hue. This IRA has a strong hop scent, solid hop flavor, with medium bitterness. Coming in at 7.5% ABV, it has a nice warming effect as well. This all makes for a very well balanced beer. If Acheron’s Breath is any indication of what Three Ranges is capable of, I definitely need to get my hands on their other brews.
Smokehouse Porter (6.3% ABV, 55 IBU)
WHEELHOUSE BREWING CO. – PRINCE RUPERT, B.C.
Featuring a smokey aroma and flavor, the Smokehouse Porter has rich flavor profile. This porter is quite different from Barkerville Brewing’s Holy Moses, as it’s more full-bodied with a richer flavor. One glass is all you need to appreciate this delicious offering from Wheelhouse Brewing, so make sure to share your bottle with a friend (preferably in front of a well-stoked fireplace).
The “4 the North” collaboration four pack was a real treat. Each beer was quite different from one another, which made this tasting session diverse and all the more enjoyable. If I had to pick a favorite of the four, it would be Acheron’s Breath Imperial Red Ale from Three Ranges Brewing Co. From the amazing hop flavor to the unique label artwork, this beer is a winner. All four of these limited release brews are absolutely worth a try though.
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