Since beer is a lightly processed agricultural product and Ontario is such a vast province with deep experience in farming (including barley and hops) it’s surprising that beer made with ingredients from Ontario are still the exception. Ones worth recommending on their in-the-glass merits are even rarer.
I remember asking Iain McOustra and Mike Lackey about this situation for our first Brewer vs. Brewer instalment and they both, basically, said that weather and market conditions make it difficult for those who raise barley and hops in Ontario to go all-in and invest in the technology and expertise that will let them compete at a world-class level. They were also both careful to note that there are bright lights that shine as exceptions and Lackey named VQH Hops as a quality leader.
That context is especially relevant because Sawdust City collaborates with Mike Lackey and his team at Great Lakes to make A Place to Stand—every year since they created it for Canada’s 150th in 2017—and VQH grows the hops for it. The malt, incidentally, comes from Barn Owl near Belleville.
As pilsners go, this one is really quite good. There’s a robust, sweet hay flavour that is bookended by hops on the nose and finish. The malt-hops contrast might not be quite as subtly sharp as you’ll find in the Czech-style original but I’d still go out of my way to get more of this beer.
On the Sawdust City website (where you can buy A Place to Stand), brewmaster Sam Corbeil says, “I just love the perfect golden colour and the rich, hay character we get from the malt. It looks just beautiful. And the spicy aroma provided by the hops is a great lead-in for this beer.”
As Canada Day rolls around, I’m sure it goes without saying that an all-Ontario brew is a much better way to celebrate our dominion than with a macro beer that is only Canadian for the purpose of TV.
Photo: Sawdust City Facebook page.