By Jesse Reynolds
Over the course of the past few decades, the craft beer movement has taken firm root in Canada. Countless breweries have sprung up across the nation, bringing beer styles from all over the world to our doorstep.
But have we produced any uniquely Canadian beers? Victor North, Brewmaster Support Liaison for the Canadian Food and Wine Institute at Niagara College, recently tried to bring attention to some style variants which you might only find in Canada. He produced guidelines for four different styles: Ontario Pale Ale, Quebecoise Rousse, Spruce Beer and Canadian Ice Beer.
“There’s very little Can-Con in the BJCP, and perhaps as a result I’ve had several Canadian brewers tell me that Canada has no domestic styles,” says North, who notes that the BJCP guidelines were written largely from an American perspective. “We don’t have to wait for an official guideline. If we want a Canadian Appendix, we can just author the document.”
As an Ontario resident, I have sampled a few beers that would fit into North’s guidelines. The style in particular that piqued my interest — as it is more often found in Quebec — is the Rousse. I reached out to North to help me put together a recipe, but he had a better suggestion: to create a special category in the Niagara College Brewing Competition, open to students and the public, and find a perfectly brewed example.
So what is a Rousse? North’s guidelines describe it as sessionable, malty and moderately hoppy — something in between an Irish Red Ale and an American Amber. The primary examples of the style found in Quebec are brewed by Boreale (Rousse), McAuslan Brewing (Griffon Red Ale) and Archibald Brewing (Chipie).
When all was said and done, we ended up with 11 different interpretations of the style. With the help of another judge, I tasted and scored each sample until a consensus was reached.
At any BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) sanctioned competition, beers are scored on five elements: Aroma, Appearance, Flavour, Mouthfeel and Overall Impression. For a been to win its category, it generally needs to hit all the right notes as per the guidelines.
On judging day, the beer that won first prize was produced by Joe Meisner, a homebrewer from St. Catharines, Ontario, who has been home brewing for about a year. Meisner graciously accepted the opportunity to have his recipe published in TAPS for all to share in his gold-medal-winning beer, named Coup D’Etat.
When designing this recipe, Meisner’s focus was to produce a clean, flavourful and highly-drinkable red ale. The malt and hop selection was geared toward a spicy, somewhat citrusy character. The use of lager yeast in an ale is an interesting tactic, but Meisner’s reasoning was clear.
“I really wanted no yeast-derived flavour — just clean. I chose this yeast to get out of the way and let the malt and hops shine.”
Red X and Maris Otter make up the bulk of the malt bill, offering a slightly nutty malt character and a distinctive reddish hue. Smaller amounts of Crystal 40 and Chocolate malt further increase the colour and flavour, while some Rye is used to add a spicy character.
The hops are added fairly late in the boil, which really enables the beer to carry huge hop flavour and aroma without too much bitterness. The resulting beer is smooth, herbal, spicy and slightly citrusy.
The recipe skews toward the lighter end of the style in terms of alcohol content, but makes up for it with a good hop punch and a nice chocolatey finish.
“What I like about the beer is that it is in balance with itself. It’s not hoppy and it’s not sweet and not overly alcoholic.”
Coup D’État (Québécoise Rousse, No Official BJCP Category)
(all-grain, 5.5 gallons)
8 Gallons Tap Water (Treated w/Campden Tablets) or Spring Water
Add 1 tsp Gypsum and ½ tsp Calcium Chloride to mash
3.5 lbs Red X
3.5 lbs Maris Otter
0.9 lb Crystal 40
0.9 lb Rye Malt
0.25 lb Chocolate Malt
1 oz Chinook, 31.66 IBU (20 mins)
1 oz Willamette, 9 IBU, (15 mins)
2 oz Saaz, 0 IBU, (Flameout)
Wyeast 2124 Bohemian Lager
Brew Day Instructions
Mash-in grains with 3.5 gallons of treated water to reach 150F (65C) and hold for 60 minutes before raising to 168F (76F) for a 10 minute mash-out. Drain your wort into your boil kettle and slowly sparge until you have 6.5 gallons of wort.
Bring the wort to a boil for 60 minutes, adding hops at the times directed above. After flame-out, chill rapidly to 71F (22C), transfer to your fermenter, aerate your hopped wort and pitch the yeast.
Ferment the beer at 71F (22C) for 7-10 days until the beer has reached FG and holds steady for three days. Cold crash to 2C for 3-4 days, then package, carbonate and enjoy!
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