King Brewery – Bottoms-Up
Nothing beats a cold beer on a hot summer day. The thin layer of foam capping a frosty mug; the refreshing, hoppy taste kissing your lips and fighting off the relentless heat – it’s a welcome relief from the sweltering midday sun. Indeed, beer is the go-to drink for many Canadians, especially when the summer hits. But while we’re quick to grab a two-four from the big -name brands, a little exploration cracks open a world of novel beers and rarely experienced flavours, courtesy of local craft breweries.
Phil DiFonzo, brew master at Nobelton’s King Brewery, feels the palate of Canadian beer drinkers is evolving towards flavour-forward blends that deliver more than just inebriation. “There’s a beer drinker out there that thinks the best beer is the cheapest beer,” he says, explaining how many shop with an as-many-beer-for-as-cheap-as-possible attitude. However, that breed is dying. “We’re now getting
everything from young adults to middle-aged people saying, ‘You know, I’m just tired of that and I really want something better.’”
Like the eminence of Niagara wines, DiFonzo, who’s been practising the art of brewing for 25 years, feels Ontario craft brewers are developing styles that rival international favourites. King Brewery, which was founded in 2002, currently produces three beers, each offering unique experiences. “I try to give a variation of colour and flavour,” DiFonzo says, describing his Dark Larger, Vienna Lager and Pilsner.
While the German-style Dark Lager, winner of the People’s Choice award for dark lagers at the 2011 Ontario Brewing Awards, has an excellent, robust flavour with hints of chocolate, coffee and nuts, DiFonzo feels the Vienna and Pilsner are the ideal summer brews. The Vienna, which won gold at the Ontario Beer Awards for top amber lager in 2011, is a sweeter, malty Austrian-style beer that’s approachable and goes great with burgers, ribs and barbequed sausage. The Czech-style Pilsner starts with a touch of sweetness that derives from the malt, followed by a bitter tang. “That’s the refreshing element of the Pilsner,” DiFonzo says, explaining how the bitter aftertaste takes the bite off hot, spicy foods.
In the U.S., craft brewing is steadily growing, and DiFonzo hopes the Canadian market will experience similar success. While the challenge of distribution is always present and competing with heavyweights is no easy task, DiFonzo feels the work he and his fellow craft brewers are doing will turn these little independents into household names. “There’s good blue skies for all of us,” he says.