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Brews News: MPs sting rivals by adding honey to beer with a political purpose

Take a tea-loving Tory and a nostalgic 50-loving Liberal, add some London-area honey, Southwestern Ontario wheat and Great Lakes water and you've got a recipe for a small-batch beer brewed to rule the nation.

MPs Peter Fragiskatos and Karen Vecchio examine ingredients before brewing a honey wheat beer at Labatt in London. It will be their bipartisan entry in Election Brew 2019. A national winner will be chosen May 29 in Ottawa. (Wayne Newton photo) 

Take a tea-loving Tory and a nostalgic 50-loving Liberal, add some London-area honey, Southwestern Ontario wheat and Great Lakes water and you’ve got a recipe for a small-batch beer brewed to rule the nation.

Or at very least, help get more women involved in politics.

Two London-area MPs from rival parties, Conservative Karen Vecchio (Elgin-Middlesex-London) and Liberal Peter Fragiskatos (London North Centre), poured ingredients and flipped switches to help brew a honey wheat recipe developed by Eric Carteciano, brewmaster at Labatt’s London brewery using a tiny 58-litre system.

The recipe’s focus was local ingredients — the honey came from Meadowlily Farm and Bee Rescue of London and the wheat from a local farm.

The beer is one of several new recipes with local ingredients being brewed in small batches at Labatt breweries across Canada with the help of local members of Parliament as a fundraiser for Equal Voice. The non-partisan organization encourages female participation in politics. All the brews will be taste-tested and a winner declared in Ottawa on May 29.

The Ontario recipe was written after consultation with the MPs’ offices. Carteciano, who started brewing at Mill Street in Toronto, used the same Cascade hops used in Labatt 50 for a citrusy, predominantly grapefruit, aroma and flavour, along with an ale yeast purchased specifically for this beer. It’s expected to be about five per cent ABV and 20 IBU.

A honey wheat was an interesting choice, but there’s a popular take on the combination in Prince Edward Island with PEI Brewing’s Sir John A brand. Usually, we find honey as a flavour for brown beers such as McNall’s Mission by Cowbell of Blyth.

How well this one turns out won’t be known for a week or so, and tasting it will be an exclusive experience for a small group. The fundraising and publicity attention for Equal Voice will have a much bigger effect for all of us.

Meanwhile, there’s the matter of the beer’s name. Vecchio, the tea and diet Coke drinker who when pressed admitted to trying Michelob Ultra, and Fragiskatos, who keeps alive his family tradition of drinking 50, hadn’t yet settled on a name on brew day.

Fragiskatos spitballed Southwest Gold or Southwest Wheat with no witty puns in sight. I offered Gritty Tory, or after sober second thought, Gritty Tory’s Honey.

Had they used London or Aylmer cannabis, it could’ve been Honey Pot. Maybe next year.

Labatt USA gets crafty

For reasons of fair competition when it was bought by AB InBev, Labatt had to separate and sell its U.S. business. The result has been an eye-opener for Canadians visiting Buffalo, where the Labatt brands have a higher profile than in London where it all began.

Now, Labatt USA is capitalizing on its popularity in upper New York State with the opening of Labatt Brew House in a craft beer-esque historic building at 79 Perry St. in Buffalo.

Labatt Brew House is playing with recipes, including Labatt Blue Citra, a hoppy session lager using both Citra and Mosaic hops and measuring 4.7 per cent alcohol. It also has Blue Light Lime, Blue Light Grapefruit, something called Blue Lite Royale (“inspired by the Great Canadian North”!?).

They’re also serving Blue. And here’s a fun fact: brewing Blue for the New York State market used to be a huge part of production in London. Now Blue is contract-brewed in the U.S. and checked for recipe trueness by Labatt in Canada.

And 50? Might have to come to Canada for that.

New and noted

Refined Fool in Sarnia has an interesting new one-off at its two locations. Wowsers keeps it simple as a SMaSH (single malt and single hop) beer.

“These beers are able to showcase all of the unique flavours that the malt and hop are able to bring to the table,” Refined Fool’s Matthew Barnes wrote in an email.

Sarnia’s craft brewery used Maris Otter as the malt and Comet as the hop. It was dry-hopped for juiciness to trump bitterness.

It’s spring!

Forked River’s Flashback Rhubarb Wheat Ale is back, heralding the return of sunshine and warmth. This seasonal sensation was brewed using cold pressed rhubarb from a Watford farm.

German lager and music fans take note: There’s a fresh batch of beer for the Forest City Music Awards — Hall of Fame Helles by Anderson Craft Ales of London.

Half Hours on Earth in Seaforth has a seven per cent oak-aged spelt farmhouse sour with rosemary and sage.

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