The Overcast’s latest book provides the summer’s guide to beer from all over Newfoundland and Labrador.
When’s the last time you went out for a beer and found yourself ordering a Canadian or Coors Light without being told about and intrigued by the India Pale Ale with undertones of tropical citrus fruits and floral bouquets that has a name you’ve never heard of and was brewed by a microbrewery you’ve passed on your way to work?
Wtf is “craft” beer?
Chances are it’s probably been a while, because craft beer has officially blown up on our island.
A lot of people hear the term “craft beer” and immediately think of overpriced, fancy-schmancy beer, unworthy of all it’s hype. Let this article on The Overcast’s Guide to Beers of Newfoundland not only serve as an incredibly, entertaining book review, but also as a lesson on craft beer and why it’s so important for your taste palette and your hometown’s culture.
Craft beer is often defined as beer made in a traditional or non-mechanized way by a small brewery, meaning the person who made the beer put the time and effort into actually crafting the brew with taste and quality in mind, not quantity and profit.
“Ultimately, with craft beer, it comes down to higher quality beers and better diversity of selection. There’s nothing wrong with a Budweiser or a Coors Light, but the taste difference between them is minuscule compared to the taste difference between Port Rexton’s T-Rex Porter and Horse Chops IPA. Craft beers are just more complex, with more nuanced tastes,” Chad Pelley of The Overcast shared in an exclusive interview with The Newfoundland Herald.
“Drinking local microbrews is like going to the neighbourhood bakery at 7 am as the bread is coming out of the oven, versus the alternative, Wonder Bread shipped in from who knows where, full of preservatives. There’s a great quote in the book from Liam McKenna, brewmaster at Yellowbelly Brewery; to brewers, beer is a kind of liquid bread. I would not buy bread from Germany or Mexico, so why would I buy beer from there? It doesn’t travel well.”
Believe it or not, craft beer isn’t actually new to Newfoundland and Labrador, as there was a time when there was no beer on the island except local craft beers. In 1962, three mega breweries, Molson, Labatt, and Carling O’Keefe, bought out all of the micro breweries across our province and shut them down.
“We’ll never know what a Blue Star or India tasted like back in the day, until we stumble on one in the floor boards of a family cabin or something,” he shared.
“Being a landlocked island, we were straight up cut off from the beer world. There were only two breweries here making a lot of the same kinds of similar beers. And the NLC were not, until recently, stocking craft beer.”
Finally, in the 90s, Storm Brewery gave people on the rock access to something fresh and new, followed by the award-winning Quidi Vidi brewing company, Yellowbelly, and Port Rexton, to name a few.
“The two Davids started Quidi Vidi brewery for this very reason, they’d been travelling, tasting local craft beers, and wanted to diversify offerings of beer on the island to Newfoundlanders. It was a risk, and it worked. Yellowbelly came along a decade later and then the NLC opened the floodgates of North American craft beers on their shelves. Now here we are, with breweries in places like Gander, Twillingate, and the Port-au-Port Peninsula.”
Guide to Beers
The Overcast’s Guide to Beers of Newfoundland essentially has two parts to the book. The first covers the interesting history of beer across the island, including what set our province’s collective tastes and preferences, the three key local breweries that created beers like India, Blue Star, and Dominion Ale and why they all vanished in 1962.
The second half of the book profiles more than 10 local breweries, and tells their story and some fun facts about each of their beers.
“It’s a book full of fun facts and fun pictures that would appeal equally to fans of Newfoundland or local history as it will to beer nuts or people just getting into beer,” Pelley explained.
“I mean, did you know that someone from the Labatt family was involved in one of Canada’s most bizarre, historic kidnappings? Or that craft brewers in the province have made hyper-local beers like Yellowbelly’s Turnip Pale Ale or Quidi Vidi’s Crab Apple Saison?”
The Overcast’s Guide to Beers of Newfoundland is available in store and online!