Canadians never miss an opportunity to relish any kind of victory over our American neighbours.
Hockey, health care and beer all come to mind.
Indeed, we wrap ourselves in the flag when it comes to the latter. Our jingoism knows no bounds when it comes to ridiculing the mass-produced insipid beer guzzled by our Yankee neighbours.
But oh, those crafty Americans. Just when we thought it was safe to rest on our hops, a whole raft of artisan brewers is creeping north across the 49th parallel with some spectacular craft beers, many of which will be on offer at the Great Canadian Beer Festival, taking place Friday and Saturday at Royal Athletic Park.
The Yanks were slow to come around to artisan beers at first, but, as with so many things, once they latch onto something they often make it their own and become a force to be reckoned with.
Such was the case with Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco, which was one of the first to penetrate the mass market with its now famous Anchor Steam Beer. That product set the bar in the U.S. for craft brewers.
Of course, American entrepreneurs are not a deferential lot keen to follow the leader; other artisan beer makers soon started appearing with their own ideas and styles, particularly in the Pacific Northwest. The result is that the U.S. now has a thriving craft beer movement that is producing some exceptional beers, a few of which are finally starting to stray onto Canadian store shelves.
Don't get me wrong. I'm a proud Canadian and a booster of local craft brewers, many of whom will also be at this week's festival with a range of excellent products. That said, I'm also a consumer who appreciates quality and a range of choice, and the Great Canadian Beer Festival is perhaps the best opportunity to try non-Canadian products in a range of styles.
And while I'll always have room in the fridge for my favourite local beers, I may have to throw out some condiments to make room for the following American offerings:
MIRROR POND PALE ALE - DESCHUTES BREWERY, BEND, OREGON 12 oz (355 ml), 5 per cent alcohol by volume (ABV)
Mirror Pond Pale Ale has a deep amber colour in the glass with floral and fruity characteristics on the nose. On the mouth, there is a sophisticated balance of sweet maltiness and bitter hops, with notes of peach and apricot that leave a pleasant medium aftertaste.
INDIA PALE ALE - LAGUNITAS BREWERY, PETALUMA, CALIFORNIA 12 oz (355ml), 6.2 per cent ABV
This IPA is deep amber in colour with lots of hop aroma, dovetailing with pine and grapefruit in the mouth. The hops can be a tad overwhelming at first, but that is not necessarily a bad thing if you like hoppy beer.
PALE ALE - SIERRA NEVADA BREWING CO., CHICO, CALIFORNIA 12 oz (355 ml), 5.6 per cent ABV
This is arguably one of the best craft beers on the U.S. market. Pale copper in the glass, it has hints of spice, pine, flower and orange citrus on the nose that combine with sweet malt and zippy hops on the palate.
Remarkably balanced, with a dry and slightly bitter but pleasant aftertaste.
CHIPOTLE ALE - ROGUE BREWERY, NEWPORT, OREGON 1 pt 6 oz (650 ml), 5.5 per cent ABV
All too often, beers infused with peculiar flavours are more gimmick than substance. Not so with Rogue Brewery's Chipotle Ale. Caramel in colour, this ale has nice aromas of spice, smoke and hops that are all in excellent balance on the palate. And while the curious flavour of chipotle and smoked jalapeno is pronounced, it is not over the top. In fact, this ale is surprisingly well balanced; it would be the perfect companion with any Tex-Mex dish.
HOPSICKLE IMPERIAL ALE - MOYLANS BREWING, NOVATO, CALIFORNIA 1 pt 6 oz (650 ml), 9.2 per cent ABV
Pucker up, Canucks! This hop grenade pours a hazy auburn, with a head that quickly dissipates, but who cares about subtleties like that when a beer has enough piney resin aroma and flavour to qualify as an honourary Christmas tree. Self-professed hop-heads will be thrilled to find this stuffed in their stockings in 15 weeks' time.
Note: Unpatriotic consumers unable to get tickets to the soldout Great Canadian Beer Festival can track down some or all of the above American beers at select private retailers and some B.C. Liqour stores.