Brews News: Mill Street’s organic beers stand test of time

Manic for organic? It’s time to circle back to the brewery where many craft beer fans started.

Mill Street Brewery, the craft brewery and brew pubs owned by Labatt, has long held the ace of organic beers with its flagship lager. It was the first craft beer I repeatedly bought 20 years ago and I daresay I’m not alone.

For the first time since launching in 2002, Mill Street Original Organic Lager has undergone a spiffy, modern rebranding that pumps up that keyword “organic” along with a more rich shade of barley gold.

The refreshed branding runs across the Mill Street lineup, with each new label telling a story about organic farming practices. The barley illustrations are true to field, which is to say slightly imperfect in shape as if they were drawn by a farmer and not a condo-dwelling graphic designer.

Sam Jacobs, the Western University grad who’s gone on to become Mill Street’s vice-president of marketing, said the desire to buy organic products, including beer, is being driven by millennials and centennials (those born after 1997).

All those 20-somethings are on to something good. Organic beers can be more complicated and time-consuming to brew, but the effort is worth it. The taste tells the tale. And hitching your wagon to the belief that organic crops are better for the environment means reinforcing bankable brand values. As Jacobs notes, six out of 10 Canadians seek out organic products, feeling good about what they’re buying and the company they’re buying from.

Mill Street works with the Organic Crop Improvement Association, the world’s largest certification agency.

If they’re lined up together on the retail shelf, the Mill Street core lineup makes a sharp display. There’s Hazy Organic IPA, Mill Street’s new organic-certified piney IPA, decked out in robin’s egg blue. A rural Saskatchewan grain elevator and a setting sun adorn 100th Meridian Organic Amber Lager, with the words “100th Meridian” now tiny and tough to read as if the sun is setting on its use as a brand name. An eye-catcher and taste-pleaser is the green-labelled Classic Organic Pilsner, a brew I was pleased to discover.

Organic beers have never been so easy to spot.

MORE BREW PUBS

If Mill Street were to open a brew pub post-pandemic in London, where would it be? Downtown near Budweiser Gardens? At Western Fair in space being vacated by the casino? Or in beer-thirsty west London near the new Gateway casino on Wonderland Road? All are great options, for Mill Street or someone else, IMO.

ELITE BEER ARRIVES

Innis & Gunn, I bow. Just when I think the flow of beers to Canada from the famed Scottish brewer couldn’t get any better, along comes Islay Whisky Cask. This premium, specially-packaged ale, previously available and well-received in Europe, arrived in Canada this month.

The beer is a collaboration with distiller Laphroaig of the island of Islay (pronounced ai-luh). Islay Whisky Cask, sold as single 500-millilitre bottles in collectible-quality tubes, was matured in casks used for 10-year-old single malt Scotch whisky.

Maturing for 12 weeks, the beer picked up complex flavours from the barrels. Look for peat smoke and brine as well as vanilla in this malty and sophisticated beer.

The artwork on the tube has us craving a visit to Scotland. It’s a rugged seaside scene with crashing waves that almost leaves a scent of salt. The artist is Hope Blamire of Scotland, who was commissioned for the piece.

Islay Whisky Cask Ale, 7.4 ABV, is $9.95 a bottle.

NEW AND NOTED

Love cycling? There might not be a better beer to pair with a long ride than Perfect Ride, a new dry-hopped double IPA from Storm Stayed on Wharncliffe Road in London. New England style, Perfect Ride was brewed with Citra and Azacca hops and is 6.8 ABV. The label artwork looks like a retro 10-speed from a Greg Curnoe sketchpad.

A purple IPA? In London, why not? Fruit Looped IPA by Powerhouse Brewing pours Western University purple, thanks to its use of Barbe Rouge hops. Those hops from Alsace, France, give Fruit Looped a strawberry taste. And the name? An homage to Kellogg Froot Loops by the brewery located in the former cereal factory’s powerhouse.

Wayne Newton is a freelance journalist based in London.

wayne.newton@bell.net

Twitter.com/WayneWriteOn

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