Our Editors Pick Their Favourite Canadian Beers Of All-Time

In honour of Canadian Beer Day (it’s apparently a thing), we take a trip down memory lane.

Jerkface 9000, Parallel 49 Brewing

This wasn’t an entirely tough decision. Sure, there have been limited edition sours I’ve been obsessed with, or rich, full-bodied IPAs that have fully enamoured me.

But back when I was a young beer drinker—after I got to a place in my life that I could move on from “whatever is cheapest and isn’t Colt 45”—I was particularly fond of wheat beers. That mostly wore off as I got older and searched for more complex flavours to get smackered to.

But when East Van’s Parallel 49 opened back in 2012, it wasn’t long before the Jerkface 9000 popped on my radar. The colour and design of the can is striking, for sure, but what makes it special is the way it plays on tradition. The “northwest wheat ale” has the easy-drinking citrus characteristics of the classic wheat ale, but it’s also loaded with hops that add some real depth. It’s a combination of old and new that, frankly, Vancouver architecture could learn a lot from.

When I’m stuck at the liquor store and can’t decide whether I want to roll the dice on a boysenberry sour or a chocolate sundae stout, I often talk myself into thinking that it could “be the next Jerkface,” that perfect mix of convention and uniqueness. Still waiting for that—and still drinking the real thing in the meantime.—Nathan Caddell, associate editor  

McNally’s Extra, Big Rock 

For starters… there is no such thing as Canadian Beer Day. We’ve let marketing groups co-opt a milieu—celebratory days—that used to require a war ending or a saviour either being born or rising from the dead. Now people say the phrase Reese Peanut Butter Cup Day with a straight face. But I’m making an exception this once because of my deep love for Canadian beer and as such this was a tricky decision.

I’m old enough to remember the days when Kokanee was an only-in-B.C. affair and its appearance at an Alberta bush party signified that someone had made a dash across the border, Smokey and the Bandit-style. But there’s so many great beers now that my fave changes week-to-week—Fat Tug leads to Dat Juice leads to Yellow Dog Pale Ale leads to… you get the idea.

But going back to what seemed like the beginning and you had Big Rock, the original Alberta independent that was so successful that it ironically stunted the growth of Alberta’s craft scene for several years. I recently revisited their flagship beer—Traditional Ale, or trad as everyone called it— and time has not been kind to that beer. But McNally’s no longer exists so it can remain perfect in my memory: an Irish Red Ale (a wonderful category that we don’t see much anymore) that clocked in at 7 percent when such levels we’re unheard of. It rocked rich toffee and caramel notes when everything else was a sea of bland lagers. Yes, it would have a tough time standing up to any number of local craft beers, but it doesn’t have to. It’s perfect in my memory.—Neal McLennan, food editor

Blue Buck, Phillips Brewing Co.

Let me start with my sob story: I haven’t been able to drink beer in over a year, thanks to a newly discovered gluten sensitivity that frankly just makes my life lame. But when I think back to beers I once loved—at the Powell River cabin on a hot summer day, apres-skiing with friends at Whistler, at a Friday night karaoke session—Blue Buck was always the favourite. One of those balanced beers that’s not too light when the air is chilly, not to heavy when the sun is high, and just enough bitter and hoppiness that it’s perfectly sessionable, too. Oh to dream of a day when beer is as much of a part of my present as my past. Get on that scientists, will you?—Anicka Quin, editorial director