There is exciting news for Ontario’s pale ale fans: Chico California’s Sierra Nevada Brewing Pale Ale will soon be available on tap in Ontario bars and sometime a little after that, on store shelves in your LCBO.
This weekend, I spoke with Andrew von Teichman, the president of Von Terra Enterprises Ltd, the agency responsible for bringing Sierra Nevada to Ontario, and von Teichman confirmed rumblings you may or may not have heard at Cask Days when that event’s organizers brought Sierra Nevada to Toronto along with a handful of other California beers for the event.
Von Teichman confirmed that Sierra Nevada Pale Ale will be available on tap in Ontario in February and that an LCBO launch will likely follow in March. The beer will launch exclusively on draught at all six Bier Markt locations on February 9th and then will roll out to other accounts in March. No other accounts are confirmed yet, but von Teichman tells me that they’ve talked to a number of restaurants and bars and, not surprisingly, they’ve basically just said ‘let us know when and we’re all over it.’
I asked von Teichman if we can expect other Sierra Nevada beers here soon and he said that is definitely the plan.
“The first step is making sure that all the logistics are smooth and that the beer is moving quickly from the brewery to the customer and there isn’t a lot of inventory sitting around, but once that’s put to bed, which I’m pretty confident we can do in partnership with the LCBO, we’re going to bring in some Torpedo [extra IPA] probably in the LCBO and draught, and then with the labeling requirements being what they are at the LCBO, I would imagine that midsummer and into the fall you’ll start to see draught seasonals as restaurants and bars are interested in it.”
Von Teichman noted that, at Cask Days, Narwhal Imperial Stout and Northern Hemisphere Wet Hop IPA were among the first California casks to run out so they seem like likely candidates for the Ontario market.
He also told me that bringing Sierra Nevada here is something that Von Terra Enterprises, who also represent Ottawa’s Hogsback Brewing Company, has been working on for a long time.
“We’ve been chatting with them for four years,” he told me by phone. “Then ultimately [Sierra Nevada] came up in February and did a warehouse tour, met with LCBO representatives and chatted about logistics,” and finally decided to take the plunge into the Ontario market.
I asked if there were any concerns regarding the freshness of the beer that would be brought to Ontario given that pale ale is a style best enjoyed as fresh as possible and the fact that Chico, California is pretty far from my neighbourhood LCBO. Von Teichman said that the folks at Sierra Nevada understand my concerns and that freshness was actually part of the reason for the LCBO tour last year. Sierra Nevada was assured that the beer inventory the LCBO keeps on hand is small and that they could guarantee a quick turnaround time. Interestingly, von Teichman said that what really reassured the Sierra Nevada folks was the fact that Heineken had apparently very recently conducted a global survey on the freshness of their beer and found that the freshest Henineken anywhere in the world outside of their home market was here in Ontario.
Furthermore, the beer coming to Ontario will be coming from Sierra Nevada’s North Carolina brewery, not California so it will be on a truck for roughly a day and a half before it arrives in Ontario.
So OK, I’m officially excited.
But what will this mean for the local craft beer market? Currently in Ontario, the pale ale is arguably king and it would seem that virtually no new brewers are launching without an IPA or pale ale of some sort in their portfolio of brands. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, which is rated a 96 on ratebeer (and a 99 for the style) is without question a kick-ass pale ale and will absolutely mean some serious competition for folks making and selling hoppy beers in Ontario (to say nothing of the increasingly crowded battle for shelf space at the LCBO).
“Pale ale–especially the Sierra Nevada–is one of the benchmark beers in North America and has been for nearly 30 years,” von Teichman says of how they’ll fare against the local stuff. “I think [competition is] great for craft beer generally and I think that’s the way Sierra Nevada looks at things. The more good and great craft beer available to consumers the better. It just grows the whole category, which in Ontario is already growing quickly. [. . .] I think it will be a really good litmus test for everyone in Ontario that’s producing beer.”
Indeed the merits of Ontario’s craft pale ales as opposed to American beers like Sierra Nevada have oft been debated, but now, when the beer officially launches on tap at the Bier Markt, and hits the LCBO in early March, we’ll see what Ontario consumers have to say.