Year End Roundup: Kevin Freer of Magnotta

Magnotta is one of the quieter breweries in Ontario. They go about their business, making some fine beer and… continue to make more beer. Kevin Freer, brewer for Magnotta, takes us into the year that was and gives some hints into the future.

A Year of Beer!: 2011 was an exciting year for craft beer in Ontario. What were some of your highlights?

Kevin Freer: One of my favorite events this year were the Grand River Breweries beer club events. They are always a great time and feature local and not so local beers of a certain style in a tasting. The great thing about them is all the people who show up, time after time, and sell out the events every month. They’re all really passionate craft beer fans, and it’s great to see that kind of passion. Also the Pumpkinfest they had to release their Pumpkin beer was a lot of fun. Live music, a cask of pumpkin ale served from a pumpkin, and even a catapult built by their Brewmaster Rob launching pumpkins down the side of the building.

Another highlight would have to be the Craft Beer and BBQ at Hart House. That was one of the first events I went to as a professional. I got to meet a lot of my contemporaries from other breweries and made some great friends. The Beer was incredible, as was the food! All in all, just a well run event and a good time for everyone.

The Canadian Brewing Awards gets a mention as well. That was so awesome to get to try all these great award winning beers from across the country. Winning a medal for our True North Wunder Weisse felt pretty good as well. It was fantastic to see so many of my friends at other breweries get awarded medals as well.

AYOB!: What was your favourite Magnotta beer in 2011?

KF: My favorite Magnotta beer in general is the True North IPA. It’s a 6.5% abv dry hopped English IPA and is brewed year round. Not a lot of breweries make an English style IPA. It’s a bit more earthy and floral in the hops, and less bitter then an American IPA. I like it alot since so many IPA’s can be just slightly different versions of the same thing, it’s nice to have something that’s still hoppy and bitter, but with that more earthy and spicy hop flavour. Plus there’s something about dumping in a bucket of dry hops and smelling all that hop dust in the air that just makes me think “wow, this is going to taste great!”

AYOB!: What was your favourite beer made by another Ontario brewery?

KF: This is a hard question. We have a lot of great breweries making some awesome beers. I’d be hard pressed to pick a favourite but I’ll list off a few that I really liked. Great Lakes’ Miami Weisse, Muskoka’s Mad Tom IPA, Kensington’s Augusta Ale, and Amsterdam’s Tempest Imperial Stout are all very good beers that all came out within this past year. It’s incredible to see so much quality stuff come out in just one 12 month period. Beyond this year and one offs, I really enjoy Grand River’s Mill Race Mild as kind of a go to session beer at the bars.

AYOB!: What was the biggest trend in craft brewing this past year? What trends do you predict for 2012?

KF: From what I’ve seen of this year, the cask thing is really coming together. More and more places are getting into cask beer, and serving and storing it correctly. That’s nice to see. A few people are getting into the funky beers and sour beers which is also very exciting. What I can predict in 2012 would be more funk, more oak aged beers, more one offs and hopefully more collaborations. The craft beer industry is famously co-operative. It’d be great to see some more collaborations between breweries. As one brewer told me, “No one brewer knows everything, but if you put us all in a room, we can do anything.”

AYOB!: Any hints as to what we can expect from Magnotta next year?

KF: Without getting too into what I can and cannot reveal, you can certainly expect the same year round lineup of premium craft beers. We are pushing to enter more competitions and use that feedback to keep on improving. As well, as many people know, we produce the Festa-Brew pasteurized wort kits. We will be starting to brew the immensely popular Czech Pilsner first thing this next year, and it makes a very, very good beer. All in all just look for the same great quality products, and more of a presence from us out there in the craft beer world.

Thanks to Kevin for his time and all the best to Magnotta next year!

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