Arch Brewing are the latest contract brewers on the local scene. For the uninitiated, contract brewing involves brewing using the facilities of an established brewery, therefore providing a way for potential breweries to test the waters without all the upfront costs. The topic of contract brewing is a bit of a hot potato in the craft beer community. Some feel that it is unfair to the brewers who took the plunge and put everything on the line to open their own facility that someone with little brewing knowledge or even experience in the beer industry can circumvent the traditional channels. Proponents of contract brewing argue that it increases the selection of locally made craft beer and with the current system of LCBO and The Beer Store, we are hardly spoiled for choice as it is. A number of well known Toronto beer bloggers including Ben Johnson (of Blog.TO) and Chris Schryer (Toronto Beer Blog) have weighed in on the subject here:
Personally I agree with Schryer in that it’s ok when done right, by people who clearly have a passion for beer and want to follow their dream and pursue a career doing something they love. Take Leftfield Brewery for example. They’ve been contract brewing for a couple of years and getting great exposure while they searched for their “dream home”. They’ve now found it in Leslieville and will be operational in the next year, all going to plan. Without contract brewing, would they have been able to get the recognition they deserve for great beers like Eephus Oatmeal Brown Ale or Resin Bag IPA? Would they have risked all their savings and quit their jobs without having any idea whether their beers would have been well received? They are clearly an example of contract brewing done right!
I forgot this is a beer review.
Arch Brewing were founded by Bill and Sue King (for whom a Google search produced very little results!), and brew out of Wellington Brewery with legendary local brewer Paul Dickey (of Cheshire Valley fame) designing the recipes. They have brought their first beer to market. It is called Dinner Jacket O’Red IPA (hence the obligatory title pun above), retails at $2.85 for a tallboy, and is available at the following LCBOs:
Dinner Jacket pours medium copper and clear with a creamy off white head. The nose contains toffee, nice biscuity malts and moderate North American hop aromas. The palate is very nicely balanced, with a deliciously juicy malt backbone complemented by some assertive hop bitterness. There’s a silkiness to this beer that is bordering on nitro but can actually be attributed to the oatmeal employed in the mash. It finishes moderately dry and a pleasant bitterness lingers. I really enjoyed this beer. It’s a very well balanced IPA which is in many respects a rarity these days. I’m not surprised by this as Dickey is renowned for making excellent English style ales.
I put Dinner Jacket up against Banjara’s butter chicken, and it capably handled the medium spice and easily cut through the heavy creaminess of the sauce. It would also pair very well with most pub grub, fish and chips would be a match made in heaven, especially doused in malt vinegar!
If Arch Brewing can follow this up with something of similar quality, it would validate them and give them the confidence to move forward and become a legit brewery. Only time will tell, until then I’ll continue to enjoy Dinner Jacket….