Surrey’s Central City Brewing + Distilling is kicking off Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations early with the mother of all collaboration projects.

Collaboration has become a watchword in the craft beer industry, with breweries regularly joining forces to brew interesting one-off batches, teaming up with local businesses or helping out charities.

Central City has tended to think on a larger scale, which seems natural when you consider the size of its 65,000 sq. ft. facility in Surrey.

Perhaps most notably, for the past three years the brewery and distillery has teamed up with Vancouver’s Parallel 49 Brewing Company to produce a special advent calendar comprising 24 brews in time for December.

The brewing teams from Black Ridge Brewery, Last Best Brewing & Distilling, and Central City Brewing + Distilling. Gary Lohin is centre.
The brewing teams from Black Ridge Brewery, Last Best Brewing & Distilling, and Central City Brewing + Distilling. Gary Lohin is centre.

A very Canadian 12-pack of beer

But Christmas rolls around every year. Your home country’s 150th birthday? That’s a reason to pull out all the stops.

Central City did just that when it set out to create a pan-Canadian 12-pack of beer. Twelve brewing teams – one from each province or territory with a brewery – were flown out to B.C. two at a time to make a beer with Central City brewmaster Gary Lohin.

The result is the Red Racer Across The Nation 12-pack, which was launched across Canada this month.

Chris Long of PEI Brewing gets hands on with Central City's brewhouse.
Chris Long of PEI Brewing gets hands on with Central City’s brewhouse.

The beers cover a wide array of styles and feature ingredients such as honey from Prince Edward Island, spruce tips from Ontario and Manitoba wild rice. What’s representing B.C.? An IPA of course.

“What we didn’t want was 12 IPAs, and it turned out there wasn’t one in the end so we took the IPA slot for B.C.,” said Lohin, who brewed B.C.’s contribution with Brent Mills of Delta’s Four Winds Brewing Co.

“I asked all the breweries to use ingredients that are indigenous of their province and beer that was representative of their province. I didn’t want to restrict them with anything,” added Lohin, who was on hand to help some of the brewers scale up to Central City’s 50 hectolitre brewhouse.

The brewing teams from Le Trou du Diable, Four Winds Brewing Co. and Central City Brewing + Distilling. Gary Lohin is third from the left.
The brewing teams from Le Trou du Diable, Four Winds Brewing Co. and Central City Brewing + Distilling. Gary Lohin is third from the left.

With many brewery teams meeting each other for the first time, it was almost like the party had started early.

“Everyone was so excited to be involved in a project like this. … We hosted two breweries on the same day. We wanted to get somebody from the Maritimes and somebody from the Prairies, who don’t normally see each other. A lot of the time their marketing people flew out as well,” Lohin said.

“Just the response we got was amazing.”

The participating breweries and the beers they brewed at Central City are:

  • Four Winds Brewing Co., British Columbia: Left of the Divide IPA
  • Last Best Brewing & Distilling, Alberta: Berry Light Berliner Weisse
  • Black Bridge Brewery, Saskatchewan: Wide Open Spaces Kellerbier
  • Half Pints Brewing Company, Manitoba: Land of Rice & Honey Saison
  • Beau’s Brewing Company, Ontario: Upper Reaches Pale Ale
  • Le Trou Du Diable, Quebec: Bouclier Canadien Pilsner
  • Picaroons Traditional Ales, New Brunswick: Restored Hop(e) ESB
  • Garrison Brewing Company, Nova Scotia: “New” Scottish Ale
  • PEI Brewing Company, Prince Edward Island: Bière d’ici Honey Ale
  • Quidi Vidi Brewing Company, Newfoundland: Hop To The East Hefeweizen
  • Yukon Brewing Company, Yukon: Swift Currant Dark Ale
  • NWT Brewing Company, Northwest Territories: Miner’s Refresh Grissette
Bottles of Yukon Brewing's Swift Currant Dark Ale roll off the production line at Central City in Surrey.
Bottles of Yukon Brewing’s Swift Currant Dark Ale roll off the production line at Central City in Surrey.

Buy the beer, attend the party

Now it’s the beer-drinking public’s turn to celebrate. As well as picking up a 12-pack, they’ll be able to attend a range of events planned across the country. If you’ve got a couple of months off, you could even follow the specially branded Red Racer van as it tours the country from party to party.

“Everyone’s totally into it, they’re so excited for it to happen,” says Lohin, who says that 2,500 people are expected at the June 17 event in Halifax, which includes a show by the Sheepdogs.

The tour kicks off May 30 in Vancouver. Here’s the full itinerary:

  • May 30: Four Winds Brewing Co. at Central City Brewpub Beatty Street, Vancouver, BC
  • June 3: Last Best Brewing & Distilling, Calgary, Alberta
  • June 4: Black Bridge Brewery, Swift Current, Saskatchewan
  • June 8: Half Pints Brewing Company, Winnipeg, Manitoba
  • June 12: Quidi Vidi Brewing Company, St. John’s, Newfoundland
  • June 15: PEI Brewing Company, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
  • June 16: Picaroons Traditional Ales, Fredericton, New Brunswick
  • June 17: Garrison Brewing Co., Halifax, Nova Scotia
  • June 21: Yukon Brewing Company, Whitehorse, Yukon
  • June 23: NWT Brewing Company, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories
  • June 29: Trou de Diable, Shawinigan, Quebec
  • July 1: Beau’s Brewing Company, Vankleek Hill, Ontario
  • July 14: Central City Brewers + Distillers, Surrey, BC

But even if you can’t take the tour in person, you can tour the tastes of Canadian beer in the 12-pack.

“There are some great brewers in Canada that people don’t normally get to see. You don’t normally get a BC beer in Saskatchewan or a Garrison beer in the Northwest Territories. But it’s going to happen now and people are going to be opened up to the great breweries that Canada has,” Lohin says.

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