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Top of the Hops Delights Saskatoon

Submitted by on June 7, 2009 – 1:53 PMNo Comment
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Saskatoon, Saskatchewan – Saskatoon beer enthusiasts had the chance to sample over fifty different premium domestic and import beers during the Top of the Hops: Grapes and Grains trade show from May 21 to 23 at Prairie Land Park.  The unique event, which also featured wine and spirits available for tasting, is in its sixth year for the organizers, POW City Kinsmen (a non-profit service organization). All products featured at the event are available for purchase in Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority stores. A store was even on sight, with staff holding purchased items until the end of the trade show for customers.

New vendors and products were at this year’s Top of the Hops. Moosehead Breweries, Canada’s largest and oldest independent brewery, had recently launched their newest national brand, Cracked Canoe, in Toronto and brought plentiful supplies to the Saskatoon event. “The beer is a first for Canada. It is slow brewed, with a lot of hop aroma and tastes great. It’s an everyday beer and not so much about getting drunk as it is about slowing down to enjoy the flavor,” Eric Mahon of WETT Sales and Distribution said.

With a refreshingly crisp, light taste, Cracked Canoe is only 90 calories and has 3.5% alcohol. Speaking to the male aversion for wimpy beer, Mahon explained, “it’s a light beer but men won’t be afraid to drink it because it’s in a gender neutral black and silver can.” Cracked Canoe is also the first beer in Canada to be sold in the 355 ml sleek can, which is taller and more slender than traditional cans.

Also from the WETT Sales and Distribution team, Johann Lozinski was representing beers from Mill St. Brewery alongside Moosehead’s newest star. The East Toronto microbrewery can be found in Toronto’s Distillery District, the city’s first pedestrian village, and only historic district. Lozinski was offering samples of their three bottled beers. Organic Lager was Canada’s first certified organic beer and is a 4.2% clean tasting, German Pilsner. Mill St.’s rich 5.5% Coffee Porter is made with Balzac’s beans, with six bottles being equal to a cup of coffee. The Tankhouse Ale comes in at 5.2% and is brewed with five different malts and Cascade hops. One attendee who wished to remain unnamed repeatedly went for the Tankhouse, giving points to both taste and the original name.

Saskatoon’s own Paddockwood Brewery had their four mainstays on offer, which attracted long lines of eager samplers throughout the night. Black Cat Lager, their biggest seller, is a pilsner with a dark color and a hint of coffee. The beer won the award for Best Canadian Lager at Calgary’s Beer Festival in April, beating out competitors from across the country. Czech Mate is Paddockwood’s fresh spin on the classic pilsner style. The 606 Pale Ale is a balanced mix of hops and malt, while the London Porter borders more on the chocolate side.


Saskatoon’s first brewery, Great Western, was originally built in 1927 and operated under the name of Hub City Brewing Company. After various changes in ownership, the Great Western Brewing Company was formed by a management led employee group in 1989. Lawrence Burke is the Saskatchewan and Manitoba sales manager for the company and said the Pilsner is their biggest seller in the prairies, although the Premium and Light styles are popular throughout Western Canada. Great Western used to brew a Honey Brown but stopped because “the honey market was becoming a niche market. It hit a wave [of popularity] and then dropped off so we cut the product,” Burke explained.

The crowd at Top of the Hops was animated and people rotated easily between the vendors in what became tight quarters by the end of the night. The only complaint was that last call was at 10 PM, way too early for most who were enjoying the freedom of drinks that cost between 2 to 5 .50C tokens each. Terry Wruck, a Saskatoon resident, said it was his first time at Top of the Hops: “This event is great for trying new products. The crowd and vendors are diverse. I’m having a great time.” Another attendee, Sean Clarke, could often be seen juggling several samples at once, seemingly unable to narrow down his favorite. “The beer on offer here is really spectacular, great variety and quality,” Clarke said

Minhas Breweries, from Monroe, Wisconsin, had four newer beers and three from their original line available at Top of the Hops. 1845 (a German style Pilsner), Swiss Amber (similar to a honey brown), Billy Bock (dark, with coffee flavours) and Lazy Mutt (an unfiltered beer) provided a nice contrast to Minhas’ originals: Classic Lager, Pilsner and Lighthouse Lager. Rounding out the vendors were representatives from Corona, Alexander Keith’s (Halifax) Big Rock (Calgary) and even Manos, a restaurant with an on-site brewery in Saskatoon.

One of the organizers, Craig Bender (Saskatoon) has co-chaired the event with Randy Krukoff for the past three years and said. “The feedback we received from attendees of the event over the last couple of years has been a highlight for our Kinsmen club,” Bender said. “When you receive feedback from people saying that it was the best twenty dollars they had spent in a long time, it’s a very gratifying feeling. The great thing about the success of the event is that most don’t even know that all profits from the event are raised for charitable endeavours within our city.”

The main highlight of the event was Saturday night’s six course dinner and wine selection, hosted by Canada’s celebrity chef, David Adjey. Bender said that last year’s event was a great success, largely because of Adjey’s charisma and culinary skills. “The shock and awe of the presentation value…created by true culinary talents made for a memorable moment.”

Click here to see more photos of this event.

Photos by Eric Ruecker