There’s a quality craft brewery in Speedy Creek? Yup.

by Jason Foster

pintsA few months ago, I wrote about the emergence of a handful of new breweries in our province, including a new entrant from Swift Current. Their beers have been available for a couple of months now in SLGA stores, and I thought it might be time to offer a take on how it’s been doing.

That newbie is Black Bridge Brewing (named after a local landmark). It opened in the fall with a lineup of three beers — all packaged in cans, which is unusual for craft beer in these parts. When I had a chat with Kari Stenson (half of the husband-and-wife ownership team) before the opening, she was reluctant to discuss the typed of beers they were going to release, only saying that they’d be influenced by “northwest U.S. and Belgian styles.”

I remember thinking if that’s true, it’s going to mean some interesting stuff.

Well, here we are six months later and the beers — three of them, to be exact — are on the shelves. Black Bridge has a milk stout, an India pale ale and one called Centennial Rye Ale. None of those fit the Belgian bill, but the northwest influence is still possible.

Let’s take them one at a time, in the order you might want to drink them if you tried them all in one night.

The Centennial Rye Ale is both the most accessible (and possibly most interesting) of the three. It’s medium gold and bright, with a thin layer of white head. The aroma is a light citrusy fruit with an accent of sharp graininess, while some honey and a bit of pine accents add complexity.

The flavour begins with honey and fruit, followed by a sharp and spicy malt flavour (which is the rye grain talking). The middle is a citrus and woody blend of flavours, making it both summery-refreshing and autumn-like earthy, while the finish builds a piney hop character. The hop is more about flavour and linger than bitterness, making it quite fresh.

The combination of citrus and sharp graininess in the beer is quite appealing and creates a refreshing, full-flavoured beer. It’s quite the original concoction, not much like anything else on the market around here.

Next up, the Milk Stout. No, it doesn’t have milk in it, but traditionally this stout sub-style is sweeter, often due to an addition of lactose (hence the name). It pours deep black with a fairly thin, dark tan head, but one that’s quite dense and consistent. The aroma is rich chocolate, dark fruit and touches of roast, but it’s rather subdued on that front. I also get some molasses and brown sugar.

The front taste is quietly sweet, with a chocolate and dark sugar character, and some rich dark fruit accents. The middle adds a bit of a drier bite, partly astringent, partly sour, and a rounded lactic sweetness begins to build as well; nothing too noticeable, just a background note. The roast is present but chooses to hang around upstage, not making too much noise. The finish is relatively sweet with a slight roasty linger to add balance.

This is an interesting, full-bodied stout. I find the middle is a bit confusing but it doesn’t detract too much and otherwise it’s got some nice flavours. With a little tweaking, this could be a wonder of a beer.

The IPA takes its cue from the sharp citrus hues of the northwestern U.S. It pours pale orange, growing a decent head with a mixture of loose and tight bubbles. It really does have an attractive appearance.

The aroma starts as a piney and floral hop backed by a toffee and biscuit malt sweetness. There’s some fruitiness, but it leans toward woody and pine.

The flavour begins with a delicate toffee and caramel sweetness, but hops are the game here. They first build with a grassy, piney flavour, which add depth and sharpness to the beer. I also get accents of grapefruit, and the bitterness starts to climb at the end into a linger of pine resin and bright citrus. Interesting blend of hop flavours. It finishes moderately sweet — not as dry as some northwest IPAs, but with the appropriate complexity in the hops.

I’ve been happily surprised at the quality of Black Bridge’s beers this soon into their debut. All new breweries have to deal with kinks, road bumps and general growing pains, so I go a bit easier on new breweries given the intricacies of running a brewery smoothly.

I feel with Black Bridge I don’t have to be — it’s been solid from the get-go.

Of course, this doesn’t mean we can expect perfection from here on out, as some new brewery issues only make themselves known after a year or two. But that possibility doesn’t make the start any less impressive — and it means Black Bridge has a good shot at being a quality craft brewer for years to come.

A good and fitting start by a few folks from Speedy Creek.