Fredericton / Blog / 201806 / Cider, mead, beer: It's all here this summer!

Cider, mead, beer: It's all here this summer!

Cider, mead, beer: It's all here this summer!

Check out Fredericton’s taprooms and their standout beers

It’s patio season, and there’s nothing Frederictonians enjoy more than sipping brews in the sunshine with friends. The number and variety of taprooms is exploding across the capital city -- and that means there are more types of beer (or cider, or mead) than ever to suit any tastes. Most of these taprooms are within walking or biking distance of each other, so it’s no problem to visit a few in a single afternoon.

On the north side...

Picaroons -- Ask any beer drinker from Fredericton and they can probably list at least five of the flagship beers by Picaroons, New Brunswick’s first real craft brewery. English ales made the brewery what it is today, and they’re sticking to the style that works for them. The house yeast is ringwood, a strain that lends each beer a complex flavour profile, especially present in the classic Best Bitter -- my go-to when visiting the Roundhouse, right by the walking bridge that crosses the St. John River. The new Roundhouse patio is a sight to behold -- it’s huge, and it leads right onto the trail! The patio is a great place to grab an aptly named Dooryard Summer Wheat Ale, Picaroons’s perennial springtime release.

Mama’s Brew Pub -- Mama’s Pub has been a staple of the north side for many years for anyone craving great deals on wings and drinks. Mama’s became a brewpub in 2016 and upgraded their interior, but the spot’s casual, down-to-earth vibe hasn’t changed in the least. A flight of five will afford you generous samples of a wide range of beers, and although it’s now summertime, I’d recommend their Nitro Stout. They have the only nitro tap in town, meaning the stout is infused with nitrogen, making the bubbles small and the mouthfeel extraordinarily rich and creamy. It’s an unpretentious place to play Chase the Ace, hear some live country music, or watch the game -- and it doesn’t hurt that their “burger of the week” is always spectacular.

Trailway Brewing -- Hoppy, hazy, juicy, dank -- all adjectives used by Trailway’s die-hard devotees to describe the beers, which are mainly New England-style IPAs. The taproom is bright and open, with a new balcony seating area overlooking the communal tables of the main level. Lately the brewers have been experimenting with sours, and more tart, fruit beers, like Beyond Reality, a dry-hopped raspberry wheat ale that couldn’t be more suited to spring. Sip it on the stylish patio with a flight of their IPAs. Trailway releases a fresh beer almost every Friday, so while the Mou-ska-tere is their newest as I write this, it could become part of the regular lineup before long. It’s brewed in collaboration with BSG Craft and this tasty IPA showcases Moutere hops, a variety from New Zealand. The added Galaxy and El Dorado hops really ramp up that juicy factor!

York County Cider -- Sweeter ciders may draw crowds to the recently relocated York County Cider, but they have semi-sweet and dry ciders on offer, even a few sours. I love the Sour Lemon cider, and the Strawberry Lime is refreshingly tangy and goes down easy in the summertime. This renovated Main Street garage has become a retro hangout with an eclectic assortment of funky patterned chesterfields (if you see them, you’ll know why the word “couch” doesn’t quite fit), vintage accents, and an impressive vinyl collection. It may be the most visually interesting taproom in the city. Throw on an album, top up your glass, and while the day away on the expansive wooden deck.

On the south side...

Red Rover Craft Cider -- Red Rover pioneered craft cider in this province, and they’ve set the bar high for what cider can and should be. The brewery, operating on Hanwell Road, uses locally picked apples to produce a quality product that is best enjoyed at the CiderHouse downtown on Queen Street, looking out on Officers’ Square. You can’t go wrong with any of Red Rover’s offerings, but my top pick is the Spring Cider. This semi-dry delicacy clocks in at 7% ABV, with a floral bouquet and lightly sweet finish. If you want to get really current with what you’re drinking, try the Summer Cider. It’s drier than the Spring, and has a more tart, clean finish. The CiderHouse is host to frequent standup comedy and trivia nights and other interactive events, elevating its atmosphere from just a bar to a true gathering place for the community. Walk through the CiderHouse and you’ll find The Abbey, a vegan café and art gallery whose fresh fare goes well with, of course, Red Rover cider.

Gahan House -- Gahan House Riverside has been packed to the brim since its launch in April. Gahan, or PEI Brewing Company, is breaking into New Brunswick in a big way, with its Fredericton opening hot on the heels of that of Gahan House Port City. Although the company comes from Charlottetown, specialty, one-off, or seasonal beers are brewed on-site. Most New Brunswickers have probably tried the staples that made PEI Brewing Company a major East Coast purveyor of craft beer, including Iron Bridge Brown Ale, Sir John A’s Honey Wheat Ale, Island Red Premium Red Ale, and 1772 IPA. If you’re in Fredericton this summer, though, grab a pint of the brand-new Multigrain IPA, a hoppy, hazy 6% rye beer. It tastes complex but not at all heavy. Oh, and did I mention that Gahan is the only oyster bar in the city? Salty and fresh, these East Coast oysters will complement any beer you order.

Graystone Brewing -- Graystone is a tiny spot that makes you feel like you’re in a big city. Perhaps this effect is owing to the intelligent way the bar makes use of its limited real estate: each cozy corner of the taproom  is arranged so that plenty of patrons can sit comfortably. In the summer, the inside and outside blend into one, with doors flung open, fresh air rolling in and customers holding pints meandering out. In the patio area, hammocks are suspended from overhead beams among ample seating for a constantly revolving stream of Fredericton’s young, stylish population. If you’re hungry, the Monks & Jonesie Gastro Truck is always there to whip up handheld comfort food such as the “Chicken Pharm” wrap with arugula, pesto and crispy banana peppers. Graystone’s Patagonia line of beers are all worth trying; officially, my favourite is their now-classic Patagonia Pale Ale, a medium-bodied beer with a tropical flavour and aroma. But for summertime, the Patagonia ISA (India Session Ale), with its ABV of just 3.8% and IBU (International Bitterness Units) of only 25, makes for a nice, light “afternoon” beer.

Maybee Brewing Company -- Something about the taste of Maybee beers betrays the sheer passion for the craft that goes into each one. On Untappd, they claim to be “style-agnostic,” but that they have a soft spot for American Ales, Belgian beers, making use of local ingredients, and above all, trying new things. It’s impossible to select a favourite with options as disparate as their Sumac Witbier, the Brett De Mars, WorkHorse IPA, Old Growth ESB, Elevensies Espresso Stout, and Long Carry Brett Red, to name a few. Most of the beers are strong and full-bodied, but for summertime, head to this roomy warehouse-turned-taproom and have a Birdseye Pale Ale on the patio. It’s a classic APA that is, at 5.5%, refreshing and palatable without sacrificing flavour.

Grimross Brewing Company -- Uptown Fredericton’s Grimross Brewing cleaned up at the Canadian Brewing Awards in Halifax this May, and with good reason. They excel in Belgian-inspired beers, but have perfected other fan favourites with their unique take on styles such as the black IPA, the porter, or the cream ale. The gold-medal winner, Après Lager, is a newer offering from the brewery, and it’s an ideal summer drink: this amber-coloured, cold-fermented Vienna lager is malty in body yet crisp in taste. The taproom is growing as rapidly as the brewery’s reputation -- food trucks park at Grimross almost daily, bands play nightly, and with a new patio, the place can host huge crowds. Summertime is the perfect time to hang out at Grimross, or just fill a growler or flagon and be on your way.

In the works...

Bogtrotter -- This Rusagonis-based nanobrewery has seen success in bars across the city, and bottles are available at ANBL as well. The beers have names in keeping with the “bog” theme: Malty Muskrat Imperial IPA, Osprey Orange Pale Ale, and my all time-favourite, Angry Otter Pub Ale, a smooth, balanced English bitter. It suits any time of year, and is an exceptional example of the ESB style. At 5% ABV and 50 IBU, it’s light enough to quench your thirst during those long summer days. Until they open a taproom, you can enjoy Bogtrotter’s beers at Graystone, or at the Joyce on Queen Street.

RustiCo. -- In the old Mexi’s downtown, RustiCo. is shaping up for a June launch. The restaurant will specialize in Neapolitan-style wood-fired pizzas, and later in the year will brew on-location, offering crowlers and growlers too. For now we can only speculate about the brewery portion of RustiCo., but it will certainly be a welcome addition to the area’s to-go beer options. And nothing pairs better with pizza than craft beer, right?

It’s obvious that Fredericton’s taprooms are multiplying and expanding, but what’s really heartening is that the beer quality is advancing too. Summer is the perfect time to try as many new beers proffered by capital city craft brewers as you can -- walk or bike to grab some flights, and enjoy those patios!

Shauna Chase is a part-time writer, part-time editor, and full-time craft beer lover from Fredericton, New Brunswick. She and her partner Alex are the co-creators of The Manatee, Atlantic Canada's biggest source for satire, and they recently finished post-production on their independent feature documentary Beerocracy covering New Brunswick's brewing industry.