Squamish’s Howe Sound Brewing is one of the craft beer originals in this province. Producing beer since 1996, it began with a lineup of English-style ales formulated by the Grandfather of Canadian Craft Beer, himself—the late John Mitchell.
Over the years. Howe Sound has been an ever-present—if somewhat low-key—staple in the B.C. craft beer scene. Seminal beers like Wooly Bugger Barley Wine and Pothole Filler Stout have won the brewery plenty of awards, and the one-litre swing-top bottles have long been a favourite of local homebrewers. But like a lot of legacy breweries, Howe Sound is now facing a rapidly changing craft beer landscape. There are more craft breweries opening every week, each competing for a finite amount of shelf space, thus leaving Howe Sound to no doubt question its own place in the market.
Enter Utopia. This new sub-brand by Howe Sound specializes in limited release sour beers and features completely different branding from the rest of the Howe Sound lineup, with dramatic photo-illustrated labels and pastel colour palette. (The Howe Sound label is still there, but you could easily miss it.) The flavours in the Utopia series are dramatic, too: so far they’ve incorporated lychee, bergamot, kalamansi lime and pineapple, to name a few ingredients.
The latest edition is Utopia Dry Hopped Peach Sour, and it’s as bold as its predecessors.
There’s a deep, fruity depth to this beer, with pronounced flavours of peach and apricot, as well as notes of melon and mandarin orange. Intensely aromatic, you can smell the peach from across the room the second you crack the can.
For those not crazy about sour beers, dry-hopped sours like this one are a great way to dip your toe into the style as the aromatic hop character tacks the edge off the perceived acidity. Tart and dry without being overly acidic, this sour ale is exceptionally well-balanced and refreshing.
Time will tell if Howe Sound’s efforts to prove its relevance to a new generation of craft beer drinkers are successful—but there’s no denying they’re delicious.
Utopia Dry Hopped Peach Sour by Howe Sound Brewing
6.0% ABV • 355 mL cans
Appearance: Hazy deep amber with a thin, short-lived off-white head.
Aroma: Peach, apricot, stone fruit, melon.
Flavour: Tart, fruity, peach, apricot, mandarin orange, melon, balanced acidity, very mild cracker malt note, very refreshing.
Body/Finish: Light bodied with a tart, dry finish.
Pairs with: Cioppino, barbecued pork ribs, new shoes and a new attitude.