UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds
Courtesy of Pexels

Five holy craft beers for our turbulent times

By Pieta Woolley

What is up with Canadian brewers’ homage to Christianity these days?

Surprisingly, at least 20 new craft beer companies sport monikers and designs that salute God, Jesus and church. Spiritual-but-not-religious imagery, however, is curiously missing.

Perhaps marketers are hoping to tap into the average Canadian’s postmodern relationship with religion. A lapsed progressive protestant, for example, might be charmed by the Holy Whale brewery, which occupies the former St. Stephens United Church in Alma, N.B. It opened this spring, and its marketing features stained-glass images of a whale — inspired by the Bible’s Jonah, maybe.          

Perhaps these Christian references are simply a tribute to cultural flotsam and jetsam. Glutenberg, for instance, is a quippy portmanteau of the Gutenberg Bible and the trend towards gluten-free diets. It’s a Montreal branding success that’s expanded the international sales of Glutenberg Microbrasserie.

Or, marketers watched the Black Friday-like shopping frenzy of 2012. That’s when Westvleteren 12 Trappist Ale — a project of Belgian brewer monks raising money to repair their Abbey — came to Canada for the first and only time. The ale sold out in less than five minutes at LCBO stores (Note: Westvleteren’s packaging is plain and brown. No flaming cross labels here.) 

Whatever the reasons, the trend toward Christian references in Canadian beer marketing is weird. And interesting. And probably important.

Here are five holy Canadian craft beers for our turbulent times.

1. Holy Smoke Scotch Ale

Made by: Church Key Brewing Co. in Campbellford, Ont.

Fun facts: The brewery is in an 1878 Methodist Church.

Imagery: A hipster-style cross in a circle, with a vintage key.

Description: “A peat smoked Scotch ale. This unique brews heart is that 10% of the malt is kilned over a peat fire, giving beautiful, deep rich smoky tones to the beer. It pours dark brown with a light tan head. It is low in hop bitterness and its profile is dominated by the sweet and smoky malts. # 315655 6.2% alc./vol. 20 IBU 40 SRM”

2. Enlightenment Blond Ale

Made by: Brimstone Brewing Co., in Ridgeway, Ont.

Fun Facts: The brewery is also in a church building that’s been converted into a centre for the arts called “The Sanctuary.” Brimstone also makes Sinister Minister IPA, Midnight Mass Chicory Oatmeal Stout, and Cleric Winter Cranberry, among other great names.

Imagery: A pen-and-ink drawing of a young boy with a halo, cloven feet and a tail.

Description: “A unique American-Style Blonde Ale that is lightly filtered and characterized by an active aroma and vivid golden hue. It offers a gentle bitterness from the hops that is complimented by a slight malty sweetness making a compelling and balanced sessionable beer. Lively and refreshing with a clean finish that will satisfy even the most discerning craft beer drinker. Silver Medal Winner — 2016 Canadian Brewing Awards. Specs: 5.5% ABV / 25 IBU's”

3. Don de Dieu (Gift from God)

Made by: Unibroue, in Chambly, Que.

Fun facts: The brewery also makes Maudite (Damned) and La Fin du Monde (End of the World), alongside more lighthearted monikers, such as “Quelque chose.”

Imagery: A imposing old wooden boat on a rolling sea at sunset. Is it the ark? Is it a colonizer?

Description: “This was the first strong white beer brewed in Canada. When it launched, it was meant to be seasonal but, due to high consumer demand, it became a year-long item.”

4. 8th Sin Black Lager

Made by: Hop City Brewing Co. in Brampton, Ont.

Fun facts: I didn’t know about the eighth sin. So I looked it up. It turns out that it’s an Eastern Orthodox addition to the seven deadlies: despair.

Imagery: Navy and turquoise Mexican Day of the Dead skull.

Description: “8th Sin is our killer new black lager, brewed with 8 different types of malt (yeah 8), that is black in colour with hints of espresso and chocolate in the aroma, a medium body and a smooth sweet taste in the finish. Malt Varieties: Pale 2 Row, Roasted Barley, Chocolate, Carastan, Crystal, Dark Crystal, Munich, Torrified Wheat. Hop Varieties: Saaz, Hallertau, Magnum.”

5. Sweet Jesus Marshmallow Stout

Made by: Left Field Brewery in Toronto.

Fun facts: South of the border, DuClaw Brewery ruffled feathers with its “Sweet Baby Jesus” brew. Some stores pulled it after customers complained. Canada seems to tolerate this stout, though.

Imagery: The bottle features the brewery’s blue baseball logo. A tie-on tag spells out “Sweet Jesus.” The “T” in Sweet is an upside-down cross, and the first “S” in Jesus is a lightening zig-zag.

Description: “To create this tasty mocha-inspired treat, we developed a sweet stout recipe and added lactose, marshmallows, roasted, crushed cocoa nibs and a blend of Brazilian Sweet Jesus coffee beans during conditioning. The result is a rich and decadent blend of chocolate, caramel and sweet orange topped off with a toasty, sweet and creamy marshmallow.”

Author's photo
Pieta Woolley is a writer in Powell River, B.C.
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!


Courtesy of Pixabay

Why this woman is leaving the Catholic Church in her 60s

by Angela Mombourquette

After a lifetime devoted to Catholicism, a Nova Scotia teacher is settling in with the United Church of Canada. Here, she explains why.

Promotional Image


Jocelyn Bell%

Observations: It’s a long road toward full equality for women

by Jocelyn Bell

'It’s a wonder that we continue to see male ministers as normative and attach shame to female ministers’ biology and sexuality.'

Promotional Image


ObserverDocs: Playing by Heart

by Observer Staff

United Church music director Kara Shaw was born prematurely, became almost totally blind and was later diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Today, the 28-year-old showcases her unique musical ability, performing piano on local and national stages.

Promotional Image


May 2018

Toronto church builds interfaith friendship

by Vivien Fellegi


May 2018

This parent found no support for her autistic daughter — and decided to change that

by Kieran Delamont

Suzanne Allen talks about raising a daughter on the autism spectrum and bringing all autistic girls together


May 2018

Church retreat helps first responders with PTSD

by Joe Martelle


May 2018

Why this woman is leaving the Catholic Church in her 60s

by Angela Mombourquette

After a lifetime devoted to Catholicism, a Nova Scotia teacher is settling in with the United Church of Canada. Here, she explains why.


May 2018

Pregnant in the pulpit

by Trisha Elliott

Ministers who take a maternity leave still face discrimination in their own congregations


May 2018

The two words Rev. Cheri DiNovo wants to hear from the United Church

by Alex Mlynek

The Toronto minister talks about her disappointment over the church’s silence when she officiated the country’s first legalized same-sex marriage 17 years ago – and why she wants an apology.

Promotional Image