Flash forward to 1988 when John W. Sleeman, great-great-grandson of John H., received his ancestor's recipe book as a family heirloom. He got inspired by the family legacy and decided to revive Sleeman as a brewery, using recipes straight from the leather-bound volume. Today Sleeman is one of the fastest-growing brewers in North America. The beers still come in the company's trademark clear glass bottles, introduced at the turn of the last century. Brewed especially for export to the U.S., the Premium Lager has a smooth body and complex, balanced flavors.


If there's one thing you can find in the vast western province of Alberta, it's grain, from wheat and barley to oats and rye. Is this the perfect place for a brewery, or what? Just ask former attorney and barley farmer Ed McNally, who created Big Rock Brewery in Calgary in 1985 and named it after an 18,000-ton glacial boulder found nearby.

Ed hired European brewmaster Bernd Pieper to create a line of beers that follow the German Purity Law, a regulation dating back to 1516 that stipulates that beer should be brewed using only malt, hops, yeast, and water. Some craft brewers scoff at the Purity Law as too restrictive; others swear by it. You can decide for yourself, but in my book, Big Rock's Grasshopper Wheat Ale is a perfect summer beer, with clean-as-a-whistle wheat flavors and an understated but refreshing hops finish.

TROIS PISTOLES ($9 per four-pack)

This dark, bottle-fermented ale comes from Quebec's adventuresome Unibroue brewery. Their French motto - Boire moins, boire mieux ("Drink less, drink better") - is definitely in order with this bruiser, which has a butt-whomping 9 percent alcohol. The color hovers intriguingly on the border between black and brown. On the palate, the beer unleashes deep malty flavors swathed in a rich, mouth-filling texture. Like other Unibroue products, Trois Pistoles is bottled on the lees - that is, with the yeast left in the bottle, giving it a distinct flavor and (for you health nuts) an extra helping of vitamin B.