BIG ROCK GRASSHOPPER WHEAT ALE ($7 per six-pack)
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.