History on tap: NC Teaching Brewery releases commemorative D-Day brew

Juno is a heritage beer brewed to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Staff and students at the Niagara College Teaching Brewery crafted Juno based on an original wartime brew made St. Austell’s in England on June 6, 1944. Niagara College photo

Niagara College press release – Staff and students at the Niagara College Teaching Brewery have tapped into the history of the Second World War to create a special beer in honour of the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

The commemorative brew, named Juno, was released at the College’s Teaching Brewery on May 30.

“Our faculty, staff and students from Canada’s first Teaching Brewery continue to blaze trails in the craft beer scene by introducing a commemorative D-Day beer in recognition of this pivotal historical event,” said Steve Gill, general manager of the College’s Learning Enterprises. “The process of brewing this heritage beer brought history to life for our Brewmaster students and offered them a valuable learning experience.”

College Brewmaster Jon Downing became inspired to create the heritage beer after viewing a copy of St. Austell Brewery’s brewing log from D-Day, June 6, 1944, in a Brewery History Society newsletter. It struck him how the timing of the beer being brewed that day at St. Austell – based in Cornwall, England – coincided with Canadian soldiers landing on the shores of Normandy. He also researched the wartime challenges of supplying troops with a beer in an article entitled “The ‘Flying Pubs’ of the Normandy Invasion: How they Brought Beer by Spitfire to the D-Day Troops” in The Journal of the Brewery History Society (2014).

Downing contacted St. Austell’s director of brewing Roger Ryman to ask if he could reproduce the beer and set out to create a recipe as close to the original as possible. In consultation with Ryman, and various English hops and malt suppliers – including, when possible, those who participated in the original 1944 brew – he created the recipe for Juno.

“I thought it would be a fitting tribute to D-Day,” said Downing. “I am a fan of history and historical beers and, with the 75th anniversary of D-Day, thought it would be appropriate to show students and our customers that brewing went on, with restrictions, as part of the war effort.”

Juno is a 3% Pale Ale – which was the legal limit during the Second World War due to government restrictions and a hop shortage due to wartime bombings. The commemorative beer incorporates heritage malt varieties as well as Kent Goldings and English Fuggle hops which were used in the original recipe. Similar to St. Austell’s 1944 beer, which used flaked barley and sugar, to augment the brew due to wartime shortages of malted grain, and caramel colouring to make it appear as normal as possible, Juno incorporates a light demerara sugar and Black Treacle caramel colouring. The end result is a very light ale with distinct fermented sugar character, lightly hopped but crisp and refreshing.

“The brewers at St. Austell were able to adapt their recipe and process to match the needs of their market in spite of wartime restrictions, something brewers today also have to do if an ingredient changes or becomes scarce,” said Downing.

Brewing the heritage beer was a learning experience for first and second semester students in NC’s  Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management program. It exposed them to the history of the beer style and the process and was a lesson in what to do when restrictions are in place. In addition to Juno, students are also brewing a modern version of the beer, which will give them a chance to compare the two.

“I’m very much into in history, and having the opportunity to merge beer and history is basically the dream for me,” said Allen Vary, 21, of St. Catharines, who is in his second term of the Brewmaster program. “I think the process of finding an old recipe and bringing it back to life is a great learning experience, and I’m stoked to be a part of the process.”

“My grandfather fought in World War Two with the Canadians, under the British, so this of huge significance to me,” said Tony Arnold of Burlington, who also participated in brewing the beer during his second term of the program.

The beer has also been purchased by several Royal Canadian Legion branches in Niagara. President of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 17 in Thorold, Eric Cuthbert, noted that they plan to serve the beer as part of its Decoration Day celebration on Sunday, June 2 to honour veterans and those who are still serving. “This is a first time we will have a special beer to honour veterans, and I think it’s amazing that the Teaching Brewery is doing this for D-Day,” said Cuthbert. “It’s a good thing to do.”

This is not the first heritage beer from the NC Teaching Brewery. Multiple-award-wining Butler’s Bitter – inspired by the beer that fuelled the British armies in 1812 – has become one of its most popular beers since it stormed onto the beer scene in advance of the War of 1812 sesquicentennial.

Juno is available at the NC Teaching Brewery retail store, located at the College’s Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus (135 Taylor Rd., Niagara-on-the-Lake) in cans ($3.75), or growlers ($21 or $14 for refills) while supplies last.