2011 was a phenomenal year for Great Lakes. They churned out more one-offs than Toronto was used to, led by the try-anything-once approach of brewer Mike Lackey. Barrel aged beers and sours were the height of the experimentation and, though the early results may not have been ideal, it did not deter them from continuing. The Crazy Canuck, an early Project X beer from Mr. Lackey, finally made it to the LCBO in cans, providing a favourite summertime pale ale for myself and many others. This was followed by the Miami Weiss showing up in September for the Ontario Craft Brewery release in the LCBO. Here is what Mike had to say about the year that was for Great Lakes.
Mike Lackey: Events! We had two tap takeovers this year – first at Volo then a smaller one at Bryden’s – they were fun. It was great to see the number (and quality) of Ontario wild beers at Volo’s first We Live for the Funk night. Toronto Beer Week is one of my favorite weeks of the year (it’s like a roadtrip but I’ve got a free place to crash!). The expansion of The Only Cafe’s taps which led me out there for their 30th anniversary party – it was an awesome bash. But my favorite event was surely Cask Days. The amount and quality of beer was amazing and I was able to make it to all four sessions!
AYOB!: What was your favourite Great Lakes beer in 2011?
ML: No Chance With Miranda, a saison I had a lot of that one this summer.
AYOB!: What was your favourite beer made by another Ontario brewery?
ML: I didn’t get to drink it enough because my local pub is banned from having it but Amsterdam’s Boneshaker is great.
AYOB!: What was the biggest trend in craft brewing this past year? What trends do you predict for 2012?
ML: IPAs are easily the biggest trend from this past year…I think Ontario had been well behind the rest of North America and did a whole lot of catching up this year and will likely continue to do so as you see more hops become more mainstream. I’m hoping 2012 we’ll see the beginnings of more Belgian style brewing in Ontario.
AYOB!: You’ve been experimenting with sour beers. How have the results been so far?
ML: My first attempt at a sour mash was an absolute disaster but I’ve kept with it and tried some new techniques which have led to much better results. I’ve got a nice house blend (and when I say “house”, I mean I literally have to keep it in my basement) of three different strains of brettanomyces that has started to yield some good results. Then I have a corner of the back of my basement set aside for a bunch of lambic style beers that I haven’t tasted but smell pretty funky.
AYOB!: Any hints as to what we can expect from Great Lakes next year?
ML: Continued experimentation of course…more Belgian style beer…more barrel aging and we are working hard on getting some of the beers we’ve liked brewed on a bigger scale…we have tons of ideas actually so I’m pumped for 2012!
Thanks to Mike for shedding some light on the year that was (and the awesome picture of Mike, on the right, with Peter Bulut at the original Great Lakes in Brampton, circa 1991). Expectations are high for Great Lakes in 2012. This is the last in this series, so I wanted to thank everyone again for their time in answering my questions. Look for my year end thoughts later this week!