2012 Ontario Microbreweries – The Fifth Tier

Welcome to the second year of the Ontario Microbrewery Tiers! The fifth tier contains a mix of breweries and probably a couple of surprises. Some of these microbreweries make great beer, some make drain pours, but the common element is that most do not work hard to push their beers on the public. If you missed it yesterday, have a look over the five criteria used to rank the breweries. Let the judging begin:

Barley Days

Regulars: 2. Inoffensive and lackluster overall. Something to drink when there’s nothing else available.

Seasonals: 2. Perhaps a generous rating, as my experience with their seasonals has resulted in very sweet beers that lack balance. The second point is for effort.

Availability: 3. The bottles are regularly in the LCBO. On tap occasionally, but with greater frequency in the Kingston area.

Consistency: 3. Every now and then it seems like the sugars haven’t fully fermented, but other than that the beers are fairly consistent.

Extras: 1. Other than contributing the obligatory Cask Days one-off, this is a quiet brewery that just sticks to making beer.

Total: 11. Last Year: Not rated. A typical brewery in small town Ontario that is not concerned with expanding much beyond their base. The nicest thing that can be said about the beers is that they are fine.


Regulars: 4. The Weissbier and Dunkel are really, really good and I must have been feeling a little bitter when handing out a score of four.

Seasonals: 1. There is a rare one-off every now and then, or an aged dunkel if you’re lucky, but not frequent enough to give a better score.

Availability: 3. The Weissbier is in cans, but finding Denison’s on tap is becoming increasingly difficult.

Consistency: 3. The cans are hit or miss, which really hurts this mark. Always reliable on tap.

Extras: 1. Michael Hancock can usually be found at events but almost never promoting his beers, which really irks me. His beers are good and deserve a chance to gain new converts.

Total: 12. Last Year: Not rated. Great beers, but hard to track down a lot of the time. It would be nice to see some more effort being put to promote the beer, both at bars and events.


Regulars: 3. The #9 IPA and #5 Sorachi Lager are good candidates for the ‘Meh List’ in the New York Times.

Seasonals: 2. Haven’t seen many seasonals or one-offs since the brewpub closed. Bringing back their porter, at least for the winter, would give a nice boost.

Availability: 3. Another brewery that is riding the LCBO coat-tails and losing ground in bars.

Consistency: 3. The seasonals have always been hit or miss from one batch to the next. Beers from the old brewpub sometimes came out a little too young.

Extras: 1. Never at events. Their last Tweet was in June.

Total: 12. Last Year: 13. Yes, it’s been a rough year for the Duggan’s Brewery and I’ve tried not to knock them down too far because there have certainly been distractions other than making beer. They need to re-establish themselves and gain a presence online, in bars and at events.

Hop City

Regulars: 3. Four solid beers that I would be perfectly okay to drink on any given day.

Seasonals: 0. Do they have seasonals?

Availability: 3. The Barking Squirrel is in cans and the other beers can usually be found at chain restaurants, which I think adds up to a score of 3.

Consistency: 4. You could argue for a perfect score here and have a valid point.

Extras: 2. A Hop City booth shows up every now and then for events, plus they use their Moosehead dollars to throw really massive parties every so often. That being said, I’m surprised they don’t have more marketing prowess considering where the money comes from.

Total: 12. Last Year: Not rated. Perhaps this mark is being reduced by the knowledge that Hop City’s inclusion as a microbrewery is a little dicey. A definite contender to move up in the ranks in the near future.

Railway City

Regulars: 2. The Dead Elephant is fine, but the Iron Spike beers don’t bring anything to the beer scene.

Seasonals: 3. I don’t know if the Double Dead Elephant is still around, but that was an alright beer. They’ve been trying out some new beers, which is promising.

Availability: 2. A couple of products are in the LCBO, but they give the impression of not really caring about being in bars.

Consistency: 2. Railway City is known for spoiled products, a reputation that was confirmed to me recently by a fresh can of the Dead Elephant that tasted like cleaner. Hard to win over people with such a major flaw.

Extras: 1. The only time I remember seeing Railway City at an event was a wine show at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Can’t explain the logic behind that.

This Year: 10. Last Year: 13. Infected products are bad and so is showing little interest in reaching out to consumers with your beer. Railway City took a big dive this year and there are few signs that will change.


Regulars: 2. Continuing the common thread in this tier that the regular lineup is middling.

Seasonals: 1. I can’t actually think of a recent Stratford seasonal or one-off, but they get a point just in case there was a beer I missed.

Availability: 3. Once again, they are in the LCBO but not a lot of bars (though the bars that do carry them are pretty loyal to having the Common or Pilsner on tap).

Consistency: 3. You know what you’re getting from a Stratford beer, which is perhaps both a compliment and insult.

Extras: 1. Another brewery that prefers to operate well under the radar.

Total: 10. Last Year: 11. Stratford doesn’t do anything to offend people, but there is also nothing about the brewery that creates any warm, fuzzy feelings.


Regulars: 1. With a habit of constantly renaming beers, it is hard to know what the actual year-round offerings from Trafalgar are. Regardless of name, I don’t want to drink them.

Seasonals: 1. See above.

Availability: 3. Still constantly in the LCBO, though it feels like less and less as time passes. Trafalgar beers are never found in bars, which I hope is a sign that publicans are smarter than our bureaucrats.

Consistency: 0. I really don’t think anything needs to be said about this score.

Extras: 1. They get a point for still being in operation.

Total: 6. Last Year: 6. Yes, the bottom-dweller retains its crown as the lowest ranked brewery. Congrats Trafalgar!


6 responses to “2012 Ontario Microbreweries – The Fifth Tier

  1. Disappointed that Dennisons is spotty in the can. I’ve always had good luck.

  2. Hmmm, I thought Old Credit Brewery would show up here! Agree with this list so far but I’m never impressed by Dennisons in the can given the praise they seem to get.

    • I never drink Old Credit, so that’s why they won’t appear in any tier. This would have been the appropriate tier, though.

  3. I too was looking for my local Old Credit in the bottom tier! To be fair, I’m held hostage to their offerings by living in Port Credit and they *are* better on draft, but…still ‘meh’

    • Old Credit’s pilsner is pretty good, but in terms of the other areas listed, they are pretty weak. I haven’t seen them at many events, and their only real seasonal (Honey) is mediocre at best. They are like the other breweries in this tier: seemingly happy to fly below the radar, or not able to get much else going to elevate themselves.

      • You nailed it right on the head Dave. I thought to see Old Credit here too! But I am also not surprised; they are easy to forget, even when they are a 15 minute drive from my home. I only seem to remember them because they always have beer on the LCBO shelves. Their website even gives the impression: “We are old, this is what we know, and we are not going to change.”

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