2012 Ontario Microbreweries – The First Tier

And it all comes down to this. The four best breweries in Ontario battling it out for top spot. Let’s get to it!

Beau’s

Regulars: 2. Nothing against the Lug-Tread, I just can’t remembered the last time I ordered one. It’s a fine beer, but usually there is something more interesting on tap.

Seasonals: 4. A great selection of seasonal beers that really show a lot of creativity. The Dunkel Buck was a favourite from last year, while the Hogan’s Goat was a weird experiment that they somehow made work.

Availability: 5. Lug-Tread is everywhere and they released four seasonals into the LCBO. Most of the other Wild Oats beers managed to get into bars, either on draught or in bottles.

Consistency: 5. Remarkable consistent for the volume of beer they produce.

Extras: 5. Buy Your Beau’s Online. The Greener Futures Project Barrel Aged Beers. Oktoberfest. These are just a couple of the Beau’s projects, all of which help get great beer into your hands and support awesome causes.

Total: 21. Last Year: 21. Another great year from Beau’s. They keep churning out quality beers and get much love from a group of drinkers that usually shies away from lagers, craft or macro. An eco-friendly brewery with a charitable heart that continues to shape the industry in amazing ways.

Black Oak

Regulars: 3. The Pale Ale and Nut Brown are excellent session beers.

Seasonals: 5. I can never get enough of the Summer Saison or Nutcracker Porter. Some of the recent one-offs have been amazing. Oh yeah, and it turns out that Ken is still bitter.

Availability: 3. Rumours keep circulating that a Black Oak beer will make it into the LCBO with a seasonal beer, which would definitely raise this score. Not sure how far outside of the GTA they get.

Consistency: 5. Absolutely perfect all the time.

Extras: 4. Black Oak have always been around at Toronto events, but they’ve finally opened up the doors to the brewery and usually have one event a month. Lots of casks around Toronto. Finally hired someone to help out with that whole social networking thing.

Total: 20. Last Year: 21. This may be a Toronto-centric rating, but I love me some Black Oak. For the past couple of years it seemed people were always saying “If only they got a seasonal in the LCBO…” or “If only they got on Twitter…” Now all those things are coming true (well, fingers crossed on the seasonal beer) with tremendous results. I’ve always loved the beers and glad to see the changes being made.

Great Lakes

Regulars: 3. The Crazy Canuck is a great beer and a treat to have year-round in cans. The Red Leaf and Golden Horseshoe on the other hand…

Seasonals: 4. Yes, Lackey does great things, but we often forget that the Orange Peel and Green Tea take up space on the LCBO shelves every year. Why don’t they start putting a nice IPA in one of those bottles?

Availability: 4. While Great Lakes are becoming the favourite craft brewery for most beer geeks in the city, my assumption is that a lot of their draft and casks don’t leave our city limits. Got to show the whole province some love.

Consistency: 4. I know things like the kielbasa beer were hilarious experiments with low expectations, but still have to dock them for that and the disappointing beers I had at Caskapalooza. At least the diacetyl issues appear to be over.

Extras: 5. Does any brewery in the province make more casks? Project X nights are always fun, especially when you come home with a whack of new beers. Saisons, sours, imperial stouts… they make all of them.

This Year: 20. Last Year: 20. As a Torontonian, it is easy to love Great Lakes. It seems they supply the casks for half the city, the one-offs are always available and they support some great causes. Love the beer and the brewery, but it would be nice for the rest of Ontario to share in the joy. 2012 is the 25th anniversary of Great Lakes and there are some great plans to celebrate, which will hopefully show the province why Toronto is so infatuated with this brewery.

Muskoka

Regulars: 3. Riding on the back of Mad Tom. Have shown a willingness in the past to rework their lineup, so it wouldn’t surprise me if the Cream Ale or Lager don’t survive 2012.

Seasonals: 5. Harvest, Summer Weiss and Winter Beard are all solid beers. Looking forward to seeing and tasting the upcoming Spring Oddity. Luckily for them the price of seasonals is not counted in this category.

Availability: 5. All of their beers are available in retail and always around on tap.

Consistency: 5. Continuing a trend in this tier. No point in making great beer if you’re not consistent, which Muskoka is.

Extras: 4. Love the branding and the fact that I’ve seen their advertising everywhere from The Grid to Toronto Life. Always show up to events with a one-off. I know they’re quite active at the brewery and around Muskoka with events, though I haven’t been up there myself.

This Year: 22. Last Year: 20. I had not picked Muskoka to come out on top, but it became clear when I was doling out the numbers that they deserve the top spot for 2012. Mad Tom is a delicious IPA, they roll out a nice seasonal every four months and do a great job of telling people about craft beer. Muskoka doesn’t make the most beers in Ontario, but they make sure that their beers count.

That brings the 2012 Ontario Microbrewery Tiers to a close! Latecomers can catch-up by reading about the second, third, fourth and fifth tiers. It’s been an exhausting couple of weeks getting this all together, but all the comments, Tweets and emails have made it really fun.

Coming up next week on A Year of Beer!: a tour of Six Pints and some thoughts on CASK! Toronto.

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5 responses to “2012 Ontario Microbreweries – The First Tier

  1. John Jenkinson

    Doesn’t Great Lakes have 4 regulars? Devil’s Pale Ale??

  2. Great series, Mike. Glad to see KBCo make the 4th tier first time around! Lots of fun stuff planned for the next 365 days so we’re looking forward to next year’s rankings!

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