The List – May 2013

Back in February or March there were some teaser tweets that I had started work on the 2013 edition of the Ontario brewery tiers. It was rather preliminary work, but I found myself running into problems. Ontario now has a massive amount of craft breweries, which make the tiers even more onerous for a man with a day job. I found myself with little to no knowledge about a lot of the breweries (especially those in the Ottawa region) and felt the process would be undone by a significant number of exclusions. Keeping up with seasonal and one-off beers has become increasingly harder, so fairly rating each brewery was also proving to be challenging. I could keep going on, but the point is that the brewery tiers are now dead. (If someone wants to buy the concept for their blog or website, I’d be happy to trade you the rights in exchange for beer.)

Not wanting to completely trash the concept, I’d like to introduce you to a new monthly feature tentatively called “The List.” At the beginning of every month, I’ll rank the hottest ten breweries in Ontario. What’s “hot” is going to be rather subjective – a non-scientific survey of what beers are tasting fine and what the beer community is talking about. This will allow me to be timely than the tiers and give more kudos to the smaller breweries that had a harder time moving up tiers for various reasons.

1. Bellwoods. Hitting a nice stride, culminating in Bring Out Your Dead (a cognac barrel aged imperial stout for their one year anniversary). Start lining up now for spots on the patio this spring and summer. Hopefully they will avoid the sophomore slump.

2. Great Lakes. Got LCBO listings for My Bitter Wife and the Amsterdam collab Maverick & Gose. Love their Johnny Simcoe. The only question is where to erect the Mike Lackey statue.

3. Amsterdam. See above re: Maverick & Gose. Brewpub patio should provide healthy competition to Bellwoods and can’t open soon enough.

4. Mill Street. The new Beer Hall has gotten lots of publicity for the bierschnaps, but I’m more interested in the Ampel Weiss, a 3.8% Berliner Weisse. Mill Street has lost its lustre in recent years and the Beer Hall might be the last chance to get it back.

5. Nickel Brook. Quietly producing a number of fine beers. My dark horse pick to go far at the Cask Days IPA Challenge.

6. Muskoka. Corked bottles of the Legendary Muskoka Oddity are impressive for Ontario. Having the Summer Weiss in six-packs is a smarter choice than the large format bottles, though I still miss the Hefe in cans.

7. Left Field. Their launch party was cut short because they ran out of beer. Yeah, I think people are interested.

8. Bush Pilot. Hard not to talk about an 11% barley wine aged in Calvados barrels, even if people are divided over the final product.

9. Cameron’s. The RPA is now in LCBOs and they’ve released the Obsidian, an imperial porter aged in rum barrels.

10. Sawdust City. The Red Rocket Stout is pretty darn delicious and the Lone Pine IPA is coming to the LCBO. May not sound sexy, but my taste buds approve.

Honourable mentions:

  • The possible LCBO strike has people talking about how alcohol is sold in Ontario, which is always a good thing. Though I’d say the odds of a strike actually happening are about 1%.
  • Liberty Village, a new Toronto brewery that released their 504 Pale Ale.

Finally, I hate coming up with names for new features, so if anyone wants to put on their pun hats and think of something to describe this I would be very appreciative. (And no, I’m not going to call them “power rankings” or similar terms used for ranking sports teams.) Put your suggestions in the comments or on Twitter.

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