Category Archives: The Tap List

The Tap List – July/August 2013

As my summer vacation meant missing OCB Week and making it hard to catch up for a Tap List post right after, the lists for July and August are being condensed into one. As a refresher, the Tap List ranks the hottest and most newsworthy Ontario breweries from the past month. No scientific formulae are used and people are more than welcome to debate the order of breweries or any notable exclusions.

1. Bellwoods (Last Month: #5). High profile releases with the Motley Cru and No Sleep Till Brooklyn (their second collab with Evil Twin). Their beer has been spotted in New York City, which might for a first for an Ontario craft beer. Had to close down their bottle shop for a bit because they were running out of beer.

2. Beau’s (Last Month: #6). The Lug-Tread beat out many other great brands (and many ones with large advertising budgets) to win the Brewmaster’s Cup put on by the LCBO. Yes, that just means they had fans that would vote over and over, but it also means their fans are rabid enough to sit at a computer and constantly vote. The Tom Green beer also won best collab at the Session festival.

3. Great Lakes (Last Month: #1). Lots of great patio beers have been coming out from Great Lakes, including Gary (a saison aged in Chardonnay barrels) that was a personal fave. The bottle bonanza two weekends ago was incredible. Golden Child of the LCBO – seems like they have a new beer in stores every month.

4. Creemore (Last Month: Not ranked). The Mad and Noisy side-project continues to spark debate. At least the packaging has got more going on visually than the standard Creemore cans.

5. Collective Arts (Last Month: Not ranked). Ontario has now gone past the contract brewer phase and into the world of “gypsy” brewers. It is an interesting endeavour, one that will hopefully distinguish them from other contract/gypsy brewers.

6. 5 Paddles (Last Month: Not ranked). Early reports out of Whitby are promising for this new nanobrewery. Now if only I could find someone to smuggle some bottles across the city line…

7. Flying Monkeys (Last Month: Not ranked). Now living up to their PR and consistently doing more adventurous beers, including a collab with Central City. Quality and consistency are still missing, though.

8. Amsterdam (Last Month: #3). The Brewhouse was supposed to be the crowning achievement for the venerable brewery, but it has been marred by mediocre service (the downside of opening during the peak of summer). It definitely has been a big topic of conversation for the last month.

9. Nickel Brook (Last Month: #9). That Naughty Neighbour is a damn nice beer for the summer.

10. Radical Road (Last Month: Not ranked). The Wayward Son is another barrel aged beer that doesn’t skimp on packaging, but early reports have people wondering whether they need to spend more time on the product rather than how it is dressed.

Drain Pour: Highlander Twisted Spruce. No spruce flavour, which didn’t help cover up the bland base beer.

The Tap List – June 2013

For those who missed this post last month, The Tap List is a monthly replacement to the Ontario Brewery Tiers. (Check out the inaugural edition for full details.) Some moving and shaking went on this past month, leading up to a busy summer season.

1. Great Lakes (Last month: #2). The winner of Canadian Brewery of the Year at the Canadian Brewery Awards definitely deserves the top spot this month.

2. Mill Street (Last month: #4). The new Beer Hall is a nice spot with an improved menu and a delicious dubbel. The bierschnaaps didn’t thrill me, though.

3. Amsterdam (Last month: #3). Is the brewpub open yet? No? Just checking. Anyway, Amsterdam also picked up quite a number of Canadian Brewing Awards and the Fracture gets a thumbs-up.

4. Black Oak (Last month: Not ranked). The unbelievable has happened – 10 Bitter Years has reached the LCBO. The rebranding is quite nice as well.

5. Bellwoods (Last month: #1). Ontario’s collaboration kings. Le Trou du Diable stopped by when they were in town to brew a raspberry saison.

6 and 7. Beau’s and Beyond the Pale (Last month: Not ranked/Not ranked). Beau’s helped out the nearby Beyond the Pale by loaning them some brewing equipment to help BTP expand production. The best part? The loan is being paid off in beer. Good news for both breweries, earning each a spot.

8. Sawdust City (Last month: #10). The insanely delicious Lone Pine IPA is now in the LCBO.

9. Nickel Brook (Last month: #5). Picked up some nice hardware at the CBAs and the Naughty Neighbour is finally supposed to be hitting the LCBO. This will take up some major real estate in my fridge this summer.

10. Forked River (Last month: Not ranked). London finally has a craft brewery and this will hopefully continue the growth of the craft beer scene there.

Dropped off: Muskoka, Left Field, Bush Pilot, Cameron’s.

Diacetyl Attack of the Month (aka Dishonourable Mention): Black Creek Montgomery’s Courage. Brewing at Trafalgar was probably going to catch up to them eventually and this is the ticking butterscotch time bomb that many expecting.

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.