Friday, April 04, 2014

Celebrating Ontario's best beers

Ontario's best beers were recognized at the 12th annual Ontario Brewing Awards at Toronto's Gladstone Hotel on April 3.

Servers walked around the venue with trays of bacon-wrapped shrimp, spring rolls, mini hamburgers and small pizza squares to give attendees a base in their stomach to help absorb the dozens of Ontario craft beers that were available to sample from glasses provided at the entrance. Here are the eight that I tried for the first time:

Descendants Harbinger Pale Ale is brewed in Wellesley and has a nice gold colour. The 5.5-per cent alcohol, 38 IBU beer poured with a thin head and a pleasant hoppy aroma. The easy-drinking ale, which comes in a distinctive bottle, had a bit of a citrus twang, refreshing hoppiness and a pleasant finish.

Beyond The Pale Imperial Super Guy is a 9.1-per cent alcohol, 90 IBU imperial rye India pale ale from Ottawa. It had a nice, foamy head on top of its amber base. The aroma wasn't as hop-forward as I was expecting. There were hints of pine and citrus along with a decent maltiness. It was crisp but slightly heavy. The high alcohol content wasn't overpowering and it was smooth on the palate.

The Publican House Ale, from Peterborough, was my least favourite of the evening. The 4.8-per cent alcohol lagered ale was a pale straw colour and poured with a small white head. It had a citrusy aroma and a somewhat biscuity, but pedestrian, flavour. The finish was boring.

Sudbury's Stack Brewing produces Angry Moose, a nine-per cent alcohol imperial IPA. The dark gold ale with a thin white head had a mildly hoppy aroma and similar flavour. The high alcohol content wasn't noticeable at all, and it left a pleasant, tingling sensation in my mouth afterward.

Nickel Brook Cuvee 2013 Reserve Ale is aged in bourbon barrels, which helps give it its rich auburn colour. Its ingredients include European and North American malts, Demerara sugar, dried figs, orange peel, raisins, cinnamon, cardamon, all spice, black pepper and vanilla beans. All of these elements seem to balance out in a non-distinct aroma but very complex flavour. The raisins, all spice and Demerara sugar seemed to be the most dominant elements of this 8.5-per cent alcohol beer, which didn't leave me with a good taste in my mouth.

Highlander Brew Co.'s Lion Grass is made in South River with lemongrass and dandelion leaves, although I couldn't really notice them. The 5.4-per cent alcohol beer is pale gold and pours with a thin head. It's a wee bit bitter and is fairly malty, which gives it a biscuit element. It's okay on the palate but has a dull finish.

Terrestrial India Brown Ale from Guelph's Wellington Brewery is a very dark brown and had a rich tan head when it was poured. It's pretty complex, with  a bit of malt along with smokiness, bitter chocolate and some nuttiness coming through from a combination of Cascade, Amarillo and Sorachi Ace hops. The 5.9-per cent ale has a lingering, slightly bitter finish.

I ended my tasting on a high with Ottawa's Big Rig Saison. The 5.5-per cent, 25 IBU beer is light amber in colour and had a rich white head when poured from a growler. It has a very pleasing, fruity bouquet, a taste that offers a good mix of fruit and spice, and a lovely finish. This is an excellent saison.

The winners were chosen from 251 beers submitted by 46 breweries from across the province, and certified judges chose gold, silver and bronze winners in 31 categories.

The gold, silver and bronze winners were:

North American Light Lager
Brick Laker Light
F&M Stone Hammer Light
Flying Monkeys Antigravity Light

North American Lager
Hogsback Vintage Lager
Lake Of Bays Top Shelf Classic Lager
Amsterdam Natural Blonde

Brick Waterloo Pilsner
Molson Coors Rickard’s Blonde
King Pilsner

Amber Lager
Hop City Barking Squirrel Lager
Great Lakes Red Leaf Lager
King Vienna Lager

Dark Lager
Side Launch Dark Lager
Brick Waterloo Dark
King Dark

King Bock
Cameron’s Deviator Doppelbock
Mill Street Weizenbock

Honey/Maple Beer
F&M Stone Hammer Maple Red
Mill Street Royal York Stinger
Bayside Honey Maple

Big Rig Hefe
Denison’s Weissbier
Magnotta True North Wunder Weisse

Belgian Witbier
Mill Street Belgian Wit
Amsterdam Boxer
Molson Coors Rickard’s White

Flavoured Wheat Beer
Amsterdam KLB Raspberry Wheat
Clocktower Raspberry Wheat
Beyond The Pale Pink Fuzz

Farmhouse Ales
Stack Portes De L’enfers
Big Rig Saison
Big Rig Belgian Blond

Lagered Ales
Publican House Ale
Clocktower K├Âlsch
Big Rig Gold

British Pale/Bitter
Muskoka Cream Ale
Black Oak Pale Ale
Highlander Scottish Ale

American Pale Ale
Great Lakes Johnny Simcoe
Collective Arts Rhyme & Reason
Great Lakes Crazy Canuck

British IPA
Mill Street IPA
Kensington Baldwin FishEye-PA
Brick Waterloo IPA

West Coast IPA
Cameron’s R.P.A.
Muskoka Twice As Mad Tom IPA
Beyond The Pale Imperial Super Guy

Dark IPA
Big Rig Black IPA
Flying Monkeys Netherworld
Wellington Terrestrial India Brown Ale

Amber Ale
Kilannan New Zealand Red
Clocktower Red
Sawdust City Ol’ Woody Alt

Dark Ale
Magnotta True North Copper Altbier
F&M Stone Hammer Dark
Amsterdam Downtown Brown

Nickel Brook Maple Porter
Highlander Blacksmith Smoked Porter
Six Pints Beer Academy Porter

F&M Stone Hammer Coffee Stout
Sawdust City Skinny Dipping Stout
Big Rig Stout

Fruit Beer
Amsterdam Framboise
Mill Street Frambozen
Turtle Island Smash Cherry Pale Ale

Vegetable Beer
Grand River Highballer Pumpkin
The Ship’s Rations
Big Rig Pumpkin

Flavoured Beer
Amsterdam Full City Double Tempest
Sawdust City Red Rocket Cinnamon Vanilla Cayenne Coffee Stout
Big Rig Triple Chocolate Cherry Stout

Strong Beer
Descendants Prologue Belgian Blonde
Sawdust City Princess Wears Girlpants
Amsterdam Vicar’s Vice

Nickel Brook Gluten Free
(This was the only beer entered in this category.)

Barrel Aged – Whiskey
Amsterdam Double Tempest
Wellington Frost Quake Bourbon Barrel Aged Barley Wine
Cameron’s Bourbon Barrel Deviator Doppelbock

Barrel Aged – Wine
Amsterdam Rye Peppercorn Saison
Sawdust City ODB
Great Lakes Gary

Imperial Stout/Baltic Porter
Muskoka Brewery Winter Beard
Big Rig Imperial Stout
Wellington Russian Imperial Stout

Newcomer Of The Year
Publican House Brewery

Beer Of The Year
Muskoka Cream Ale

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