2012 was a pretty good year in terms of both the quality and quantity of regularly-brewed Ontario craft beers hitting the shelves at one’s local LCBO or The Beer Store. I selected 12 of them to quantify as favourites, with a few caveats. First, the beers had to be listed at at least 25 retail outlets.
The beers had to be ones that I’ve published a review for, not just tried at a show or festival. Seasonal and one-off beers were not considered, I’ll try to make a list of those next. Re-branded or re-packaged beers were also not counted, however those that were previously available at a brewery’s retail store or at a licensee were. All that said, here are my selections in alphabetical order.
This seasonal American imperial stout from Amsterdam Brewing Company Limited in Toronto, Ontario is opaque black with a creamy beige head that sticks around as a thick collar and leaves spotty lacing behind. Tempest Imperial Stout has aromas of roasted grains, coffee, chocolate, wood and dark fruit, as well as a peppery bite.
The taste of Tempest Imperial Stout follows suit, with roasted grains in the forefront and accents of dark chocolate coffee. A pronounced fruit flavour has a tart black cherry tone that transitions to a sharply bitter finish. The stout is grainy, earthy and weighs heavily on the tongue. A mild creaminess and oiliness eases the beer down and its hefty ABV is thoroughly masked by the rich flavours, which blend and linger in the aftertaste.
Boneshaker from Amsterdam Brewing Company Limited in Toronto, Ontario pours a hazy caramel-amber colour with light sediment suspended throughout the glass. A thick and frothy white head leaves thick lacing as it settles into a slim collar and cap. The aroma of this American IPA can best be described in two words: Boom! Hops! Thick tangerine, mango and pineapple tones are countered by a warm honey-caramel body and a sharp, piny bite.
The taste of Boneshaker certainly does not lack bitterness. Citrus fruit rind, lemongrass and raw grain flavours are strong and meaty and set against an equally sturdy and toasty caramel malt backing. The ale is full-bodied with a mild carbonation. The sediment creates a lot of life on the tongue before a viscose oiliness coats the back of the tongue and throat. The finish is bitter and a strong citrus tone remains throughout the aftertaste.
This American pale wheat ale from Amsterdam Brewing Company Limited in Toronto, Ontario pours a slightly cloudy, grassy yellow colour with a small white head that reduces to a collar within a minute, leaving little to no lace behind. (416) Urban Wheat smells of wet grass, yeast, earth and burnt wheat, with subtle clove and citrus notes.
The taste of (416) Urban Wheat is very similar. Burnt grains, earth and yeast dominate, with hints of banana, cloves and orange rind. The beer is medium-bodied with a mild carbonation. Earth and burnt grains maintain their presence on the tongue, along with a mild syrupy quality. The finish is dirty and the aftertaste is very tart, astringent and slightly metallic.
This light flavoured wheat beer brewed in Toronto, Ontario by the Amsterdam Brewing Company pours a rusty, toasted amber colour with a small, fleeting head that stays around as a thin collar. KLB Raspberry Wheat Ale does indeed smell like raspberry, with toasted malt and honey tones. It’s fairly mild, but always smells fresh.
KLB Raspberry Wheat Ale tastes of toasted wheat at first, then a solid raspberry flavour that doesn’t taste too unnatural. The beer is light-bodied with a medium carbonation, giving it a creamy mouthfeel. There is an earthiness in the finish, along with a brewed tea tone. The aftertaste is very dry and tart.
Oranje Weisse from Amsterdam Brewing Company Limited in Toronto, Ontario pours a uniformly hazy, orange juice-like yellow colour with a medium-large white head that dissipates quickly, but leaves a decent lace and collar. This wheat beer uses two types of orange peel, coriander and anise to create a spicy and sharp aroma, but also has a honey and banana softness that takes the edge off.
The taste of Oranje Weisse is quite coriander-forward, maybe too much so. There is a decent malty sweetness to it and added anise gives it a certain pine-like flavour, but the coriander really dominates and creates a distinct dryness. The mouthfeel is relatively thin, but has a real creamy quality to it as well. Very easy to drink, has a prickly carbonation as it passes the tongue and an earthy, mushroom-like, almost peppery finish.