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 American Amber Ale from Hockley Valley Brewing Company in Orangeville, Ontario pours a clear amber colour with a foamy white head that leaves very little lacing and settles as a healthy collar. Hockley Amber smells of mineral water, caramel and toasted grains with an earthy backing and a smooth, plum or raisin-like note.
Hockley Amber has a fairly heavy, slightly sweet and bread-like toasted malt flavour with hints of chocolate and plum, along with a well-balanced bitterness. The ale is full-bodied with medium carbonation and has a subtle, yeast-like tingle and pop on the tongue. The finish is dry, with caramel, earth and toasted grain notes in the aftertaste.
This English-style brown ale from the Hockley Valley Brewing Company in Orangeville, Ontario pours a dark cherry and brown cola-looking colour with a moderate, frothy tan-coloured head that gets retained as a collar. Hockley Dark smells like bitter dark chocolate, dark toffee and ripened dark fruit like cherries or blackberries. Wood notes as well as a root beer-esque syrup tone come through after warming.
Hockley Dark tastes again like bitter dark chocolate at first. Buttery toffee comes through on the tongue before a solid crispness finishes. The beer is fairly mild overall, it’s rather light on the tongue and leaves a smoky, woody aftertaste. It’s smooth enough, but not something I'd want more than one or two of.