Queen Street 501 from The Brickworks Ciderhouse in Toronto, Ontario has a deep golden colour that more closely resembles a typical American lager than it does a commercially produced cider and retains a small collar of bubbles longer than most. This semi-sweet blend of Ontario heritage apples smells McIntosh-heavy, with a soft and warm baked character and background sweetness that reminds me of Cortland or Gala.
That sweetness translates through to the taste of Queen Street 501, which is similar to a higher quality, not from concentrate juice that you might find at your local mom and pop grocery. Though this moderately effervescent cider is a bit sweet for my palate, there are some mildly funky yeast notes that open things up and the finish has a nice tartness Granny Smith fans will enjoy as well as a vague sourness that might even make you pucker a bit. The body has a mild viscosity and I was typically left with a soft fuzziness on my tongue.
I arrived at Mill Street’s Ottawa Brewpub before sundown and was warmly greeted as I checked in and was given a couple of beer tokens – hey, this was a media event after all. Industrious local musician Amanda Rheaume was already mid set as I opted for a glass of the brewery’s classic German-style Pilsner, sat with some friends and was quickly reminded that my voice is not well-suited towards an intimate acoustic show.
Despite its name, 100th Meridian Organic Amber Lager from Mill Street Brewery in Toronto, Ontario is actually a deep golden colour with the faintest of amber tinges and yields a small, tight white head that hangs around as a thin cap while leaving scattered streaks of lace on your glass. This American amber lager smells mainly of sweet grains and light caramel malts, though there is also a noticeably earthy and slightly sour quality reminiscent of freshly cut field grasses.
100th Meridian Organic Amber Lager has a rather sweet taste. Flavours of earth, fresh and toasted grains, white grape and red berry juices, cocoa and citrus peel can all be found in this lager. A distinct and sharp saltiness appears in the finish, along with a mild bitterness that’s just enough to balance the brew out. A fairly thick and bready mouthfeel is lightened up somewhat by a moderate effervescence and a mild grain flavour resonates in the aftertaste.
This flavoured porter from Mill Street Brewery in Toronto, Ontario is a deep, ruby-hued brown with a very frothy, nitro-charged beige head that settles as a persistent cap and leaves large swaths of lace as you drink. Mill Street Vanilla Porter has an appetizing blend of aromas including chocolate, coffee, roasted barley malt, berry and of course vanilla.
The taste of Mill Street Vanilla Porter is chocolate-forward with notes of dried dark fruits like plum, raisin and cherry and a subdued vanilla flavour. This ale is full-bodied, rich, grainy and slightly viscose, with very little carbonation aside from the head. There is a moderate bitterness on the tongue that lingers throughout the aftertaste along with a warm, woody tone.
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.