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.
A signature beer of Mill Street Brewery in Toronto, Ontario and housed in the first mass-produced nitrogen charged can from a Canadian craft brewery, Cobblestone Stout is black and completely opaque, with a good inch and a half of creamy beige head (after settling a minute or so) that serves as a cap throughout the life of your glass. This English pub-style stout has a thick and dark roasted malt aroma, with a grassy tone and hints of chocolate, musty wood and coffee.
The taste of Cobblestone Stout has a warm smoky and woody character with a rich roasted malt body. Grain and fruit accents brighten the taste a bit before finishing with a solid dryness. The mouthfeel is thick and grainy, with a pronounced creaminess and little carbonation. Dark chocolate, malt and coffee flavours co-mingle in the aftertaste.
Nightmare on Mill Street Pumpkin Ale from Mill Street Brewery in Toronto, Ontario pours a hazy and warm ruby-amber colour with a moderate light beige head that leaves spotty lacing and gets retained as a thin collar. This wheat-based pumpkin ale smells of grain, sweet malts, pumpkin and spices such as clove, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. A bitter chocolate-coffee aroma becomes apparent after warming.
Spices are at the forefront of the taste of Nightmare on Mill Street Pumpkin Ale and create a crisp bite, with a sweet pumpkin flavour behind that and an earthy and grainy backing. Vanilla comes through on the tongue and coupled with the spice blend reminds me somewhat of Dr. Pepper for a moment.
Nightmare on Mill Street Pumpkin Ale is fairly thin, but wheat character and fine carbonation give it a nice, lively body. There is a surprising mild sourness in the finish before going dry. Vanilla, pumpkin and spice all remain prevalent in the aftertaste, along with a mild syrupy feeling.
Oktoberfest Beer from Mill Street Brewery in Toronto, Ontario pours a slightly hazy, copper-tinged amber colour with a small but frothy white head that leaves a some minor lace and gets retained as a thin collar. This märzen smells of sweet, toasted malts and grains as well as mild floral hops, with an alcohol aroma that comes forward after warming.
The taste of Mill Street Oktoberfest Beer is very sweet and malt forward with a subtle roasted character and nutty accent. The lager is very thin for the style with mild carbonation, resulting in a somewhat slimy mouthfeel. The finish is moderately dry, with an earthy and slightly burnt aftertaste and a lingering syrupy feeling.
Ambre de la Chaudière from Mill Street Brewery’s Ottawa Brewpub pours a hazy, rusty orange colour with amber tinges and a moderate tan coloured head that gets retained as a string-like collar and leaves some spotty lace behind. This Bière de Garde smells of wheat, grains, yeast, banana and bubble gum and it has a subtle hint of alcohol.
Ambre de la Chaudière has a deep taste of biscuit-like grains with a toasted, earthy character. Sweet, fruity accents of strawberry and banana and an assertive boozy bite round out the taste. The unfiltered beer is full-bodied with a low carbonation level. Yeast provides a pop on the tongue before a bready character takes over. The finish has a nice dryness and the aftertaste has a honey-like flavour and syrupy quality.
This spiced beer from the Mill Street Brewery in Toronto, Ontario pours a deep golden colour with the slightest of amber hues to it and has a very frothy, but small head that stays around as a sudsy collar. Mill Street Traditional Ginger Beer smells of ginger, honey and freshwater with ripened wheat and a slight pine tone. This beer really opens up after warming, creating a bready malt backing in the aroma.
The taste of Mill Street Traditional Ginger Beer has a peppery bitterness that is dominated by a natural ginger overtone. The taste is strong without being overwhelming and a mild wheat-toned malty sweetness helps take the edge of the spiciness. The beer is light-bodied with a medium carbonation, crisp and clean and noticeably dry on the finish.