Let the Gruit Times Roll from Railway City Brewing Company in St. Thomas, Ontario pours a clear golden-amber colour with a fairly small but creamy white head that gets retained as a soapy film and small collar. The smell of rosemary pops from this spiced, un-hopped ale against a backdrop of sweet malts that carries notes of honey and caramel.
The blend of rosemary, sage and black cumin dominates the taste of Let the Gruit Times Roll. The brew is particularly dry and peppery at first and in the finish, while a light and syrupy sweetness comes through on the tongue to lighten things up. The mouthfeel is on the thick and viscous side and carbonation is minimal. The sage and black cumin notes hang around in the aftertaste.
An early spring seasonal, this doppelbock from Railway City Brewing Company in St. Thomas, Ontario pours with a creamy head that leaves ample lace and settles as a thick collar atop the dark brown and ruby-coloured brew. Sham-Bock smells mainly of dark fruits such as figs, dates and raisins, with notes of chocolate and butterscotch becoming more apparent as it warms.
The taste of Sham-Bock has a surprisingly strong bitterness for the style, though it is far from overpowering against the lager’s formidable sweetness. Flavours of red grape juice, chocolate, honey and coffee are met with a wallop of maple syrup that brings a mineral-like sharpness along with its inherently sweet tone. A full body and modest amount of carbonation yield a grainy and mildly viscous mouthfeel, while the lager finishes quite dry, leaving hints of chocolate syrup and lemon juice behind in the aftertaste.
This American stout from Railway City Brewing Company in St. Thomas, Ontario is opaque black and pours with a spongy, mocha-tinted head that is retained as a thin collar and wispy film. Black Coal Stout has a veritable ton of roasted grain character in its smell, along with deep notes of chocolate, plum, raisin and coffee and hints of nuts and wood.
The taste of Black Coal Stout is thick with the chocolate and coffee flavours you would expect from a full bodied stout, with a red berry accent and a lemon juice note that is most apparent in the dry finish and coffee-forward aftertaste. The mouthfeel is a bit thin and somewhat oily, which makes this ale drink more like a porter, though it doesn’t detract from the experience at all. Carbonation is minimal, with just enough there to prevent the beer from weighing too heavy on your tongue.
Canada Southern Draft from Railway City Brewing Company in St. Thomas, Ontario pours a muted golden yellow colour. No lace is left behind as its loose white head burns off quickly and settles as a small cap. This American pale lager smells of sweet grains, a blend of berry, grape and citrus juices and has a faint hint of diacetyl.
The grainy and earthy taste of Canada Southern Draft starts sweet then quickly turns dry. Notes of fruit, mineral, toasted light malt and earth are present in this medium bodied and finely carbonated lager throughout the finish, with a distinct floral note coming through in the crisp and dry aftertaste.
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.