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.
Iron Spike Blonde Ale from Railway City Brewing Company in St. Thomas, Ontario pours a nice, deep golden colour with a tinge of amber and a medium sized soapy white head that gets retained as a collar without leaving much lace behind. This light American blonde ale smells of honey sweetened grains, corn and has a mild fruit juice tone along with a lemony accent.
Grains come through in the taste of Iron Spike Blonde Ale as well and are accented here by a light chocolate notes and a mildly acidic fruity tone. This ale is rather thin-bodied with a medium carbonation level. A yeast flavour imparts a biscuit-like sensation on the tongue. The finish is dry and the aftertaste has a hint of bitterness before giving way to a lingering mild sweetness and a buttery diacetyl note.
This American-style IPA from the Railway City Brewing Company in St. Thomas, Ontario pours a golden-amber colour with a medium-sized off-white head that leaves a moderate amount of lacing and gets retained as a thin collar and film. Dead Elephant IPA has the traditional berry and citrus aromas fans of the style know and love, but here they take a back seat to a warm, toasted grain smell and deep caramel tone.
A nicely embittered grapefruit flavour is much more prevalent in the taste of Dead Elephant IPA and is joined by a slightly sweet, dark caramel tone, as well as a biscuit-like one. The ale is full-bodied with almost no carbonation beyond the first few minutes after being poured, yet there is a bright pop on the tongue followed by a heavy yeast note. The finish is bitter and the aftertaste is oily and grainy, with a subtle fruit tone.