In Canada, liquor laws are strange and intangible phenomena wherein each province seems to literally be marching to the beat of its own drum when it comes to craft beer.
In British Columbia, we have private and provincially run liquor stores and this provides us with a pretty impressive selection of Canadian and American craft brews. In Ontario however there are just two types of provincially operated liquor stores; the misnamed beer store and the LCBO. Beer stores are like a Costco for your average two-four toting, pick-up truck driving, ball-cap wearing kinda crowd. You pick your beer from the ‘beer wall’, pay at the cashier and said beer rolls out on a conveyor belt –no frills here folks. The LCBO fares a little better in terms of selection but they do not stray far outside provincial boundaries and the selection of 650ml’s is just sad.
Undeterred and partly to make up for missing the entire Vancouver Craft Beer Week (and oddly enough the Ontario Craft Beer Week as well) I managed to console myself with a number of interesting looking Ontario Craft Beers (OCB). Before I get to the beer allow me one caveat, largely unable to adjust to the hot and humid Ontario weather I tended to stick to the lighter end of the beer spectrum so no porters or stouts this time out.
Some of the beer I tried included Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co.’s Lug Tread Lagered Ale, Nickel Brook Brewing’s Organic Lager, F&M Brewing/Stone Hammer Beer’s Stone Hammer Pilsner, Black Creek Historic Brewery’s Pale Ale, Trafalgar Ales & Meads Paddy’s Irish Red, Grand River Brewing’s Galt Knife Old Style Lager, Cameron’s Brewing Dark 266, Amsterdam Brewing Co.’s Boneshaker Unfiltered, Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery’s Smashbomb Atomic IPA and Muskoka Brewery’s The Legendary Spring Oddity.
Some of the beer highlights were:
Lug Tread – Clear, straw gold lager/ale with a decent amount of stiff white head. Not the best nose on this beer, just a hint of skunky, but I tend to feel that way about most lagers so it could just be me. Very light in body, easy to drink and a slight nutty flavour on the finish. A great all-round ball-park kind of beer, something to reach for on a hot summer’s day.
Boneshaker (Unfiltered) – A cloudy, orange IPA with very little head. Strong citrus hop nose, flavour and finish but well balanced by the relatively high ABV of 7.1%. I really liked the complexity of flavours in this beer it was not just a straight up hop bomb. Love the label (or lack of) depicting a gold skeleton riding his bike.
The Legendary Spring Oddity – A challenging Belgian-esque beer with many complex flavours. Gold and hazy with lots of head and a sweet malty, slighty fruity nose. Kind of like a hefe meets abbey ale. Very drinkable with medium body, strong alcohol notes and a touch of bitterness on the finish. Sad to say this is a seasonal offering. Another great label showing a chimera like creature.
Smashbomb Atomic IPA – Deep orange in colour with a ton of cream coloured head. Like the Boneshaker, big on the citrus hop notes. Light in body, very crisp and easy to drink. Hoppy but not excessively so. Super fun graphics coming out of this brewery as the name suggests.
Several of the beers I tried during my visit are part of the Ontario Craft Beer six pack, which showcases the offerings from local breweries. I think this is fantastic way to sample the diversity of beers being brewed in the province and a good way to familiarize yourself with breweries you want to explore further. All and all a great trip back east, and while I would not hold the Ontario craft beer scene up with the BC craft beer scene I think there are some really great things brewing!