Saturday, April 11, 2015

The best from Ontario brewers

I've covered awards events that have honoured a variety of recipients over the course of my journalism career -- from rock stars to real estate tycoons, and from high school students to heroic dogs -- but it's hard to top what's on tap every year at The Ontario Brewing Awards.

Not only do you get to pay your respects to the gold, silver and bronze winners, you get to taste what got them -- and other worthy competitors that didn't make the podium -- there.

The 2015 edition was held on April 9 at Toronto's Corus Quay, which presented great views of Lake Ontario as a backdrop to sample a wide variety of brews, nibble on some appetizers and toast the victors.

It wasn't that long ago that it sometimes wasn't easy to find an Ontario beer that you hadn't tried before, even when attending a beer event. Those days are now thankfully behind us, and there were dozens of beers that I wasn't familiar with both in the winners' circle and at the numerous bars all serving different things set up around the venue.

So without the benefit of trying everything in every category, I'm going to assume that the judges made wise decisions and will only mention a few quibbles. I apologize if these breweries didn't submit entries, but I think that beers from Duggan's Brewery, Collective Arts Brewing, Black Swan Brewing Co. and Barnstormer Brewing were all deserving of trophies, and Innocente Brewing Company was good for more than one. And I have a real soft spot for Mill Street Vanilla Porter and can't figure out how it didn't crack the top three in the flavoured porters and stouts category.  

Okay, one more: I'm not sure how Trafalgar Brewing. Co. qualifies as newcomer of the year since it's been around since 1993.

Brewer Brad Clifford shows off the gold award he won for his porter.
I drank 17 beers and stayed away from those I'd had before, with the exception being Clifford Brewing Co. Porter, which deserved its gold award. The extremely unfortunate thing for me was that I'm suffering through a nasty cold that has affected my senses of smell and taste to the point that I don't particularly trust them. And that's where I place the blame when I say that, while I enjoyed many of the beers I tried, nothing totally grabbed me.

Of the new things I sampled, my favourites were Summit Lollihop and Chinook Lollihop from a brewery with a name I liked as much as its beers: Manantler Craft Brewing Co. from Bowmanville. I'm sure I would have had a bigger appreciation of Flying Monkeys Acadian Groove Canadian Maple Porter if I'd been at full strength.

My least favourite: 5 Paddles Brewing's Heroine of Niagara.

Here are the others: Big Rig Black IPA, Forked River Blackbeerd Stout, Quick Brown Fox ESB, Flying Monkeys Genius Suburbia, Amsterdam Vicar's Vice Olde Style, Liberty Village Brewing Co. Black Blessing, Collingwood Brewery Fireside ESB, Kichesippi Beer Co. Donny's Dort, Nita Beer Company Perfectum, Longslice Brewery Hopsta La Vista, Haliburton Highlands Brewing Honey Brown Ale and Trafalgar Brewing. Co. The Mighty Oak.

Here are this year's award winners:

Beer of the Year
Amsterdam Brewing Co. - Double Tempest

Newcomer of the Year
Trafalgar Brewing Co.

North American Light Lager
Gold: Cool Beer Brewing Co. - Stonewall Light
Silver: Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery - Antigravity
Bronze: Laker Brewing Company - Laker Light

North American Lager
Gold: Triple Bogey Brewing Co. - Premium Lager
Silver: Laker Brewing Company - Laker Lager
Bronze: Sleeman Breweries - Original Draught

Gold: Steam Whistle - Pilsner
Silver: Creemore Springs Brewery Ltd - Lot 9
Bronze: Kichesippi Beer Co. - Donny's Dort

Amber Lager
Gold: Old Flame Brewing Co. - Red
Silver: Hop City Brewing Co. - Barking Squirrel
Bronze: Cool Beer Brewing Co. - Millennium Buzz

Dark Lager
Gold: Silversmith Brewing Company - Black Lager
Silver: Hop City Brewing Co. - 8th Sin Black Lager  
Bronze: F&M Brewery- StoneHammer Dunkel 

Gold: Lake of Bays Brewing Company - Crazy Eyes Darcy Tucker
Silver: Creemore Springs Brewery Ltd - UrBock
Bronze: Cameron's Brewing Co. - Rye Pale Ale

Honey/Maple Beers
Gold: Haliburton Highlands Brewing - Honey Brown Ale
Silver: Railway City Brewing Co. - Shambock          
Bronze: The 3 Brewers - Maple Ale

Gold: Side Launch Brewing Company - Wheat
Silver: Smithworks Brewing Company - Hefeweizen
Bronze: Muskoka Brewery - Summer Weiss

Gold: Mill St. Brewery - Belgian Wit
Silver: Northwinds Brewhouse - Moonlit Wit
Bronze: Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery - Solstice Saison

Flavoured Beer
Gold: Wellington Brewery - 2014: A Spice Odyssey          
Silver: Trafalgar Brewing Co. - Ginger Beer  
Bronze: Mill St. Brewery - Lemon Tea

Farmhouse Ales
Gold: Nickel Brook Brewing Co. - Le Paysan Saison
Silver: Cameron's Brewing Co. - Into the Shade Saison       
Bronze: Amsterdam Brewing Co. - Howl

Lagered Ales
Gold: Sawdust City Brewing Co. - Gateway Kolsch
Silver: Nickel Brook Brewing Co. - Cause and Effect           
Bronze: Sleeman Breweries - Cream Ale
British Pale/Bitter
Gold: Big Rig Brewery - ESB
Silver: Wellington Brewery - Arkell Best Bitter
No bronze awarded

American Pale Ale
Gold: Great Lakes Brewery - Canuck Pale Ale
Silver: Nickel Brook Brewing Co. - Naughty Neighbour
Bronze: Liberty Village Brewing Co. - 504 Pale Ale

British IPA
Gold: Longslice Brewery - Hopsta La Vista
Silver: Railway City Brewing Co. - Dead Elephant Ale
Bronze: Sleeman Breweries - India Pale Ale

West Coast IPA
Gold: Sawdust City Brewing Co. - Twin Pines IIPA
Silver: Stone City Ales - Green Goddess Imperial IPA
Bronze: Stone City Ales - Uncharted IPA

Dark IPA
Gold: Nickel Brook Brewing Co. - Malevolent Black Imperial Ale
Silver: Manantler Brewing Co. - Dark Prince
Bronze: Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery - Netherworld

Amber Ale
Gold: Kilannen Brewing Co. - New Zealand Red Ale
Silver: Orange Snail Brewers - Rattle N' Nemo
Bronze: Old Tomorrow Brewing - Canadian Pale Ale

Dark Ale
Gold: Wellington Brewery - County Dark Ale
Silver: Clocktower Brew Pub - Bytown Brown
Bronze: Wellington Brewery - Iron Duke Strong Ale

Gold: Clifford Brewing Co. - Porter
Silver: Innocente Brewing Company - Charcoal Porter
Bronze: Block Three Brewing Co. - Pushbroom Porter

Gold: Trafalgar Brewing Co.- Schwartzy
Silver: Liberty Village Brewing Company - Black Blessing
Bronze: Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery - Cadillac Graveyard

Imperial Stout/Baltic Porter
Gold: Wellington Brewery - Imperial Russian Stout
Silver: Big Rig Brewery - Cherry Bomb Imperial Chocolate Cherry Milk Stout
Bronze: 5 Paddles Brewing Co. - Midnight Paddler

Fruit Beer
Gold: Mill St. Brewery - Frambozen
Silver: Trafalgar Brewing Co. - Raspberry Mint
Bronze: Amsterdam Brewing Co. - KLB Raspberry Wheat

Vegetable Beer
Gold: Trafalgar Brewing Co. - Pumpkin Ale
Silver: Wellington Brewery - Farmers' Market Rhubarb Saison
Bronze: Garden Brewers - Green Thumb IPA

Flavoured Porters/Stouts
Gold: Trafalgar Brewing Co. - Schwartzy Xpresso
Silver: Barley Days Brewery - Scrimshaw Oyster Stout
Bronze: Amsterdam Brewing Co. - Full City Double Tempest

Strong Beer
Gold: Smithworks Brewing Company - Blonde
Silver: Side Launch Brewing Company - Belgian Hat Trick
Bronze: Amsterdam Brewing Co. - Vicars Vice

Gold: Snowman Brewing Co. - The Rambam
Silver: Trafalgar Brewing Co. - Ginger Mead
No bronze awarded

Barrel-Aged - Whisky
Gold: Amsterdam Brewing Co. - Double Tempest
Silver: Cameron's Brewing Co. - Deviator Doppelbock
Bronze: Amsterdam Brewing Co. - Recidivist

Barrel-Aged - Wine
Gold: Nickel Brook Brewing Co. - Winey Bastard
Silver: Amsterdam Brewing Co. - Sour Cherry Imperial Stout
Bronze: Sawdust City Brewing Co. - ODB

Smoked Beer
Gold: Black Oak Brewing Co. - Nox Aeterna
Silver: Covered Bridge Brewing - La CabaneĆ Sucre
Bronze: Mill St. Brewery - Rauchbier