Ontario's craft beer industry is booming, a quick observation shows over 30 professional craft brewers plying their trade in the province that accounts for nearly 40% of all Canadians. Ontario is also home to Canada's largest city, Toronto, and the champion of all pub-quiz capital city questions, the nation's capital, Ottawa, admit it, you thought it was Montreal, or Vancouver, or Toronto...
I've actually been to Ontario twice, I happened to be skiing rather than hunting good beer (sacrilege), but I was 14 years old (redemption) so I can be excused for only trying to blag a few bottles of Labatts (sacrilege again). A friend of mine, Andy Hewitt, Birmingham's resident Canadaphile and hot wings extraordinaire, recently returned from a trip to Ontario and luckily for me, brought back a selection of beers native to the state.
First up were three beers from Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery who brew their beers right on the waterfront in downtown Barrie.
Flying Monkeys Stereo Vision
(Amber Ale, 5.5%)
This beer pours a hazy marigold and has a light grassy hop and cereal aroma. Flavour is quite fruity, hints of strawberry and orange peel but nothing overpowering. There are light grassy hop accents in the finish, the added wheat gives it a medium bodied creamy texture.
(American Pale Ale, 5%)
Pours an amber colour with an aroma of peaches and caramel malts. Flavour is of marmalade and woody hops, though bitterness is restrained by its minimalist 18 IBUs. Its “almost” name rings true as this is like a hopped Amber Ale rather than a traditional more heavily hopped APA.
Flying Monkeys Smash Bomb Atomic IPA
(India Pale Ale, 6%)
Smash Bomb Atomic pours a deep amber and has a juicy tangerine and pine aroma. Tastes are pine, sweet grapefruit and mango and this is followed by the 70 IBU resinous bitter finish. A well balanced and drinkable IPA.
Next up were beers from Double Trouble Brewing Co. who use the Wellington County Brewery in Guelph and Great Lakes Brewing, Etobicoke, which was a township that was amalgamated into the city of Toronto in 1998.
Double Trouble Hops and Robbers IPA
(India Pale Ale, 5.7%)
This beer pours a clear amber gold and the aroma is floral and biscuity. Flavours are lemon, faint grassy hops and toasted malt. Not the most assertive IPA by any stretch of the imagination but works as a pleasant English-style bitter.
Great Lakes Brewing Devil’s Pale Ale 666
(American Pale Ale, 6.6%)
Brewed for 66.6 minutes with 666kg of a selection of 6 malts, 6.6kg of hops and weighing in at 6.6% alcohol. Clearly a theme going on here... Devil's Pale Ale poured a copper colour and has an aroma of nuts, fudge and citrus. Flavour is of earthy hops, roasted barley, pear and a little vanilla. Smooth and refreshing.
The 6th beer of the day came from Railway City Brewing Company which is situated in the city of St. Thomas. This place is famous for crashing a steam locomotive into a rather large elephant called Jumbo... and thus leads us to the name of the next brew.
Railway City Dead Elephant Ale
(India Pale Ale, 6.8%)
With an orange amber colour this expired elephant has a lemon, leafy hop and caramel malt aroma. Flavours are earthy and of herbal hops with a caramel sweetness. Dry on the finish. Not quite a true IPA but a good English-style strong bitter.
Our two final beers come from Muskoka Brewery, which is based in Bracebridge. This town was built around a waterfall on the Muskoka River which provided the early townsfolk with power for the settlement's first factory.
Muskoka Mad Tom IPA
(India Pale Ale, 6.4%)
This beer pours golden and has a nose of pine, citrus and pepper. Taste comprises of lemon and pine resins balanced with toffee, dry hops and a touch of spice. Decent bitter finish but not overpowering. A refreshing and “sessionable” IPA.
Muskoka Twice As Mad Tom IPA
(Double IPA, 8.4%)
This souped-up version of Mad Tom pours deep golden and has aromas of mango, grapefruit and pine needles. Taste is an up front burst of pine resin and ripe grapefruit followed by honey and biscuit notes, its warming alcohol strength pulls it smoothly over the finish line.
That's it! A little look at eight Ontarian beers. A big thank you to Andy who did an excellent job of picking them out at the Liquor Control Board, and using up his luggage space! What of Ontario's offerings? Some well-made, tasty beers all round. My favourite will have to be the Twice As Mad Tom which is, for me, the boldest venture of the lot. A big juicy IPA with enough hops to keep the Humulus lupulus addict in me interested.