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Monday, December 30, 2013

The top 5 new craft beers in Toronto for 2013

craft beer toronto 2013Not only is the amount of craft brewers in and around Toronto growing, but the ones that are here are getting increasingly bold and diverse with their offerings. Accordingly, narrowing the field to just five of the best new beers brewed by the city's brewers this year was no easy task. Likewise, drinking virtually every new beverage offered up by the city's beer-makers in 2013 wasn't a job for the faint of heart, but I persevered and I I did it. And I did it for you ,Toronto.

Here now are the fruits of my liver damaging labours -- my picks for the best five new Toronto beers of 2013.

Amsterdam's De Wallen Barrel Aged Sour Framboise

While the reviews of the service at Amsterdam's new brewpub have been fairly abysmal, lovers of the brewery have nothing to fear because there's one important area where there can be no doubt about their value to the Toronto brewing scene. It is, naturally, their beer. Case in point: De Wallen, the first made-in-Ontario, barrel-aged sour beer to be sold at the LCBO. This beer takes the brewery's Framboise up a notch by adding wild yeast and aging the beer for a year in pinot noir barrels from Flat Rock winery. The result is a ridiculously good sour beer with all kinds of raspberry notes, a prevailing tartness, excellent carbonation that keeps the whole thing refreshing instead of cloying, and an underlying binding woodiness imparted by the barrels.

Bellwoods Brewery's Wizard Wolf

There was literally a time last week when I went to the fridge for a beer and the lowest ABV option I had in my packed beer fridge was 8%. The lowest. In a craft-beer industry where bigger, badder, and bolder brews tend to dominate our perception of what a really well-crafted beer should taste like (see: the rest of this list), there's something to be said for a beer that can bring those big flavours without nap-inducing levels of alcohol. For bringing some amazing grassy, hoppy, and aromatic characteristics to the oft-overlooked session ale, Bellwoods' Wizard Wolf is quite possibly my new favourite beer and most certainly one of the best new brews of the year.

Indie Alehouse's Barrel-Aged Glory and Consequences

The Indie Alehouse tends to do a lot of stuff without too much fanfare, which is cool because they're laid-back folks, but can sometimes be a shame since you might occasionally miss the killer beers they're making. Glory and Consequences, for example, might be one of the most underrated beers of the year. A Belgian Dubbel made with candy sugar for added sweetness, the 8% standard version is a ridiculously smooth, warming beer that suggests plums, heavy malt, and brown sugar. The even more rare barrel-aged version, which sat in Niagara sparkling wine barrels for 14 months, was simply ridiculous.

Bellwoods Brewery's Donkey Venom

Since the appearance of Donkey Venom at this year's Cask Days, I've suspected that the Bellwoods folks have been having a bit of a laugh at our expense as beer nerds clamor for a beer that's basically called "Ass Poison," but when the beer's this unique, I suppose it needs an equally unique name. If the words "funky" and "barnyard" aren't words you want to use to describe a beverage you're drinking, this might not be for you, because with layers of flavours ranging from vanilla and cocoa to boozy sweetness and a tart, cherry dryness, this porter aged in barrels with souring brettanomyces yeast is something akin to the beer version of Frankenstein's monster.

Amsterdam Barrel-Aged Double Tempest

If you think of De Wallen as Amsterdam Brewhouse head brewer Iain MacOustra's way of reminding us all again that Amsterdam's beer needs to be taken seriously, the Double Tempest is something like his way of punching you in the crotch if you still don't believe him. A special version of their Tempest Imperial Stout that features double the malt bill and double the hops, Double Tempest is also aged for nine months in Four Roses Bourbon barrels. The result is a world-class beer with all kinds of candied bourbon, oak, and chocolate. It's clearly going to age very well (so I hope you saved a bottle) but even now it's a beer that refuses to be ignored.

Honourable Mentions:

Left Field Brewery's Resin Bag IPA : An excellent no-nonsense IPA from one of Toronto's newest brewers.

Great Lakes Brewery's Apocalypse Later Imperial Black IPA : A fantastic imperial black IPA from Toronto's oldest craft brewery (and Canadian Brewing Awards' 2013 Brewery of The Year). There's loads of grapefruit-y hops balanced with roasted malt and caramel.

Bellwoods Brewery's Motley Cru: A blend of a Belgian Tripel that was aged for a year in red wine barrels, and a Belgian Quad that was aged for three months in port barrels, this interesting and remarkably well-balanced sour beer was then bottle-conditioned with champagne yeast.

Ben Johnson also writes about beer over on Ben's Beer Blog. You can follow him on twitter @Ben_T_Johnson.

by Ben Johnson via blogTO

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