June 26, 2013

My Ontario Craft Beer Week

Sometimes plans get messed up and what you wanted to do gets altered by events that you have no control over.  Back on the May long weekend I sat down with @varxint and @thebeergypsy and we made a list of all the things we wanted to do during OCBW.  We had it broken down by day and at the end of the night we knew exactly what we were going to do.

A phone call from family back home meant that travelling was now in order for the opening weekend. Plans had to change. We packed and headed out but being the beer travellers we seem to be, we decided that just because we couldn't go to the planned events didn't mean we could not support our craft breweries.  Heck, we were driving nine hours to Southern Ontario there were bound to be places for us to stop and show our support.

Our first stop was 5 Paddles Brewing.  I won't go into detail here, as the previous post talks about them but I will say if you are in Whitby stop in.

We had a quick turn around and headed back nine hours on Sunday. We quickly stopped in at Railway City. With their expansion and move the selection was limited.  Refusing to be disappointed, cans of Iron Spike and Dead Elephant were bought to enjoy once we returned home.

Being Father's Day, we had planned to be at Beau's BBQ but we found ourselves in Toronto around dinner time.  Some poking at the OCBW events page pointed us to dinner at Granite Brewing. 

First off in Toronto anywhere that has free parking is okay in my book.  Combine that with tasty beer, excellent food and it was more than worth the stop.  They had a great selection of beers, homemade root beer and cask beer. I really enjoyed the ESB and the Best Bitter special.  They were different.  A slightly different nose and bitterness that varied.  The Best Bitter had a longer lingering bitterness while the ESB smoothed out in the end.

The Keefe's Stout was a perfect drink with dessert.  It was paired with the blueberry cheesecake at our server's recommendation and it was bang on.  Dark chocolate roast and coffee finish made this a perfect traditional stout.

The first Ottawa event attended was The Brothers Beer Bistro "Crafsters of the Brewniverse," The bistro closed its doors for the evening and the kitchen did its best to get out great tasting finger food to all the ticket holders.  On hand were brewery people from Beyond the Pale, Spearhead, Muskoka, Beau's and Nickel Brook.  Each brewery brought some great beers to sample. With full pints poured it was easy to get overwhelmed by all the offerings.

I was happy to see Spearhead's Moroccan Brown there and even happier that the Belgian Stout was on tap.  The Beligian Stout had an amazing roast and great chocolate taste.

Nickel Brook offered up Immodest IPA, Naughty Neighbour and the Paysan Saison.  I snagged a pint of the Paysan.  This complex Belgian style saison hit the spot first thing after I arrived.

Beau's had Wag the Wolf.  I had been trying to find this beer since its release and missed out everytime.  This time it did not elude me.  This hefeweizen was light hops, nice wheat taste and good bitter finish. 

Muskoka Brewery's Ross Muir decided to do a little experimenting.  He started by mixing the Summer Weiss and Legendary Oddity.  The brew was spicy but wheaty. Next Ross decided to "dry hop" a few for us.  He broke out a french press, added a bit of various beers and the hops.  He let them sit for a bit, pressed away and gave us a shot glass tasting of the unusual mix.  He even mixed in some Immodest IPA from Nickel Brook at one point.

As far as events go this was definitely a craft beer fans dream.  The place was full of people who love craft beer and there was so many conversations about beer, breweries and events that at times it was hard to keep up.
Next event was the Half in the Barrel at Clocktower.  The brewpub and Beyond the Pale teamed up to do a series of beers aged in wine barrels.  They started with their base, a Flander's Red Ale and then aged it in Merlot and Cab Franc barrels.  In total there were six beers to taste.  The base and each barrel aged on draught and then on cask.  I loved all of them but the merlot on cask was by far my favourite.  The cab franc was nice as well but the merlot packed more overall flavour.  The Clocktower's food was excellent and the event brought in many familiar faces.

I made a quick swing to the Corner bar and grill down the street.  Flying Monkeys brewery was hosting a tap takeover.  Most I had tried before but I was happy to try Green Man and the Citrus.  I have to say the Citrus lived up to its name packing a strong lemon aroma and mild bitterness at the end all thanks to the citra hops.

The end of my OCBW came at Corner's Tap vs Tap.  Muskoka's Ross Muir and Beau's Tim Duncan pitted various beers from their respective breweries against one another and let the crowd decide the winner.

I love this idea and there are no two better reps to do this.  Ross and Tim are both a lot of fun and they had a packed house for the battle. My table was full of familiar faces with a strong showing by the Barley's Angels.

They matched the beers fairly evenly. Craft Lager vs Lug Tread.  Summer Weiss vs Wag the Wolf.  Mad Tom vs Beaver River IP eh?. Legendary Oddity vs Rudolphus VI. Twice as Mad Tom vs After Dark.

For me, the Craft Lager won with its full mouth feel. 

The hardest choice for me was the Summer Weiss and Wag the Wolf.  Both were excellent beers and in the end I voted summer weiss though I delayed as long as I could out of indecision. 

Mad Tom beat the beaver river in my book as the hops were a bit stronger. 

The Oddity lost out to Rudolphus and I was a bit surprised.  Oddity is a staple in my house but for whatever reason it lacked the normal layers. 

Finally Twice as Mad did not stand up to the newest brew from Beau's.  The After Dark was made specifically for Jazzfest. An American brown that carried a nutty malt and a smooth but very noticable hop finish.

Much like many of tables in the restaurant our table was split at times.  Everyone picked out something different they liked or didn't and the style of glass greatly altered the nose making discussion even more interesting.  This is how beer should be tasted.  The entire table talking about what we could smell, the first taste, the mouthfeel and lingering after taste.

In the end the count was very close at 27-23 for Muskoka.  The guys were fantastic hosts.

I could not be happier with everything I got to do and all the new beers I was able to try during craft beer week.  The turn out for each event is a strong reminder that good beer is celebrated in this province.

Cheers to Ontario breweries!

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