30 December 2017

The Ten - Polk's 2017 Most Memorable Craft Beers

The year comes to a close and it is time to say goodbye. Without a doubt, 2017 saw the explosion of Ontario Craft Beer reach lift off speeds. It became apparent early on that there would be far more beer released than I could ever hope to try and I came to terms with that in my own mind. Instead I focused on what I was able to get and then look a little deeper into what each of those beers has meant to me. The Ten is not meant to be a definitive ranking of the "best" beer of the year, but rather it represents the memorable, the important, the emotional and the community of craft beer drinkers that have made their way into my heart. So read on my friends and maybe contemplate yourself what this year in beer meant to you. It should always be about raising our standards, making friends and sharing a love of beer that motivates us going forward.
 These 10 beers defined the previous 365 days, much as the year comes to an end, so too does this man`s journey though Ontario. But have no fear, 2018 will see even more trips, giveaways and hopefully, connections with the people who love their beer just as much as I do.

10. Full Time IPA - Beau`s All Natural Brewing
  Beau's All Natural Brewing has long been a major part of my craft beer journey. Their constant and ever changing line-up a life raft at a time when the LCBO wasn't the sea of craft beer it is now. Many of my first exposures to different styles came from this Eastern Ontario brewer and it is no coincidence that we made the trip to visit them twice in a year just because I love to stop in and say hello to the crew. When we heard about their intention to release Full Time IPA and make it a core LCBO beer, it was both a surprising and happy moment. A well made Beau's beer is a thing to behold and when I first poured this into my tulip, I was sold. It just wasn't me, many of my crafty brothers and sisters were singing it's praises and buying them up. So for bringing a beautifully made new IPA to me any time I want to go buy one and for being a great supporter of the industry here and abroad, I couldn't think of this list without them. Thank you for always reaching out and making sure the people who love your beer know you love them back.

9. Shevchenko 9 - 4 Father's Brewing
  This list is about beers that caught my eye or made an impression so deep that I can still taste them, even months later. From 4 Father's Brewing and also my favourite Dark Lager/Dunkel of 2017 comes Svenchenko 9. Meeting some of the team from the brewery at the Albino Rhino Beer Festival in May gave me an insight into their passion for craft beer and this beer confirmed it. Beautifully balanced, I feel it is overlooked in a crowded marketplace and we need to correct that. A well made and easy drinking dark lager is just what we need in an overhopped and sour beer world. For being good people, making a great beer and bringing it to us with a wink and a smile, I am happy to include you in The Ten this year. Buy this beer!

8. Huronic Tripel - Side Launch Brewing

  Side Launch Brewing's core lineup is without a doubt one of the finest, to-style, 4 craft beer pickup anyone makes. They bring a simplicity and truth to the beer and while they seem safe and old school, most of my craft beer loving friends constantly have one of their beers in the fridge. For me it is the wheat beer and when I saw that they were finally going to bring something new to the LCBO that I could get, I was ecstatic. The Huronic Tripel was a delightful beer that brought me joy when I took my first sip. I love Belgian beers almost more than anything else and this one did not disappoint. Full of bright flavours, orange and lemon, with a pepper and clove backend, it was excellent. Showcasing the great things being done at the brewery and maybe a little under the radar to the larger community that is new to the scene or too buried in the hop craze, this one should be added to the must try list as fast as you can. For bringing the simplicity of good beer and never wavering in their dedication to brewing and selling only the best, Side Launch joins us on this year's The Ten.

7. 2016 Double Tempest - Amsterdam Brewing
  We don't really do beer release days. I won't stand in line for anything and too often the hype isn't worth the hassle. But starting last year and now a family tradition in the Polk household is the winter release of Amsterdam Brewing's Double Tempest. Throwing a huge party with a wicked beer lineup and food to pair it with on the waterfront is something we have come to anticipate, marking my last weekend off before the Christmas rush at work renders me the actual Polkaroo for the rest of the month. We aged this one for an entire year and while many people have way more patience and better cellars, we always make the pact to enjoy them in a year at the latest because beer is for drinking, not hoarding. This 2016 Double Tempest became even more balanced, losing some of the boozy heat and ramping up the vanilla bourbon and dark chocolate to a higher plane. Sublime and memorable, I will miss it until the 2017 makes it's appearance next Christmas Eve. The Ten is the perfect place for this delectable stout made by people who give a Damn!

6. Boxing Bruin IPA - Cowbell Brewing
 I opened my first Cowbell Brewing beer maybe a year and a half ago when they were contract brewers with a dream of something bigger. A nice Kolsch style ale, it was their commitment to donating 5 cents from every pint or can sold to local charities that really caught my eye. Early in 2017 I had their Doc Perdue's Bobcat West Coast Red ale and was convinced of their dedication. A later release of Kelly's Contraption solidified a lineup available at the LCBO and I eagerly awaited the brewery opening in mid year. Hearing great things, we made our way to Blyth and were blown away by the architecture, people, food and of course, beer. Meeting with brains behind the entire thing and the team putting it together added to the lustre. But when I was given their flagship IPA that was to be added to their core beer lineup I was blown away. Doc Perdue's Boxing Bruin is a beer any brewery would be proud to call their own, Brewmaster Stephen Rich is indeed making a name for himself with this and many other excellent beers available on tap at the brewery. For being good citizens, building a destination brewery and making beer that matches the promise of the people who make it, Cowbell joins The Ten.

5. Pineapple Milkshark Milkshake IPA - Bellwoods Brewery
  I had been calling for the milkshake IPA revolution late in 2016 and made it one of my 3 predictions for this year. Little did I know the genius minds at Bellowoods Brewery were 10 steps ahead of me and all of the Ontario Craft Beer scene. From the first release to the last, they just kept the pedal to the metal all year long. This iteration was a revelation with it's milky texture, pine apple juice like flavour and smooth backend, I couldn't believe this was a beer I was loving, imagining what Brava Light chugging me would have thought of this juicy vanilla fruit bomb. I savoured every bit and lamented it's end with much passion. While I have had many more great beers from Bellwoods, this one maintains its spot in The Ten because I just can't get it out of my head. I dream they bring it back in 2018 and even I might break my no line ups for beer rule.

4. Sour Goldie -Block 3 Brewing
  Sour Goldie from Block 3 Brewing makes The Ten not only because it is an exceptionally brewed beer that was one of the most memorable I had in 2017 and won my Strong Ale category hands down, but because of how it came to be in my possession. Attending a birthday party for my cousin Matt at the brewery, I happened to see brewmaster Kevin Freer sitting at the bar and wandered over to say hello and chat for a bit. It was so much fun to talk and get to know the guy who makes so many beers I love and when he told me he had a special release for me to take home, I was positively giddy. The beer in question was this one and I cannot praise it enough but it was that conversation with Kevin, his generous nature and my entire experience that floods back whenever I remember this beer. I always say that the people who make the beer can make or break your experience with it and for combining all of that and more, Block 3 joins The Ten with Sour Goldie. What a day that was!

3. Aggressive Jazz Hands - Redline Brewhouse

  The blending of styles into a hybrid can be fraught with peril and pitfalls. Redline Brewhouse and their Belgian Strong Ale/Double IPA release of Aggressive Jazz Hands was a hit and then some. Bringing together two of my most favourite things, Belgian beers and IPAs, they found a fantastic middle ground that had the best of both worlds. Their Double Clutch (Fave DIPA 2017) shook my world but this one brought me joy as a beer saint gift from my friend Verena. It reminds me of her generosity and love for craft beer and I can still remember how I felt when that first sip hit my lips. For a year full of great customer service, fantastic beer and many memories, Redline Brewhouse goes into The Ten with my highest regards. I so want to see this beer back in 2018, it needs to be in more hands so everyone can experience what a Canadian brewer can do with a legendary Belgian style. Well done my friends, well done.

2. Sundrop Wheat IPA - Fairweather Brewing

  My hometown brewery list grew exponentially in 2017 with 3 new brewers opening their doors with more promised for next year. None more prolific or consistent than the hard working folks over at Fairweather Brewing in Hamilton's West End. Every single release was spot on with little wiggle room for doubt and the family like atmosphere they have created brings a smile to all who visit. This Wheat IPA was so smooth, juicy and filled with bright citrus notes that I immediately regretted not buying a dozen, A work schedule that flooded my summer kept me from getting more but I can still taste it's bitter and dank finish. How does a brewery come out swinging with great beer right out the gate and make such an impression that people are drawn to them just because. Fairweather joins The Ten because of Sundrop but also because they bring a pure joy and effort to making absolutely beautiful beer all around. I am a fan of not just the beer, but the people who work at this sure to be legendary Ontario Craft Brewer. Come visit, you will be joining the Fairweather family once you've had your first sip.

1. Audrey Hopburn Belgian IPA - Great lakes Brewery

"I don't want to open my eyes, because it's like a dream."
 - me, September 28th after my first sip of Audrey Hopburn from Great Lakes Brewery (find the video here)
  My world is a better place thanks to the beer I drink, the people I've met and the experiences I've had. 2017 was GLB's 30th birthday but they were the ones giving the gifts with well over 100 releases this year. So many of them were new and creative things and then there was the return of a whole lot of classic fan favourites. 
  I had eagerly awaited the return of Audrey Hopburn because I could still remember it from back in 2015 and lamented it's non return in 2016, leaving me breathless when I spied social media telling me she was coming back. It is rare that a beer lives up to our memories simply because our palates evolve and the sheer number of beers we try trains us to appreciate new and different things. Audrey was not that. She was a beautiful beer 2 years ago and on that night in September and many more after that, she was absolutely sublime. A beer that celebrated a year given to the birthday of a Brewery that not only cares about the industry and making great beer, they want the people who drink it to have a good time, every time. Parties, giveaways, friendly chats and a bunch of awesome beers made for one hell of a 2017 and I will never forget my day spent brewing with the beer writers, Troy and Mr. Mike Lackey, brewmaster extraordinaire.
  I am not sure why this beer made such an impression, but it's still running through my mind even as I type. Perhaps it was the memory of those early days and the fact that it not only lived up to them but exceeded it. Maybe it is that I now understand better what I am drinking or the most simple explanation of all, GLB gets me and you and why we love beer. They love beer too, they make some of the best damn stuff in the province, maybe the country and I am proud to say that I am a fan. It is just beer, but to us and the good people at GLB, it is so much more.
  Thank you for everything you do, I appreciate the effort put into making great beer like Audrey and I look forward to seeing what year 31 brings because I have no doubt that Great Lakes will continue to lead the way for Ontario Craft Beer. My review from September says it all :
 " She's back and she's beautiful! Since October of 2015 I have patiently awaited the return of Great Lakes Brewery's Audrey Hopburn  a 6.2 %, 58 IBU Belgian IPA. It had stuck with me since that day and it did not disappoint. Pours a hazy golden straw colour with a thick long lasting and boldly lacing white head. Smells of banana, grapefruit and orange. On the sip, sweet ambrosia I am in heaven. Citrusy with lemon,  grapefruit and orange. Banana clove and a spicy pepper kick on the finish with more citrus lingering on the dry finish. The fact that I have waited two years to try this again and it not only lived up to but exceeded my memory is pretty damn outstanding. I love this beer. It's a combination of a lot of things that make my senses sing and I am glad I have one more to experience this again. Get yourself to Great Lakes soon, this one is a limited run and won't be around long. A contender for my Beer of the Year without a doubt. Cheers! 4.5/5"
  I can't think of a more fitting way to finish a weird and wonderful year than with this lovely beer. May 2018 bring you happiness and a glass that is full of the very best the world has to offer. Ask for and accept nothing less.

Raise your glass and your standards,
One beer at a time. 


My favourite Memory of 2017!

2017 Polkies - All the Hops (Pale ales. IPAs, DIPAs and Black IPAs)

The most popular style of beer in Ontario continues to be the IPA and it's bolder sibling, the Double or Imperial IPA. It is without a doubt that any pick made as my most favourite in these 4 categories will have fans and detractors and despite my best efforts, I could not try every hoppy brew that hit the market last year. I have made a separate list at the end that showcases my favourite non-Ontario choices because the sheer number of amazing beers I had in these styles warrants it. I found once again that beers from here stack up against those from away considered to be world class. While we will see more accessible lagers and pilsners make some noise in 2018, I don't see our clamoring for all the hops slowing down any time soon.  
  Time to dive right in!

Pale Ales

1. Jutsu - Bellwoods Brewery

  Considering how often I see the name of Bellwoods Brewery in the top of any of my favourite beers this year, it should come as no surprise that Jutsu has claimed it's rightful spot as top of the hops for Pale Ales in Ontario. My only complaint is that I don't live closer to the brewery and have more access to this amazing beer. From the review :
"Jutsu is perhaps the best Pale Ale in the province, challenging the mainstays in my fridge with its' composition and balance.  At 5.6% it is right in the sweet spot and pours a hazy straw colour with a white head that fades quickly. Smelling grapefruit and pineapple. On the sip, bold and bitter with a loaded grapefruit front end, pineapple, mango and a dry backend. Lingering citrusy grapefruit on the finish, it packs a wallop but is still accessible and very much leaving me wishing I had bought half a dozen."
  If Bellwoods wants to open a 4th or 5th location, may I suggest around the corner from Polk Manor?

2. Devil's Pale Ale - Great Lakes Brewery
  Given the sheer number of amazing beers that Great Lakes Brewing put out in their 30th anniversary year, it is no surprise that many of them have made appearances on my lists of favourites. From the past and resurrected for this auspicious year comes the Devil's Pale Ale, a classic former LCBO available GLB release. From the review :
"Pours a dark mahogany with a thick, long lasting light tan head that leaves behind a solid lacing. Smells of  pine with light cocoa notes. On the sip, a damn fine pale ale that has bold and bitter pine and citrusy grapefruit with a nice roasted malt body that has hints of chocolate. The finish is dry, piney and bitter with some more roasty notes. It should be on your must try list."
  Perhaps they should revisit having this wonderful beer come back to it's rightful place at my local LCBO.

3. Low Boy - Kensington Brewing Company
4. Summer Pale Ale - Rouge River Brewing
5. Armed 'n Citra - Rainhard Brewing


1. Juicin' - Sawdust City Brewing

  Without good friends and beer saints, this 2017 Champion IPA would have escaped my grasp and my life would have indeed been poorer for that. From Sawdust City Brewing via so many great folks comes Juicin', a 6.3 %, 45 IBU beauty that not only captured my heart, it has stayed in my mind since early in 2017. From the review :
 "Pours a turbid, hazy orange with a lacing and long lasting white head. Smells of peach and grapefruit. On the sip, smooth and creamy body with loads of peachy goodness tempered by the bitter grapefruit, pine and orange citrus notes.  I could drink this all night and I may be in my second glass before I finish this review. The finish is more peach, grapefruit and a lingering bitter but sweet flavour that is so damn good...an early contender for best IPA on 2017."
  With Sawdust offering online ordering and home delivery, when this comes back I am ordering a case...or 4. Look for it in 2018 and know that it will be back in contention once it's loveliness hits my glass again.

2. Pineapple Milkshark - Bellwoods Brewery

  The simple transformation of Bellwoods Brewery Witchshark into this craze that had people lining up, trading and lusting after a beer was best served (in my opinion, of course) by this iteration. Pineapple Milkshark Milkshake IPA is exactly what I envisioned the style would bring to Ontario in 2017. From the review :
"Pours a milky yellow with a minimal white head that fades. Smells like a whole skid of pineapple just dropped in my glass, with a little dank. On the sip, smooth body with a loaded pineapple juice kick in the face. Just copious amounts of citrus, grapefruit and pineapple with a bitter but milky finish. Dry and lingering pineapple on the finish. I swear I could crush these all day long, the ABV is so well balanced. Juicy is my life now."
  Just another example of the great stuff coming out of Ossington Ave. and Hafis Road in 2017. Perhaps we will see it's return in the new year.

3. Sundrop - Fairweather Brewing Company
4. Audrey Hopburn - Great Lakes Brewing
5. Sunsplit - Dominion City Brewing

Imperial/Double IPAs

1. Double Clutch - Redline Brewhouse

  Picking a favourite Ontario Double IPA is one of the toughest choices I have had to make in 2017. But with the release of Redline Brewhouse's 8.1%, 83 IBU Double Clutch, I knew I had my winner. Another multiple beer saint gift, it made it's mark with great balance, bold citrus and a great dank backend. The Beer gods were good to Polk this year. From the review :
  "Pours a hazy and turbid orange with a thick white head that laces. Smelling peaches, apricot, citrus and pine. On the sip, juicy and bold with grapefruit, orange, pineapple and a big old piney dank backend. Lots of lingering grapefruit and orange mixing in with that on the finish as well. Simply put it is not only one of the best Double IPAs I've had this year, it's one of the best beers I've had...period."
  It went down easy and when it was gone, a single tear slowly made it's way down my cheek. It has come back a few times since and one of the next will see me make the trip to Barrie to fill the Polkmobile to the brim with it's Hoppy goodness for a party that should never end.

2. Goblin Sauce - Bellwoods Brewery

  It was an agonizing task to place my favourite DIPAs in order. Like choosing which child is your most favoured, I struggled with each and every review, picture and memory. From Bellwoods Brewery and a sunny summer day off comes Goblin Sauce, an 8.5 % slow sipper that is most deserved of it's top 2 finish. From the review :
"Pours a cloudy orange with a white head that fades to the sides. Smells of citrus, orange and a dank pine. On the sip,big and bitter citrus, orange, mango and grapefruit meets a resinous dank pine. Dry and warming with a superbly balanced toasty body that has a generous hop finish leading to a pithy grapefruit, dankness for days."
  It was delightful and I can still feel that dankness and the sunshine from that August day when I close my eyes.

3. Twin Pines - Sawdust City Brewing
4. Immodest - Nickel Brook Brewing
5. Witchshark - Bellwoods Brewery

Black IPAs

1. Apocalypse Later - Great Lakes Brewery
  I am not sure when I came to love the dichotomy of the Black IPA but I long for many more year round beauties of this style. No beer better represented all the aspects that drew me into the darkness better than the 10.0%, 100(!!) IBU Apocolypse Later from Great Lakes Brewery. Picked up from the source and the only way to get it, I was in love with this slow sipping, roasty bitter gem. From the review :
"Pouring thick and black with a long lasting tan head that gives signature Great Lakes Brewery lacing.  Smells roasty, citrus and pine.  On the sip, it is what I remember loving last year right back in my glass. Big roasted malts with dark chocolate and coffee before the bold citrusy grapefruit and pine come roaring in to silence the unbelievers. Dry and bitter on the finish with more bittersweet dark chocolate and pine lingering in the afterlife."
  I would hope that Sir Mike Lackey and the good brewers at GLB will bring this one back early in 2018 to help warm the sub cockles of our hearts as this winter begins to pick up steam. I need more Apocalypse in my life sooner rather than later.

2. Malevolent - Nickel Brook Brewing

  A close race to be sure, Nickel Brook Brewing's Malevolent Black IPA is a 9.5%, 90 IBU behemoth that slammed my taste buds into submission in late February and resonates 10 months later. Easily one of the most memorable beers I had this year, it should see the light of day again early in 2018. From the review :
  "Pours thick and black with a tan head that lingers and laces. Smells of citrus and dark chocolate. On the sip, smooth but bold dark roasted malts bring everything they have to the table. Dark chocolate,  hints of roasty coffee but it is the bitter grapefruit and piney resinous that slams this one into the mat. Dry and filled with more hoppy bitterness and a surprising lingering chocolate punch."
  Good thing this Burlington brewer is so close, I'm going to wear a rut in the road getting this one when it comes back!

3. Black IPA - Collective Arts Brewing
4. Nosebeeratu - Rainhard Brewing
5. Release the Hounds - Big Rig Brewing

Our American Cousins

  I was blessed in 2017 with a bunch of legendary and amazing American beers from friends and family alike. Not wanting to mix the ethos of the Polkies but wanting to share the very good things I was able to pour in my glass, I decided to do a separate countdown just for our American Cousins. A big thank you to everyone who helped me realise so many bucket list legends this year.

1. Prospect : Citra - Folly Brothers Brewing (Vermont)

  From my Ottawa friend Kevin came this 9.0% Imperial IPA out of Vermont and the Foley Brothers Brewing Company. It was as close to perfect as I've found in beer and we will try to make a Vermont trip happen so I can find the source of this deliciousness. From the review :
  "Pours a hazy and turbid pale gold. Slight lacing with a white head that lingers on the surface.  Smells of dank pine, grapefruit and oranges. On the sip, who knew life could be so good? Huge citrus notes of orange, tangerine grapefruit pineapple, mango and apricot lead to a bold resinous pine and orange backend. Juicy as f%$k, this one just keeps getting better with each sip. Dry and bitter on the finish with a resinous pine, orange and grapefruit rounding out this beautiful gift."

2. Sip of Sunshine - Lawson's Finest Liquids (Vermont)

  Another gift from my pal Kevin...ain't he great...this 8.0% Imperial IPA from Vermont was the epitome of the style. Sip of Sunshine from Lawson's Finest Liquids was all that and more. From the review :
  "Pours a clear gold with a white head that lingers and laces thickly. Smells of floral hops, citrus, orange and grapefruit with some dankness. On the sip, it is what was foretold and more. Juicy orange, grapefruit and pineapple with a toasted malt body, hints of caramel in a balanced and smoothly deceptive texture. Dank and citrusy on the backend with lingering tangerine and grapefruit on the finish. It is not unwise to say that it is a world of beer out there for us to discover."
  I am not sure what I did to deserve a gift like this, but I am eternally grateful to people like Kevin for making my dreams come true.

3. Heady Topper - The Alchemist (Vermont)
4. Focal Banger - The Alchemist (Vermont)
5. Pliny the Elder - Russian River Brewing (California)

  That's how the hops fell in 2017 for this Polakroo and I hope you will come back tomorrow for 'The Ten', my yearly post about the 10 beers that meant the most to me.



29 December 2017

2017 Polkie Awards - My Least Favourite Beer(s) of 2017

  Listen, I get it.
  I really do.
  I understand the draw of two beers I consider to be my least favourite of 2017 and I did pause a moment because of the love I have for the folks behind the beer, both from a brewing and a branding perspective. But a poorly executed and deceptively marketed beer cannot escape justice and today we bestow the most anticipated 2017 Polkie Award to the oddly named Ontario Brewer named NAC Importer that contract brewed these abominations in Guelph. I'll list them alphabetically because I don't think it matters which of these brutal beers goes first. As a disclaimer let me say I am a fan of The Trailer Park Boys and have been since the show was launched way back in the day. Having said that, here are number 1 and 1A of crappy Ontario "Craft" beer in 2017. I won't bother trying to coat it, I'll let my initial review stand for itself. I wish the Boys hadn't let their names be attached to such garbage...even for the money.

1. Freedom 35 Lager - NAC Importers

   Why? Because f $%k you that's why! Sorry, I must be channelling my inner Ricky as I try to stomach this weak marketing scheme disguised as a craft beer in my oh so Trailer Park Boys like garage. It's getting the old spring cleaning tomorrow but for now, let me take you on a journey through the anatomy of a show I love, making a beer I'd rather not have tried. Freedom 35 is a 5% Lager that pours a clear gold with a white head that fades. Smelling corn and cereal grains. On the sip, it's a beer. That's as much as I can muster. Toasted malt body with hints of toffee, lemon cereal grains and corn syrup. Sticky backend with a light bitterness and a lingering lemon,  toffee and corn bullshit. I will admit to being a fan of this foul mouthed show, it has been entertaining me for more than a decade but I must say I am not gonna be buying this weird crap again. Save the $2.75 and give it to the bottle kids to huck at whoever attached the boys with this scheme. Better they get in with Cool and Millennium Buzz.  Go back to the weed because come next year I'm sure that's what we'll see branded next. Just say no to this one kids, it's got shitty Bill written all over it. Cheers?

1A. Ricky's Catch 23 Malt Liquor - NAC Importers

  I'm here for the beer! Sort of...there are moments though...from NAC Importers comes the second entrant in the "milking it" Trailer Park Boy series of "beers". Ricky's Catch 23 is a 6.0% Malt Liquor that somehow exists at the LCBO when Juicin doesn't...really? Pours a clear and deep golden colour with a white head that fades quickly.  Smells sweet with a corn note. On the sip, big sweet malty mess with a sugary syrupy corn base that leaves a sticky mixed up toffee finish. I haven't smoked weed  in over 20 years but this one makes me wish I did. I definitely graduated Grade 10, but this gives me the feeling I failed something along the way. Cheers?

  I know there are folks who will love these beers and if it makes them think they are into craft beer and they stop buying Macro then I should be okay with that...but I can't be because these 2 beers represent everything that could go wrong with the industry, Poorly executed beer with "celebrity" endorsers in this case means a Canadian icon takes a step back in all our eyes. The saddest thing is that these will sell and that will only encourage more bad beer with terrible intentions. Just say no and let this kind of garbage relegate itself to the dust bin of our collective beer history. I shall speak no more of this, it has been given an amount of attention that it doesn't deserve.



The 2017 Polkies - Into The Darkness (Porters and Stouts)


We hit the midway point on this year's Awards and it's getting dark and roasty in here. Porters and stouts were my first loves when it comes to craft beer and it is perhaps my hardest choice each year to pick my favourite 5 in each style. This year I have chosen to split stouts into 3 categories because of the sheer number of amazing ones Ontario has produced. I may have to do something similar with porters next year if the style continues to evolve. It is time to go to the Dark Side but fear not, it's where all the good folks are.
  Here we go!


1. Silky - Fairweather Brewing

A brewery in it's first year isn't supposed to be this good. But damn it, Fairweather Brewing is doing amazing things and this smooth, roasty gem of a porter is just the tip of the iceberg. Silky was just that and more! Making multiple appearances in my reviews as I couldn't resist spreading the word about this hometown brewer who was doing what was thought couldn't be done. From the review :
"Pours smooth with a tan head that lingers on the surface and rings the glass. Smelling roasted coffee, dark chocolate. On the sip, it lives up to its name with a smooth roasted malt body, textured and sticky with a delightfully bittersweet dark chocolate, bitter black coffee, a nutty kick  and a lingering darkness that fills your heart with joy. Not a high ABV slow sipper, but it feels like one."
  A tough category that could have a whole lot of top choices, Silky is deserving of the praise it has received.

2. Bourbon Barrel Porter - Shacklands Brewing

  A little late to the party but in just under the wire to take top spot in an increasingly competitive category. From the just over a year old Shacklands Brewing in Toronto comes this Bourbon Barrel Porter which gave both myself and Mrs. Polk pause as we slow sipped it on Christmas day. The balance of boozy bourbon and dark roasted malt flavours was so good. Ageing one, so this may come back for another shot in 2018. From the review :

"Pours deep and black with a tan head that lingers for quite some time. Smelling a nice vanilla oak bourbon and dark chocolate. On the sip, smooth and roasty with a warming alcohol and bourbon backing containing a lovely dark chocolate, vanilla, oak and some lingering bourbon heat."
  Very well done, bringing the porter to another level.

3. MVP - Cowbell Brewing
4. Porter - Clifford Brewing
5. Porter - Muddy York Brewing


1. Sweet Jesus - Left Field Brewery

  As foretold by the good book of roasted malts comes this year's favourite stout. Sweet Jesus from Left Field Brewery was a revelation when it first poured into my glass in January. Subsequent research provided more proof that this was my favourite stout in 2017. From the review :
"Pours deep black with a tan head that lingers on the surface. Smelling cocoa and coffee. On the sip, creamy and smooth toasted malt body with a big cocoa and black coffee note. The lactose adds to the absolutely delicious texture and I can't get enough of its dark and bittersweet chocolate and coffee flavours. The finish is dry, but sticky and filled with the roasted bean and more cocoa."
  The best part of this one is that when it gets released in 2018 you can order online and make sure not to miss out on this amazing stout.

2. Starry Night - Bobcaygeon Brewing

 A real surprise as the year winds down and that is a good thing. From Bobcaygeon Brewing comes Starry Night and it shook up my stout rankings right at the finish line. From the review :
 "Pouring black with some light bleeding through around the edges, it has a tan head that fades to the sides. Smelling dark chocolate with a hint of coffee. On the sip, smooth and roasty with a beautiful bittersweet dark chocolate front that leads to a nice coffee note and a sticky but sweet chocolate finish. I really like the balance in this between bitter and sweet, it's an excellent addition to my evening."
  It was so smooth and roasty, I can almost taste it now....

3. Friendly Confines - Left Field Brewery/Bellwoods Brewery
4. Stork Derby - Muddy York Brewing
5. Skinny Dippin' Stout - Sawdust City Brewing

Imperial Stouts

1. Long Dark Voyage to Uranus - Sawdust City Brewing

  My favourite Imperial Stout from 2015 makes a triumphant comeback this year and reclaims top spot with its bold and roasty goodness. Long Dark Voyage to Uranus from Sawdust City Brewing makes me smile with it's name and be joyful with it's contents. I had it in early January and still feel its siren call 11 months later. From the review :
"Pours thick and dark with a tan head that lingers on the surface. Smelling chocolate and coffee.  On the sip, smooth and creamy with a whole Lotta chocolate love going on. Coffee, cocoa and a sharp, bitter and very dry backend.  A beer whose name makes me laugh and whose contents make me break out into a smile from ear to ear is something you need in your life. Lingering bittersweet dark chocolate and bitter hops make this an early contender for favourite stout of 2017."
  Oddly prophetic and true. Look for it when it and order online, you will be so very happy!

2. Inkwell Imperial Stout - Muddy York Brewing

 If there is one constant of my countdowns every year, it is the inclusion of great beer from Muddy York Brewing. A late in the year entry, Inkwell Imperial Stout is deserving of its spot in the top of the style for 2017. From the review :
"Pouring thick and dark, it has a tan head that fades to the sides. It smells of dark chocolate and roasty coffee. On the sip, smooth and bold with a full on roasted malt dark chocolate, some light tobacco, coffee, warming but not boozy and a sticky backend that lingers with some heat, coffee and finishes dark chocolate. An absolute gem and as usual, the epitome of the style."
  If you haven't been to Muddy York, that is a deficit you must correct in 2018.

3. Blood of Cthulhu - Sawdust City Brewing
4. Bottle Imp - Beau's All Natural
5. Winter - Highlander Brew Co.

Imperial Barrel Aged Stouts

1. 2016 Double Tempest - Amsterdam Brewery
  When you put a bottle in the cellar, it is with all the hopes and dreams you can muster. When that bottle returns to lay claim to everything you think it should then you know it's a winner. Imperial Bourbon Barrel Aged 2016 Double Tempest from Amsterdam Brewery has done that and more. Patience is rewarded and then some with this amazing roasted beauty. From the review :"Pours slick and black with a tan head that lingers a bit before fading. On the sip, age has leant a balance and smoothness to an already excellent beer. Big roasty dark chocolate, vanilla, oak, bourbon and coffee with a nice warming backend. It finished with a little heat, more big  roasted malt notes of dark chocolate and that amazing boozy vanilla and bourbon flavour. Damn. This one is worthy of waiting over a year for."
  The best things in life are worth waiting for...that's for Dam sure!

2. 2016 Kentucky Bastard - Nickel Brook Brewing

  The most simple way to describe Nickel Brook Brewing's 2016 Kentucky Bastard is delectable. Even at this young age early in 2017, it had the chops of one of the best. I have one waiting for early 2018 and I have the feeling we will be discussing this beer again a year from now, one spot higher. From the review
"Pours black as night with a deep tan head that lingers a bit before fading. Smells dark chocolate, fruits, coffee and an oaky vanilla. On the sip, smooth, dark and bold. Dark chocolate, cherry, fig, coffee, plum woody oak and vanilla on the tongue with a big, warming and boozy backend. Lingering bourbon and chocolate, this is a beer that demands, nay deserves your time to truly enjoy."
  Not sure what else to say except it's good to be a Bastard.

3. 2016 Café Del Bastardo - Nickel Brook Brewing
4. Solstice - Great Lakes Brewery
5. Fortissimo - Tooth and Nail Brewing

  This one wasn't easy but together we survived. Look for my Least Favourite beer of 2017 later today and then tomorrow we get



28 December 2017

2017 Polkies - Sours. Saisons/Farmhouse Ales, Belgian Styles and Gose'

I guess I should explain why I group these styles together.
  I don't know.
  I just do.
  With that out of the way, today we move on and will be talking about some of my most favourite beers from 2017 in the Sour, Saison/Farmhouse Ale, Belgian Style and Gose categories. There is some blurring of the lines with sours and farmhouse ales in my books but as always, I will fall back on their definition on Untappd to help me decide. As for Belgian styles, I have purposely omitted the originator examples from Belgium as I am only looking at my favourites from the Ontario Craft beer scene today.
  It's a great day for a beer no matter what so let's get going on today's lists!


1. 2017 11.05 - Nickel Brook Brewing/Sawdust City Brewing
  The annual release of the collaboration beer between birthday twins Ryan Morrow (Nickel Brook) and Sam Corbeil (Sawdust City) is eagerly awaited by beer lovers because they always come up with something new and delicious. This year was no different as this Imperial Fruit Sour with Soursop flew off the shelves and was greeted with great joy. An amazing beer all around and one I wish we could see again. From the review :
"Pouring a cloudy straw gold with a white head that fades quickly, it smells of lemon, sour and a touch of the Funk.  On the sip, smooth citrus body with a juicy orange, apricot, lemon and strawberry front.  It has a nice texture to it, sour and tart but so not showing that ABV. Dry and sour on the finish, lingering tropical and tart. Slow sipper warning because this one has an easy going crushability that could be dangerous."
  This is their birthday present to us and I can't wait to see what next year brings!

2. Yalla Yalla (Mosaic) - Half Hours on Earth

    The good folks at Half Hours on Earth continued their rapid rise to the top of the "most wanted" list in 2017 with amazing sour beers like the Yalla Yalla line. The ones I tried were all amazing and could almost be their own category. Topping my HoHE list is the Mosaic version but from my experience it could have been a half dozen others easily sitting here. From the review :
  "Pours a cloudy gold with a fluffy white head that fades. Smells of tart grapefruit, funky citrus. On the sip, sour and delicious with a big grapefruit, apricot, lemon and a funky tart citrus finish. Easy going and refreshing,  it belies that ABV."
  Worth a drive or order online, this brewery needs to be in your life.

3. Yalla Yalla (Vic Secret) - Half Hours on Earth
4. Passionfruit Sour - Rouge River Brewing
5. Razzy Star - Half Hours on Earth

Saisons/Farmhouse Ales

 1. The Thaw - Block 3 Brewing

  A stop I love to make whenever I can, Block 3 Brewing has consistently been putting out amazing farmhouse ales since the beginning. The Thaw was a big 6.8% but went down so smooth. An amazing beer that had me wishing I had more. From the review :
  "Pours a hazy orange gold with a thick white head that stays with you all the way though. Smells  of funky peach and white wine. On the sip, surprisingly smooth with a loaded funk that has an oak note before the delicious apricot and peach flavours. Hints of orange and lemon but make no mistake, it is the stone fruits that are the tart stars here. Dry on the finish with a lingering funky peach that makes you want another sip...and another...and another. It is super crushable despite the high ABV and it is a beauty right to the last drop."
  The great news is that Block 3 now delivers and you can order online. I know I will be looking for more great beer in 2018 from this St. Jacob's brewery.

2. 2016 Farmageddon - Bellwoods Brewery
  Toronto's Bellwoods Brewery is ranked near or at the top of so many people's favourite Ontario breweries because they just keep releasing amazing stuff without a break. It's not just their much sought after IPAs that caught my taste buds this year, everything they made seemed to become gold. This gift from a friend was a welcome sight as the summer dawned, the slow sipping 6.8%, the 2016 Farmageddon Barrel Aged Wild Farmhouse ale was superb. From the review :
"Pours a hazy gold with a white head that fades quickly to the surface. Smells funky with some fruity notes. On the sip, tart and slightly sour with  light cherry, Farmhouse funk, oaky spice and a dry, grape lemon backend."
  A few other Bellwoods releases will undoubtedly make their way into this year's Polkie Awards, they just keep making stuff that has me driving back to the big city whenever I can.

3. Ezra : Cider Barrel Aged Farmhouse Ale - Great Lakes Brewery
4. 2017 Motley Cru - Bellwoods Brewery
5. In the Beginning - Barncat Artisan Ales

Belgian Styles


1. St. Barbara's Tripel - New Limburg Brewing
  A fantastic tribute to Belgian beer from the good folks at New Limburg Brewing and their continued pursuit of that perfect pint. Always looking to grow and improve, they work hard to emulate and even someday surpass the originators of this style. St. Barbara's Tripel was a beautiful beer that I wish I had far more of in my fridge. From the review :
 "A 9.0 % slow sipper, it helps to bring focus to the day and engage my senses with its banana, yeasty spiced smell. On the sip, crisp Belgian style beauty with banana, clove, bubblegum, orange and a peppery coriander spiced backend. Warming alcohol on the finish it more spicy banana and orange lingering."
  A trip to this school house brewery should be in your 2018 road trip planner. It is an experience and the beer is worthy of its' heritage.

2. Tomorrow's - Merit Brewing

  The hometown love kicked off back in may as Merit Brewing opened their doors here in Hamilton and came out swinging with the Earl Grey Tripel they called Tomorrow's. It signalled the start of a great year of beer and even more promise for the future. From the review :
"Pours a hazy gold with a white head that lingers with some lacing. Smelling citrusy, orange,  lemon and floral. On the sip, big as it was last night but that ABV is so well balanced that it almost feels #crushable. Orange peel, apricot, lemon zest, floral and funky notes abound. The backend is dry and had more stone fruit and citrus with that Earl Grey making itself known and leaving you a bit of a spicy kick on the finish."
  We hope to see more people coming to Hamilton in 2018 and Merit is an absolute must stop when you come for a visit.

3. 2016 11.05 - Nickel Brook/ Sawdust City Brewing
4. Huronic Tripel - Side Launch Brewing
5. Rube Goldbeer - Henderson Brewing Company

Strong Golden Ales

1. Sour Goldie - Block 3 Brewing

  A gift from brewmaster Kevin from Block 3 Brewing, this 9.0% Barrel Aged Golden Ale called Sour Goldie was among the best beers I have poured into my glass this year. I was blown away and it  still resonates today, 7 months later just as amazing. From the review :
"Pours a hazy and deep orange with a white head that fades but clings to the surface in a wisp. Smells of funky orange citrus and stone fruit notes. On the sip, sweet jebus this is an elixir from the beer gods.  Tart and sour but with a balanced juicy citrus kick. Orange, brett funk, lemon, apricot and peach, in a dry wine like body that is somehow still super juicy.  The finish is dry and sour with lingering orange, lemon and apricot to go with the funky wine.  Seriously, I am stunned a little by what is in my glass right now."
  It behooves me to remind you that Block 3 has online ordering. make that a priority and then enjoy stuff like this whenever you want.

2. Aggressive Jazz Hands - Redline Brewhouse

I am a lucky guy to have friends who help get amazing beer into my hands. From Barrie comes the 8.3% Golden Strong Ale/Double IPA hybrid that was oh so good. Redline Brewhouse's Aggressive Jazz Hands was a beautifully made beer that transcended both styles and balanced so well. From the review :  

"Pours a cloudy, hazy gold with a thick, long lasting and delectable white head that laces the glass like a champ. Smells of tropical citrus, mostly pineapple and Belgian yeast. On the sip, loaded with big flavour right from the front. Citrus notes of orange, grapefruit and pineapple combine with that candied sugar, banana and slightly spiced backend to give you potentially one of my favourite beers this year. Sticky with some warmth on the finish, it lingers with pineapple, pine and a little spice. Beauty."

.   This isn't Redline's last appearance on my lists, they had a very, very good year.

3. Legendary Oddity - Muskoka Brewery 
4. Bonne Faim - Kensington Brewery
5. Tuque De Bruges - Tuque de Broue


1. Through the Quad - Block 3 Brewing

  Are you sensing a pattern here? Once again from the genius brewers at Block 3 Brewing comes a Belgian style category winner, this time the defending champion Through the Quad, a 10.0 % beauty slow sipper. It found its way into my glass on many occasions and I know it will again. From the review :
"Pours a deep amber with an off white head that fades. Smells of dark fruits, plums and raisins. On the sip, it has a smooth body with a dark and sweet maltiness containing cherry, plum, molasses, burnt sugar and figs. Warming but not overly boozy on the finish, it is the very embodiment of slow sipping."
  It's like Belgium came to live in St. Jacob's, maybe they have a tiny Monk stashed in the brewhouse...

2. Strongman - Railway City Brewing

  An outstanding Quad that caught me by surprise at a beer festival and then found a home in my cellar for a few months before I gave in to temptation and just had to have it again. Strongman Belgian Quad from Railway City Brewing was a delightful gift and one that gave me great joy. from the review :
"Pours a deep amber with a light tan head that lingers on the surface before disappearing.  Smells of dark fruit, cherries mostly and sweet malt. On the sip, smooth and warming alcohol with a molasses, candied sugar and dark fruits like plum, raisin and cherry in the body. It's a serious slow sipper with loads of flavour. Heavy and bold with a sticky backend that lingers fruity and sweet."
  It may have been my toughest decision, this was a fine damn beer.

3. 30th Anniversary Barrel Aged Belgian Style Quad - Great Lakes Brewery
4. St. Arnoldus Quad - New Limburg Brewing
5. Quads & Rockers - Beau's All Natural Brewing


1. Duplicitious - Nickel Brook Brewing


  Maybe it was the dry hopping with citra or the play of citrus and salt but Duplicitous from Nickel Brook Brewing was an absolute must this summer as the humidity went up and the sunshine kept us in the pool and Grotto for hours on end. From the review :
 "Pours a cloudy straw colour with a fluffy white head that fades but lingers on the surface. Smells of lemon orange and some funk. On the sip, sour citrus notes of lemon, orange and grapefruit with a salty kick and a slight peppery spice on the finish. Sticky on the backend with more citrus and spice lingering. Refreshing and different with a real delightful punch of bright citrus."
  As part of the Summer 4 pack, it completed a quartet of great summer beer. Funk Labs is bringing us some amazing things!

2. Blood Orange Gose w/Lactose & Vanilla - Bellwoods Brewery

  A category I couldn't have imagined a year ago has come to the fore through a lot of excellent releases and this Blood Orange Gose from Bellwoods Brewery is right up there with the best of them. Brewed with lactose and vanilla, it was a gift from some beer pals that was drank while floating around the pool in early July. I can still taste it now...From the review :
  "Pours a cloudy peach colour with a white head that fades quickly. Smelling a vanilla citrus and salt scent. On the sip, smooth texture but tart kick with blood orange, lemon sour, big vanilla and a salted dry citrus backend.  Tart and lingering citrus and vanilla on the finish."
  Easily the beer style that surprised me the most this year and this one was so unique that I cannot forget it.

3. Between Us - Merit Brewing
4. Gose - Collective Arts Brewing
5. Ceres Cucumber Lime Gose - Nickel Brook Brewing

  There you have it folks, another 6 categories that contain some of my very favourite beers from 2017. Come back tomorrow for the Darkness of Stouts and Porters.