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!
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?
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
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
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.