16 March 2023

On 50

 I'm 50.

Half a century.

Time for a 2/3rd life crisis? Why 2/3rd's? Well, I really don't think I'm gonna see 100, but I got a shot at 75...maybe...I wanna at least make it to retirement age.

But today is an oddly quiet day. There is no party, my 40th had dozens of friends and family over to the house for a Roast of Rob, and I know that my solitary celebration is entirely my own doing. When I move through life, I have shed jobs and friends with some astonishing speed. My persona and interests have careened from devoted Freemason, party planner and sports organizer to depressed and reclusive hermit who only communicates through an online exaggeration of myself to cover his very real mental health struggles. Even in the 6 or 7 years I've been this beer guy, I have made and lost friends, some explosively and some because I became too much of a disaster waiting to happen for them to hang around. Regardless of the reason, I have watched it happen without much control because there is something inside of me that feels I am unworthy of any friendship and waits for the other shoe to drop and everyone to leave...even as I myself force them away. I don't know why this happened, I used to love having people over, parties for the smallest of reasons, hell I threw an Irish Wake for one of my fish when he died, going so far as to write a eulogy, build a coffin and have a service for Seamus "Pinky" O'Brien....that was his name...great party. 

  In 2012, when everything came crashing down, we struggled to keep the lights and heat on...literally. Having your heat cut off in late October or your phone's cut off the next month as you leap from one disaster to the other strains you. But I seemed to still be able to be somewhat like myself but I didn't see the edge of the spiral that was swallowing me every day. It was such a gradual devolution of who I thought I was that by the time I felt so low I contemplated what I was even doing being alive, let alone having friends, it was so far gone that I didn't know if I would make it to this very day. 50 seemed like an impossibility and there were more than enough days where I thought about the end that I wanted to make sure I had as few people around me as possible. It was somewhere in this darkness that that sort of logic grew and fed my anger at myself and the world I had built just to watch it crumble around me. I hated who I was and as I worked 70 or 80 hours a week in a job where I was clinging to the last of what was, I felt humiliated by my public failure that I had no answers for and spiraled deeper into that hell I knew I deserved.

  A year later, mid 2013, I found a new job that led to a return to a somewhat normal life, still burdened by debt and doubt, but now with health benefits and a normal 44 hour work week. This seemed to slow my slide towards the darkness and when I started really getting into writing and talking about craft beer in late 2015, it really did feel like I had made it through some of the worst storms of my life and was doing more than treading water or worse. Life felt better and I embraced it.

  That rolled on quite well into 2020 and as the pandemic came to dominate my every day, I began again to lose touch with the people I had gathered into another new circle of friends and began collapsing into the darkness once again. Three years on and I reach this magical number of years gone by and I look back to a life that looks like the rings on a tree stump, some fat and full of growth and life and others thin and short, filled with anger, depression and hate. It has not been at all what I imagined even at 30 years old, I couldn't have foreseen the massive changes coming to the world itself and my own small part of it.

  I wish I could say I know where I'm going. I wish I could feel like it is all getting better every day. I can say that we did find our way to a better financial way of life, debt free and not living paycheque to 4 days before paycheque. It took a lot of lean years living close to the bone and keeping the house to reach the ability to utilize that equity to clean the sheets and give us a fresh start I never really had since my early 20's. With money not being a crushing weight, I wonder where the fear, the deep pit of self loathing and lie awake at night worries will come from next.

 I want to be a better person, but I don't know if that is really who I am. I wonder who I will be in 5 years because when I look back at the me of 5 years ago, I don't really remember how it felt to be that guy, never mind 10 or 20 years ago. I'm trying to not just recapture what I feel are my glory days, that's not something any of can do, time passed is time gone forever, but I want to find who I am supposed to be as I enter this next phase of my life. It's not quite the endgame, but I do feel that pull of legacy and memory tugging at my not so swift feet. I always say you never really die until you are forgotten by the the last person who remembered you and I know that circle is pretty small for me now. My words and videos will outlive me by whatever time those platforms exist and perhaps my need to post something every day or share the minutiae of the nonsense in my head because I find it calming to create something, anything to leave behind a little stamp of "I was here". 

Existence has been weird, but I wanna stick around and see how more of it turns out.



9 February 2023


  It seems we are in a serious period of change in Ontario when it comes to craft beer and with change comes a particular brand of nostalgia I didn't know I could experience.

  I think what I miss is the thrill of it all, the experience of seeing that big bottle of Beau's latest release sitting on the shelf and wondering what new and potentially wonderful thing was inside. They were, for a lot of us, the introduction to so many styles and ideas we didn't know beer had. For me, Beau's was a pinnacle in those early years and while I didn't always understand what I was drinking, I appreciated the opportunity to drink it and explore. Insert Lake of Bays, Great Lakes or Amsterdam in here and the feeling is the same. Hell, I was a huge fan of the now forgotten Grand River Brewing Company, now a shell of itself run by a winemaker with little regard to quality or reputation...
  But this isn't a post about Beau's after their sale to Steamwhistle or the Amsterdam one or anything in particular about the business of beer. It's about this feeling I used to have that I seem to have lost along the way.
Today we have even more options at the LC, we have more breweries open to visit and even mail order which often hits your porch the next day. It's mind boggling how much has changed in just the last few years and it is that sheer number of choices that drives this feeling of loss and a reminiscing for something that by all standards was less than we have now. 
  I can find any style of beer I desire, made here in Ontario or from somewhere else, close by and available year round. There truly is something out there for anyone who seeks it, a veritable cornucopia of blessings in can or bottle to whet your desires and this may be the golden age at its apex, cresting a wave just peering at the inevitable ride down the other side. Whether that is a rapid descent or smooth trip to equilibrium is truly unknown at this point. But the roller coaster ups only work if you go down too and the appearance of abundance is a mask of serious issues at some of our favourite places. 
  I honestly think part of what drives this feeling in me is the volume of experience behind me in the last 7 or 8 years. Knowledge is power, but it is also a curse that brings clarity to all that occurs besides what new beer is coming to the fridge and taprooms we visit and enjoy. When every style was an exploration of my own making, a true window into a new world, I was bright and wide open to everything. As the years and beers passed by, it became harder to find that thrill and even with some of the world class things I've had in just the last few weeks, I still can't capture that particular vibe as often these days. 
  Beer had become an avenue of self expression for a lot of folks, an extension of themselves and with the rise of social media platforms, a way to say "Hey, here I am. I exist and I'm enjoying life!" while supporting local businesses and connecting with like-minded folks from around the world. It really felt so good to write about everything connected to beer and the community, with special attention paid to being positive and working towards helping make it more accessible and diverse to grow our world.
  It doesn't feel quite right anymore, a sort of ennui has settled into the world around me, a longing for a time just not so long ago that it seems possible it existed. I mean, I get excited about new beers and returning favourites, but it does feel somewhat muted when I know there is a bigger story of struggle and the fight for survival happening all around me. Not just in craft beer, but in the general sense of folks just trying to get by and enjoying a pint when they can because it brings them happiness when they need it. I want to reset to that feeling of joy and exploration I once had that inspired me to drive deep into this community and immerse myself in the experiences held within.
Time will tell, but the road ahead is most assuredly going to see us lose some places we hold dear, so be ready for a bumpy ride.

1 January 2023

Back again...2023



So it's been a while since I've been able to sit down and write beyond some nonsense beer stuff on Instagram or Twitter and as this new year dawns and that big 5-0 is just around the corner in March, I wanted to try and get back to this long form expression of whatever happens to be in my head on any given day. I want to set a goal of spending at least an hour a day writing, subject doesn't matter, just the words, and while I have no doubt there will be days when not much will come out, I feel like my abandonment of taking the time to coalesce my thoughts in one place has left me in a far worse space than before. It always made me happy to spend time sharing things about beer and life in general for anyone who wanted to peek in at one old man's world.

  Having said that, 2022 was not the best of times scenario in a lot of ways, but it came to be crystal clear as Christmas rolled around and I had absolutely zero spirit for a season I used to love with reckless abandon. I have little doubt that without the presence of social media there would have been no decorations in our house at all and as I took down what I dubbed "Christmas Corner" in the basement, I reflected on why I had fallen so out of sync with my family and friends as this year went on. I feel a disconnect with the world around me, beer and real, time feels faster and as I feel the decades weigh in, I wonder what the purpose of everything has been. Traditions, legends and tales of those who came before me still resonate in my mind, I revere the people who helped shape me and wonder how I can honour them when I feel like my mark on this world ends with my own demise. I've written before about not having kids, but as 50 approaches and my peers raise their kids and some even have become grandparents, I feel left out, but only because I have made myself feel that way. It is a most disconcerting way to live.


I am still standing. I have a will to see what comes next for me and those I love. I want to watch the kids I know grow up and experience all life has to offer and I want to be better at being there and present for everyone who is important to me. I feel isolated, but only because I have become really good at doing it, but I am lifted up by the people who continue to push aside my defiance and love me in spite of myself. They persist where so many got tired and moved on, good people pushed too far and lost to me forever. My memories of who I was haunt me in my weakest moments and I miss that guy with all my heart. 

  My question to myself is can I find me again? Can I shake off a decade of dwindling confidence and depression to shape what I hope is at least the final third of my life?  Let's face it, there's no way this drunk is seeing 100...but I'm still hoping to at least getting to retire for a few years before hitting that Dive Bar in Hell...

I know this post is disjointed, meandering and weird...but I am all of those things every damn day and I hope I can come back and give a little hope and happiness, some deep looks and light and dark moments to bring truth and real life to you all in the coming 12 months. 

  If you're still here, Thank You.

I have some adventures planned this year, some heavy opinions to give and so many great beers to share with you all. I'm not done yet, I've been on pause and I'm ready to hit the play button again...

Thank you for believing in me, for keeping me going and for never letting me go...

This life is not over yet...

Polk, 01/01/23

20 January 2022

The Lonely End of the Bar

  He wasn't an unpleasant man by any standards. Polite almost to a fault, quietly sipping a whisky and a pint at the end of the bar most nights, he almost blended into the ambiance of this local pub. He greeted a the regulars he knew by sight, sometimes sending a pint or a shot down the bar if he felt someone needed it, he had a sense for it. He could carry conversations long into the night, no matter the state of inebriation, he was good at prodding others to talk about themselves so he could concentrate on filling the quiet in his head with their lives. He didn't think much of his own anymore, not that he was depressed or anything like it, he just sort of felt his existence had been set into a routine for so long that it wasn't a matter of choice anymore, but a deep rooted part of who he was.
  The thing about where he sat at the bar was that there could only ever be one person sitting next to him, it was a conscious decision he had made a long time ago when he found this place that was stumbling distance to his home. He didn't mind a one on one chat but eschewed anything too loud or too deep into his own circumstances. Nestled up against the wall, he held onto that bar rail with a light grip, tethered to reality even as the liquid dreams filled his nights. It was a long, slow roll to his own personal closing time, he never lingered long past 10, still aware enough of his single responsibility to make it to work on time the next day. He took the functional part of his life as the price he had to pay to get to his first shot of whisky every night, a necessary evil that would one day come to an end and then he could find another thing to occupy the time between his last drink from the night before to his first one the next day. 
  He had rules for himself, not written down in stone, but so honed and cultivated from  years of practice that they were unspoken and all but unbreakable. He never drank before work, nor immediately after it, for whatever it was worth, he felt this was some kind of compromise. He never pounded a beer or a shot, always taking measured sips, almost savouring it as time slowed and the weight of everyday living slid off his shoulders and into another round. He never turned down a pint and always was there for the people who thought of him as a friend when they needed a kind word or a sympathetic ear. While he was neither of those things, he had carefully crafted a narrative and appearance of both to the lengths of which civil society demanded. He wasn't loud and always tipped, he knew that these two things weren't important to anyone but the folks behind the bar and they were the closest thing to family he'd had in a long time. 
  He had become a practiced drunk, one who's funeral would be well attended by the people who thought they knew him, playing his favourite songs at the wake and tossing back shots and pints in his honour even as the memory of who he really was faded into tales told less frequently as their lives carried on. Someone else would now sit at the loneliest end of the bar...never knowing the man who called it his existed, the spot just another chair now. 


2021 - A Year in Beer


  746 beers reviewed.
  128 Breweries.
  1 long year in the books.
  2021 was another pandemically challenged year, providing some respite as the summer and fall almost felt like we were heading somewhere good before the current state of affairs occurred and Omicron wiped out any progress made in the last two years. While I'm not here to discuss public policy and government failures to protect and curb the worst of this time, I have to acknowledge that the experience of drinking a beer in a bar or taproom has certainly been curtailed and altered enough to be impactful on our perceptions of some things. So with that out of the way, lets take a look back at my favourite beers by style with some caveats...

1) No repeat winners, let's face it, I drink enough Headstock that it would always top my West Coast IPA chart and that's not really why we drink all these different beers, we want the variety and I want to be able to recognize that effort. 
2) If I do happen to repeat a winner from 3 or 4 years ago or even last year, I'mma let it go because who can remember that far back and I'm not wading through 5 years of posts for that info.
3) If I wasn't able to try more than 5 different options from any one style, I left it out for the most part unless I felt the beer in question was especially noteworthy.
4) Categories are fluid when it comes to IPAs, some labelled as NEIPAs were clearly not and some that were just slapped with an IPA sticker were sometimes NEIPAs...I'll not get into semantics, it is what it is and I'm okay with where it all fell out.
5) Everything I do is done with the knowledge that I don't really know much, but I know what I like and that's what this whole dang thing is about.
Before we get into it all, here's a breakdown of the top 20 Most Reviewed in 2021 by Brewery. They alone account for almost 65% of what I was talking about, being local matters, being loyal to Trusted Breweries matters even more,...

  Collective Arts (Toronto)597.91%
2Great Lakes456.03%
3Nickel Brook445.90%
4Collective Arts
7-tSawdust City293.89%
10-tGateway City182.41%
12-tThird Moon172.28%
14Grain & Grit152.01%
16-tLeft Field121.61%
18-tPeople's Pint111.47%
18-tDominion City111.47%

So, now lets get on with the gettin' on and showcase my favourite pints from 2021, listed by beer name, brewery and finally alphabetically by style. Also noted is the amount of times a particular brewery appears on this year's Polkies...

Here we go... 

Ol' Woody Alt
Sawdust City
Lone Wine
Sawdust City (2)
Tennesse Imperial Porter
Barrel Aged Porter
2021 Titania
Sawdust City (3)
Barrel Aged Stout
Duvel 666
Belgian Blonde Ale
Chimay Grande Barrel Reserve
Belgian Dark Ale
Heavy Draft
Red Barn 
Belgian Golden Strong Ale
South Valley
Gateway City 
Belgian IPA
Limnerlost Bruin
Sawdust City (4)
Biere de Garde
Reunion Tour
Sawdust City (5)
Black IPA
Black Jack
Great Lakes
Black Lager
Matter of Fact
Collective Arts
Blonde Ale
Beste Bock
Avian Prinicpality
Dominion City
Brown Ale
Great Lakes (2)
Brut IPA
Saturday Night
Cream Ale
Mountain King
Royal City
Dark Ale
Double High Grade
Double IPA
Double Sunsplit
Dominion City (2)
Double NEIPA
Zwei Zeugan
Great Lakes (3)
Dead Now
Block Three
English IPA
Collective Arts (2)
English IPA
English Pale Ale
Sawdust City (6)
Farm League
Farmhouse Ale
Rouge Cuvee
Flanders Red
Grandma's Strawberry Rhubarb
Oast House
Fruited Ale
Roses are Red
Helles Island
People's Pint
Helles Lager
Great Lakes (4)
Nanaimo Bar
Imperial Porter
Burn Barrel
Clifford (2)
Imperial Stout
Roman Candle
Ever Nice
Merit (2)
Skipping Stones
Collective Arts (TO)
Lager - Mexican
Light Lager
Anderson Craft Ales
Diamond Park
People's Pint (2)
Milskshark Banana
Bellwoods (2)
Milkshake IPA
Gordie Mortis
Third Moon/Great Lakes (5)
Little Beasts 
Pale Ale
Third Moon (2)
Pilsner - Czech
Time Traveller
Collective Arts  (TO) (2)
Pilsner - German
Hey You Guys
People's Pint (3)
ST. Arnoldus
New Limburg
Amber of the North
Spearhead (2)
Red Ale
Saison de la Meuse
Meuse (2)
Bells & Whistles
Clifford (3)
Session IPA
Mimosa Sour
Collective Arts (3)
Left Field
Team Tett
Collective Arts  (TO) (3)
Table Beer
Rube Goldbeer
Henderson Beer Co.
WIllibald Farm 
Triple IPA
Collective Arts  (TO) (4)
Vienna Lager
Old Times
Collective Arts (TO) (5)/Great Lakes (6)
West Coast IPA
Obscured by Clouds
Clifford (4)/Muddy York

  I used to write a thing about every beer on these lists, but that's a lot, even for me. Suffice it to say I had a lot of fun going over each post from last year, I actually read what I wrote about every beer to try and get a sense of it's impact on my memory and at the time I was drinking it. That's why I only post beers when I have them, I am trying to capture life as it happens, a snapshot of where I am when that first sip hits my lips every day. I take my own thoughts with a grain of salt too, taste is very personal and while I certainly have consumed enough beer to know a thing or two, I am just a drunk with a lot of words who enjoys a good beer or three. 
  Looking forward to 2022 and a whole lot of talking about beer, life and so much more that I cannot even imagine as this year unfolds. It's been a little more than 6 years since I started writing and while I may struggle to get it all out there at times, I'm gonna keep trying because when I do finally hit that "Publish" button, I feel better about myself and more comfortable in my own skin. See y'all around the internet for now and at a taproom near you....hopefully sooner and safer than we know it is now.
\Stay strong and thanks for following along all these years.


9 January 2022

The Ten - 2021 in Ten Memorable Beers


Every year I sit down and go back through every post I made on Instagram and look for the spark of a joyful memory to help me find the 10 most memorable pints of the last 12 months. It took a little more time this year, I find my ability to decompress after work has been curtailed and my inspiration to write disappeared along with it. But this morning finds me suitably fired up and after sorting the data, checking my lists twice, I have arrived at the conclusion of this very strange year in beer. 
 This is not a best of list, taste and perception is subjective to the individual palate and while I will push out a post about my favourites in each style category later this week, today is
much more special and important. It is about beers that stick out in my mind, I can still feel that anticipation and appreciation for what was to come and did transpire. The following ten beers are what made a difference to me when I had them and resonate even months later or perhaps they have become part of my regular life and give me a moment of zen on a regular basis. 
I don't have a lot of rules other than I don't repeat any beer from year to year and to be honest, cutting down from the 748 reviews to 100 to 25 to just 10 took longer than I had anticipated, there were a lot of really great moments this year and for that I am grateful.

Let's go!

10. Clifford Brewing - Pinball Wizard American Pale Ale

  It seems each year I find a go-to pint and latch on for dear life, a port in the storm that is pandemic drinking. 2021 saw me stopping at Clifford Brewing more often than not and grabbing a pint at the bar or the patio on the way home from work. And that usually was Pinball Wizard, the classic American Pale Ale that is part of the early 1-2 punch of Clifford beers (along with the award winning Porter) from the very beginning. What struck me about Pinball this year was the ease of which it just rolled into my day when anyone asked if I'd had time for a pint at the bar. It wasn't a thought, it was a reflex, usually after I had tried the newest release, I'd have another beer and it was almost always Pinball. The bite of citrus pith and pine in a biscuity toasted malt body and a consistent flavour profile that always delivers makes it an easy choice and in another year of lockdowns, waves of uncertainty and a world on edge, it became a touchstone for normalcy and comfort. While it may not have the flash and dash of a hazy IPA or big bourbon barrel aged bastard, it is a beer that brings me joy just by being exactly what it is. 

  I wrote about Pinball 5 times last year, but I'll share the one that I remember best, a post work pint on the patio in front of Clifford's...can't wait to get back again...

"After work patio pint...midweek feels pretty good out here at the Clifford Brewing Company patio.
Pinball Wizard American Pale Ale is always an easy choice, on tap it shines even brighter. West coast vibes with pithy citrus and resinous pine. Beyond the ordinary day, a stop at my local makes it extraordinary. Cheers! 4.6/5"

Video review on Pints with Polk can be found over on the YouTubes...

Order beer from Clifford Brewing

9. Gateway City Brewing 503 Dark Rye Lager

   2021 was a lot to take in and with the constant swings in the world around me, I found myself gravitating to certain breweries and styles to steady the ship in the turbulent sea. My friend Paul delivered many a Gateway City Brewing beer to my glass and it is because of him that I found myself falling in love with this North Bay based brewery all through the year. I was so enamoured with what he brought me that when Kat and I decided on a late fall road trip, we knew it would have to be included on our itinerary. The visit cemented what we felt through osmosis, a working class brewery that delivered fantastic and innovative beer, making use of Rye as an ingredient better than anyone else...and more often too. But the standout was this dark and bready Lager, a smooth bodied pint that had me slowing down and relaxing to stretch out every sip. It had something special going on and I can still feel that moment after my first taste while sitting on the deck, the sun shining and the world fading away. 
What I said in October of 2021 : 
"This is a helluva beer.
 Gateway City Brewing 503 is a 5.1% Dark Rye Lager that delivers a big time flavour punch in a crushable ABV. Smooth and bready malted body with caramel and a solid bitterness that finishes with a rye spice that enhances the sweetness with aplomb. It's so easy easy going, if I lived in North Bay, this would be my go-to, everyday beer...absolutely no doubt. it enhances every moment it touches, bringing joy to a day that needs it or a way to slow sip and contemplate the bigger things. It's a damn good pint.

Video Review can be found over on the YouTubes.
Order beer from Gateway City Brewing

8. People's Pint Brewing Hey You Guys India Porter

  It was late March and we had just crossed over a year into the current pandemic with another semi-lockdown birthday and a world seemingly getting better with the vaccines arriving and a spark of warmth for the coming warmer months. The long, slow days of winter were fading and we thought a corner was being turned...good times. 
  Looking back through the year in beer means reflecting on the events around every pint and word and knowing that a lot of days were just one beer and done but that sometimes that one beer sticks in your head with an iron lock and it's memory is a joyful one to have in there. Such is Hey You Guys, a bold India Porter from Toronto brewery People's Pint. I'm a big fan of both their beer and their community minded work, plus they have Maris, a brewery cat with a heart of gold. Good folks making great beer is something to be celebrated and this slow sipping dark beauty was indeed just that, a celebration of hope over despair and love over hate. I invest a lot of emotion in beer that speaks to my soul and this one is that kind of beer...

What I said in March of 2021 : 
"One and done tonight and what a one it is! People's Pint 5.9% Hey You Guys! India Porter is a rich and hopped up beauty to soothe the working the weekend beast. Smooth but bold roasted malt backbone with dark chocolate, bitter black coffee, tobacco, molasses and a noble hop bitterness that ties it all together quite beautifully. It's got a bite and some legs and delivers a great single pint night experience to tide me over till tomorrow night when we will do it all over again. Cheers! 4.4/5"

Video Review can be found over on the YouTubes.
Order beer from People's Pint Brewing

7. Sawdust City Brewing Flapdoodle English Best Bitter

  I have all the time in the world for Sawdust City beers. They make some of my favourite seasonal and core beers, from Titania Bourbon Barrel aged Imperial Stout to Lone Pine West Coast IPA to Little Norway Pilsner and all points in between, Sam and the team in Gravenhurst are consistently hitting the high water marks with each release. I could have easily chosen any one of a dozen pints at least, but this one really stood out from mid-October and I think it set the benchmark on what I call "Sunday Beers". Flapdoodle was an ESB, a toasted malt, bready beauty that felt like it could be re-upped all day long on a patio or in a pub as we drank the afternoon away with some friends. From first sip to last, it gave rise to a feeling of happiness and would be the kind of pint that becomes part of the day, not the focal point, but an enhancement and a true companion.

What I said in October of 2021 : 
This is the epitome of what I call 'Sunday beer', the easy going Best Bitters and Milds that are made for hanging out with friends on a Sunday and just wasting the day doing nothing but drinking and eating together, swapping tales and chilling. It's my Sunday today so it fits real well...now to find some friends...
Sawdust City Brewing Flapdoodle is a 4.4% English Best Bitter that brings that bready toasted malt body to play with notes of toffee, light bitterness and easy going crushability. It's a delightfully put together beer that is absolutely what I seek when I turn to this style. Cheers! 4.8/5"

Video review can be found over on the YouTubes.
Order beer from Sawdust City Brewing

6. Willibald Farm Brewery Succession Triple IPA with Citra, Galaxy & Simcoe

  How does the memory of a beer stay with you for a year to the point that it makes this list through more than 750 other pints that came after it? By being so good that it demands your respect and attention long after it has disappeared down the scroll of the social media feeds. When this one came up as I went over every post of 2021, I could taste and feel it all over again and immediately put it onto my radar for The Ten and it stays here still out of sheer enjoyment. Willibald Farm Brewery has dropped some stellar stuff and while I have only had a smattering of what they offer, I have been impressed every time...none more so than this early January Triple IPA called Succession. Brewed with Citra, Simcoe and Galaxy, it was an ephemeral treat that I may never see again, but will always remember. It was 10%, but felt like an easy going crushable pint and delivered something real special in a style that often gets repetitive real fast, no easy feat.

What I said in January 2021 :
"Yes it's a scrimmage.
Yes I know it doesn't matter.
Don't care, just happy to have some Leafs hockey on a Saturday night for a touch of normalcy.
Leafs win, Leafs lose, I am here for the years and years of trying again and again. 
Beer helps.
Willibald Farm Brewery Succession is a 10.0%, Citra,, Galaxy and Simcoe hopped Triple IPA that is so smooth and tropical, that ABV is nowhere to be felt. Seriously good beer with peach, passionfruit, grapefruit pith and dank pine in a dance for the ages. Most assuredly a contender for the best of 2021 and we are only 9 days in. 
Cheers! 4.8/5"

Video review can be found over on the YouTubes.
Order beer from Willibald Farm Brewery

5. Cameron's Brewing Beste Bock

  In the Lore of Polk, looking back way into the past, you find a special relationship with Oakville based Cameron's Brewing. Many an elbow bent at their monthly Cask Nights way back in the early days of my writing about beer and life, friends made and beers shared as we watched our community grow and change. It's been a while since we saw them for such a party, but hopefully one day soon we will return to the brewery for frivolity and pints. But 2021 did see a lot of exciting releases from the brewery and while I was leaning toward the retuun of the Rye Pale Ale for The Ten, this one kept nudging it aside in my memory...good beer. Beste Bock came out in February and returned again in their holiday mix pack, a rare double threat in a single calendar year that cemented it's position with a tasty roasted malt back and smooth presentaion. It harkened to a time not quite lost, but cloudy with many days passed by. It was delightful to feel the memories brighten and the skies clear from the first sip onward. 

What I said in February 2021 :
Well, better yet...damn.
Cameron's Brewing doesn't go crazy with new releases, but the ones they drop are so on point that I never miss one. First up for 2021 is the 6.6% Beste Bock, a smooth and delightful pint of awesome to kick off my night. Roasty and rich with toffee, caramel and cocoa, bitter but not overpowering, a great dark lager that is right what I want in my glass as the cold winds blow. Cheers! 4.6/5"

Video review can be found over on the YouTubes.
Order beer from Cameron's Brewing

4. Collective Arts Brewing (Toronto) & Great Lakes Brewery Old Timer West Coast IPA

  When I began looking back at the year in beer for 2021, I found that between Collective Arts (TO) and Great Lakes Brewery combined I had posted 94 times (59 CATO, 45 GLB) or 14% of all my reviews for the entire 12 months. It was not just the sheer amount of new and returning beers that made that happen, although it certainly helped, it was also that there were so many bangers included in there. My top ten of each style will be littered with beers from both of these breweries and it came as no surprise to me as I perused my lists that this one jumped out at me from October. The label is one of my all-time favourites, a pigeon in a Hawaiian shirt, and the tasty West Coast IPA in the bottle were a combo made in hop heaven. It was so good, such a bold old school pint of pith and pine, it gave me pause and inspired the words that followed...

What I wrote in October 2021 : 
"You know what...this is the kind of beer I dream about when I dream about beer...which is often...especially after the day at work I just had...#beerme
Collective Arts (TO) and Great Lakes Brewery collaborated on this absolute gem of a pint and now I sit here enjoying the fruits of that labour.
Old Timer is a 6.9% (alright, alright, alright) West Coast IPA brewed with Simcoe, Cascade, Centennial & Columbus hops and it is all that you think an IPA from these two giants could be.
Bold grapefruit pith, lush tropical citrus pineapple and orange, earthy, resinous pine, a little spice and a smooth body that leads to a bitter finish that invites another sip, another bottle, another song to be sung. It is sunshine on a cloudy day, if it's cold outside, it's the whole month of May. I guess, you'd say, what could make me feel this way? This beer. This beer? Talking 'bout this beer...it's real damn good...seriously. Also, the bottle art from Franki Ludwig is outstanding and shall take up a place on one of the Walls of Fame I have down in The Crease. Don't miss this beer, it's one to remember when talking about the best of 2021...
Cheers! 4.8/5"

Video review can be found over on the YouTubes.

3. Third Moon Brewing Kills Czech Pilsner

 Here's the thing, I could do a top ten of just Third Moon beer and still have a dozen more clamoring to join the list. They produced a mega-ton of excellent IPAs, Double and Triple IPAs, rich and heavy stouts from pasty to barrel aged and still I would tell you if you wanted to see the true talent of the folks from Milton that this was the beer that showcases pure genius. Kills left absolutely no doubt that they could capture the magic of any style they choose to brew, a straight piece of ambrosia I called it then and I can still feel it now. Nowhere to hide and nothing to do but straight up put everything into this style which so many fail to deliver on. I know it's easy to dismiss a Czech Pilsner as just a beer that tastes like a beer, but this is so much more and I think it deserves a bigger audience and much more love. I can still feel the luxury of what it brought to my glass, the noble largesse of centuries of brewing in a single can of excellence.

What I said in April 2021 : 
"Because they can and because they can do it oh so well.
Third Moon Brewing drops a 5.8% Czech Pilsner like it ain't no thing and I would kindly like to acclaim them from the top of The Grotto to the bench in The Crease as absolute beauts. Banger of a Pils, this one is. Named Kills with a solid label art to back it up, pour slowly and let that head build. Fluffy, boo-boo. Solidly built piece by lagered piece, it is crisp, clean and a pure joy to behold. Blessed be the Saaz.
 Hay, toasty malt back, noble hop spice, touch of sweet, touch of bitter, touch of gold. Beautiful. Full. Rich for the style, little left unsaid. Constant sipping, angling for a little more each time. If ever a beer needed a second can just because the two beer buzz would be pure ambrosia...it is this. 

Video review can be found over on the YouTubes.
Order beer from Third Moon Brewing

2. Collective Arts Brewing English IPA

  The funny thing about a beer that comes roaring into your life and then disappears is that you begin to wonder if it was all just a fever dream. A brief respite from the swirling world of darkness that surrounds us today, a bright mark leading us up to the light of day. I don't know is this beer will ever return, but Collective Arts brought a spark of happy in April of 2021 and I carried it with me all year long. The simply named English IPA brought back memories of my early forays into craft beer, the malty toasted biscuit backbone accentuated with Mosaic, Chinook, Citra and Nugget hops amping it all up. It was so good, posted about it again a week or so later because I had gone back for another 6-pack and wanted more people to know about this gorgeous pint of love. I can still remember the joy it brought me and maybe one day we will meet again,,,

What I said in April 2021 : 
"Catch me outside, drinking beer.
Collective Arts Brewing 6.5% English IPA with Mosai, Chinook, Citra and Nugget hops dropped into my life today and I am very happy to find this little bit of sunshine amongst the gray to give life hope. Solid bready toasted malt body with a fruity bit of citrus, noble hop spice, toffee and a bitter finish that feels like you need another sip. It's an excellent damn beer, precisely what is needed right now amongst all the choices I have in my fridge. It speaks to me on a deeper level, taking me back to the beginning when all this started and this kind of bitter but accessible IPA was my introduction to a life much different than I knew before. Maybe another pint is needed to shake out some of the dread of the last few days, we need a break and a little self care could be more important than we know. Stay safe, stay sane, stay the fuck at home and get beer delivered...Cheers! 4.7/5"

You can find the video review over on the YouTubes.
Order beer from Collective Arts Brewing

1. Meuse Brewing Saison de la Meuse

  From beginning to end, this list is about not just excellence, it is about moments in time that live on in your mind with reckless abandon. It is about love and joy and life being lived in that moment with every fiber of your being and then finding a way to carry that with you as you move on and the hours and days become years and decades. Writ large in beer is a personal story each brewery has, the tales of beginnings and risks, of dreams laid out in every release and the hope that the world will see what you see and enjoy that with every pint they pour. This is a romantic view, I know, but if you've had a chance to visit Meuse Brewing in Scotland, Ontario, then you may have some sense that there is romance to be found in the stories and tales of dreamers who chase down rainbows. 
Saison de la Meuse is their flagship beer, a Saison that entered the market saturated with IPAs and sour beers and made a name for itself amongst folks who know their stuff when it comes to beer. Rising to the heights of the legends who came before them like Saison DuPont and (in my humble opinion) Saison Davenport from Shacklands, Meuse brought the truest form of Belgian beer to the world and in doing so gave us a chance to have a moment of real and true zen inspiration. They have a solid beer list of varied styles, their Cuvee is divine, but this working person beer is something very, very special and if you want to have a chance at a golden hour, find it and join us.
  I had zero hesitation in placing this beer at the top of The Ten for 2021, I can still enjoy it today, a small reserve stock in my fridge and finding it at some LCBOs for good measure means it can be brought out as needed for inspiration. The memory of that day I had it for the first time remains vivid in my mind and the pureness of what I felt is a much needed boost as we continue to work though what the world has been thought the last two years. This beer is joy and for that, my love is won.

What I said in May 2021 : 
"Well now, isn't this a beautiful beer for a lovely day. 
Meuse Brewing Saison De La Meuse is a 5.0% Farmhouse Blond Ale that is a world class entry from a very new brewery from Scotland, Ontario. It's got all the things I need from this style, bright with light citrus, herbal and floral notes, banana, clove and a solid peppery back, this is what we need more of in beer right now. You can feel the dedication and love in it, I'm a fan and will be adding this to our Grotto fridge rotation as Summer 2021 steams towards us. Get some at the LCBO, if yours doesn't have it, ask for it, this is a real and true genuine 5/5. Cheers!"

Video review can be found over on the YouTubes.
Order beer from Meuse Brewing

  That's a wrap on The Ten for another year, look for my Best of 2021 by style list later next week and of course, The Disappointments of 2021 and Predictions for 2022. I'd like to also drop a huge Thank You to everyone who's following along. I wish you happiness and love for the coming year and may your glass never be wanting of good beer.