31 December 2016

2016 Polkies - The 10

When I started to look back on all the great beer I tried this year (over 825...and counting), I was struck by not just the variety of styles and flavours, but the experiences this journey has brought me. I started to write as an extension of being mindful while I drank, a way to slow down and consider what I was having as opposed to chasing oblivion; now it is my passion to write about not just craft beer, but my life, past and present. My voice coming back to me is something I will always be grateful for.
2016 in one photo.
 The truth is, I still marvel at many of the craft beers that I find in my glass because I honestly never knew it could be this way. Sure beer was always a social lubricant, but I used it to hide my fears and anxiety from other people and I couldn't have envisioned what would happen when I left the macro brews behind and embraced the honest and true Craft Beer revolution. For my Favourite 10 Beers of 2016 I will give you what each one of them meant to me rather than rehashing the flavours and compositions. Those can be found in the various Best of posts from the last week but I want this to be a celebration of what Ontario Craft Beer has done for me and what it can do for you. My writing often focuses on the emotional side of the beer drinking experience and for the last post of 2016, I want to carry on that road. Next year will bring us many new and exciting things, may you always be open to them...I know I will enjoy sharing mine with you.
On with the tales of ales...

10.  Anderson Craft Ales Brown Ale
In late August I headed down the 401 to London on a spur of the moment post work road trip. My purpose was to visit one of Ontario's newest Craft Brewers, Anderson Craft Ales. I had been following the building of their dream all year and wanted to see the place and try a flight. Quietly I sat and soaked in the atmosphere, their running club had just finished and the excited voices and raised glasses to another great run made me smile. You could see the pride the Anderson crew had in not only their beer but in what they were experiencing in the moment on a hot August night. Eventually I had a chance to chat a little, made a few new friends and plans to come back that I still have in my mind.  This Brown Ale came home with me because it captured the essence of that night so clearly. It is aromatic, evoking my senses and with its rich flavours, I can feel myself smiling at the memory of my spontaneous trip. This one is a keeper.

9. Silversmith Brewing The Black Lager
In early January I started to step out of my comfort zone and head out on little trips to breweries. I took my non beer drinking mom with me to Niagara on the lake and we hit up Oast House and had a delightful lunch at Silversmith Brewing. The Black Lager is not just a great beer, it represents a triumph over my own fears. I wanted to try this beer so bad and could only get it by heading to the brewery. Once there and with my mom cheering me on, I started to feel like I could go further, take some more chances and have fun doing it. When I wrote my review of this amazing lager, I felt that day was captured in the glass. It's worth a trip to wine country to get some great beer.

8. Block 3 Brewing Through the Quad
It was spring and I was turning away from macro beers more every day. We had visited Block 3 Brewing a few times and loved its unique adobe look, great Belgian inspired beers and excellent people. What made this one special was its big and bold attempt at a style that was for me difficult to understand. I found it at the right time and place and it introduced me to an entirely new world of beer. It was one that led me to discover how a malty dark fruit beer could shine the light of a new day on my life.

7. Bellwoods Brewery Jelly King
A legendary bar and the first beer saint moment led me to this Bellwoods Brewery Sour Jelly King. After an amazing Brew Cruise around Toronto Harbour in June, we went to Bar Volo to pay our respects to this landmark Craft beer bar before it closed and it was there that my friend Steve bought me this tart and sour dream to end my indecision over the incredible tap list. I went to Bellwoods many times after this and had all iterations of this King of tartness. That moment when he bought that beer however inspired me to write about being a Beer Saint and my world grew even larger that day!

6. Innocente Brewing Two Night Stand
One of the first times I put a person to the beer I liked was when I met Steve Innocente during the KW Brew Donkey Tour in the early spring. This Imperial IPA is a damn good beer but it was that moment when I was talking brewing, marketing and an assortment of craft beer related topics with a man who had created some of my favourite beers that I really felt like I was doing something worthwhile with my reviews and stories. I have been back many times to visit and if Steve is there I am always lucky to have some of his time to talk about the world around us. A man who understands not only beer but the people who love it. He knows what we like and makes it with the dreams we all have inside.

5. Muddy York Brewing Porter
When I was planning a Toronto road trip during Polkapolooza in March, I looked for the farthest east post to start at and found Muddy York Brewing ... little did I know it would result in a most fortuitous friendship. Meeting Jeff then and Susan later helped to sell Mrs. Polk on not only their deliciously smooth and roasty Porter, but on the entire Craft beer movement. It was their open and engaging personalities along with great beer that made my solo journey a place where my partner wanted to join in. A favourite in our house and an inspiration for Kat's foray into home brewing.

4. Collective Arts Ransack the Universe
There was a time when I couldn't stand IPAs. I would run from them after only trying the smallest glass possible to get a check in on Untappd and then turn to Old Mil to drown my sorrows in. This year, all that changed and this big Hemispheric IPA was partly the reason. I have a real soft spot for Collective Arts not only because they are located in my hometown but because they are all about the community they are in. Huge boosters of the Hammer, artists of every stripe and makers of some of the finest beers in the province, CA just gets it. The people I have had the pleasure of meeting dring this year from my Hometown Heroes reinforce my love of this amazing IPA and all their other offerings.

3. Nickel Brook Brewing Café Del Bastardo
Perhaps the strangest thing about this year has been my growing love of not only stouts but the biggest and boldest of bourbon barrel and coffee ones. Nickel Brook Brewing makes some of the best, but it wasn't just the beer that made me a regular visitor to this Ontario Craft Beer legend. John and the entire team at NB made me and my friends always feel like we were the most important people to come through the door at the brewery and were always ready to help in any way possible. Having time for the people who love your beer and making them a priority over anything else is the hallmark of Nickel Brook and a reason that we make the trip over the bridge as often as possible. One offs and seasonal delights like this coffee forward stout make that trip an absolute dream.

2. Nickel Brook Brewing & Sawdust City Brewing 11.05
A yearly collaboration brew between genius Brew Masters Ryan Morrow (NB) and Sam Corbeil (SDC), whose birthdays fall on November 11th, I was fortunate enough to try it on the year when they brewed an Imperial Saison. This beer helped me to truly understand slow sipping and while it is still available in very limited quantities at Nickel Brook, it is not going to be around forever. Teaching me about the ephemeral nature of some craft beers and also helping to bring me a greater understanding of the bold citrus and fruity banana notes of a saison. This beer can change your perceptions of this style and make you smile no matter the day that came before you.

1. Great Lakes Brewery Lake Effect IPA
The most important lesson this entire year of beer has taught me is to have an open mind. Before lake Effect I struggled with IPAs, feeling the piney punch and not much else. This was the first time I really understood the tropical and citrusy properties of the hop and made me a Great Lakes Brewery fan for life. But it was once again the people who work at the brewery who took my beer expeience to a whole other level. Troy and the team at GLB always make you want to settle in and share a pint, trade some stories and hang out. Little comes out of this Etobicoke brewery without some clamouring and rushing to be first to try it. They have been a huge supporter of everything I do and often lend an expert touch to my rough around the edges life. This one will be back and in wide release soon, I implore you to get it into your glass and join me in saluting the fine team at Great Lakes as they embark on their 30th year of fighting the good fight.

There you have it my friends, the 10 Craft Beers that defined the Drunk Polkaroo's 2016. I hope you have enjoyed everything that this year has brought and I want to wish you and yours all the best in the coming year. Try to expand your palate and your travels as the new year dawns and may we get to raise our glasses together in 2017.

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


29 December 2016

2016 Polkies - IPAs & Pale Ales - Ales Part 4

I pledge allegiance to the hop and raise my glass to those who bring it to me.

This is the one countdown that brings me the most pain and joy to do. So many of these craft beers were like my family and to leave them off a list of favourites feels like I've abandoned them by the side of the road. Pale Ales and their more popular cousin, the India Pale Ale were probably my favourite style of beer most of 2016 and as I began to appreciate the hoppier aspects of their flavour profiles I also turned to the Double and few Triple IPA's that I could find to really give my palate a treat. Onward to the countdown, doubtless many of these are in Saturday's Drunk Polkaroo's Favourite Ten of 2016 Countdown. The difference between my favourite and number 10 is almost infinitesimal and really, any of them could be number 1.

Pale Ales
Most of the beers on this list are in the style of American Pale Ales that is thought to have originated in the late seventies and early eighties with brewers like Sierra Nevada and Anchor from California the first to market them successfully.There is often a blurry line between some of the stronger Pale Ales and IPA's but I've stuck to the brewers description for the purposes of my list because it is their creation and I'll respect what they were trying to accomplish.

1. Halo Brewing Golden Ratio
Big pale ale at 5.9 %, a beer that had me wishing I had bought multiples from this Toronto brewer. Orange, grapefruit and a little dankness on the nose with a whack of citrus, tangerine, orange, peach, pineapple, lemon and a dry, bitter backend with grapefruit lurking. Just enough punch to grab your attention and make you sit up but not so overwhelming with bitterness to scare off a newcomer to the style. Delightful and one I hope to have again and again.

2. Northwinds Brewery Brew Mountain (El Dorado) - Set up to showcase a single hops characteristics, this relatively young (6 years) hop strain was a hit with me. Coming from Ontario Cottage country and boasting an amazing brewpub to go with their great beer, this brewery is a must stop when you head north. Orange and grapefruit on the sniff with a juicy orange, lemon, grapefruit on the sip. Pine and grapefruit on the bitter, dry finish. A hit in late October.

3. Innocente Brewing Bystander - A crushable pale ale at only 4.7 %, this hop forward beer is a favourite that is readily available at the LCBO. Toasty malt body with crisp and bitter pineapple and grapefruit. Piney and resinous on the finish, a delightful APA.

4. Great Lakes Brewery Canuck Pale Ale - The legend of Gordie Levesque is always in the mix when talking great Pale Ales. Loads of hoppy goodness with lemon, grapefruit and bitter pine. Best deal in the LCBO at only $2.65 a tall boy, its almost criminal at that price to get this much of a great beer.

5. Muddy York Brewing Diving Horse Pale Ale - One of my first MY beers, it kicked a love affair with this East Toronto Micro off on the right foot. Crisp citrus notes of mango, pineapple up front with a toasted malt body. Juicy with grapefruit and pine on the finish. A gem of a place with beer to match.

6. Sawdust City Brewing Golden Beach Pale Ale
7. Manantler Brewing The Citra Situation
8. Nickel Brook Brewing Naughty Neighbour
9. Bellwoods Brewery Monogamy (Centennial)
10. Great Lakes Brewery 666 Pale Ale

No matter which 10 IPAs I put on this list, I know I am leaving one I dearly love behind. I went from being barely able to stand them to actively seeking out more hops in a year because great beer has made me a better drinker. Happily I will begin my search again in the new year and am forever grateful to the brewers of these hoppy beauties.

1. Great Lakes Brewery Lake Effect IPA
When I first tried Lake Effect in early January it was like someone opened my eyes for the first time to what an IPA could truly be. The Tank Ten series from Great Lakes has become a revelation to me when it comes to exploring flavour and could be deserving of its own top ten list. Citrusy pineapple, grapefruit, peach and mango in a creamy, toasted malt body. Some caramel with a bitter pine and grapefruit finish. We will see this beer again very soon, both in the LCBO and on this blog. This was from January and still I can remember what it tasted like...that's a damn good IPA.

2. Collective Arts Ransack the Universe - One of my go to regular IPAs due to its availability and my closeness to the brewery. Growler fills are a happy occurrence. Big and citrusy with grapefruit, pineapple, peach and orange popping. Smooth but piney and bitter on the finish with more citrus make this a very quaffable 6.8 % IPA that had me clamouring for a quick trip down to the brewery every week.

3. Great Lakes Brewery Octopus Wants to Fight - Another Tank Ten beauty, I wasn't kidding about that series. Wide release in the spring, this big hopped up aromatic beer was filled with dank and resinous pine before releasing the grapefruit bomb. A constant in the beer fridge during its release, it was as beautiful as it was brief.

4. Bellwoods Brewery Roman Candle - Another one that hit me early in the year, this was the first time I felt an IPA was best described as juicy. Dank and resinous off the scent with grapefruit, pineapple and pine tangerine on the warming finish. Sticky and more piney resin on the backend. One I am always happy to trek to Toronto to get when it reappears.

5. The Alchemist Heady Topper (USA) - A Beer saint trade brought this hazy, sediment filled beauty from Vermont to my glass. I experimented with drinking from the can like they advise, but I couldn't get the aromatics, so I poured it into my Spiegelau. Am I glad I did. Big old resinous pine and grapefruit on the sniff with more of the same in a juicy, toasty malt body. Dry, bitter and wonderful on the finish. Only had it once, but it will grace my house again someday.

6. Brimstone Brewing Sinister Minister
7. Halo Brewing Radio Silence
8. Driftwood Brewery Fat Tug (British Columbia)
9. Great Lakes Brewery Thrust
10. Le Castor Yakima IPA (Quebec)

Imperial IPAs
These big and boozy IPAs are where my journey has taken me. From barely able to stand the pine and citrus to actively seeking out bolder and more in your face flavours. These are not to be slammed, but rather sipped and savoured. The closest and most difficult decisions of the year were right here, so many beautiful bitter babies from 2016. My lovelies indeed.

1. Amsterdam Brewing Fracture
Hailed as the King of Hops, this 9.1 %, 105 IBU seasonal release is a constant pickup in the cold winter months. 6 pack on the regular and its dank but bold malt body barely contains it's explosion of resinous pine, grapefruit, tangerine and sweet mango. Warming and a little boozy on the finish, it has more pine, grapefruit and a lingering dankness to seal the deal. Something to be said for slow sipping and loving what Amsterdam brings to my life.  One of the best damn beers I've had. Period.

2. Great Lakes Brewery Robohop - At 8.5 % and 100 IBUs, its arresting in its presence on the palate. Tank ten at its biggest and boldest with a dank and tropical nose that leads to a beauty toasted malt body that has a piney, grapefruit, blood orange and hints of lemon all over it. Juicy and finishing with an evergreen finish with a pinch of mango sweetness. One I hope to see again as the winter turns to spring.

3. Rainhard Brewing Hop Cone Syndrome - A summer beer enjoyed on a hazy, humid day, this 8.5 %, 100 IBUs pool beer was awe inspiring. Loaded up front with citrus on the sniff, it had a crisp and bitter grapefruit, pineapple and tangerine citrus bomb in a smooth malt body. Lingering piney resin on the finish but drinks like a session with more mango and citrus in a balanced backend. Just a beauty.

4. Muddy York Brewing Dereliction D.I.P.A. - At 8.2 % and 225 IBUs (calculated), this was another real eye opener for me early in the year. Big citrus on the sniff with grapefruit, orange and pine dominating. A smooth and toasty malt body holds the grapefruit, pineapple and bitter pine in check before letting go on the bracingly sharp finish. A serious slow sipper that lingers with more pine and grapefruit.

5. Collective Arts Imperial IPA - A late entrant that caught me off guard when its release was announced in mid November. Close to home and fresh in my glass. 8.2 % and 100 IBUs that made me realise how lucky I am to be in the Hammer. This is a grapefruit smasher with lots of dank citrus on the sniff and more pineapple, mango and grapefruit filling that smooth but crisp body. Piney resin on the finish with more grapefruit and orange to round out this gem.

6. Indie Ale House Cockpuncher
7. Boxing Rock Brewery Vicar's Cross (Nova Scotia)
8. Sawdust City Brewing Twin Pine IPA
9. Bellwoods Brewery Witchshark
10. Flying Monkey's Brewery Super Collidor 2.0

Black IPAs
Along with sour beers and Quads, this is the most surprising style that I fell in love with this year. The dichotomy of the hoppy and roasted malt was mind blowing the first time I tried it and any time I could find one I was all in. Not as many made their way into my hands as the other two categories so it's my Favourite 5 on this list.

1. Collective Arts Black IPA

First making me take notice in the late winter, this roasted hoppy treat made a reappearance in December to great acclaim. Not overwhelming at 6.5 % and 75 IBUs, it had grapefruit lurking under the roasted malts on the nose. Dark chocolate, coffee and grapefruit, pine, pineapple and mango in the crisp and smooth body. Bitter with a hit of citrus and bittersweet dark chocolate on the finish. Wowed me when I first sipped and took me away when it came back. A seriously great beer.

2. Great Lakes Brewery Apocalypse Later - Not surprisingly, a Tank Ten beer appears on another list of amazing IPAs. Big and bold with a 10 % ABV and 100 IBUs, this jet black pouring, thickly lacing IPA brought dark chocolate that was laced with pine and grapefruit. Dry and bitter on the backend, it had a warming punch with more citrus and dark roasted malts on the finish.

3. Beau's All Natural Brewing Le Coeur Noir - Late January and my first Black IPA ever took me to a place I'd never been. Bold citrus and roasted malts on the nose with a grapefruit, pineapple and dark chocolate cruising in the darkness. Creamy but dry and bitter on the finish, it made many appearances in my fridge while it was around.

4. Rainhard Brewing Nosebeeratu
5. Nickel Brook Brewing Malevolant

Well folks, that's all the styles I could get my head around in 2016 and now the task remains to pick my favourite 10 beers of 2016. I am sure a few of today's will be there when it comes out Saturday. Until then, I am off to contemplate just what an amazing year this has been.
See you in a few days with the Grand Finale!
Raise your glass and your standards,
One beer at a time.

28 December 2016

2016 Polkies - Dubbels, Tripels & Quads, oh my! Ales Part 3

I wanted to include this as kind of a bonus post mostly because these three Belgian or Belgian inspired styles of beer have quickly become three of my favourite things about my growth as a beer drinker. I never thought I would ever clamour to try any of them and their fruity, malty and warming alcohol properties. Most of the best ones still come from Belgium and the very best from the recognized 11 Trappist Monastery Breweries, of which 6 are Belgian, 2 in the Netherlands and one each in Austria, Italy and the United States. They sell beer not for profit but to provide for the monastery's needs and any actual money earned after that is used in helping those in need. So you are kind of doing a bunch of good deeds just buy purchasing the beer and then drinking it so you can buy more. Circle of life stuff here folks.
The Dubbels, Tripels and Quads are in reference to the strength of the beer and as you will see, secular brewers here in Canada and around the world are now trying their hand at these styles...some with great success. At best I am scrapping the very surface of what is out there and in 2017 I vow to explore this even more. For now the ones I have tried are all available here in Ontario, usually at the LCBO for a very reasonable price, or at a brewery near you. Try them, I did and it has changed a lot about me.

1. New Limburg Brewing Dubbel
A late night thinking beer from the late summer, this 7.4 % slow sipper was the perfect antidote to a hectic day. Smelling plum and dark malt with a sticky dark fruit, plum and roasty body with licorice, brown sugar, caramel and raisins. Finish was warm and boozy with a tart and bold malty kick. It took my worries away and was a revelation that a Canadian brewer could indeed compete on the world stage in this style.

2. Scourmount Abbey Chimay Red (Belgium) - A classic any way you look at it and available in my local LCBO all the way from a Belgian Trappist Monk Brewery for a very reasonable price. $7.45 for a 750ml bomber...unreal. Toasty and sweet malts on the sniff with caramel, apple, plum, cherry and a crisp but filling finish with plum, figs and dates. Boozy backend but not overpowering.

3. St. Bernardus Prior 8 (Belgium) - Available in a seasonal Mix pack at the LCBO with 5 other beers from this Belgian brewer. 8 % and smelling sweet sugar, malty raisin and caramel. Creamy body with bready caramel, raisins, cherries, burnt sugar and a hint of coconut. Warming but not boozy...delicious.

4. Great Lakes Brewing Body Dubbel
5. Second Wedge Brewing Deraillier


1. Cameron's Brewing Dry Hopped Tripel
The very first time I actually got the banana note from a beer and enjoyed the fruity earth tones of Belgian style yeast was this 7.5 % Tripel. It was an eye opener when I first tried it in February and was one of the beers that kick started my eventually abandoning macro beers altogether. Smelling that banana and then sipping to find more of it with bubblegum, clove,  candied sugar, orange peel, lemon zest and a peppery coriander finish that was a revelation. Many of my growler fills contained this golden beauty until it was gone.

2. Beau's All Natural Brewing New Lang Syne - A big slow sipper at 9.0 %, this one was shared on Valentines day and was a hit. Earthy and fruity on the nose, it had loads of orange peel, lemon zest, clove and banana with a tart, almost sour kick from the wine barrel aging. Lovely and available again this year, a great treat for New Year's Eve.

3. St. Bernardus Watou (Belgium) - Another gem from the mix six seasonal pack I grabbed in mid November. 7.0 % with a light fruity sniff of apples, peach and banana. The flavours were more of that with banana, clove, orange peel and lemon joining in. Earthy yeast with candied sugar and a peppery finish. So refreshing and smooth.

4. Sawdust City Brewing/Nickel Brook Brewing 11.05 (2016)
5. Brasserie St. Feuillien Tripel (Quebec)

These are indeed the favourite of all the Belgian style beers I have tried. There are some outstanding ones out there that have yet escaped my glass and in 2017, I shall make them mine. Make no mistake though, the ones listed here are outstanding and should be on your must try list.

1. Abbaye St-Remy Trappiste Rochefort 10 (Belgium)
At this point, the discussion on Quads always begins with this Belgian piece of heaven. The fact that it is available at an LCBO (and online for home delivery!!) for $4.35 is almost larceny. This Trappist Quad is a premier slow sipper at 11.3 % and one of the best beers in the world, bar none. First poured into my glass on a humid August night, dark candied fruits, plums wafted up from the glass. Strong and bold with raisin, plums, chocolate, orange and cloves in a a velvety smooth body. Warming and sticky on the finish with more dark fruits and a sweet malty kick. I buy it often and with no worries because it always makes my heart sing.

2. St. Bernardus Abt 12 (Belgium) - Another Belgian giant, this was in both the big 750 ml. bomber format ($10.70) and the Mix six that hit shelves this fall. Available at the LCBO online and in store, it is another must buy. A slow sipper at 10 %, this one smells of sweet malts, plums and figs. Smooth on the sip with toffee, caramel, molasses, candied fruit, brown sugar, fig and plum somehow coming together in a creamy and warming body. Lingering with a sticky finish, it hides that ABV very well.

3. Block 3 Brewing Through the Quad - Quite simply, the best non Belgian Quad I've had. Big and bold with plums, raisin and a deep sweet malt note. Figs, molasses and candied fruit with a tart booziness make this 10 % slow sipper from St. Jacob's a reason to take what is happening here very seriously. Give us some time and we will challenge the best in the world in every damn style of beer there is.

4. 5 Paddles Brewing Midnight Paddler
6. Brouwerije Van Steenburge Gulden Draak 9000 (Belgium)

While the lists aren't long, my love for these styles continues to grow. Now to tackle the really hard stuff...IPA's and Pale Ales up next. This is gonna hurt, but what a way to go!


27 December 2016

2016 Polkies - Porters & Stouts - Ales Part 2

There is something special about a dark beer, especially as a dessert or in the winter. That's not to say I don't drink porters and stouts all year, but they just feel right as the temperatures head south and the snow flies. With over 70 stouts and 50 porters under my belt this year, these two roasty beauties are among my favourite styles and it was a lot of fun reminiscing about them as I whittled the lists down to the best 10 of each, plus a bonus 5 American stouts just because.  It could easily be 20 and some of my favourites were left off...I know, a real First World problem to be sure. Onward to the Polkie's for 2016's Favourite Porters and Stouts.

The origins of the porter are from 18th century England and they actually predate the term stout, which was derived from the name for a stronger porter. Although they did fall out of favour and ceased to be brewed in the 1950's. Brought back to life in the late 70's, they have grown to become not only a staple of most craft brewers but are increasingly gaining many non craft beer fans like Mrs. Polkaroo for their roasty chocolate and coffee combinations.

1. Collective Arts Stranger Than Fiction
Coming in at the number one spot is one from my Hometown brewers, Collective Arts. Bold roasted malt with a coffee forward and bittersweet dark chocolate middle. Hopped up finish to this one but not crazy, just enough before more lingering black coffee. I call it dessert in a glass every damn time and continue to sing its praises to everyone who asks...and even those who don't.  Easy to find and amazing in my glass.

2. Clifford Brewing Porter - First encountered on a beer cruise in Hamilton harbour, I am equally impressed by this more chocolate forward porter and it's outgoing and friendly creator, Brad Clifford. Smooth and roasty with some vanilla and a nutty bit before the sticky bittersweet finish. It is the first craft beer that Mrs. Polk liked and has led her to discover a world of amazing flavours. In the LCBO finally and looking forward to a Clifford Brewery someday.

3. Block 3 Brewing Guy on a Buffalo - Enjoyed on a humid June night sitting under the stars. Big roasted coffee forward porter with a creamy dark chocolate and smooth but bitter finish. Slow sipping but easy drinking. Plus it introduced me to these videos, which never fail to make me smile. Guy on a Buffalo on the Drunk Polkaroo's Youtube channel.

4. Muddy York Brewing Porter - Mrs. Polkaroo's favourite beer and one I could drink any time of the year. Low ABV make it easy to session them and the smooth chocolate note brings a smile any time we share a few. Bitter coffee and a delectable feel on every sip keep me heading across Toronto to get more.

5. Collective Arts Imperial Porter - An 8.6 % slow sipping, warm and boozy dark chocolate and bitter coffee surprise in the middle of December. Multiple trips to refill on this limited availability brew became necessary after the first sip.

6. Great Lakes Brewery Harry Porter
7. Barnstormer Brewing Parachute Porter
8. Cameron's Brewing Obsidian Rum Barrel Aged Porter
9. TWB Co-Op Pullman Porter
10. Bellwoods Brewery Bounty Hunter

As mentioned, a descendant of the noble Porter, Stouts now occupy a special place in my heart for helping me learn to slow sip and enjoy all that happens to a beer as it warms up. From barrel aging to adding cherries or other fruit, these big roasted beers are in my glass all year long.

1. Nickel Brook Brewing Café Del Bastardo
As stouts go, this 12% ABV Pilot Project from Nickel Brook stands out today, even 10 months later. A late February pickup, this very coffee forward, vanilla, oaky bourbon, dark chocolate and warming alcohol made me take notice that I was in for something special. Rumour has it that we may see it again and one can hope that this amazing beer would make its way into my glass again. And this time I'll make sure I buy many, many more bottles.

2. Grand River Brewing Russian Gun - Big, bold and rebranded in Tall Boys. This Russian Imperial has loads of dark chocolate, licorice, nuts and a warming booziness. Cocoa on the back with a coffee bitterness. 8 % of delicious in a can.

3. Amsterdam Brewing 2014 Tempest Imperial Stout - My first ever cellared beer, I hung onto this one for 15 months before caving in and trying it. 9.0 % and smooth with big coffee up front, dark chocolate and then the warming boozy backend with dark fruits and figs lingering with more coffee and cocoa. Worth the wait.

4. Brasserie Dieu De Ciel Peche Mortal (Quebec) - From our trip to Tabernac in Quebec city comes this Imperial 9.5 % Coffee stout. Creamy and smooth but with a big black coffee punch. Cocoa on the sticky backend with coffee again dominating the finish with some residual hoppiness. Brought some home and shared...1 left in the beer cellar and that's it.

5. Nickel Brook Brewing Bolshevik Bastard - The basis for all the amazing connotations of barrel aged stouts from this Burlington Brewer was released in Tall boys in late fall to great fanfare. Smooth and creamy with bittersweet cocoa, licorice, tobacco and a warming boozy coffee finish. A staple in the winter for me.

6. Beau's All Natural Brewing Tom Green
7. Muskoka Brewery Shinnicked Stout
8. Great lakes Brewery 2015 Solstice Stout
9. Niagara Oast House Brewers Bourbon Coffee Milk Stout
10. Double Trouble Brewing French Press Vanilla Stout

And now for 5 more from our neighbours to the south. I found these on a couple of trips and through a few beer saint gifts. Not better than anything we make up here but just as good and a joy to drink.

1. Founder's Breakfast Stout - From Michigan, this 8.3 % creamy coffee forward beer made me wish I had picked up 12. It was one of the first stouts that caught my attention with the roasty coffee flavours being balanced by a sweetness. A must buy when south.

2. Oskar Blues Ten Fidy - A beer saint gift from my friend Robin, this one is now available at very select LCBO's, mainly in Toronto. Dark chocolate, hints of cherry, molasses, and coffee. A 10.5 % slow sipper that hides that ABV so very well. Try one if you can get your hands on this North Carolina legend.

3. Stone Brewing Company Coffee Milk Stout - Only 5 %, this California beer brings a smooth lactose feel with lots of dark chocolate and a bittersweet finish with more of the same in addition to some coffee. Drinks bigger than it is.

4. Left Hand Brewing Nitro Milk Stout - Great fun to pour hard, my first nitro beer and one that sold me on the concept. Super creamy with dark chocolate, coffee and some hoppiness on the very sticky sweet finish. Just a damn fine beer.

5. Southern Tier Choklat - At 10 %, this one took a bittersweet cocoa front and balanced it with a bitter, hoppy coffee finish. Warming and boozy, it took my mind of the snowstorm that was raging outside.

There you have it my friends, my favourite porters and stouts from 2016. I can't help but feel like I've left some of my favourite children out in the cold but it was what I needed to do to share my love of these dark and roasty beauties.
See you tomorrow for the best of Dubbels, Tripels and Quads.
Oh My!

Guest Post : Mrs. Polkaroo's Favourite Craft Brewery

When I was asked to write about why I love Muddy York so much I must admit, I was not really sure how I was going to put it into words. My first experience was in March when Rob and I were on our Polkapalooza trip. We walked into Muddy York and were immediately greeted by Jeff. He was busy brewing beer at the time and we could see he had a lot on his plate but he was so kind and put everything aside to talk with us.  After the usual "How is your day?" and "How did you hear about us?", he was kind enough to take us on a tour of his new brewery. He was just so proud of his business and was happy to share that passion with everyone who walked in the door.  That was my first real experience into the craft beer world.  After about half an hour, Rob and I walked away with with some new brews to try, including  Gaslight Helles Lager which i fell in love with the moment I took my first sip. It was then that I was hooked.
 Knowing I could not get this delicious beer from the LCBO, I couldn't wait to take a journey back to Toronto to get more. In June, Rob won tickets to the Toronto Brew Cruise and was thrilled when I heard that Muddy York would be onboard.  It was then that I got to meet his lovely wife, designer and partner in all things Susan. She was so happy and also took the time to chat. I found myself going back again and again as I got to try my now favorite Muddy York Porter. So creamy and smooth it was a huge hit with me! 
 I knew we had to trek out to Toronto again so I could stock my fridge with this delicious treat.  As soon as we walked in the door, we noticed a difference as they had opened up more of the space so they can brew more delicious beer.  Of course we were greeted with smiles and they took the time to chat with us, not only about beer but life in general.  Jeff and Susan make you feel like a part of their extended family when you walk in the door.  I must admit, I get butterflies in my stomach every time we pull up outside the brewery because I am so excited to see their smiling faces and stock up on my favorite treats. I am also thrilled to have some Muddy York merchandise now.  My socks and hoodie are so comfortable and I always drink my beer out the the wonderfully designed glasses.  I don't share my Muddy York brews with just anyone (only a select few have made that list!) because I cherish them so much. I can't wait until I can get out there again (I believe my stock is getting low as we speak).  If you have the chance to get to Toronto, Muddy York is a definate place to stop.  Cheers beer friends. Until next time!

Kathryn (aka Mrs Polkaroo)

26 December 2016

2016 Polkies - The Grab Bag - Ales Part 1

In the beginning, I was a lager man. Dedicated to crushing as many tasteless yet intoxicating beers as I could until I found the light.
Ales have become my saviour, from Blonde to Tripel, and I honour my favourites today with this edition of the 2016 Polkies. In order to do justice to all of them, I've broken it down to the next 4 days after reviewing all the beers that populate my Year of Beer. Today is the grab bag of styles that I tried less than 15 beers of in each this year. Tomorrow is Porters and stouts, the 28th brings Dubbels, Tripels and Quads (Oh, my!) followed by Pale Ales on the 29th. Finally, on the 30th I will parse down the more than 170 different IPAs I've tried this year into a more manageable list. Changing gears midstream is always an option when you realise how many awesome beers are out there. Read on and enjoy!

Blonde Ales

1. New Limburg Brewing Belgian Blonde


From the heat of August comes this refreshing, but strong 7.1 % delight. Earthy, orange scent and lemon zest, more orange, Belgian yeast and floral notes on the sip. Crushable despite it's ABV, this one was a hit on the patio. The brewery is located in an old school house and one you should make the trip to see.

2. Nickel Brook Brewing Cause & Effect - A beauty of a crusher at only 4.7 %, this blonde ale has orange off the top with lemon and a hoppy backend. The toasty malt body provides a nice balance and its availability at local LCBO's is a real plus. Great session beer.

3. Brimstone Brewing Enlightenment - Another great brewery to visit, this time located in the basement of a old church in Ridgeway, Ontario. This LCBO offering has floral top notes with a toasted malt body that has more flowery, lemon and earthy tones. Crushability factor high and only 5.5 %, so crush away.

4. Belhaven Brewing Speyside Oak Aged Blonde Ale (Scotland)
5. Collective Arts Brewing Stash

Brown Ales

1. Anderson Craft Ales Brown

From a spontaneous road trip to London comes this aromatic and delicious Brown Ale from one of the best newcomers to the Ontario Craft Beer scene in 2016. Anderson Craft Ales have a wonderful space to enjoy a flight or pint and I was so happy to have visited.
Even in my flight, the scent of nutty chocolate was noticeable and when I sipped, more of the same followed with a toasty caramel and slight bitterness on the sticky finish. Far and away one of the best brown ales I've ever had. Go and try it yourself.

2. Left Field Brewery Eephus Oatmeal Brown Ale - From their spacious and baseball themed brewery in early March to an LCBO near me in December, this 5.5 % smooth cocoa and vanilla beauty has become an easy grab for anyone in under a year. The oats give it a great feel and the lingering coffee and chocolate on the finish are bang on. Big bomber bottles out there now, try it and join the team.

3. 5 Paddles Brewing Old Man's Paddle Pantry - A collab beer with Manantler, Old Flame and the Brewers Pantry, this one was a beer saint gift that kept on giving me joy. Only 3.8 %, a crusher if ever one was invented, this spiced table beer brought toasted cocoa scents, chocolate, toffee and molasses on the front and a peppery kick on the finish. A great one off beer that brought many smiles to this house.

4. Crux Fermentation Project Freakcake (USA)
5. St. Pancrace Walker (Quebec)

Cream Ales

1. Innocente Brewing Purgatory

As is often the case, this Waterloo brewery kicks a style into the stratosphere with a take I've never seen before. Innocente has one of the best logos and some real IPA chops but it is this dark cream ale that caught me eye in early April. Only 4.3 %, crushability factor high and with chocolate, coffee, vanilla in a creamy roasted malt body, you've got a real treat in your hands. Some smokiness and a slightly bitter finish makes it a perfect choice for anytime.

2. Muskoka Brewing Cream Ale - Another Muskoka beer that can be found either in the Survival packs or on it's own, the Cream Ale is a biscuit caramel beauty that finds a home wherever I go.

3. Hell Bay Brewing Dark Cream Ale (Nova Scotia) - A beer saint gift from the East Coast, this one was different for sure. Dark chocolate, tobacco, licorice and a creamy feel that finished with a roasted coffee flavour. One to look out for when we head east this summer.

4. Sixpoint Brewing Sweet Action (USA)
5. Bell City Brewing Eureka Cream Ale

Strong Dark Ales
1. Abbaye Notre-Dame de Saint Remy Trappistes Rochefort 8 (Belgium)

This category could be a short one, this beer is that damn good.
 For under $4 at the LCBO I can get this amazing Trappist Ale. A 9.2 % slow sipper, this one is a regular for any day in my house. Dark fruits, think plum and raisin, toffee, molasses and a warming finish in a creamy smooth malt body create a joyous experience every time I open a bottle.

2. Chimay Grand Reserve Blue (Belgium) - Another Belgian beauty that is easily found locally. Big ABV, 9.0 %, but smooth with lots of dark fruits and spices. Malty body with a sticky finish, always a slow sipper and one to share.

3. Het Anker Classic (Belgium) - Part of a seasonal pack that was found at the LCBO, this one had plums, cherry, molasses and caramel in a smooth roasty body. Lingering and sticky malts on the finish.

Best Bitters

1. Muddy York Brewing Major Smalls

A trend that will continue to crop up as we go along is seeing beers from this Toronto brewery. This late fall release was a toasted malt dream in a glass. Caramel, bready and biscuit with a slight bitterness on the sticky sweet finish. A low (4.6%) ABV brew that drinks like a slow sipper.

2. The Collingwood Brewery Kingpost ESB - New name, same delicious toasted malt flavours. Used to be Fireside, now Kingpost, this 5.8 % toffee and caramel flavoured has a nice bitter hop kick on the finish. LCBO available and a must buy, especially in the cool winter months.

3. Wellington Brewery Quick Brown Fox - Available in the Welly One Offs 4 pack this winter, a 6.0 % nutty caramel and floral beer that had a bit of a hoppy backend. I hope to see this again in the future as a single but it's great as part of that mix pack, all 4 beers are solid.

4. High Park Brewing Across the Pond
5. Robinson's Brewery Trooper (England)

Golden Ales
1. Brouwerij Huyghe Delerium Tremens (Belgium)

I called this the Most Dangerous beer in the world and I'll stand by that. This Belgian Extra Strong Golden Ale comes in at 8.7 % but with its bubblegum, banana, candied sugar and spicy coriander notes, you would swear it was a crushable beer. Hiding that ABV is so much deliciousness and I had to be careful and slow down with it. Limited availability at some Beer stores, get some!

2. Silversmith Brewing Hill 145 - A 4.0 % crusher that had a spicy rye kick to go with some floral and malty tones. Dry and bitter on the finish but super refreshing and made in honour of a great battle won by Canadian Soldiers at Vimy Ridge. That made it even better.

3. Innocente Brewing Fling - Crisp with a toasted malt body containing floral notes and the spiciness I love in this style. Dry and sharp with some citrus on the finish. Another reason to visit this awesome brewery.

4. Redline Brewhouse 5:01
5. Descendant's Brewing Reynard the Fox

Lagered Ales (Kolsch style)

1. Beau's All Natural Brewing Company Haters Gonna Hate

I love a happy accident that results in a great beer. The 8.0 % version of Beau's signature Lug Tread makes for a great slow sipper. Mango on the sniff with lots of slow rolling carbonation. Creamy feel with a malty front before the pineapple and pine on a hopped up backend that lingers with a dry citrus kick. Beauty.

2. Bell City Brewing Real McCoy - Big toasty malt smell with lots of bready, toffee and caramel notes. Full and creamy on the texture with a surprising bit of bitter hops on the finish.

3. Old Tomorrow Track 85 - Notes of apple and toasted malts on the sniff. Bready caramel and some fruity notes before the dry bitter but refreshing finish.

4. Beau's All Natural Lug Tread
5. Arch Brewing Chesterfield

Red Ales

1. Bell City Brewing Mad Mechanic of Belfast

Billed as an Irish red ale, this toasted malt focused beer from Brantford's Bell City is a caramel and toffee dream. Bready and creamy texture with a sticky sweet caramel finish. A real gem of a beer that made multiple trips to Bell city a must for the rest of the year.  One beer I happily shared with friends. Perhaps we shall see it again in 2017.

2. Royal City Brewing Remembrance Red - A great beer that also helps our wounded warriors get better. $1 from every bottle went to the charity of the same name and with the bready, brown sugar and caramel notes along with the hoppy finish everybody is getting something awesome.

3. Schoolhouse Brewing Big Red Schoolhouse (Nova Scotia) - A beer saint gift from the coast that came in with a big 7.5 % ABV. It was a caramel malt bomber with loads of toasted malt goodness and a nutty but piney hop finish. Grapefruit and caramel on the
finish and I was so happy to have a friend like the Keltic Devil getting me this treat.

4. Cameron's Brewing Ambear Red Ale
5. Innocente Brewing Inn O' Slainte

That's it for today my friends...so many more beers to go and I will admit, I am loving the look back for not just the beer but the memories of this amazing year.

See you tomorrow!