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!
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
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)
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.
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)
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
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!