Our Top Ten Noteworthy Beers of 2016

We went through our Untappd ratings for 2016 to find our top ten new-to-us beers for the year.

This is our combined list, and we do have different preferences, so it took some negotiation. We both love darks and sours (as evidenced by our list), though beyond that Josh’s tastes are more likely to go toward barrel-aged brews and high ABV offerings, while Jessica’s preferences run more toward the sweeter and fruiter flavours.  Neither of us are particularly into hop-bombs, which is why they aren’t well represented here.

In no particular order

Home Sweet Home – 5 Paddles Brewing – This honey vanilla wheat ale is one of their standards, and it was a stand-out for us. Creamy and sweet caramel/honey taste, it reminded us of Werther’s candies. Very crisp for a wheat ale as well, despite the sweetness. Available regularly at the Whitby brewery.

5 Paddles Brewing

Collective Project: Gose – Collective Arts Brewing – We did a whole post on Gose, and this is a perfect example of the style: tangy, slightly salty, and very refreshing. It was their summer seasonal, but is still available at the brewery as of this writing, and had also been available in some grocery stores.

collective-gose

Dry-Hopped Tripel – Cameron’s Brewing – We got lucky enough to get this seasonal at the brewery, which was sweet, fruity, and not at all syrupy as some high ABV offerings tend to be (this one sits at 7.5%). They told us they were aiming for it to be a “white wine of beer”, and we thought that label fits – it even has a light grape flavour.

camerons

Brooklyn Sorachi Ace – Brooklyn Brewery – Our one non-Ontario pick, because it’s just that good. Rated highly by both of us, this saison was rich, creamy, dry, and lightly hoppy. An all-around good beer. We found this one at the LCBO, and there are still some available at certain locations.

Purgatory – Innocente Brewing Company – Don’t expect a usual cream ale, as this black “cream ale” was something a little more intriguing. Very roasted yet at the same time very smooth, with deep milk chocolate tones and a light body. We had this possible one-off at the brewery, and it doesn’t look like it’s still in production – let’s hope we’re wrong!

innocente-purgatory

Limberlost Farmhouse Ale – Sawdust City Brewing Co. – A tasty wild yeast farmhouse ale, tangy with a hint of sourness, like a lambic mixed with a saison. We’ve seen this one at a couple festivals, and we hope to see it appear again soon.

limberlost

Harry Porter – Great Lakes Brewery – This is a not a new beer, but strangely, though we’d had several of the take-offs (for example, Harry Porter and the Cherry Hoarder), we’d never had the original until recently. And… yes. Here’s a delicious porter. Smooth, dark, drinkable, rich, and delicious.

Beer 101 Pilsner – Niagara College Teaching Brewery – The NCTB has an entire line of style essentials, but the pilsner is easily the best. Malty, interesting, more robust than the colour lets on, just a little hoppy and super drinkable.

niagara-college

Russian Imperial Stout – Oast House – Josh loves his Russian Imperial Stouts so this was a no-brainer addition to his list – however, even Jessica found it the most drinkable R.I.S. she’d ever had. As rich and malty as it should be with coffee on the nose and grape on the tongue, it was also so smooth for a Russian Imperial. This was a seasonal offering in-brewery last winter, so perhaps it will be returning soon.

oast-imperial-russian-stout

Motley Cru (2016) – Bellwoods Brewery – Yes, we said this list wasn’t in order, but this was our unofficial top beer of the year. This two-year barrel-aged, funky & wild sour made with Gewurtztraminer grape juice was a big winner for both of us. Phenomenally well-balanced, blending the sweet and the sour, and bubbly on the tongue. We could definitely taste the Gewurztraminr. motley-cru

Niagara College Teaching Brewery, Niagara-on-the-Lake

Niagara College Teaching Brewery is attached to the Niagara College brewing program, which means you get two worlds of beer: the seasoned brew teachers, and the upcoming new brewers.

THE PLACE

IMG_20160618_135600909 (2)In a small building on the Niagara College campus,  the brewery isn’t about atmosphere. It’s got the basics down for though: fridges full of product and a long line of taps. This is a place where you sample and buy beer. Enough said.

On the day we visited, the building was at capacity, as there was a festival on the grounds. Other days would generally be a lot quieter.

 

THE BEER

Niagara College Teaching Brewery, Hoppily Ever After

There’s not a lot to see from the inside the store. It’s a small tap room with a short bar top, minimal seating, and a few industrial grab-and-go fridges. However, What the brewery may lack in atmosphere, they certainly make up for with selection. They’ve got their “Beer 101” series featuring the faithfully recreated styles we all know, a “Brew Master” line featuring some carefully crafted brews, and one-offs made by the students. The pouring station has 16 taps, which we assume comes in handy around exam time.

Here’s a selection of some we tried:

  • Beer 101: Pilsner – Malty, just a little hoppy, and so drinkable. This was a winner for both of us. Don’t be fooled by the pale colour, this is more robust than you’d think to see it.
  • Brew Master Stout – Strong, rich stout, with a bit of a coffee flavour.
  • Cherry Pilsner – Also a Brew Master beer, it’s both malty and tart. Cherry flavour is subtle, so it still has the light, pilsner-y profile.
  • Sugar Parents – This one was a student Brew. A “big boozy Belgian” that was a one-off, and probably Jessica’s winner of the sampling day – fruity and interesting, and couldn’t quite tell it was 10% ABV

Niagara College Teaching Brewery, Hoppily Ever After

THE EXTRAS

NCTB is a simple place. There is some merch to check out and purchase, but the real interesting part is the beer fridges. It’s the kind of place that always carries one-offs, so we grabbed as many as we could so we could sample these exclusive brews.

Visit Date: June 18, 2016

Silversmith Brewing, Niagara-on-the-Lake

We visited Silversmith Brewing on a blustery day in January, and it was a cozy respite from the weather. It’s a pretty great brewpub too!

Silversmith Brewing, Hoppily Ever After

THE PLACE

Built in an old church, with arched windows, stained glass, red brick, and bare wood, Silversmith Brewing still looks the part. And it still does have a big congregation. Even though it was mid-afternoon on a Sunday in the middle of winter, the place was packed, with a band and a lively crowd.

Silversmith Brewing, Hoppily Ever After

THE BEER

Though it’s more of a brewpub than a tasting room, there was just enough space in the crowd for us to squeeze up the bar and order a flight of beers.

Silversmith Brewin,g Hoppily Ever After

  • Bavarian Breakfast Wheat – Crisp and sweet, this tastes as close to a real German Weiss as you can find in a local brewery.
  • Black Lager – Another in the German style, this is quite a traditional Schwarzbier: light-bodied, but with that dark and roasted malt overlay, as it should be.
  • Hill 145 Golden Ale – They call this one a “patio crusher”, and it’s easy to tell why. Great for summer, it’s a light but full-flavoured ale, heavy on the pineapple
  • Dam Buster – An English bitter. It’s clean, medium-bodied, and – don’t be fooled by the name of the style – not overly bitter
  • Devils & Details – A Belgian strong golden ale that was a limited release during our visit. Citrus-y, with quite a hoppy punch.

Silversmith brewing, Hoppily Ever After

THE EXTRAS

Tide and Vine Oyster House have set up shop at Silversmith, and it’s a great match for their beer selection. The menu changes seasonally, but it’s always a good bet that you’ll find oysters.

There’s also a good amount of merch available, much of which describes their fans as – what else for an old church? – “The Congregation”

Visit Date: January 31, 2016

On Your Marks, Get Set, Gose!

About a year back, we here at Hoppily Ever After had a chat about what we thought would be the next big trend in local craft. Our guess? Sours. Turns out we were partially right.

GOSE (that’s like “goze-uh”) seems to really be picking up steam in the Ontario craft beer world and we couldn’t be happier. This odd little brew of German origin is often considered a sour, but that’s over-simplifying it a bit. A Gose will also often have the coriander tastes of a Witbier, and possibly also with fruity tangs. What makes it unique:  it’s also brewed with salt.

If you haven’t tried a Gose, you might not think salt would be a tasty (or refreshing) addition to a beer. And you’d be wrong on both counts.

Gose is originally from the German town of Gostar, where it gets its name. Due to the salt, it doesn’t meet the standards of the Reinheitsgebot (the German Beer Purity Law), but it got an exception because of being a local specialty. These days, we’re seeing them local to us as well! Here’s a few Goses we’ve been able to find so far:

Nickel Brook‘s Ceres Cucumber Lime Gose

Nickel Brook Gose - Hoppily Ever After BlogOne of Nickel Brook’s “Lab Series”, this Gose entered the world in July 2016. It tastes like everything you want it to taste like by reading its name. Very cucumber. Very lime. Even quite fizzy. But that sour-salty classic Gose taste evens it all out and turns this into a very drinkable and innovative experiment .

Where to find it: We got ours right from the Nickel Brook Brewery in Burlington. But we’ve also seen it on tap at the beer garden of their sister brewery in Hamilton, Collective Arts.

And speaking of Collective Arts…

Collective Art‘s Collective Project: Gose

Collective Arts Gose - Hoppily Ever After Blog

They went for the classic Gose taste with this one, also categorized as a sort of experiment (or “project”, at least), this beer succeeds perfectly. If you are new to the Gose world and want to try that beautiful salty sour taste in its original style, go looking for this. Great for hot weather.

Where to find it: The brewery and beer garden in Hamilton is, of course, a good bet. But they’ve got these canned. We haven’t seen them in the LCBOs, but we have seen them in local beer-bearing grocery stores!

For something quite different again….

Refined Fool‘s You Are Lazy Susan Rosemary Gose

Refined Fool Gose - Hoppily Ever After Blog
Photo Credit: Katie Hurst

It has a salty pucker and a strong rosemary taste. Josh, who grew up on homemade French and Italian cuisine, thought this was amazing (one of his winning sample at Because Beer). Jess associates rosemary a bit too much with roast turkey, but still this beer managed to impress her.

Where to find it: We found it at a local beer festival. Then, there’s always the brewery in Sarnia.

The Ghost of Gose Past

  • Beau’s made two gose, neither of which are currently available (at least where we can find them):
    • Opa’s Gose apparently even came with an attached sea salt bag. Jessica would have loved to try this, isn honour of her own Opa.
    • Boom Gose the Dynamite was in last year’s Oktoberfest mixpack. Perhaps we’ll see another one day! (But not in this year’s Oktoberfest pack).
  • And we’ve heard about Muskoka’s mysterious Moonlight Kettle. Apparently they made a mysterious Gose called “Gose ‘Round” in March of this year

Gose Just Across the (Buffalo) border

We’ve also ducked across the Buffalo border and found some Gose at breweries beyond:

  • Mangose (a mango gose, get it?) at Resurgence Brewing right in Buffalo, NY
  • Blackberry Gose at Hamburg Brewing Company, in an idyllic farm-brewery setting 20 minutes out of Buffalo

Pairing Beer with Hearty German Comfort Food

Food and beer pairing doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. We hear a lot about pairing the right foods with the right wine, but not enough about the true diversity of beers, and how the right combination can create a unique dining experience. With the explosion of craft breweries lately, we think it’s time that beer and food pairing steps into the limelight.

Brewers’ Plate

That’s why we were thrilled by the Brewers’ Plate event in Toronto back in May. They get it! With a classy rock ‘n’ roll theme (wear your concert tees and blazers), it brought local restaurants and breweries together to show us how it’s done.

Brewers Plate, Toronto, Hoppily Ever After

Inspired by the event, we at Hoppily Ever After and Heather from Hamilton Small Fries decided to cook up a beer pairing feast of our own.

Beer Pairing 101

We started with the most basic rule in beer and food pairing: match strength with strength. You don’t want the strength of either the beer or food to overpower the other. To put it in the language of cheese, don’t match your Imperial stout with a creamy, mild Brie. But you might want to match it with a sharp old cheddar.

Though we usually default to aiming for complementing flavours, there’s actually three C’s of beer pairing: 

  • Complement – pair similar flavour profiles (e.g.  chocolate cake with sweet stout, Southern brisket and rauchbier)
  • Contrast – pair opposite flavour profiles, to bring out the flavours of the other (e.g. spicy food and malty beer, salty food and sour beer)
  • Cut – pair something that can cut through a dish’s richer flavours (e.g. spicy food and hoppy beer)

And in thinking about the three C’s, don’t forget all the flavour elements you could have. To start with: the malt, the hops, the carbonation? What about added flavours like fruit, herbs & spices, or chocolate? How about acidity, salt, or heat levels?

Beer sampling glasses, Hoppily Ever After
Preparing our varied collection of sample glasses

The Food & Beer Pairing Feast

We couldn’t resist a classic beer-producing region as our starting point: Germany. We had the benefit of Heather‘s epic cookbook collection as our starting point. Luckily, she had the perfect vintage German cookbook.

Beer and German food pairing, Hoppily Ever After

Main Course

Our main course was Schweinskoteletten mit Knackwurst und Kartoffeln – that’s Pork Chops with Knackwurst and Potatoes, for those not from the Old Country. We substituted Bockwurst (like a German-style hot dog rather than the more intense sausage-flavour you might picture) for the Knackwurst, and no one knew the difference.

German stew, Beer, Hoppily Ever After

We chose Old Tomorrow’s Track 85 Lagered Ale as our beer, and it was a very successful pairing. With the smoothness of a ale, and the crispness of a lager, this German-style Altbier complemented the mild pork chops, potato, and bockwurst, and contrasted the acidity and sweetness of the tomatoes and Gherkins in the dish (yes, Gherkins).

Vegetable Side Dish

The veggie side we chose was Bohnensalat, or “French” Bean Salad. A salad with a witbier is usually a good bet for a complementary pairing, with oil/vinegar/spices of the food matching the citrus/spices of the beer.

Food and beer pairing, Hoppily Ever After

Black Oak’s Beat the Heat, a Belgian style witbier, fit the bill perfectly. The citrus and coriander of this light, classic Wit perfectly complemented the tanginess of the beans.

Dessert

We picked up an apple strudel at Denninger’s, our local German and international grocery store. We aimed for a Hefeweizen that we thought might be a complementary flavour. Unfortunately, this was a match that didn’t work as well. The apple strudel was delicious, the beer was delicious. But together? They just didn’t really pair well.

Food and beer pairing, Hoppily Ever After

Refined Fool’s My Cousin Knows the Drummer hefeweizen, with its cloudy light gold tone, definitely looks the part. However we found it a bit more sour than the hefeweizens we were used to. This meant it wasn’t a perfect match for the sweetness of the strudel, but it also wasn’t far enough into sour territory to contrast. Doing this again, we’d find something malty to complement the warmth and sweetness of the strudel, or perhaps a sessionable IPA to contrast. Or, we’d have My Cousin Knows the Drummer with something like a lemon meringue pie!

Details

Want to learn more about the food in these posts? Check out Heather’s post at Hamilton Small Fries

Brewers Plate, Hoppily Ever AfterCheck out the Brewers Plate! Fun event, food & beer, and it’s for a good case. This year they raised $9,000 for War Child. #rocktheplate

Finally, this October, Jessica from here at Hoppily Ever After, and Heather from Hamilton Small Fries will be leading two tours during Hamilton’s new culinary week, NOSH Week! Find our “Paired: A Food and Beer Pairing Tour”, and “Spooky Spirits: A Cocktail and Food Pairing Tour” on Thursday October 20 and 21, 2016.