Hoppily Ever After’s Best Beer “Stuff” 2017

We’ve done the beer itself, but craft beer tends to be such a movement that there’s so many other things going on. Here’s a few of our favourites from 2017.

Best Beer Experience Overall

Organizing a Beer Festival For the First Time.  We got recruited to be the “Beer Coordinators” for the first I Heart Beer Festival in Hamilton, February 2017. We took all of our beer and Ontario brewery knowledge and ran with it, learning a lot along the way. We also did Beer Coordination for the April 2017 festival in Guelph.  Unfortunately we then had to step back from our role as I Heart Beer was growing more than we could participate in with day jobs. Congrats to the team on expanding throughout Southern Ontario though – we were proud to attend the Hamilton I Heart Beer Christmas fest as guests rather than hosts, and see how much it had grown.

Hamilton I Heart Beer Festival

Honourable mention: Prud’homme’s Level 1 course. Yes, we’re now certified Beer Enthusiasts (as opposed to before when were were un-certified beer enthusiasts). This course was great and we’d recommend it to both a novice to beer and those with a bit more experience such as the two of us. Our hope is to be able to attend one of the Level 2 courses in 2018 en route to becoming full Beer Sommeliers.

Best Beer Fest

(Not counting the ones we coordinated, of course). 

Because Beer, Hamilton. We’ve been going since the 2014 inaugural year (see our post on it here), and it never fails to impress. It has a great brewery selection dedicated to Ontario craft, a lovely location by the water, and smooth timing and logistics. As a non-niche festival it works for a general audience – including us. The beautiful weather this year made it even better.

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Honourable mention: Funkfest, Sawdust City Brewery, Gravenhurst. One of the niche festivals, this one is entirely dedicated to funky, sour, farmhouse, and barrel-aged beers.  Totally up our alley. It’s a really fun festival – for brewers as well it seems – and is worth the trek to Gravenhurst.

Best Beer-Related Paraphernalia

Pretty Pennie Jewellery Hop Necklace. After lusting after it all year, the solid brass hop necklace was Jessica’s Christmas present from Josh. A local artisan out of Cambridge, you’ll often see Pretty Pennie Jewellery at all sorts of local craft and/or beer shows. They’re gorgeous in person too!

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Honourable Mention: Brewcrafters GameFun game play and maybe frustratingly realistic about how little money you have left at the end of the “year” – yikes! Very chit-heavy in the set-up though, but once we got things organized the most logical way in their baggies, it was a bit better.

Best Brewery- Visiting Experience

Valentino’s Restaurant, Hamilton. Some Hamiltonians might be surprised to see this old standard Italian restaurant on our brewery list, but it’s our favourite place for pasta AND a pint. The Westdale location brews for the restaurant, and both locations will generally have their flagship Bohemian Ale along with a seasonal. Most recently it was a Lemon Stout and we’ve also seen beers like a Cream Ale, Boreal Brown Winter Ale, and more.

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Honourable mention: Neustadt Springs Brewery, Neustadt. In an old brewery building from 1859 inside a really charming village, Neustadt Springs feels like a bit of a holdover from an older age of beer. They don’t have any food or a license to serve pints, but you can sample their beer. We spent a bit of time and chatted with the proprietors – some of the few remaining founding members of the Ontario Craft Brewers Association. Their 10w30 Brown Ale has always been a favourite but a visit exposed us to others like their very tasty Sour Kraut Lager, a raspberry sour.

Best Beer News

The Expansion of Beer in Hamilton. We love travelling Ontario – and beyond – to tour breweries, but it’s really exciting for us to finally have a good selection of breweries right at home. Collective Arts has become the oldest Hamilton brewery with a physical location, and Shawn & Ed has been trucking along Dundas for a little while, but 2017 saw Merit, Grain & Grit, and Fairweather Brewing all open in Hamilton. Great news for local beer lovers! We’ve heard that Rust City Brewery is getting close to actually being able to brew, and Clifford Brewing has a place which is so close to opening. We predict 2018 will be another great year for local beer nerds.

Crowds at Grain & Grit
Crowds at Grain & Grit

Honourable mention: Online Ordering from Breweries. This is a great piece of beer news we haven’t yet taken advantage of, but our new year is going to be filled with beautiful deliveries from far-flung breweries. We’ve been drooling over Instagram pics of other people’s orders from breweries like Dominion City and Half Hours on Earth.

Did we miss any amazing 2017 beer experiences?

 

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Our Very Beer-filled Oktoberfest Wedding

What happens when two craft beer bloggers get married? Apparently, an Oktoberfest wedding!

Prost!
Prost! We’ve got mugs of Brock Street Brewing’s Traditional Irish Red Ale.

We didn’t just choose Oktoberfest because it’s an excuse for an amazing party with comfort food, rollicking music, and good beer (though those things definitely contributed), but also because the very first Oktoberfest was a royal wedding. In 1810, Crown Prince Ludwig I of Bavaria married Princess Therese von Saxe Hildburghausen, with massive celebrations and horse races in Munich. The people enjoyed it so much, they kept it up year after year. We tried to imitate a classy Bavarian wedding vibe, but left out the horse races.

Princess Therese & Prince Ludwig - we certainly wouldn't want to imitate their marriage though, just the wedding
Princess Therese & Prince Ludwig – we tried to imitate their wedding, but want to avoid imitating their marriage. Older royal marriages were apparently not often happy ones.

One of the ways we incorporated our love for local craft beer was by using growlers as our centrepieces. Along with German table numbers and votive candles, we just ordered loose seasonal flowers and filled the growlers. All 19 tables had different breweries that we had visited.

Do you know the breweries on display at these two tables?

Our Oktoberfest theme showed up in a lot of places from the delicious schnitzel and spaetzle served a a main course, the apple strudel standing in for wedding cake, the live band in lederhosen and dirndls, the late night pretzels, and German phrases slipped here and there.

Lebkuchenherzen favours, which are gingerbread hearts that sweethearts traditionally give each other. "Schatzi" means "little treasure"
Our favours were Lebkuchenherzen, which are gingerbread hearts that sweethearts in Germany give each other during festivals. “Schatzi” translates roughly to “little treasure”

The bridesmaids wore “dirndls”, which is the traditional Bavarian outfits. These were custom-made for us.

Dirndls & bride

The ceremony also had a taste of beer and Oktoberfest – literally. We did a modified version of the loving cup, or quaich (“quake”) ritual. An ancient friendship and love tradition with roots in multiple cultures, it became a common wedding ritual when King James VI of Scotland presented it to Anne of Denmark on their 1589 wedding day – another royal wedding! A quaich is actually a wide, two-handled mug, but we substituted a German stein we had bought in Germany. The ritual was three small sips each: to our love in the past, in the present, and in the future.

Hofbrau = "Royal brew". We visited Hofbrauhaus in May
Hofbrau translates to “royal brew”. Yes, more European royalty. We visited Munich’s Hofbrauhaus together in May, so this was particularly meaningful.

And of course, there was the beer! We did our own bar set-up so we could do our own beer choices. We figured out we wanted to work between Ontario craft and German classics, and aim for four varieties: a lager, a wheat, a darker, and a “quirkier”. After much debate, here’s what we ended up with:

  • Side Launch Mountain Lager – We got about half lager, and that worked, as there was none to take home the next day! We would have only gotten MORE beer, and less wine for a wedding like this
  • Erdinger Weissbier – It was more popular than we assumed, and our amounts were gone by the end of cocktail hour.
  • Brock Street Brewing Traditional Irish Red Ale – We actually won a keg from them, so we had some family make the trek to Whitby to pick it up, since we’re big fans of this dark and smoky red. The bar wasn’t as used to keg pouring, but got the hang of it after a while.
  • Collective Arts Sour Harvest Saison – Our choice of something a little different to bring basic beer drinkers out of their shells. We got our wish and quite a few people tried it, but we still had a decent amount to take home (not that we’re complaining)
We also got to use the big Lowenbrau lions as decor. Sehr gut!
We also got to use the big Lowenbrau lions as decor/drinking buddies. Sehr gut!

 

Wondering where we got something? Here’s our vendor list: 

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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

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