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

Indie Ale House Stout Night 2015

The public transport trek from our Hamilton Hoppily Ever After home to Indie Ale House‘s Barrel House in Toronto’s Davenport, is a long and arduous one. But we needed to do the bus thing, because their Stout Night 2015 had so many good (and new to us) brews.

In a string of commercial buildings and warehouses on a side street, the Barrel House is tucked away. And yep, inside it’s lined with barrels.

IMG_0780 (2)

It’s not a huge place. It’s a relatively small room, and it had a relatively small crowd. With the concrete floors and hanging twinkle lights, it felt like we had been invited to an exclusive party, rather than a big beer festival.

IMG_0778 (2)

Maybe it was the size of the event, but the people there were less clique-y, more friendly. We got in several stout-fuelled conversations with patrons of all ages (well, all ages 19+).

IMG_0777 (2)

THE BEER

IMG_0776 (2)

As you might guess from a stout-specific festival, there were a lot of creative takes on the style. Josh and Jessica both adore stouts – sweet, smoky and malty are winners for both of us. However, Josh likes the imperial and barrel-aged brews better, whereas Jess is more likely to grab a lighter, roasty stout.

IMG_0773 (2)

There were a lot of prime options, and we had trouble narrowing it down, but here’s a few that intrigued or delighted us:

  • Black Oak – Nox Aeterna – near the top on both of our best-of lists. Smoky but still smooth, no burn at the end of your sip. A very slight sweetness tempers it a little. You can see why they call it a breakfast stout: it’s very drinkable.
  • Niagara College Teaching Brewery – Set Me Free – an ice wine-barrel-aged imperial. Intriguing flavour. The sweet grape flavour is at the same tiem subtle and quite noticeable. Both of us found it interesting though it was a bit strong for Jessica.
  • Blood Brothers Brewing – Guilty Remnant – a pale stout; you wouldn’t expect it to taste so stout-like but it does. The white chocolate works well with the coffee-like notes, like a fancy cafe drink.
  • Belwoods Brewery – Bring Out Your Dead – aged in cognac barrels, a lot stronger in scent than in taste, but it’s present in both. It’s a strong hit with the “whoa cognac” feel that it would work well as an after-dinner-sipper.
  • Great Lakes – Harry Porter and the Cherry Hoarder – maybe it’s a cheat as it’s a porter, but this tied for #1 for Jessica (the other being Nox Aeterna), and Josh also really enjoyed it. It’s got a Dr Pepper vibe with the cherry, malt, and a hint of fizz. Can we buy a bottle?
  • Forked River Brewing – Weendigo – Josh’s number one of the stout night (or stout afternoon, in our case) – Warming and satisfying, with a bourbon top note.
IMG_0779
Posters for a couple of the stouts

All in all, it was worth our trek. We just wish we could buy all our favourites – so many delicious one-offs. Next goal? Making it out to Indie Ale House itself.

Event Date: December 19, 2015