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The top 5 new craft beer in Toronto, 2011

Posted by Staff / December 28, 2011

craft beer torontoAs I noted in my previous post, 2011 has been a big year for Toronto craft beer. The task of having to narrow the field to the best five local beers of the year then was no easy one--although the research involved was enjoyable.

Because brewers tend to release their beers in pilot batches and often launch beers at events and festivals before their beer gets wider distribution, some of these beers were available somewhere before 2011; however, because they're getting more widespread attention this year, and because I didn't do one of these lists last year, I've included a few beers here that are technically from 2010 because they're all worth checking out. Plus it's my list so I can do whatever I want.

Miami Weiss by Great Lakes Brewery
At this point, it seems clear that Great Lakes is a local craft brewer that knows how to make a good beer. Their Winter Ale and other seasonals should already be a mainstay in your fridge if you like local beer with exceptional flavour, and the super-hoppy Miami Weiss is no exception. This is a refreshing yet flavourful beer with with some fruity and citrus tastes and a fairly bitter, almost piney aftertaste. Probably best enjoyed on a patio in the summer. I haven't had any problem downing a few when it's cold out as well.

Augusta Ale by Kensington Brewing Company
Augusta is what I'd call the perfect Goldilocks craft beer: it's got enough flavour to please fans of more complex beers, but it avoids the tendency of some craft brewers to make their beers overly hoppy in the quest to add more flavour. Augusta is just a good clean, crisp, American-style pale ale.

Smashbomb Atomic IPA by Flying Monkey Craft Brewery
This is not a beer to drink when you feel like drinking a half dozen. There is a lot going on here--honey notes, heavy fragrance--and it feels like this beer makes weird things happen in your mouth; in a good way. The Flying Monkey website notes that "Smashbomb's olfactory tropical explosion shockwaves your face every time you lift the meringue foam towards you." And as weird as that sentence is, it's actually pretty accurate.

Cheshire Valley English Mild
This is a dark beer for anyone who ever said they don't like dark beers or that dark beers are too heavy. The Cheshire Valley English Mild, like other milds, is sort of like a less intense stout--there's chocolate and roasted malt flavours here, but they're more subtle than with stouts. It's got low hops and little alcohol but lots of flavour and is dangerously smooth.

Mad Tom IPA by Muskoka Brewery
Perhaps it's becoming clear that I favour a crisp, hoppy craft brewing style, but what can I say, I stick with what works. This beer too is aromatic and full-flavoured while still being refreshing. There are some citrus notes and a sort of toasted caramel backbone and with its easy drinkability, it seems best suited of all Muskoka Brewery's beers for enjoying on a dock in the brewery's namesake setting; though it has served me equally well in cramped apartments.

Bonus Beer: Snowman Pail Ale by Snowman Brewery
I really wanted to include this beer, but to be truthful, it fell just short of my five favourites. Don't get me wrong, it's still a tasty beer--it's got some caramel hops flavours and a sort of toasted honey finish--but I'll admit that the "gimmick" of being gluten free is what pushed this beer onto my radar and earned it a mention here. Their previous gluten free brews, Brown Ale and Rambam Quad, won awards for their flavour in competitions with non-gluten free beers, so these guys--intent to offer local, gluten free beers that taste as good as their glutinous counterparts--get a mention simply for bringing the topic of celiac disease and gluten-intolerance to the local craft brewing scene in such a tasty manner.

Honourable Mentions:

Writing by Ben Johnson. Photo by Traven Benner.

Discussion

56 Comments

Maltman / December 28, 2011 at 09:50 am
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Oh god, another "reviewer" of beer that can't see how the super hoppy beers is what's making people hate the microbrew industry.

And for those people that don't like beer because it makes you gassy?

It's hops. Hops make you fart.




Fred / December 28, 2011 at 10:31 am
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mmm.. fresh beer and man beer farts. Cool story bro!
thppphpp / December 28, 2011 at 10:40 am
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Hop sharts are the worst.
HopSharts / December 28, 2011 at 11:08 am
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I like them
Beer insurgent replying to a comment from Maltman / December 28, 2011 at 11:36 am
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Speak for yourself. The microbrew industry is an alternative to bland beer from the big brands, and to brew "safe" microbrew beer is a wimps way out. Not every new beer is a hop bomb nor does every one need to be but the ones that are should be supported for people with adventurous palates.

If you knew anything about beer you'd know the West coast micro revolution in the states (American IPAs) has been one of the biggest things in micros these in the last few decades--Dogfish, Stone, Lagunitas etc. If you want to play it safe just stick to your lagers.
TheNexus replying to a comment from Beer insurgent / December 28, 2011 at 11:56 am
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Bingo - agree 100%
Maltman replying to a comment from Beer insurgent / December 28, 2011 at 12:08 pm
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Oh come off it. Using hops in beer is like using hotsauce in your food - put some it, but it's easy to put too much. Using lots of hops is taking a sledge hammer to people's taste buds and its the brewmaster's way of saying they don't have the real skills required to make a beer that can be presented to the average person. There's a reason that bars sell more medium than suicide wings.
BAR FOUL replying to a comment from Maltman / December 28, 2011 at 12:22 pm
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Buddy are you drunk?
Beer insurgent replying to a comment from Maltman / December 28, 2011 at 12:29 pm
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Hot sauce is a condiment. Hops aren't.

Hops don't kill flavour, they add to it. Just because something is bitter doesn't make it undrinkable, nor does it lose complexity because a good hoppy beer will still be more than one-dimensional. Are there bad hoppy beers out there? Of course, but that doesn't disqualify the style and more than Labatts Blue disqualifies the *cough* Pilsner style.

There's a reason Italian food was considered exotic in Toronto 30 years ago and you couldn't find an authentic curry to save your life. People grew up with bland palates and thought that was all there was to things. 'Why give your taste buds a work out?' they probably said. And here we go again.
Matt / December 28, 2011 at 12:33 pm
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Where is Molson M on this list? Their advertising has persuaded me that it is the most perfect beer in the history of ever. And they gave out plastic bags with four tall cans in them all summer! Obviously it's a superior product.
Rjk replying to a comment from Maltman / December 28, 2011 at 12:33 pm
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I agree with beer insurgent.. Speak for yourself. It's YOUR taste buds getting sledgehammered not "people's" ... If you can't handle the review, take your bias elsewhere. If you can't handle the hops then maybe wine coolers are your best bet. Remember that every beer is different as it has every right to be, quit complaining and find yours... Or better yet, make one and put it up for review.
Just sayin replying to a comment from Beer insurgent / December 28, 2011 at 12:34 pm
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"Just because something is bitter doesn't make it undrinkable"

Yes it does.
Paddy-O / December 28, 2011 at 12:42 pm
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I disagree with Maltman there, hops make a great beer. That is, the right amount of hops of course.
As for the list, I would say The Mad Tom IPA is pretty good and the Augusta Ale is of course a great taste of Toronto.
I would, however, argue that the Mill Street Lemon Tea Beer should be placed up in the Top 5. I'd say all through the summer the Lemon Tea is one of the most widely-enjoyed beers in the city. Certainly deserving to be in the Top 5.
AJ / December 28, 2011 at 12:50 pm
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Craft beer more likr crap beer. I love me my Coors.
Maltman replying to a comment from Beer insurgent / December 28, 2011 at 01:24 pm
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Ketchup and mustard are condiments as well, but they're used as ingredients in cooking - I guess you don't like real bbq either because of that. And bitter beer is good beer? Oh my god, you must smoke a carton of cigs a week if that's the only way you can taste anything.

My bias is that I'm sick of buying a 6 pack of micro beer that you can only drink one or two of them before begging to trade with someone else. Go check with the beer nerds on bartowel.com that are pleading to only buy 1 bottle of a micro from someone, or better yet, trade away most of their six pack that they need to "cellar" since they can't consume it (why? because of the bitter hops!). So you know what? I'm actually fighting for the beer geeks out there - so they'd be happy to consume what they bought. If hops were actually the godlike ingredient that people are making it out to be, then we'd be drinking hop extract now. Hops isn't something we discovered 5 years ago, it's been around since beer has been brewed. Please don't think it's special since you "just" discovered it.
sir / December 28, 2011 at 02:14 pm
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It's about time the Ontario beer scene starting paying attention to the great potential beers being made in BC, Quebec and the US. We are way behind the curve...and finally some breweries are playing catchup. It will only be a matter of time before the population catches up as well and learns what real beer is about. Hops are 1/4 of what makes beer beer (the other 3/4 being water, malt and yeast). If you can't taste the hops in your beer...then it's not much of a beer at all. Coors light is piss, and I will agree that it's refreshing on a hot day, but I'd rather have a glass of water over a watery flavourless beer or even better: a nice balanced citrus-ey IPA to crush my thirst with real flavour.
Rizzy / December 28, 2011 at 02:26 pm
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ADVICE TO WHINERS: Stop whining, and go buy a can of tecate. Sure there are beers out there that are "too hoppy" or "too bitter", but taste is subjective, or have you not figured that out yet? Quit carrying on with your Know it all bullshit, and act like men for christ sakes.
BEER ME / December 28, 2011 at 02:37 pm
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Mad Tom is KILLER
Kensington is EXCELLENT

Miami Weiss has THE WORST PACKAGING DESIGN IN HISTORY except for that horrible 416 beer from Amsterdam

All you dorks complaining that you don't like hoppy beers tell us your top 5 beers - just sh*tting on the list like babies accomplishes nothing and bores us to sleep.
Realist (mostly) / December 28, 2011 at 02:38 pm
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You do understand the concept of balance, right? The idea is that the bitterness from hops is needed to balance the sweetness from the residual sugars in the beer. The amount of hops bitterness needed typically varies depending on the original gravity of the beer (roughly equivalent to the alcohol content) and on the style. Obviously your idea of balance differs from mine, but a lot of people who like craft beer also like beers with a lot of hops. That said, I personally like both malty and hoppy beers.

Regarding the cellaring of beer, very bitter beers and beers with high alcohol contents need more aging than other beers (and beers with high amounts of alcohol also need more hops bitterness than other beers). Sour beers also require more aging. None of the beers in the article need cellaring, and frankly the vast majority of craft brews don't need it either.

By the way, the connection between hops and flatulence is probably bullshit. Residual sugars in the beer are a much more likely candidate. Hops tea is actually recommended to combat it.
Maltman replying to a comment from sir / December 28, 2011 at 02:41 pm
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Hops are like 1% of what's in a beer, and then it gets filtered out. If it's 25% of what's in your beer, then you've got another crap Ontario micro that again no one will buy a second time - heck, if it's 2% it's gone to far. And seriously? You claim Coors is piss, YET YOU CLAIM ITS REFRESHING PISS - all in 1 sentence. I don't think there's enough space here to make all the jokes. I can't wait for the geeks to catch up with the 99% of the rest of the drinkers that vote with their wallets.
FriggyBun replying to a comment from Realist (mostly) / December 28, 2011 at 03:03 pm
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Dude, let's have a party. You bring me a case of MadTom and I will create the finest Blue Angels you have ever witnessed.
Maltman replying to a comment from Realist (mostly) / December 28, 2011 at 04:13 pm
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Do I understand the concept of balance? Obviously I do. Do the beer geeks out there understand it? Obviously not. I don't know a single person who can actually stomach a pint of Alpha Fornication (Flying Monkeys brewery here in Ontario if you didn't know), a beer made that should never left the R&D department. As reviewed on ratebeer by someone with almost 2000 ratings so I'm sure he knows what he's talking about: "2-3 Oz is likely all you’ll need". Translation: Don't buy crazy micro beers. So how do you know what's a crazy micro beer when you're at the bar? Maybe the name of the product will help: "Super-hopslam-tastic devil beast that hops" (in case you missed the first hop pun). Yup, that's a great name that means you're not drinking a crazy micro beer created by someone on LSD. It's translation? "Stay the hell away from our beer you average drinker." I can't wait for the micro industry to wake up and make more beers that the average consumer will be willing to buy. That'll be the real revolution if it ever happens as then they'll become the new macro and I'll celebrate and salute them by buying another case of their beer.

And speaking of beer farts, google "beer farts wife" and start reading the writing of wannabe brew masters asking for advice since their wives can't stand their stench of the latest super-hop special. Maybe they should crumble some Beano into the batch. Oh wait, that's what macros already do (google beano history plz) - so you can drink their beer and you're wife will be happy too - obviously someone cares about the consumer at least.
Rizzy / December 28, 2011 at 04:24 pm
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Hey Maltman, you're still here? Shouldn't you be occupying mill street?
Paddy-O replying to a comment from Rizzy / December 28, 2011 at 04:36 pm
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Could not agree more! Hahahahaha
and... replying to a comment from Paddy-O / December 28, 2011 at 04:50 pm
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So did you google "beer farts wife"
Maltman replying to a comment from Rizzy / December 28, 2011 at 04:59 pm
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Thank you for the compliment, although I do realize that you're attempting to insult me like a 12 year old that can't comprehend the meaning of what he's saying. Once you mature into a man I'm sure you'll realize that I am effectively representing the 99%, and probably later after that you'll also realize you're not part of the remaining 1%. I'm on your side, and I represent you - the beer drinker.
Beer insurgent replying to a comment from Maltman / December 28, 2011 at 05:27 pm
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Maltman, you are just getting pissy with everyone because you're not getting the support you expected over your attitude towards hoppy beers. And judging by the trends of micros both here and in the states, it is you who are way behind the times. And comparing bitterness in beer to smoking cigs? I laughed at that one because your comparisons are getting more ridiculous my the moment. Don't you now know that beer is measured according to bitterness units? To make that kind of comparison solely based on the word "bitter" hurts your own argument.

It's not a zero sum game; enjoy your mildly hoppy and malty brews and quit assuming those of us who have a wider palate range don't know what we are drinking.
Ben replying to a comment from Rizzy / December 28, 2011 at 05:40 pm
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Comment battle over. "Occupy Mill Street" for the win. Well played.
seanm / December 28, 2011 at 06:26 pm
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I suppose Maltman can't handle black coffee or dark chocolate either. Please, keep shoving your face full of double-doubles, artificially sweetened "chocolate", and watery lagers. Just means there's more of the good stuff for people who actually enjoy flavour.
Maltman replying to a comment from Beer insurgent / December 28, 2011 at 08:49 pm
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No - Your knowledge of IBUs is rather limited. You obviously don't really know that the IBU rating of beer is just a guess by the brew master based upon the ingredients used in making it - it's not measured in the final product. Heck, most brew masters don't even know the alcohol content of the beer they produce after they measure it the first time (if they even measure it). There are more bad basement brew masters who think they're qualified to work in a brewery because they make a hoppy/high alcohol beer. Go ask any importer about the problems they have when the LCBO actually tests their beer in a lab to make sure the label is correct and they fail. Anyone can sell the first batch of a new beer - the real skill is selling the second, third and beyond. I speak the truth here - you just don't want to hear it.
Maltman replying to a comment from seanm / December 28, 2011 at 08:54 pm
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I'll hold my extended comments on the atrocities in the coffee industry (burn the coffee so you can't tell it's crap to start with) or the chocolate industry (let's redefine the word chocolate so anything goes) to a different article on blogto. All I ask is you educate yourself first on those industries before making comparisons.
fresh voice... / December 28, 2011 at 09:54 pm
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Alright someone way up the list requested something that wasn't hoppy in a top 5, I nominate Maudite. Rich with hints of apricot and fine carbonation. Also the Porter Baltique from Trois Musqetaires (I am well aware I spelt it wrong). I started reading this thread as I too was sick of over hopped beers and was hoping the thread might turn into some recommendations, so there is mine.
Beer insurgent / December 28, 2011 at 10:05 pm
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Holy non-sequiturs Batman--LCBO issues are a whole other kettle of fish. And if sales is your new angle then you should ask the apparently incompetent purveyors of extremely hoppy beers why they are making so many sales against your business model--Russian River, Dogfish Head, Three Floyds, Stone...get the picture? Why shouldn't Ontario brewers experiment with the style and try to meet this standard, even though every batch might not succeed? Seriously, did you have a bad experience with a bucket o' hops sometime in the past?
boo / December 28, 2011 at 11:02 pm
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8============================================3
me / December 29, 2011 at 03:10 am
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So sad...I'll be returning to your sh*tty beer city after two months in beervana oregon. Good bye selection. Hello amateur brewed beer.
Amed replying to a comment from Beer insurgent / December 29, 2011 at 04:58 am
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you'll recall that hops give him the shits.
Maltman replying to a comment from Beer insurgent / December 29, 2011 at 12:14 pm
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If someone lies about the product in the bottle then it's not a LCBO issue - it's a problem with the guy who made it (the brew master). Do you blame the judge or yourself when you lose in court? And stop trying to compare the breweries in the USA with what we've got here. I understand you would prefer to not support our local micros and would instead go to the land of plenty (hops) to spend your money exclusively there if you could. Be happy you're Canadian and drink locally made stuff instead of those imports you so love. I drink local, and I do it with pride.
frigante / December 29, 2011 at 12:36 pm
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The craft beer revolution is in its infancy in Ontario - I for one welcome any and all new creations from the humble but growing number of Ontario craft breweries with enthusiasm!

BTW: my wife and I had two new beers last night from Ontario microbreweries that were nowhere near what some people describe as "hop bombs" - Harry Porter from Great Lakes & Ol' Woody Alt from Sawdust City. Throw a Beau's Lugtread (reviving another north German classic style: Kölsch) and you have a nice flight of interesting Ontario craft brew that aren't hop-centric in their flavour profiles.

These guys need to be encouraged to keep up the great work and creativity - drink their beer with pride!
Rob replying to a comment from Rizzy / December 29, 2011 at 05:00 pm
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Holy cow people, chill out. As great as beer is, it's still just beer.

Personally, I'm a fan of both hoppy and malty varieties. The Flying Monkey's Underworld (I.e. dark ale) is a nice balance in my mind, but to each their own.
Beer insurgent replying to a comment from Maltman / December 29, 2011 at 08:24 pm
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So now supporting local brewers who experiment with hope equals hating the local micro industry in favour of the United States--uh, well played with your arguments, Maltman. *golf clap*
Beer insurgent / December 29, 2011 at 08:33 pm
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er, hops, not hope :)
bob loblaw / December 30, 2011 at 07:42 am
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Hops don't make you fart. Most likely its the carbon dioxide that does it... Silly internet commenters! Also, internet comments are fun to read because people get so worked up over dumb crap.
yeah yeah / December 30, 2011 at 10:29 am
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I'm a big fan of all beer - bitter, malty, sour, dark, light, amber... but my favourite beer of the year was Amsterdam's Boneshaker IPA. Hope 2012 brings some sours to the Ontario scene.
Realist (mostly) replying to a comment from yeah yeah / December 30, 2011 at 11:23 am
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I'd be happy to be wrong, but I don't see any locally-brewed sour beers in the near future. They're a lot harder to brew than other beers, for one thing.
TOM replying to a comment from Realist (mostly) / December 30, 2011 at 03:52 pm
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Sours may be hard to brew properly but we have a few local brewers who seem to keep brewing sours accidentally. Try anything from Trafalgar that has sat on the shelf for more than a couple weeks or half the offerings from Church Key. Sad about Church Key because when they get one right it is fantastic but so many seem off. Maybe I am just not a fan of the funky taste.
seanm replying to a comment from Maltman / December 30, 2011 at 05:24 pm
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Maltman, I don't see the point of your comment as I was merely making reference to other bitter foods that have been overly sweetened and watered down by the masses who enjoy bland food. Though I do suggest that you educate yourself on hops, as they're much more than "hot sauce" for beer. In addition to balancing the sweetness of the malt, hops contribute other flavours and aromas (herbal, citrus, floral, et al). They also have preservative properties which led to the creation of IPA, which was designed to have more hops and a higher ABV to keep the beer preserved during travel to India and abroad (hence India pale ale).
seanm replying to a comment from Maltman / December 30, 2011 at 05:25 pm
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And as an aside, I know a fair bit about both the chocolate and coffee industries; as well as the beer industry. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to educate myself on here.
Jeffy / December 30, 2011 at 10:18 pm
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people please - can we just focus on how shitty this BlogTO article is?

"caramel hops"?, "toasted honey"?, "toasted caramel"? (btw, all caramel is "toasted", or browned), "heavy fragrance"? (which is going to be my new rap name), "Milds are sort of like less intense stouts"?

WTF?

Did one of my high school students write this with his new thesaurus?
Doug MacKenzie / December 31, 2011 at 02:21 pm
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>can we just focus on how shitty this BlogTO article is?

easy now...he's probably an unpaid volunteer who's just learning to write.
Jason Kucherawy replying to a comment from AJ / December 31, 2011 at 03:41 pm
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You are hilarious AJ. Coors... LOL.
Ben replying to a comment from Jeffy / January 1, 2012 at 01:54 am
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Please accept my sincere apologies for attempting to describe the taste of beer in a manner that didn't meet the impeccably high standards of a high school teacher.

One can only hope that you and your students find the rest of my article to your liking. One can also only hope that, given your hesitancy to capitalize words that begin sentences and your use of both "btw" and "wtf," that English isn't one of the subjects you teach.
Jeffy / January 1, 2012 at 06:49 pm
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Apologies accepted Ben...FWIW, high school teachers need, no DEMAND, appropriate descriptions in beer...we needs it.
Hops Suck replying to a comment from seanm / January 3, 2012 at 08:33 am
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I am on the intarwabs and I know everything! Lookit me posting on teh forums all mighty!

SLURP!
Hoptomology replying to a comment from Matt / January 3, 2012 at 01:37 pm
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yes, it must be superior. At least that's what they told me.

haha
Ally / January 10, 2012 at 10:51 am
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Spearhead Hawaiian Pale Ale must be added to this list!
seanm replying to a comment from Hops Suck / January 12, 2012 at 11:43 pm
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King of the Internet. I'm waiting for my crown to make it official though, so hold the accolades for now.

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