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The top 5 spring beers in Toronto for 2014

Posted by Ben Johnson / April 24, 2014

Amsterdam Bock BeerThe top spring beers in Toronto are difficult to nail down for a couple reasons. First, as some local brewers technically contract brew their beer in facilities outside the city, it's increasingly difficult to nail down just what it means these days to be "made in Toronto." Second, given that spring in Toronto can mean it's 20 degrees outside, nearly zero, sunny, rainy, or even snowing, it's sort of impossible to find one or two beer styles ideally suited to this time of year.

Luckily, I take these lists very seriously and, after extensive field-testing, have come up with a definitive list of spring beers that should meet your beer drinking needs--until, of course, my list of summer beers comes out.

Amsterdam Spring Bock
The humble bock beer might just be the closest thing there is to an actual spring beer, and given that this one actually has spring in the name, it begs to be included here. Brewed in the traditional style, this is a sweet, relatively strong beer with low carbonation. Bock beers were originally brewed in Bavarian monasteries for consumption during Lent. They typically have such a high nutritional content that monks used them in order to get through 40 day fasts--but you'll do just fine drinking one or two with Sunday dinner.

(Incidentally, in case you missed all the media hullabaloo, Toronto beer blogger Chris Schryer recently did attempt to live off nothing but Amsterdam beer for lent. He didn't die!).

Barley Days Deli King Dark Lager
So Barley Days Brewery is actually in Picton Ontario, but this beer is still on the list for two reasons: 1) You should really try some of the beers made by great brewery, Barley Days, regardless of where they're located and 2) this beer was made in collaboration with famed Toronto deli proprietor Zane Caplansky. A rye and barley based German Dunkel that is flavoured with the same spice mix used for preparing brisket in the deli, the beer is apparently being designed to pair with Caplansky's famous smoked meat sandwiches. Additionally, Deli King Dark Lager is being launched at Caplansky's on June 17th to celebrate Zane's birthday and the 6th anniversary of the restaurant's opening--so it's just under the wire to be considered a "spring beer."

Bellwood's Brewery's Bounty Hunter Baltic Porter
When I think of winter, I think of the taste of dark beer. When I think of summer, I think of the smell of coconut and vanilla sun-tan lotion. This beer then, a 10.3% ABV, "velvety, hoppy, strong, Baltic Porter" with hints of coconut and vanilla, seems ideally suited to straddling my two oddly-specific sensory memories of those two seasons, thus, I'm calling this a spring beer. Available in the Bellwoods bottle shop as of April 21 and only made in a batch of 1500 bottles selling for $10 each, this one might be gone by the time you finish this sentence. Oops, you missed it. #FOMO

Left Field Brewery's Eephus Oatmeal Brown Ale
Nothing says spring like baseball and a tasty beer. Of course the corporate stooges over at the Rogers Centre have seen fit this year to ensure there isn't even one effing decent local beer to drink in the whole god-damned ball park! AAARGH!...Sorry. What happened? I blacked out in rage. To fill the void, try Left Field Brewery's Eephus, which is a tasty, 5.5% sessionable beer with notes of toasted malt and a nuttiness you can enjoy from the opening pitch to end of the ninth. Currently available only on tap at better beer bars (where, incidentally, you won't get cut off after seven innings).

Great Lakes Brewery's Karma Citra
Yes. You read that right. Karma effing Citra is coming back. Arguably the best IPA made by Great Lake's brewer Mike Lackey, a guy who is to making IPAs as Yoda is to moving things with his brain, Karma Citra recently won gold at the 2013 Canadian Brewing Awards for the American IPA category and is a beer so good it has previously caused shamelessly-enamoured beer nerds to create social media campaigns to get it in the LCBO.

Sadly, the permanent LCBO listing is not to be (yet?!) but Karma Citra will be available starting next week on tap in a handful of bars and in cans at Great Lakes' onsite retail store in Etobicoke. The face-meltingly delicious 6.5% IPA has enough grassy, hoppy, and floral aromas and citrusy, grapefruit flavours to make you say "This is like spring in my mouth!" But don't ever say that.

Ben Johnson also writes about beer over on Ben's Beer Blog. Tweet him invites to go drinking @Ben_T_Johnson.



HIssoner, The Souse / April 24, 2014 at 07:34 am
You forgot Pissed Size-50s by The Robert Bruce Gut Brewery.

It's jaw-dropping now, but will age poorly and will be flat by October.
Nope... / April 24, 2014 at 09:21 am
...his name is clearly "Hissoner The Souse".

Silly Peanut Gallery!
Brendan / April 24, 2014 at 09:51 am
I am consistently underwhelmed by Great Lakes Brewery. I want to support the home team but some of their beer is just unpalatable.
Seriously bro? replying to a comment from Brendan / April 24, 2014 at 09:54 am
Are you joking? They just won Brewery of the Year at the Canadian Brewing Awards. their shit is top notch. Which of their beers are you basing that on?
Try virtually anything in their "Tank Ten" series. It's all killer.
Brendan / April 24, 2014 at 10:03 am
I often pick up their season and holiday beers. Maybe I need to dip into their regular stock. It's hard to argue with Brewery of the Year, so I'm obviously drinking the wrong stuff or my tongue is broken.
Seriously bro replying to a comment from Brendan / April 24, 2014 at 10:06 am
Yeah. Even as a confirmed GLB fanboy, I would concur that their seasonals do nothing for me. The orange peel is ok, but they're all pretty skippable. Tank Ten series and the underrated Crazy Canuck are beauties though.
Peanut Gallery / April 24, 2014 at 10:08 am
The commenter "Hissoner, The Souse" just quoted a beer and a brewery that does not exist. It's a spam bot, or something similar. Can you please delete the comment?
A Gentleman / April 24, 2014 at 10:10 am
Where can I get a fedora?
Hissoner, The Souse replying to a comment from Brendan / April 24, 2014 at 10:36 am
I have to agree with Brendan. I WANTT to like GLB, and I shell out token after token to sample all their stuff at BeerFest every summer. But honestly, I have never found any of their beer palatable and for someone who really loves what is happening with indie beer in Canada over the past 10 years, I almost am at the point where I've lost hope.

To be fair, I haven't lost hope, and I'll continue to try their stuff because so many people say so many good things. And I'll certainly try this Karma Citra because it sounds right up my alley. But I just can't jump on this bandwagon.

Maybe someone can give me their top 5 GLB and I'll give 'em a go at C'est What or Volo via flights.
Hissoner, The Souse replying to a comment from Peanut Gallery / April 24, 2014 at 10:38 am
Hi Peanut Gallery! I'm not a spam, I just like fun nicknames.
Monday, October 27, 2014 / April 24, 2014 at 10:42 am
Wow you can hardly tell that an election is going on. What are these candidates doing? Definitely not talking to the public much.

Ohh well maybe we'll see a candidate at the next Raptors game.
Aubrey / April 24, 2014 at 10:46 am
any beer is 'sessionable' if you try hard and believe in yourself.
Peanut Gallery replying to a comment from Hissoner, The Souse / April 24, 2014 at 10:50 am
So "Hissoner, The Souse" can you explain what a "Pissed Size-50s by The Robert Bruce Gut Brewery" is, and why it should be on the list?

Graeme Quinn / April 24, 2014 at 11:13 am
It would be helpful to know where some of these beers are served on tap. Specifically the Leftfield and GLB beers.
mb replying to a comment from Graeme Quinn / April 24, 2014 at 11:21 am
left field's website has a list of where you can get their beers on tap:
Humbersider / April 24, 2014 at 11:31 am
All the beers of Great Lakes Brewery are excellent, even the seasonal ones.
Hissoner, The Souse replying to a comment from Peanut Gallery / April 24, 2014 at 11:36 am
It was --to some discerning quaffers in the furthest eastern, western and northern reaches of the city-- a stout, heady, feisty, barley-fueled little game-changer when it appeared on the local scene four years ago.

These days, however, it's decidedly polarizing brew--joyous to some, gut-wrenching to others. Much like treasured beer-flavouring agent coriander, you pretty much love it or hate it.

But who am I to say whether it should be included in this top five list? As with all things democratic, let's let the people decide!

Cheers! (and thank you for the great list of new beers!)
Dave in Scarborough replying to a comment from Peanut Gallery / April 24, 2014 at 11:58 am
Mmm, hazarding a guess here: a larger-than-normal pair of pants worn by the Argonauts' superfan, bearing telltale signs of urinary incontinence? Maybe Hissoner is floating an idea for the next bobblehead?
Yorgo / April 24, 2014 at 12:18 pm
When will the word 'sessionable' die a screaming death? Can't we revert back to 'you can drink a shit ton of them'?
Matt replying to a comment from Hissoner, The Souse / April 24, 2014 at 12:20 pm
I really like GLB for their great IPA's, APA's and regular pale ales. Try '666 Devil's Pale Ale' or 'Crazy Canuck', both easy to find at the LCBO. 'Thrust' may only be sold at their brewery in Etobicoke but is absolutely phenomenal. Also really good is the 'My Bitter Wife' and 'Robohop'.
Troy / April 24, 2014 at 12:27 pm
Hey All,

Here are some great spots (below) in Toronto to try our beers, including our Tank Ten series brands (Audrey Hopburn Belgian IPA, THRUST! an IPA, Harry Porter & the Bourbon Soaked Vanilla Beans, Lake Effect IPA, Etobichoker, etc...), Project X (one-offs like Harry Porter & the Cherry Hoarder, Barney Dubbel aged in Cab-Franc Barrels, Stalin's Choice) and core brands like Crazy Canuck and Devil's Pale Ale 666.

But really, any great Toronto craft beer bar/restaurant will have some GLB.

Also, for those that didn't/don't enjoy the seasonals like Orange Peel Ale or Green Tea Ale, please note that we have discontinued those beers. You will not be seeing them again. We have replaced Orange Peel with My Bitter Wife IPA, which is currently available at the LCBO, along with RoboHop Imperial IPA.

West Side
Bryden's on Bloor
Bar Hop
Thirsty and Miserable
Loose Moose
Get Well
Bar Isabel
Tequila Bookworm
Monarch Tavern
Two Bite Saloon

East Side
The Only Cafe
Sauce on Danforth
The Wren
Morgans on the Danforth
Brass Taps
C'est What
Ceili Cottage
Stack Smokehouse
Against the Grain Leaside

And many many more. We also get our beer to great beer bars outside of Toronto like Woolwich Arrow, Milos' Craft Beer Emporium, Imbibe Food and Drink, The Ship, and on and on.

Hope all of this helps. You can find out about new releases and GLB news by following us on Twitter ( and Facebook ( and

If you'd like any additional info, or have any questions please feel free to contact me at troy.b(@)

Troy Burtch
Community Manager
Hissoner, The Souse replying to a comment from Matt / April 24, 2014 at 12:47 pm
Thanks Matt!

I will say GLB has the best names, hands down.

I've looked at Crazy Canuck a few times, will pick up a tallboy. My Bitter Wife is one I've always missed trying, will put it on my list.
Hissoner, The Souse replying to a comment from Dave in Scarborough / April 24, 2014 at 12:47 pm
hee..."floating" :)
mb replying to a comment from Hissoner, The Souse / April 24, 2014 at 04:29 pm
If you ever get a chance to try GLB Fangboner (India Brett), go for it as well. I'm generally pretty picky about beers having grown up in Michigan, but that one on cask was pretty solid.
Derek replying to a comment from Hissoner, The Souse / April 24, 2014 at 04:38 pm

Hey Hissoner and Brendan, I could see why the GLB Green Tea and Orange Peel offerings have soured you on them. However, IMHO, GLB and Bellwoods (and yes living in the West End makes me buy their brews more) are consistently putting out fantastic brews.

The latest tank 10 offerings have been spectacular (My Bitter Wife (much smoother than last year) and RoboHop were fantastic). My fav beer of all time Harry Porter is no longer being offered, but the Thrust An IPA was 10/10. Last summer's Miami Weiss was also off the charts.

And news of KarmaCitra coming back is overwhelming my senses.

Hope this helps
Jmons / April 24, 2014 at 04:40 pm
GLB's Red Leaf is probably one of the cheapest craft tallcans on the market!

Not a fan of their Norway Maple Leaf on their logo though...
Jmons replying to a comment from Jmons / April 24, 2014 at 04:52 pm
Go to the leaf comparison for context; apparently a lot of Canadian companies and institutions are guilty:

Also, love how Spring Bock went up to 7.3 from 7% :)
Aaron / April 24, 2014 at 08:23 pm
Shut up and DRINK!
evan / April 25, 2014 at 07:27 pm
GLB's Robohop is super super great, but oh man will I be ordering Karma Citra whenever I see it on tap. That's a special beer.
Gavin / April 26, 2014 at 10:00 pm
I've never been a fan of most of GLB's regular offerings (Golden Horseshoe Lager, Red Leaf Lager, 666, etc...) and I'm happy to hear that they've cancelled their old seasonals (Green Tea, Orange Peel), but Crazy Canuck is one of the best values in the province (seriously, no pale ale has any right to taste that good for $2.50/can) and their Tank Ten series consistently knocks it out of the park.

Robohop and Karma Citra are two of the best (I)IPAs in the country, hands down. Harry Porter was one of the better porters available at the LCBO this winter. Their 25th anniversary series last year was next level shit. And Stalin's Choice is one of the best beers I've ever had anywhere...period. They were Canadian Brewery of the Year for good reason.

But seriously, Karma Citra is really that good.
Troy / April 29, 2014 at 03:45 pm
Great news GLB supporters…our fan favourite, Karma Citra IPA, the 2012 & 2013 Gold Medal winning American IPA at the Canadian Brewing Awards, will be available in cans at the GLB retail store this, yes, wait for it, this Friday (May 2nd) between 12pm – 8pm.

We are delaying the regular opening hours of the retail store in order to properly stock and organize our supply of Karma Citra IPA cans, which as you know, is in high-demand. We don’t want to leave people hanging, so we figured that we’d open our retail store at 12pm instead of 10am, and stay open until 8pm. That gives you an extra two hours after work to get over here and snag some of our finest before it’s gone.

Karma Citra IPA cans will retail for $3.50 or $78.00 a case/24. You can tweet out your purchase using the #KarmaCitraIPA hash tag.

Numerous craft beer bars and restaurants across Ontario will also be getting some in draught format and in cans.

If you have any questions or comments about #KarmaCitraIPA, please contact

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