The Hockley Valley Brewing Co. brewmaster accepts his Best Dark Ale award

Brew Awards Fete Craft Beers (and Coors)

It's not quite the Olympics or the Noble Prize, but when it comes to celebrating the best of Ontario's beer, the Ontario Brewing Awards certainly carry their share of bragging rights. This year, 24 breweries entered a total of 81 different beer in nine judged catagories. Yesterday, at the Esplanade Bier Markt the award winners were revealed (and more importantly, sampled).

Although the beer spanned the range of styles from clean lagers to heavy stouts (and everything in between) they were all well made, and all had a very filling, well rounded, mouthfeel. Each was distinctive and interesting, but far and away my favourite was the Niagara Eisbock (#263673 at the LCBO, $7.95 for a 750mL bottle) by the Niagara Brewing Company, winner of the potpourri Best Specialty Beer catagory. A pale copper colour, the nose was incredibly complex, including aromas of honey, coffee, milk chocolate, caramel and vanilla. In the mouth, it was medium full and rich, with distinct flavours of honeycomb, chocolate, mocha, vanilla, and nutmeg. It woudl be gorgeous with a beef stew or chocolate cake.

The only real downside to what was otherwise a fantastic event was the questionable inclusion of The Beer Store as a major sponsor. While the sponsorship may be thematically appropriate, one must remember that The Beer Store is owned almost entirely by the big three brewers - Labatt's, Molson, and Sleeman - and money buys influence. Indeed, while there were nine judged awards this year, there was also a tenth, non-judged, award: the 'Best Seller' award. That award stayed in the Beer Store's family tree, going to the insipid, sex-in-a-canoe-like liquid known as Coors Light. Remember kids, don't let McDonald's sponsor a Restaurant Awards either.

The full list of catagories and winners is as follows:

Best Lager
Cameron's Lager
Cameron's Brewing Co.

Best Pilsner
JR Brickman Founder's Series Pilsner
Brick Brewing Company Ltd.

Best Cream Ale
Niagara's Best Blonde Premium Ale
Niagara's Best Beer Ltd.

Best Pale Ale
Tankhouse Ale
Mill Street Brewery

Best Amber Beer
Millenium Buzz Beer
Cool Beer Brewing Co.

Best Dark Lager
King Brewery Dark Lager
King Brewery

Best Dark Ale
Hockley Dark Traditional English Ale
Hockley Valley Brewing Co.

Best Stout or Porter
Imperial Russian Stout
Wellington Brewery

Best Specialty Beer
Niagara Eisbock
Niagara Brewing Company

Best Seller
Coors Light
Molson Canada


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