craft beer toronto

The top 5 new craft beer in Toronto, 2011

As 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.

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