Toronto beer

The top 50 beers made in Toronto

A few years ago, it might have proven difficult to even come up with a list of 50 beers made in Toronto. Thankfully, owing to a boom in Ontario craft breweries and a growing interest in locally-made, interesting beer, Toronto is inching ever so close to becoming a fully-fledged "beer city." That means that these days there is no shortage of great beer being made and sold right here in the big smoke (despite what seems to be Ontario's best efforts to hold us back).

Lists of beer are inherently difficult, owing to the fact that everyone's tastes are different, so who's to say which beers are the "best?" Well, me. That's who. I've drafted a list of the 50 best beers made within city limits (sorry Left Field Brewery and others, but if you're not making it in city limits yet, I didn't consider you). Furthermore, owing to the ever-changing and seasonal nature of craft beer, I've opted to only include beers that are produced regularly and/or might conceivably be back some day, so there's no one-offs here.

The list is structured so that it progresses much like the typical craft beer fan's appreciation does: it starts with newbie-friendly offerings, builds to more interesting brews, spends an extended time with hoppy beers, and then explores dark and boozy more serious offerings before branching out into some seriously funky stuff for when you reach near-Jedi Toronto craft beer appreciation status.

top beers toronto

GATEWAY BEERS

Best Bitter Special (Granite Brewery, Bitter, 4.50%)
A well made, hoppy English bitter with great caramel hop balance. This one's got something for craft beer novices and experts alike (try at the Granite and it might also be your gateway to good cask beer).

Calm Before The Storm (Amsterdam, Mild Ale, 3.2%)
A perfectly drinkable English Mild that deserves your attention. The beer used the same malt bill as Amsterdam's 10% Tempest Imperial Stout so it has all the espresso and chocolate richness of a good dark beer, but delivered with an ABV that lets you a drink a dozen.

Cobblestone Stout (Mill Street, Stout, 4.2%)
A simply delicious, rich and creamy stout. All roasted malts and a touch of coffee with a slightly bitter finish, this is the closest Toronto beers get to liquid comfort food.

Grognard Session Stout (Bellwoods, Stout, 3.8%)
Another dark sessionable beer. This one is a chocolatey, roasty, stout that delivers flavour at a sit-on-the-porch-in-the-rain-all-day 3.8%.

Kolsch (Beer Academy, Kolsch, 5.8%)
Yes, the Beer Academy is owned by the Six Pints arm of Molson-Coors and yes, they are a half american corporation who largely got rich making watery lagers. But they employ people that know a lot about beer and The Beer Academy puts that knowledge to use. This bright, floral, picture-perfect example of a Kolsch-style golden ale is proof.

Mildly Amusing (Cheshire Valley, English Mild, 3.6%)
With just a hint of bitterness balanced with chocolate and roast malt flavours, this beer is an exercise in subtlety--an increasingly rare feat in craft brewing--and one well worth seeking out when this beer pops up in select bars around Christmas.

Nut Brown (Black Oak, Brown Ale, 5%)
With chocolate, roasted grain, and nuttiness, Nut Brown is a nice, smooth dark ale that manages to be complex, but not so much so that it's distracting. Like that girl you dated in high school. What ever happened to her?

Steam Whistle Pilsner (Steam Whistle, Pilsner, 5%)
Toronto's pilsner is great balance of sweetness and just a little hoppy bitterness. It's not blowing anyone's taste-buds off and it's a reliable go-to beer for beer nerds and the uninitiated alike. The beer seems to take a lot of flack from people whenever I write about it, but most people are dumb, I guess.

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SAY, THIS IS A LITTLE DIFFERENT

Blitzen (Bellwoods, Saison, 10%)
A complex but well-balanced, strong Belgian-style beer, this has notes of spice, citrus and even white wine and plums. Fancy enough to drink in a wine glass without having to feel weird about it.

Farmhouse (Shacklands, Saison, 6%)
A hybrid saison brewed with and dry-hopped with Citra hops and fermented with a traditional saison yeast. This sumbitch is tasty tasty.

Farmhouse Classic (Bellwoods, Saison, 7%)
This beer has changed a couple times and is usually tweaked every time Bellwoods brews it, but the result is almost always an easy-to-drink and classic version of the saison. When you're hopped out but still want refreshing flavour, this never fails.

Hopping Mad (Granite Brewery, APA, 4.5%)
A copper-coloured pale ale that's aggressively hopped with Cascade hops and dry hopped with East Kent Goldings, then served on cask. Introduce yourself to hops with a gentlemanly English tip of the bowler hat. What does that mean? I have no idea.

No Chance with Miranda (Great Lakes, Saison, 6%)
This one isn't around that often, which is fitting since it's rumoured that it's named after a certain aloof Toronto bartender. It's got all the spicy Belgian yeast, lemon, and coriander notes you expect of a great saison plus a delicately bitter finish.

No. 9 IPA (Duggan's Brewery, IPA, 6.2%)
In the hoppy hoppy madness of Ontario beer these days, some might find this "IPA" confusing. Even though you'll get some resinous pine and citrus, this is a malty bugger. In fact nine different malts were used (get it?). A nice malty, biscuity pale ale that'd probably be even better if you didn't have to buy it in those maddeningly small bottles.

Nutcracker Porter (Black Oak, Porter, 5.8%)
With coffee, cinnamon, figs, and spice rounding out the flavour of this dark porter, you might not even feel weird cracking one of these fan favourites on Christmas morning. Ho ho ho baby.

Omerta (Bellwoods, APA, 5.5%)
This beer has broad appeal for being complex, but exceedingly subtle. It's zesty but delicate, refreshing but hoppy. With blood oranges and hibiscus this one is uniquely suited to someone's first "Ah ha, refreshing beer can be awesome!" moments.

Saison du Pump (Great Lakes, Saison, 5.2%)
A pumpkin saison brewed with Sasion Dupont yeast. It's good. Drink it.

Stay Classy (Bellwoods, Session IPA, 3.2%)
Stay Classy is in stark contrast to most of Bellwoods' heavy-hitting lineup of boozy beers but it still manages to deliver on flavour and impressive aromatics. And as a bonus, at this low an ABV, you can actually legally drink this one while driving.*

Vanilla Porter (Mill Street, Porter, 5%)
An English-style porter made with caramel malt and featuring natural vanilla extract, this is a remarkably rich and sweet beer that's great whether you're perched on a warm fireside couch or a cold December toilet.

top beers toronto

LET'S GET HOPPY

504 Pale Ale (Liberty Village Brewing Company, IPA, 4.8%)
A refreshing and somewhat subtle pale ale uniquely suited to drinking immediately following any instance where you're required to ride the perpetually over-crowded streetcar route for which it is named.

10 Bitter Years (Black Oak, Imperial IPA, 8%)
Wet hopping gives this one pine, grapefruit, and mango aromas and double-dry-hopping lends it a balanced, rich, full-bodied caramel malt taste with a boozey, bitter finish. It also makes a great ten-year wedding anniversary present.

Audrey Hopburn (Great Lakes, IPA, 6.2%)
A Mike Lackey brewed IPA, this one is perhaps a little more subtle than his other pale ales, with some lemon and tropical fruit mixed in with all that piney, hoppy goodness.

Boneshaker (Amsterdam, IPA, 7.1%)
Originally brewed for an IPA competition, this unfiltered IPA has a reddish tone owing to its unique 5-malt recipe. It's cloudy, it's amber, it's delicious, and it's become a Toronto craft beer mainstay. Plus there's a skeleton on the label. COOL!

Canuck (Great Lakes, APA, 5%)
This is probably Toronto's ultimate "everyday beer." It's a perfect 5% pale ale with all the hoppy goodness you need to get through the day. Arguably the flagship beer of Canada's Best Brewery for the last two years. 'Nuff said.

Cock Puncher (Indie Alehouse, Imperial IPA, 11%)
This is long, drawn-out, piney, resinous goodness. It's smooth, but not subtle. It's called Cockpuncher for a reason.

Fracture (Amsterdam, Imperial IPA, 9%)
A massively tropical-fruit-hoppy punch-you-in-the-face Imperial IPA that's double dry-hopped and piles the flavour on with layers of citrus and pine and a dry, resiny finish. The quintessential balanced hop bomb.

Instigator (Indie Alehouse, IPA, 6.6%)
Something like the flagship beer of Indie Alehouse, the name of this aromatic bitter American IPA is all the more apt once you meet Jason Fisher, the guy who came up with the recipe and a man who once yelled at the premier of Ontario on behalf of craft brewers.

Karma Citra (Great Lakes IPA, 6.60%)
There are Great Lakes IPAs, then there are GREAT LAKES IPAS. This is essentially the hop-head version of crack, with big juicy tropical fruit notes, pine and citrus. Looking for the reason GLB has been named Best Brewery in Canada two years in a row? Look no further than Karma Citra.

top beers toronto

Limp Puppet (Great Lakes, Session IPA, 3.2%)
Presumably when Ontario started trending toward hoppy but low alcohol IPAs, GLB brewmaster Mike Lackey scratched his beard and said something like, "Oh, you want to play? OK, say hello to my little friend." And Limp Puppet was born. No beer delivers this much hoppy goodness at less than 5% alcohol. None. You can drink this all day. Lackey often does.

Miami Weiss (Great Lakes, Wheat Ale, 4.5%)
A hoppy take on weissbier that isn't really a weissbier, this is simply an excellent, aromatic and sessionable beer that defies categorization. But hey, puns are fun.

My Bitter Wife (Great Lakes, IPA, 7%)
Look, Mike Lackey makes great IPAs, OK? Just pour this in your face whenever you see it on tap and thank me later.

Roman Candle (Bellwoods, IPA, 6.5%)
The perfect IPA. Pine, citrus, and grapefruit aromas, with a perfectly bitter, caramel malted flavour. Regardless of the time of day you read this, I'm drinking one right now.

Space Invader (Amsterdam, APA, 6.2%)
A nice juicy pale ale that tends more toward the tropical fruit sweetness of the pale ale spectrum than it does toward bitter.

Thrust! An IPA (Great Lakes, IPA, 6.5%)
This beer won the gold medal in the IPA category at the Canadian Brewing Awards in 2014 and there's a reason: It's face-meltingly good. While GLB makes it from time to time, it almost always sells out in a big hurry. Hoard this shit like a squirrel hides nuts, son.

Wizard Wolf (Bellwoods, APA, 4.8%)
The folks at Bellwoods would probably balk at the idea of something so bourgeois as a flagship beer, but for my money, this should be theirs. Incredibly, it delivers grapefruit and pine aromas, a nice bitter finish, is balanced by caramel malts; and does it all at 4.8% ABV. When Bellwoods sells out and mass produces one brand, I vote for this one! Just no Wizard Wolf Light or Wizard Wolf Dry, please.

top beers toronto

LET'S GET SERIOUS

3 Minutes to Midnight (Bellwoods, Imperial Stout, 10%)
Aged for three months with tart cherries in the cognac barrels that Bellwoods uses to make Bring Out Your Dead (another great Imperial Stout), this beer has rich and complex notes of bitter chocolate, roast malt and tart fruit. For best results drink it at the eponymous time. Or don't. I don't care.

Coffee Porter (Mill Street, Porter, 5.5%)
An award-winning porter made with Balzac coffee. It's nice.

Double Chocolate Cherry Stout (Black Oak, Stout, 5%)
My cousin Dave goes nuts for this stuff. Man, I haven't talked to him in a while. I think he
has a kid now.

Fermium House Ales (Black Imperial IPA, 7.50%)
This crazy good example of what a black double IPA can be has a weird but wonderful mix of orange, mango, and pine along with chocolate and roasted malt. Turns out the folks at Bar Volo don't just know how to pour great beer, they can make 'em too.

Get Well Porter (Get Well Nanobrewery, Porter, 5.6%)
Are you really reading all of these? Sigh. It's a good beer, OK? 50 is a lot of beers to write notes about.

Harry Porter and The Bourbon Soaked Vanilla Bean (Great Lakes, Porter, 6%)
A rich, creamy, bourbon-y, vanilla-y porter with a side-splitting JK Rowling pun? What more do you need? There's a reason this beer has developed a cult-like following. It's got enough flavour for muggles and wizards alike. Sorry.

Red Tape Stout (Indie Alehouse, Stout, 10%)
Just a damn good stout. It's black, it's creamy, and it's delicious.

Tempest (Amsterdam, Imperial Stout, 10%)
There's simply no word in the English language to accurately describe the bracing bitterness and chocolatey malt spiciness of this big stout, so I will invent one: Delmascent.

Witchshark (Bellwoods, Imperial IPA, 9%)
A double IPA that somehow manages to be aggressively hoppy and bitter but also fruity, juicy and well-balanced. Consistently ranked among the best beers in Canada, it's deceptively smooth and at 9% will knock you on your ass if you're not careful, like your dad when you gave him lip at the mall that one time.

Zombie Apocalypse (Indie Alehouse, Imperial Stout, 10%)
I'm pretty sure that this beer gets its name from the fact that - along with a shotgun - the boozy, roasty, chocolatey brew would be among the handful of items you'd definitely want on hand in case of the undead uprising.

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BRING THE FUNK

Brettal Head (Bellwoods, Brett APA, 5%)
You don't need to understand the fact that this is a pale ale that uses Brettanomyces yeast in the primary fermentation to know that this is a hoppy, funky, tart bottle of deliciousness.

Dewallen (Amsterdam, Sour/Wild Ale, 6.5%)
A funky beer make with Brettanomyces and Lactobacillus yeast and Canadian raspberries, this phenomenal sour beer is aged in pinot noir barrels and manages to be sour without being puckering, sweet without being cloying, and complex while also super easy to drink. Plus it's named for Amsterdam's red light district (because it's red, yes, but also because you'll want to have sex with it).

Donkey Venom (Bellwoods, Sour/Wild Ale, 9.5%)
This barrel-aged baltic porter defies true classification. It too was aged with Brettanomyces yeast and "other bugs." It's got roasted malt, and it's got sour fruit, it's rich, and it's also tart. In short, it's weird; and it's amazing. Try not to think about the fact that it's name is basically Ass Poison.

Fangboner (Great Lakes, Brett IPA, 7%)
Named for a stretch of highway in Ohio, it's rumoured that the intersection of I-80 and Fangboner Road is the place where Great Lakes Brewery forced hops to breed with Brettanomyces yeast and thus created this horrifically wonderful bitter/funky hybrid that just begs you to kill it to end its suffering.

Testify (Amsterdam, Brett IPA, 6%)
A North American pale that's been brewed with a different hop every time its been made, this all-brett IPA has notes of herbaceous grape and pineapple and complex mango, pineapple flavours with a dry bitterness. Can I get a witness?

* You can't drink any beer while driving.

Ben Johnson also writes about beer over on Ben's Beer Blog. You can tell him the name of your favourite beer and why he's an idiot for leaving it off by tweeting him @Ben_T_Johnson.


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