fall beer toronto

The top 10 local beers to drink this fall in Toronto

The best local beers for fall needn't be simply another list of beers crammed with pumpkin spice. Innovative craft brewers in and around Toronto are making a ton of great beers that might help ease your transition from light summery beers to the more serious beverages of winter. Indeed, there's a local fall beer for every occasion.

Here are my picks for the top 10 local fall beers (and a suggestion of when to drink them).

Junction Road Black Lager from Junction Craft Brewery, 5%
One of the many under-the-radar and low-ABV beers made at Junction Craft's unassuming brewery on Cawthra Avenue, their Black Lager is a refreshing schwarzbier with dry, roasted malted and subtle chocolate flavours--meaning that while you won't get too tipsy drinking a few, it's hearty enough to hold up to chilly autumn drinking.

Drink one: Fireside while you burn a pile of leaves you spent all day raking.
Find it: Available at Junction Craft's on-site retail store in 500ml bottles for $3.85 and in growlers for $15 (plus a $10 refundable deposit).

Autumn Hop by Amsterdam Brewery, 5.6%
Possibly my favourite fall seasonal, Autumn Hop is wet hopped, meaning that fresh hop flowers grown in Collingwood, Ontario are added to the whirlpool stage of the brewing process. The result is a fresh-tasting, balanced beer with grassy hops aromas that are reminiscent of a pile of wet leaves.

Drink one: On one of those late fall days when you sit on a patio with a scarf on because it is clearly too cold to be sitting outside, but the sun is out and you're not ready to let patio season go, damn it.
Find it: Available in 500mL bottles in Amsterdam's retail store in Leaside and on Queen's Quay, as well as on the shelves of LCBO for $4.95

Epiphany No. 1 by Black Oak Brewery, 9.5%
"Inspired by the Trappist brewers of Belgium," Epiphany No. 1 is a new quadrupel from Black Oak Brewery. It's got a rich and sweet flavour and you can pick up some of the cherry wood in the aroma. For my money, it doesn't quite deliver on the complexities some might like from a trappist-brewed quad, but when you consider this one was brewed in Etobicoke, it ain't too shabby indeed.

Drink one: On the couch through the second half of a Sunday football game. The high alcohol means you can drink it slowly and not have to keep going to the fridge and you'll find that it will change (for the better) as it gets a little warmer.
Find it: Available in select LCBOs and direct from Black Oak's retail store in 650 mL bottles for $9.95. Also on tap at select Toronto bars. You can also try it Saturday October 18th from 2pm-10pm at Black Oak's 15th Anniversary Bash & Epiphany Launch Party. Tickets and more info here.

Great Lakes Brewery Saison Dupump 5.2%
The pumpkin beer that isn't a pumpkin beer, Great Lakes' Saison Dupump deserves your attention. It's brewed with Belgian saison yeast, so this one is more grassy, peppery, citrus than it is warm pumpkin pie and cloying whip cream sweetness in your face--although there is some subtle clove and spice in the aroma, it's not overwhelming.

Drink one: Since it has something for everyone, this might even do well served alongside thanksgiving dinner. Your beer nerd cousin will appreciate the subtlety of the thing, but it's mild enough that even Uncle Bob might put one back before he gets into the rye again.
Find it: Available at the LCBO and the Great Lakes retail store. $5.95 for a 650 mL bottle

Glory and Consequences by Indie Alehouse, 8%
Only available once or twice a year, this excellent Belgian dubbel with toffee, dark fruit, and cookie spice was just tapped at Indie Alehouse. An almost-candy-sweet, dangerously easy to drink beer, you'll find that a night spent drinking these exclusively will lead to etiher glory or...consequences.

Drink one: Look up that old friend of yours you haven't spoken in a long time because of that dumb fight you had and bring over a couple bottles. You'll probably bury the hatchet over boozy local or beer. Or fight to the death. Either way, heck of a night.
Find it: At Indie Alehouse, available in in 650mL bottles for $10.

Wet Hop Ale by Nickelbrook Brewery, 5.3%
Another wet-hopped pale ale, the appropriately named Wet Hop Pale Ale hails from Nickelbrook in Burlington. Brewed using Bertwell hops, which some say are Ontario's only indigenous species of hops, Wet Hop has a piney, herbal quality that's best enjoyed as fresh as possible.

Drink one: In the parking lot from wherever you buy it. So fresh! (Unless you drove. Then wait until you get home, please).
Find it: In limited supplies at the LCBO and Nickelbrook's retail store at $7.95 for a 750ml bottle.

Reserve Saison by Amsterdam Brewery, 6%
The product of a lot of experimentation and blending, Amsterdam's new Reserve Saison is a mix of several barrels from Amsterdam's cellar and two different fresh batches of saison, creating a unique blend of eight different beers that Amsterdam says has Brett forward aromas of stone fruit and funk that give way to a light acidity from the bacteria and wine lees from the barrels. You had me at funk.

Drink one: On your last picnic of the season. Bring someone special and pack some good cheese, grapes, and a cozy blanket. You'll definitely get laid.
Find it: Released on October 9 in a limited run of 1000 bottles, Reserve Saison will be available at both Amsterdam retail store for $13.50 per 750mL bottle.

Barn Owl by Bellwoods Brewery
Bellwoods has opted to do some awesome-sounding stuff with the latest batch of their single-hop pale ale series, Monogamy; including barrel-aging some of it with apricots, peaches, and brettanomyces yeast in order to create Barn Owl. The Bellwoods folks opted to bottle condition it and while this one isn't available for sale yet, given Bellwoods track record and that mouth-watering description, it's probably a safe bet that it won't suck.

Drink one: I haven't actually tasted this yet so it's tough to know where it might best be enjoyed, but, uh, hay rides are fun. Take a bottle on a hayride.
Find it: At the Bellwoods retail shop. Price TBD.

100th Meridian Organic Lager by Mill Street, 5%
Mill Street calls this amber lager a "quintessential American-style craft lager," and while I don't really know what that phrase means, it does make me thirsty. Made with organic barley malt, hops, and yeast that all come from west of the 100th Meridian, this thirst-quenching lager is all grainy, bready, biscuity malts with some extremely subtle dark fruit and a crisp dry finish. It's reliable and inoffensive and thus kind of like the cooler weather version of Mill Street's Organic Lager.

Drink one: Where the great plains begin. Obviously.
Find it: Available for $13.65 for a six pack of 341mL bottles at the LCBO

Harvest Ale by Muskoka Brewery, 7%
Cottage country's best fall seasonal is back this year with all its aromas of caramel, spice and malts and its excellent, dry, hoppy bitterness. Always a safe bet, in my opinion Harvest Ale is pouring even better this year than in any year previous.

Drink one: On the dock at as you put the patio furniture away and close up the cottage until next summer.
Find it: Available for $8.95 in 750 mL bottles at the LCBO

Ben Johnson also writes about beer over on Ben's Beer Blog. Tweet him invitations to jump in your leaf pile @Ben_T_Johnson.

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