Best of Last Year

2015 was another banner year for craft beer in Ontario. While there are plenty of big things to talk about, I thought for this post, I’d just review my personal top 10 favourite releases of the year:

TOP 5 ONTARIO RELEASES 

Amsterdam Six Borroughs 

A bourbon-barrel aged rye porter coming in at 10% abv, this beer was brewed by Amsterdam Brewery as the official beer of Toronto Beer 2015. An absolutely amazing beer with all the notes one would expect from a bourbon-aged porter and a surprising tartness, presumably from the rye.

Great Lakes Apocalypse Much Later 

This is the bourbon-barrel version of GLB’s awesome Apocalypse Later Imperial Black IPA. I initially went to try this beer at the Bar Volo Tap Takeover but was unable to sample it. Fortunately, GLB did a very limited can release for Halloween. I’ve had a few hoppy bourbon aged dark beers such as a Aviator’s Black Mamba and this one easily keeps pace. Hopefully we’ll see a return this year as well.

Nickel Brook Winey Bastard

While Bolshevik Bastard is a solid beer, it’s never been in my personal top 10 favourite Imperial Stouts. However, when Nickel Brook threw BB into Ontario Pinot Noir Barrels, they transformed it into one of my top beers of the year. The inherently nutty, coffee notes of the base beer blend beautifully with the acidic grape-skin tartness (aided by a shot of Brett) to produce something truly memorable.

Great Lakes Beard of Zeus

Yes, this beer technically came out in 2014, but it was not meant to be enjoyed until “after December 31, 2014”. I took this rather literally and cracked it at midnight of the new (now old) year. Flat out my favourite Barleywine of all time.

Black Oak Break of Dusk

This beer proves you need not have double digit ABV to create a real depth of flavour. Basically a scaled-down American Black Ale, this beer easily outgunned brews in the 7% range. I would heartily welcome this beer as a year-round offering.

Top 5 Other Region Releases

Stone Old Guardian Extra Hoppy

The extra does of the relatively new azacca hop variety added a really interesting element to this old standby. This beer nearly erased the already blurry line between the American Barleywine and Imperial IPA by combining tropical fruit hoppiness with a creamy, syrupy malt base.

Rodenbach Vintage 2013

One of the dons of the sour beer scene, this beer had a great backstory and an immense amount of flavour. Despite pushing one’s tongue to the brink with tart, sour notes, this beer still somehow comes off as well balanced. A showcase in expert brewing and aging.

Sudwerk Bourbonator

A great beer with a killer label. Although very similar to the excellent Bourbon-aged Deviator Doppelbock from Cameron’s, this beer just barely edged it out with more distinct barrel notes.

Scheider Weisse Tap X Mein Cuvee Barrique 

Another great lager, this time taking on notes from ex-wine barrels. This beer comes off as something between an eisbock, a dry white wine and a flemish sour. An exceptional food beer.

BrewDog Black-Eyed King Imp

The idea of putting a 12.7% ABV barrel aged coffee stout into a can might seem like a pure novelty, but to me it demonstrates that companies are starting to seriously look into this more efficient and stable method of distributing beer.

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