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Canadian Spirits

Canadian Spirits

The Essential Cross-Country Guide to Distilleries, Their Spirits and Where to Imbibe Them
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Craft Cocktails

Craft Cocktails

Seasonally Inspired Drinks and Snacks from Our Sipping Room
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Bottoms Up

Bottoms Up

A History of Alcohol in Newfoundland and Labrador
also available: Paperback
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Valleys and Vintages

A Taste of BC Wine's History
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Beauty Water

Beauty Water

Everyday Hydration Recipes for Wellness and Self-Care
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The Ontario Craft Cider Guide


Until very recently, Ontario’s craft beer scene was a fairly manageable affair. The explosion of small breweries that has taken place since 2007 means that it has become very difficult, even for beer writers covering the province, to keep track of what exists, let alone how everything fits together. While it is excellent to have an up-to-date list of breweries from across the province, it became apparent to us in mid-2014 that additional context and information was required if anyone was going to be able to navigate the huge amount of choice that currently exists in the marketplace.

So, in a climate where new breweries are popping up at a rate of one a week, the most frequent question we were asked when writing this book was, “How did you know when to stop?” We chose to make the cut-off point for inclusion three weeks before we had to hand in the manuscript for this book, approximately December 15, 2016. Such a cut-off was needed; otherwise, our editors would have suffered more headaches than they get now from emails requesting late additions.

The second most frequent question, and perhaps one of the more loaded ones, was, “How are you defining what makes a craft brewery?”

As many know, there are a lot of definitions out there, from making small amounts of beer to being independently owned to being community focused. In this book we have included just about any brewery that might be considered “craft,” which means breweries, brewpubs, and contract breweries. In all cases, we have denoted the difference in types of business for the sake of clarity. Because contracting is sometimes used as a first step for a brewery before moving into its own facility, some are listed as transitional.

In cases in which a brewery has been purchased at some point in the past by a large multinational company, we have included them but made a note of the ownership. The historical context that breweries like Creemore and Mill Street have provided for the craft beer scene in Ontario cannot and should not be ignored.

The purpose of this guide is to assist you in navigating Ontario’s craft beer market and finding something that you might like to drink. Each brewery’s entry is composed of its contact information and coordinates, a brief biography to help give a sense of the brewery’s identity, and a series of tasting notes and ratings for the beers that it has on offer.

In producing tasting notes and ratings, we have strived for fairness. That being said, we have offered brewers every opportunity to put their best foot forward by directly consulting with them to see which beers (usually capped at eight examples) they feel best celebrate who they are. In the majority of the entries, we’ve used samples directly from the brewery itself, avoiding any potential problems that might arise from tasting the beer from dirty tap lines in a bar or pub or from bottles or cans that have gone stale as a result of languishing too long on the shelves of a retail establishment.

A Word About the Rating System in This Book
In producing ratings, we have been mostly interested in three things: whether the beer has objective “aws, how well the ?avour profile works, and how well the beer accomplishes what it sets out to do, i.e., the extent to which it is what the brewers claim it to be.

Beer preference is subjective. You may like a certain style of beer more than another for just about any reason, and you’re not wrong to feel that way. Brewing quality is not subjective. Beer frequently has technical “aws or undesirable qualities that can leave an unpleasant impression. In the case of “avour defects, these might include the presence of diacetyl (which smells like buttered popcorn, leaves a slick, butterscotch mouthfeel, and causes hangovers), dimethyl sulfide (an aroma of creamed corn, canned vegetables, or tomato sauce), acetaldehyde (overwhelming green apple), butyric character (blue cheese or baby vomit), inappropriate phenolic character (smoke, burnt plastic, or Band-Aid), or just a lack of conditioning resulting in rough, unpleasant mouthfeel. The beer may be inappropriately carbonated or under-attenuated (containing residual sugars that ought to have been fermented).

We have taken into account stylistic convention. The Beer Judge Certification Program style guidelines are a helpful tool in doing exactly that, and, combined with context, experience, and the knowledge that it is possible to push the envelope a little, they have helped form the backbone of our rating system. We have been pleased to reward brewers for balance of ?avours. A frequent criticism of websites for beer geeks is that they tend to reward the extreme, favouring beers with higher alcohol and in-your-face “avours. We’ve tried to eliminate this bias from our thinking, focusing on how balanced a beer is, its progression of “avours, and the overall impression that it leaves. Whether considering a beer with a simple style done well or a complex behemoth that somehow manages to attain balance, we’ve done our best to treat them similarly.

Finally, writing this book has given us an appreciation for how much the art of brewing has to do with expectation management. When deciding how to market a beer, brewers must decide exactly what that beer is in order to communicate its qualities effectively. If a brewer refers to something as a blonde ale and it has pronounced notes of chocolate and mint, something is seriously wrong. If a brewer has referred to something as “Belgian-style” and it shows no trace of Belgian in—uence, that’s a real problem. If a “kölsch” is more like a blonde ale or a “cream ale” is more like a pale ale, we’ve taken that into account.

That said, there are always new styles of beer emerging. We have taken seriously the description of the beer provided. To give an example, the term breakfast stout may not be widely enough known to connote an actual style of beer, but it conveys the impression that it will contain oats, coffee, and chocolate. It lets you know what you’re getting, which is of ultimate importance to the consumer.

The rating system is a simple five-star system that includes half stars for emphasis and versatility. The ratings describe the following properties:

1-Poor A deeply “awed beer. Likely contains off “avours or does not seem to be well-made from a technical perspective. May be off style or poorly conceived. Not recommended.

2-Fair Beer may contain noticeable “aws in terms of “avour or technical elements. Beer approaches stylistic guidelines. Beer may not quite work from a conceptual standpoint.

3-Good Stylistically accurate. Beer does not contain off “avours. Beer may have issues with balance in its “avour profile. Technical proficiency is not an issue.

4-Very Good A memorable example of the style. Very much in balance. Flavours are appropriate, and the beer has managed a distinct character that sets it apart from other examples.

5-Excellent A beer of quality such that it would hold its own against the best examples of its style in the world.

In a few cases we’ve been unable to get a hold of tasting notes for a brewery due to problems that vary from brewing schedule con—icts to travel issues. We have not provided ratings for those beers, but rather a simple description followed by (NR), meaning “not reviewed.”

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