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After eight days in Alberta, boy, do I miss Ontario beer. But after trying beers from five breweries in my eight days here, I have to admit — I would always think of another beer from my home province that tastes maybe just a little bit better.
Maybe I’m just a homer.
Maybe it’s not fair to compare, since microbreweries are just starting to find their feet in Oil Country, and have flourished in Canada’s business hub. But the fact that microbreweries are gaining popularity here is interesting: Alley Kat owner and brewer Neil Herbst told Suds yesterday that his sales have doubled each year for the past three years.
I returned from Edmonton yesterday after helping launch Metro in the City of Champions, and I’ll be looking forward to my first home province pint today, especially in light of the Ontario Brewing Awards, which were presented on Wednesday at the Bier Markt (Church and Esplanade).
I’m sipping a Shaughnessy Stout, by Brewsters Brewing Company and Restaurant: Smokey and peaty nose, dark black in colour and oddly light-bodied with a bitter but pleasant coffee and molasses taste. I bought a 675-ml bottle of it from one of the western chain’s seven brew pubs in Alberta.
We need more brew pubs in Ontario …
And then I think of a somewhat comparable Toronto’s Mill Street Coffee Porter, which has a more complex flavour profile and is more full-bodied. (It took silver at the awards behind Oakville’s Black Oak’s Nut Cracker Porter in the stout/porter category.)
Then there’s Alley Kat’s Full Moon pale ale. It has a peppery nose, and is dry-hopped with cascade hops from Washington state, similar but a little spicier than Calgary’s Big Rock Pale Ale.
Kinda makes me think of those pints of Mill Street Tankhouse Ale I put back at the Rosedale Diner before my trip here. Tank won for pale ales in Ontario for the second consecutive year.
Back to Edmonton: And then there’s Amber’s Brewing Co.’s Honey Brown. A light copper in colour with a subtle head, it’s dry and subtle beer, balanced between its hops and malts. It’s unique as a honey brown, and has piqued my interest about re-trying Tiverton Bear Honey Brown by Steelback, Ontario’s gold winner for ambers.
Steelback made quite the splash with four medals on six entries. More on the Hamilton brewery next week.
Lastly, Maverick Deluxe Pilsner: The young brewery makes yet another dry beer, which is light and carbonated. Not extremely flavourful, and a far cry from Toronto’s Steam Whistle, Ontario’s top pilsner this year. Steam is now available out west.
None of the Edmonton beers show up at thebeerstore.ca or lcbo.com — you might find Alley Kat on tap around Ontario — but there are Big Rock brews. Reach for the Traditional Ale ($11.80 for six).
Find a complete list of the 2007 Ontario Brewing Award winners at www.metronews.ca.
Sorry, Oilers fans … go Flames go!
Here are the winners of the 2007 Ontario Brewing Awards:
GOLD: Elora Grand Lager, by Trafalgar Brewing
SILVER: Nickel Brook Light, by Better Bitters Brewing Company
BRONZE: Mill Street Organic Lager, by Mill Street Brewery
GOLD: Nickel Brook Lager, by Better Bitters Brewing Company
SILVER: Steelback Red, by Steelback Brewing
BRONZE: Steelback Silver, by Steelback Brewing
GOLD: Steam Whistle, by Steam Whistle Brewing
SILVER: J.R. Brickman Pilsner, by Brick Brewing Company
BRONZE: King Pilsner, by King Brewery
GOLD: Tiverton Bear Dark Lager, by Steelback Brewing
SILVER: Denison's Dunkel, by Denison's Brewing Company
BRONZE: Waterloo Dark, by Brick Brewing Company
GOLD: Millennium Buzz Beer, by Cool Beer Brewing Company
SILVER: Paddy's Irish Red, by Trafalgar Brewing
BRONZE: Red Leaf Smooth Red Lager, by Great Lakes Brewery
GOLD: Niagara's Best Blonde, by Niagara's Best Beer
SILVER: Robert Simpson Confederation Ale, by The Robert Simpson Brewing Co.
BRONZE: Cameron's Cream Ale, by Cameron's Brewing Company
GOLD: Tankhouse Ale, by Mill Street Brewery
SILVER: Black Oak Pale Ale, by Black Oak Brewing Company
BRONZE: Niagara Pale Ale, by Niagara Falls Brewing Company
GOLD: Nickel Brook Ale, by Better Bitters Brewing Company
SILVER: Cameron's Auburn Ale, by Cameron's Brewing Company
BRONZE: Trafalgar Brewing for Portside Amber
GOLD: Hockley Dark Traditional Ale, by Hockley Valley Brewing Company
SILVER: Iron Duke, by Wellington Brewery
BRONZE: Elora Irish, by Trafalgar Brewing
GOLD: Granite Best Bitter Special, by Granite Brewery
SILVER: Elora ESB, by Trafalgar Brewing
BRONZE: Connors Best Bitter, by Brick Brewing Company
GOLD: Tiverton Bear Honey Brown, by Steelback Brewing
SILVER: J.R. Brickman Honey Red, Brick Brewing Co Ltd
BRONZE: Holiday Honey, by Old Credit Brewing Company
GOLD: Denison's Weissbier, by Denison's Brewing Company
GOLD: Eisbock, by Niagara Falls Brewing Company
SILVER: Winter Ale, by Great Lakes Brewery
BRONZE: Summer Saison, by Black Oak Brewing Company
GOLD: Nut Cracker Porter, by Black Oak Brewing Company
SILVER: Coffee Porter, by Mill Street Brewery
BRONZE: Imperial Russian Stout, by Wellington Brewery
GOLD: Coors Light, by Molson Canada
SILVER: Molson Canadian, by Molson Canada
BRONZE: Labatt Blue, by Labatt Breweries of Canada