The 15 most important Ontario beers ever

Ontario’s beer scene is still very much in its infancy.

Accordingly, it’s a little tough to identify the beers that have been “game changers” here just yet.  The game, that is, is still very much changing.

That said, in our still-short evolution toward better beer, there have been a handful of beers that most certainly helped Ontario’s craft beer scene get to where it is today.

Here are my picks for what those beers are. These aren’t the best beers, nor are they my favourites, rather they are the beers that have helped transform Ontario’s getting-closer-to-world-class-every-day beer culture thus far.

Upper Canada Brewing Company’s Rebellion
I’m not sure this two-row pale ale made with Cascade and Cluster hops (when the fuck is the last time you heard of someone using cluster hops??) would float anyone’s boat these days, but back in tha day, this was the only Canadian Pale Ale listed in the 1998 World Beer Championships and it scored an 85. So it wasn’t something to sneeze at.

More importantly though, this is THE gateway beer. This beer actually opened the doors for craft beer in the province. For a generation, it was like, oh shit, there’s another kind of beer?

Jason Fisher is the owner of Toronto’s Indie Alehouse and he points to this beer as a gamechanger. “Upper Canada Rebellion (and even their Lager) was the first beer in Ontario made with an eye toward flavour as opposed to filling a place in the market,” he says. “They didn’t give a fuck what any marketing people said. They brewed what they wanted to and, for a time, it was great. They brought in fresh German hops to make beer with which, at the time, was unheard of in Ontario.”

*real talk: I was 17 when Sleeman took over Upper Canada, got rid of this beer, and fired three guys that would go on to build another brewery in Toronto, so I never actually drank this one. But I gotta show love to an OG craft beer. Continue reading “The 15 most important Ontario beers ever”

A first look at Sawdust City’s new brewery


“If I have to answer another fucking email from people asking when we open.”

It’s early on a rainy Tuesday morning in Gravenhurst, Ontario and Sam Corbeil, Brewmaster at Sawdust City, is half-joking about what he admits is a pretty good problem to have: Future customers are eagerly anticipating the opening of his brewery and continue to contact him to find out when they can buy his wares. “I’ve already got two emails today and it’s not even noon,” he says, laughing. Continue reading “A first look at Sawdust City’s new brewery”

Black Oak Brewing’s Ten Bitter Years is coming to the LCBO year round

10 Bitter Years Glass

There’s even more great news for bitter beer fans (that is fans of bitter beer, not people who drink beer who are angry at the hand they’ve been dealt in life): Black Oak Brewing Company’s award-winning Imperial IPA Ten Bitter Years is coming to the LCBO.

Originally brewed as a one time only offering in 2009 to celebrate the brewery’s tenth anniversary, Ten Bitter Years proved so popular with local beer drinkers that Black Oak has opted to bring it back once a year every year since. Each year, however, the small batch that Black Oak brewed was available only at the brewery’s retail store and typically sold out in a hurry; leaving the majority of the beer’s fans, well, uh bitter, I guess. Continue reading “Black Oak Brewing’s Ten Bitter Years is coming to the LCBO year round”

Board Games and Black Oak Beer

“When the guys asked me what my perfect night would be? I told them the truth, beer and board games.” ~Ben Wyatt (may or may not be at Black Oak Brewery tomorrow)

Hey you. Yeah, the one with the dice.

Do you ever spend evenings in bars, drinking craft beer, and hanging out with friends, all the while secretly wishing there was a Settlers of Catan board in front of you?

Conversely, do you ever sit around with your best friends playing Risk into the wee hours, hoping someone will offer you a delicious, fresh, local beer?

If you answered yes to either of the questions above, you’re not alone. Continue reading “Board Games and Black Oak Beer”

Danforth Shmanforth: To the Roundhouse Craft Beer Festival!

Unless you live in a cave, you’re probably aware that this weekend is the annual tribute to most things Greek of the Danforth (think more souvlaki and Greek music, less economic collapse and political turmoil).

In fact, this weekend is the 19th annual Taste of The Danforth,  Canada’s largest street festival, which, according to their website, welcomes over 1.3 million visitors (I’m assuming that’s cumulative…).

And while I’m a big fan of gyros, the odd bottle of Mythos, and the Taste of The Danforth generally, this year I think I’ll skip it.

Instead, I’m heading to the first annual Roundhouse Craft Beer Festival, taking place, appropriately enough, at Roundhouse Park. Continue reading “Danforth Shmanforth: To the Roundhouse Craft Beer Festival!”