A heated draft for the Ontario Brewmaster’s Cup went down on Monday, August 13th, between four Toronto-based beer writers: Jordan St. John of QMI/Toronto Sun, Greg Clow of Canadian Beer News, Ben Johnson of BlogTO and myself, Crystal Luxmore of The Grid.
We drew to see who got first pick in each of the four style brackets: Lagers (Clow), Pale Ales & IPAs (St. John), Stouts, Porters & Dark Ales (Johnson), and Wheat, Fruit and Flavoured beers (Luxmore). After that, the draft was organized so each writer had only one second, third or fourth pick in the remaining categories. Each writer got to draft their Number One picks in their category, then their Number Two, and so on.
The rules of the Cup are simple: to be eligible the beer must be brewed in Ontario; and it has to be available year-round (a general listing) at the LCBO (or in the case of one of the chosen beers, The Beer Store). Plus each brewery can only be chosen once — this means if Mill Street’s Coffee Porter is chosen in the dark beer category, their Belgian Wit is out of the running for the Wheat category, for example. This added a new strategic element to the draft as writers could choose a brewery early in order to knock one of their other beers out of the running later on.
The voting opened on August 14th, and the overall winner will be chosen by public vote — pick your favourites now.
Here’s how it all shook out:
|Bracket / Writer & Draft Order
||Creemore Kellerbier (1)
||Beau’s Lug-Tread Lagered Ale (4)
||Grand River Galt Knife (3)
|Pale Ales/IPAs (PA)
||Spearhead Hawaiian Style Pale Ale (3)
||Flying Monkeys Smashbomb Atomic IPA (4)
||Augusta Ale (2)
||Muskoka Mad Tom IPA (1)
|Stouts, Porters, Dark Ales (D)
||Wellington Imperial Stout (4)
||Mill Street Coffee Porter (1)
||Neustadt 10w30 (3)
||Black Oak Nut Brown (2)
|Wheat, Fruit, Flavoured (W)
||Amsterdam Framboise (2)
||True North Wonder Weisse (3)
||Denison’s Weissbier (1)
||Nickel Brook Gluten Free (4)
With only 16 slots, inevitably some of our favourite beers — and breweries — were regretfully left off the list. So first off, a shout out to our “Wish You Were Beer(s),” Great Lakes Crazy Canuck and King Pilsner; next year!
Throughout the week to share more about our favourite draft picks, and to justify our choices, we’ll post a play-by-play of each round of the draft.
Here’s how things went down for Round 1:
||Creemore Kellerbier (L)
||Muskoka Mad Tom IPA (PA)
||Mill Street Coffee Porter (D)
||Denison’s Weissbier (W)
The number one picks knocked some big players, like Muskoka and Mill Street, out of the other categories early, and may have assured their draftees serious bragging rights — if voters select their choice.
Here’s how we arrived at our Number Ones:
Clow on Creemore Kellerbier: “I suspect that my choice might be controversial to the craft beer purists who have disowned Creemore Springs since it was bought by Molson. But while the company might be owned by a massive multi-tentacled international brewing conglomerate, that doesn’t change the fact that Creemore Kellerbier is an absolutely wonderful beer. Many beer nerds (myself included) placed it among best new beer launches of 2009, and three years later, it’s still one of the most unique, distinctive, flavourful and downright delicious lagers available in Ontario.”
St. John on Muskoka Brewery’s Mad Tom IPA: “Mad Tom is not only an appropriate choice for the first round pick in the IPA/Pale Ale category because of its quality and consistency, but it’s also a good strategic choice strategically for the competition. It removed their Dark Ale and Lager from the field, making the choices tougher for my colleagues. It’s a big ‘ol friendly American style IPA with a significant lemon and grapefruit character and a pleasingly sweet body that fades away into a grassy finish that’s not overwhelming. It has been around for just over a year and I’ve never had a bad one. Consistency is important, especially within the rules of a contest that dictate a year round LCBO shelf space.”
Johnson on Mill Street Coffee Porter: “At the 2012 Ontario Brewing Awards, this beer took home Gold in the Porter Category, as well as the People’s Choice in that category, and the Beer of the Year award — the Ontario brewing version of Best in Show. This was an easy choice for first overall in dark beers for me: it’s about as rich a beer as you can drink without being over-the-top; there’s a great roast coffee taste owing to the use of coffee beans from the Distillery District’s Balzac’s Coffee but there’s also serious chocolate notes and some caramel, all balanced with a little bitter finish — in short, it’s a great little porter.”
Luxmore on Dension’s Weissbier: “When it comes to Ontario wheat beers, no one does it better than Michael Hancock of Denison’s Brewing Company. Not only did the man train at Molson’s for nearly a decade, he developed his recipes at the Victoria Street brewpub under the guidance of a Bavarian prince. His weissbier put Ontario on the map when it debuted in 1989, and climbed up the RateBeer rankings to beat out some of the best Bavarian examples. In fact, beer aficionados have ranked it the Number 3 weissbier in the world. Recently the recipe’s been tweaked to bring out an even bigger banana note but the spicy clove flavours keep things balanced. The history, unbeatable flavour and talented brewer are three solid reasons to crown it Ontario’s best.”