And the winner is…

Steam Whistle!

At a well-attended awards ceremony held at The Rhino on September 17th, we revealed that the “Good Beer Folks” were the ultimate winners of the inaugural Brewmaster’s Cup.

On hand were a handful of beer fans and brewers, including Steam Whistle’s Erica Graholm who accepted the illustrious trophy with pride. Thanks to the great staff at the family-owned Rhino, we toasted the winners with an excellent selection of the beers that were drafted into the competition.

The battle was a fierce one, with four great beers competing for the title of Ontario Brewmaster’s Cup champion, but ultimately the people decided that Steam Whistle’s Premium Pilsner was the best Ontario had to offer. It’s probably no surprise that Steam Whistle’s impressive social media presence helped them mount a great campaign–they work hard at making great beer and they do a great job promoting it, driving a lot of traffic to our website.

The founders of the Ontario Brewmaster’s Cup are extremely grateful for the support we’ve received running this event. The beer community was, as always, very welcoming and helped make our first ever Brewmaster’s Cup an astounding success. Through two rounds of voting, over 1000 people cast their individual votes for the best beer Ontario has to offer. Not too shabby for our first year!

Given the enthusiasm our competition received, it only seems right to bring the Ontario Brewmaster’s Cup back even bigger and better next year. We received plenty of feedback about what beers to include and who else might help us run the competition next year, so stay tuned. We’ve only just begun.

Once again, congratulations Steam Whistle and thanks to everyone who participated!

The Ontario Brewmaster’s Cup Awards Celebration

The results are in and it’s time to party!

Come celebrate Ontario’s Craft Beer with us.

Find out who the big winner is at our 1st ever Ontario Brewmaster’s Cup Awards Celebration as part of Toronto Beer Week.

Our friends at The Rhino have graciously agreed to host the soiree and on tap will be as many of the 16 beers in this year’s competition as possible.

Show up after 7pm (we’ll be announcing the winner early), come tip a few pints, celebrate this province’s great brewers and toast the big winner.

Round One Results

Voting in Round One of the Ontario Brewmaster’s Cup closed on Friday August 24th.

A whopping 916 people stopped by to cast their votes for Ontario’s best beers and in some cases champions in their respective categories were decided by just a handful of votes.

Here are your winners, all four of which will be moving on to the final round to determine the Ontario Brewmasters Cup Champion:

In the Lager/Pilsner category: Steam Whistle Brewery’s Premium Pilsner

In the IPA/Pale Ale category: Muskoka Brewery’s Mad Tom IPA

In the Dark Beer category: Wellington Brewery’s Imperial Stout

In the Wheat/Fruit/Flavoured Beer category: Denison’s Brewing Company’s Weissbier

Now these great beers will square off head to head (to head to head) to determine which one beer is worthy of the Ontario Brewmaster’s Cup title.

Place your vote for the final round now!

The Draft, Round 2

After Round 1 of the draft to choose the nominated beers for the Ontario Brewmasters Cup took place, it quickly dawned on the four of us that the selection of the 16 competing beers wasn’t going to be easy.

The choice of Mill Street Coffee Porter, for example, meant that their Lemon Tea Ale and Belgian Wit were no longer available to be picked for the Wheat & Flavoured Beer category, leaving few beers in that style group to select from. On the other hand, there were so many great options to choose from in the Pale Ale & IPA category that it was clear some favourites were going to be skipped.

With that in mind, here’s what happened in Round 2:

ROUND 2 Beer
Steam Whistle (L)
Luxmore Augusta Ale (PA)
St. John
Black Oak Nut Brown (D)
Clow Amsterdam Framboise (W)


Johnson on Steam Whistle:Steam Whistle is possibly the perfect pilsner. It’s got a mild aroma and a great balance of sweetness and just a little hoppy bitterness making it arguably the ultimate Toronto beer for a patio season. I think it will be a popular choice among voters. Their easy-to-drink style, prominence in most bars in the city, and iconic green bottle make Steam Whistle a reliable go-to local beer for beer nerds and the uninitiated alike.”


Luxmore on Augusta Ale: “We all knew Jordan would draft Muskoka Mad Tom as his first pick — it’s definitely Ontario’s most-loved India Pale Ale at the moment, and it’ll be a tough one to beat in this category. So instead of choosing another hop-bomb I decided to draft my favourite all-day-drinkable pale ale — one that straddles the line between Ontario’s malt-forward pale ales and big, bitter IPAs. Genius brewmaster Paul Dickey of Cheshire Valley Brewing, and Brock Shepherd, owner of Kensington Market’s Burger Bar and a longtime chef with a refined palate, designed the brew — and their meticulous recipe is evident in every sip. The beer’s bready, caramel body is countered nicely by zippy, grapefruit-peel that leaves your mouth dry and craving more.”


St. John on Black Oak Nut Brown: “Black Oak Nut Brown is partially a sentimental choice. There are a lot of good Dark Ales in Ontario. The Grand River Mill Race Mild is excellent, as is F&M’s Stonehammer Dark (even if it’s underrated). Black Oak’s Nut Brown has been consistently listed in the LCBO for long enough that it was one of the first beers that I tried after moving back to Ontario from University. It doesn’t get enough credit for depth of flavour, with notes of chocolate, roasted grain, some pronounced nuttiness and caramel. It’s extremely smooth. It meets my criteria for beer I want to drink: Complex enough that you can think about it if you want to, not so complex that you’re forced to.”


Clow on Amsterdam Framboise: “With Dension’s quite expectedly taken by Crystal in Round 1, and Ben’s choice of Mill St. Coffee Porter in that round removing all of their other Mill St. beers from the running, the Wheat & Flavoured Beer group immediately became quite difficult to choose for. I was already planning on picking Amsterdam Framboise, though, and was glad that no-one had chosen another ‘dam beer before I got the chance. Unlike many more timidly flavoured fruit beers – including its corporate cousin KLB Raspberry Wheat – the Framboise is a raspberry beer through and through, and makes no apologies for. From its vibrant ruby-pink colour, to the massive aroma and long, lingering flavour of fresh and pleasingly tart raspberries. this is one balls-out fruit beer.”

The Draft, Round 1

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 Clow Johnson Luxmore St. John
Lagers (L) Creemore Kellerbier (1) Steamwhistle (2) 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:

ROUND 1 Beer
Clow Creemore Kellerbier (L)
St. John Muskoka Mad Tom IPA (PA)
Johnson Mill Street Coffee Porter (D)
Luxmore 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.”


The Ontario Brewmaster’s Cup

The Ontario Brewmaster’s Cup, a competition between 16 of Ontario’s best beers, was founded with a distinct goal: to showcase the great beers being made in this province and to solicit public feedback to determine which of them might conceivably be crowned the best Ontario has to offer.

The idea for The Ontario Brewmaster’s Cup came following the recent “LCBO Brewmaster’s Cup” which kicked off during Euro 2012 as an “online tournament to celebrate major beer brands from different countries in the spirit of competition.” That competition pitted 16 beers the LCBO offers against one another in order to have the public choose their favourite. The LCBO has done much to promote Ontario’s brewers — including creating discovery packs, instituting the “Go Local” campaign, and assisting local brewers with the process of getting their products on store shelves — however, much to the dismay of fans of local beer, the LCBO Brewmaster’s selection from Canada was not from Ontario (not that there’s anything inherently wrong with Moosehead, the beer that was chosen to represent Canada).

In response, feeling that the beers in this province deserve a showcase of their own, four Toronto beer writers, Greg Clow, Ben Johnson, Crystal Luxmore, and Jordan St. John, decided to come together to create an all-Ontario competition — The Ontario Brewmasters Cup — simply to remind beer drinkers that there is plenty of great beer on hand right in our own backyard.

To narrow the field, we’ll take our knowledge of beer and pare the choices down to just 16 offerings, then we’ll let the public decide which are their top picks (for complete details about the rules we created in order to draft our 16 favourites, click here), ultimately naming the 2012 Ontario Brewmaster’s Cup Champion.

Our draft will take place live via twitter on the evening of Monday August 13th. You can follow the action under the hashtag #ONBrewmastersCup.

After that, the voting will begin right here on this site, so be sure to check back and cast your votes in the first round of action. You can also follow us on twitter at @ONBrewmasterCup.