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The 10 best new craft beers appearing on LCBO shelves now

The LCBO’s releases of seasonal craft beers have traditionally been the best chance to pick up unique and interesting brews that usually require a trip to the U.S. to procure. But with the growth of the Ontario market for craft beers, the provincial liquor monopoly has started to buy better beers year-round. Below, ten exciting new bottles that are showing up on LCBO shelves now.


Chimay Grande Reserve Blue

Chimay Grande Réserve
$10 | 750 mL | 9%
While Chimay’s Premiere and White Cap have long been mainstays on LCBO shelves, this strong dark ale is the most sought-after brew from the Belgian Trappist monastery. Look for notes of dried figs and raisins, a peppery spice and toasted bread. The fine balance of hoppy bitterness and malty sweetness hides this beer’s nine per cent alcohol well. Coming soon to the general listings.

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Junction Craft Brewing opens a tap room and retail store

(Image: Courtesy Junction Craft Brewing)

Junction Craft Brewing has been operating out of Guelph’s Wellington Brewery for just over a year, but last Thursday the brewery finally brought its, ahem, craft to the Junction, opening a tap room and retail store and firing up its three-hectolitre micro-brewing operation. Retail hours are still limited—it’s only open from 4 to 9 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays and from 1 to 9 p.m. on Saturdays—but president Tom Paterson told us that should change once they staff up. There are six brews on tap to sample (their licence allows them to serve 12-ounce  pours until 9 p.m.), and the whole 11-strong line is available to take home in two-litre growlers, with 500 ml bottles available in January.

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Once again, Bar Volo cleans up at the annual Golden Tap craft beer awards

Ontario’s best beer: Muskoka’s Mad Tom IPA (Image: Twitter)

Sometimes it feels like Toronto is drowning in the best possible way: tournament-style beer-offs, new bars (both huge and humble), Toronto Beer Week—it’s a golden age for Toronto craft beer lovers. Keeping track of all this activity is The Bar Towel, a long-running blog and discussion forum, which capped off this year’s Beer Week with the 10th annual Golden Tap Awards at Beerbistro. Great Lakes Brewery and Muskoka Brewery each snagged a pair of awards, while Bar Volo took away three of its own, holding on to its title as Toronto’s go-to taphouse for fans of the new and peculiar (it won the same three categories last year). Oh, and the best beer in Ontario? Muskoka’s Mad Tom IPA.

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Introducing: Tallboys Craft Beer House, a new Bloorcourt den for beer geeks

Introducing: Tallboys Craft Beer House

(Image: Karolyne Ellacott)

The city’s ongoing love affair with craft beer has reached the point where it’s getting difficult to find a new bar that doesn’t stock at least a few local brews—but until now, none of them has focussed on that container so beloved of cyclists, the tallboy. Tallboys Craft Beer House is the first bar to do so. Founded by  Kevin Kennedy, his cousins Tom and Phil Cacace and his old high school pal Craig Wong, the new spot is nestled in the no man’s land between Koreatown to the east and hipster central further west, and servers over 30 different Ontario craft beers in can or on tap.

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Amsterdam Brewery announces relocation—and a massive new waterfront brewpub

Renderings of the huge new space (Image: Amsterdam)

Following months of rumours in Toronto’s craft beer scene, Amsterdam Brewery finally announced that it’s leaving its Bathurst Street location to set up a new, larger (and retail-friendly) brewery in Leaside. The brewing area at the new space will be featured behind a massive 40-foot-by-10-foot glass wall, and there’ll be a 2,000-square-foot room for casking events, corporate gigs and seminars. The big surprise, however, was Amsterdam’s announcement that it will return to its brewpub roots in grand and ambitious fashion, with a 900-seat hangar-sized restaurant (300 of the seats will be on a waterside patio) at 245 Queens Quay West, near Harbourfront Centre, the CN Tower, Rogers Centre and Steam Whistle Brewery.

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Introducing: Sauce on the Danforth, a new east end bar with classic cocktails and 17 craft beers on tap

Introducing: Sauce on the Danforth

(Image: Susan Keefe)

The roaring ’20s (or at least some version of them) have been roaring back for the last few years, with TV shows like HBO’s Boardwalk Empire and movies like the upcoming Baz Luhrmann take on The Great Gatsby. A new east end bar, Sauce on the Danforth, is hoping to capitalize on that interest. Owned and operated by Michelle Belisle and Johnny Lucien, the speakeasy-inspired room is open late, and showcases a collection of 1920s cocktails, craft beers, tapas and live music.

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Liberty Village Brewing Company to launch first beers next spring

Ontario may still be a decade or so behind the craft brewing revolution that’s been sweeping the U.S. for years now, but recently there are new little operations popping up seemingly everywhere. The most recent: Liberty Village Brewing Company. In a Q&A with the excellently named new blog Mom and Hops, the owners say they hope to engage the Liberty Village community in all parts of their business, from planning what types of beer to brew to marketing. If all goes according to schedule, the fledgling operation should be ready for a first tasting sometime this fall, with proper runs of two or three styles (including an IPA and an APA, both citra-hopped) shipped to nearby restaurants and bars in the spring of 2013. [Mom and Hops]

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Gluten haters rejoice: there’s a new Toronto craft beer for you

Attention Toronto gluten-haters and avoiders: beer from Heady Brew’s new dedicated gluten-free brewing facility in North York is now flowing at two GTA bars. The brand is currently supplying its first creation, Honey Citrus, to Kensington Cornerstone and to the Newmarket location of Gabby’s. Heady’s, the brainchild of gluten-free baker Robert Cundari, swaps out the traditional offending ingredients with Celiac-friendly substitutions (for example, the Honey Citrus is made with sorghum and rice instead of barley, then flavoured with honey and lime). Expect an expanded list of bars and restaurants, and a larger variety of flavours as production ramps up (although a bottle shop is probably not in the offing in the near future). The gluten-averse can also try Thornhill’s Snowman Brewing Co. for other varieties of gluten-free libations (that is, if you can find somewhere that sells it). [h/t Canadian Beer News]

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The latest opponent to corner store booze: craft brewers

Just because a corner store sells beer, doesn’t mean the selection will look like this (Image: Ewan Munro)

When we polled Dish readers about whether corner stores should be allowed to sell beer and wine, the results were a resounding “yes please right now.” But in an article on Torontoist, several craft brewers raise a red flag. As Ken Woods of Black Oak Brewing puts it, “Have you ever taken a look in a convenience store and seen any artisanal products, like artisanal potato chips?” And, though we might point to places like Barton Snacks as an admittedly weak counterexample (it’s not really a convenience store), Woods has a point: just because your local corner store sells beer doesn’t mean the beer it sells is any good. Read the entire story [Torontoist] »

Are you a craft brewer with an opinion on the matter? Get in touch.

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Introducing: Riverside Public House, a new Queen East bar with Dustin Gallagher in the kitchen

Introducing: Riverside Public House

(Image: Megan Leahy)

When Nav Sangha (Wrongbar, The Great Hall) took over the former Blue Moon Pub at Queen and Broadview, the first thing he did was repaint everything matte black. “When we took it over it was just a mess of colour,” he tells us. “We couldn’t even think about what to do before we covered it.” It’s now been opened as Riverside Public House, and for this third venture, Sangha has teamed up with Mike Homewood (The Curzon in Leslieville) and Top Chef Canada season one vet Dustin Gallagher (formerly of Grace). The new restaurant is a far cry from its predecessor, with more serious eats and a slicker new look.

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Introducing: Beer Academy, downtown’s new brewery, education centre and tasting room for hopheads

Introducing: Beer Academy

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

After Duggan’s shuttered its downtown brewpub last year, it felt as though the wind was knocked out of the sails of the burgeoning Ontario craft beer movement (the opening of Bellwoods Brewery went some way in reversing that). Late this June, however, Beer Academy opened in the very Romanesque building that Duggan’s vacated, and their team of brewers and beer sommeliers are adamant that Ontario craft beer is here to stay. We went down to Victoria Street to take a look.

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Our top six picks for Ontario Craft Beer Week


The third annual Ontario Craft Beer Week kicks off on Father’s Day (i.e., this Sunday) with 29 breweries participating in 29 communities throughout the province, and hundreds of events, including large-scale tastings, food pairings, special one-off releases, collaborations between brewers and Craft Beer 101 classes. After the jump, we assemble a six-pack of great Toronto events.

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Once again, the LCBO posts record sales—which isn’t surprising, given its monopoly

The Summerhill LCBO or Hogwarts? (Image: -sina- from the Torontolife.com Flickr pool)

Ontarians love their booze, and the LCBO’s 2011–2012 financial results prove they’ve been buying lots more of it. It’s the 17th year in a row of record sales for the board, with net sales up $218 million or 4.9 per cent over fiscal 2010–2011, totalling a cool $4.7 billion. Of course, that’s not exactly shocking, since the LCBO’s pretty much the only place in town where you can grab a bottle of bourbon or gin, unless you make your own. VQA table wines from Ontario were big winners last year, with an increase in sales of nine per cent, but the big success story is still craft beers. The fact that micro-brews are doing well shouldn’t be surprising, given the attention they’ve been getting from big beer companies, but the bump in sales is still pretty staggering: in the last year, Ontario craft beers led all segments with almost 45 per cent growth. All of this means that the liquor monopoly remitted $1.63 billion to the provincial coffers. With numbers like these, we doubt Queen’s Park would be in a greatf hurry to get rid of the LCBO any time soon.

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Why the big beer companies are buying the little ones (hint: $$$)

Will Bellwoods Brewery be next to get snapped up? (Probably not) (Image: Gizelle Lau)

Canadians might be cracking down on their beer guts by drinking fewer pints and opting instead for wine—but craft breweries keep growing unabated. The Toronto Star reports that in 1981, Canadians were drinking an average of 99.69 litres of beer per person per year, but that number went down to 80.3 litres as of last year. At the LCBO, however, microbrews have posted double-digit increases in sales and volume over the last decade. One staggering stat: in the last five years, sales in the LCBO’s seasonal beer program have gone up 200 per cent (this includes craft beers from home and abroad). This isn’t exactly shocking given Toronto’s much-discussed burgeoning craft beer scene and the bevy of awards microbreweries have nabbed (Amsterdam of Toronto, Cameron’s of Oakville and King Brewery of Nobleton just won awards at the 2012 World Beer Cup in San Diego, California). These little upstarts are a big enough threat to the big boys that companies like Sapporo, Moosehead and Molson Coors have been snapping up the smaller breweries (Sleeman, Hop City Brewing and Granville Island Brewing, respectively) with abandon. [Toronto Star]

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Bar Volo’s IPA Challenge: 32 cask ales and a whole lot of hops

The 32 beers were matched up in a bracket-style competition (Image: Adam McDowell)

On Saturday and Sunday, Bar Volo hosted the fourth annual IPA Challenge, which gathered hop heads together for a blind-tasting, winner-take-the-glory contest between 32 Southern Ontario examples of India Pale Ale—the bitter, malty, high-alcohol style of beer beloved of craft brewing enthusiasts. The melee kicked off in a packed bar Saturday at noon, but we dropped by for the more sedate fourth and final round on Sunday evening.

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