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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Informal Poll Open At Bar Towel - Ontario Brewery Of 2011

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Spurred by a year-end blog post written by Stephen Beaumont over at his World of Beer site, who declared Muskoka Brewery from Bracebridge, ON as his pick for the best Ontario Brewery of 2011 for a multitude of worthy reasons, members of Bar have started an online poll to see what results they'll come up with.

After Beaumont's post, a forum was created on the popular beer chatter website and members shared their thoughts. Etobicoke's Great Lakes Brewery, Toronto's Amsterdam Brewery, Beau's All Natural from Vankleek Hill, Barrie's Flying Monkeys and Muskoka received the most acknowledgement from the posters, so the online poll that has been created only allows you to choose between them. No other Ontario brewery can be chosen.

At the time of this post, with only 45 votes cast, Great Lakes is in the lead by only a handful of votes, followed by Flying Monkeys in second and Amsterdam in third. This tells me that people are thrilled with the change that all three breweries have gone through in the last couple of years, which all three have successfully managed to achieve with seasonals, one-offs, and collaborations.

Bar Towel runs the Golden Tap Awards each summer - an online voting event recognizing the best craft beer achievements in Ontario, including a category for Best Craft Brewery in Ontario, that Bar Towellers vote on. The 2011 GTAs saw Beau's All Natural Brewery win the coveted award. And the year before, and the year before that. So it's interesting to see these results, and the comments that go with them.

What I like most about this poll, and the debate on the forum born from Beaumont's post, is that it really is tough to come up with an answer as more and more Ontario breweries seem to be evolving at a pace that us beer enthusiasts' have been hoping for for years!

Beers from the breweries mentioned above are making their way into high end restaurants, chain pubs, new restaurants, trade shows and specialized events that once only had the likes of Molson, Labatt, or the import brands either brewery represented. Packaging is evolving, more breweries are pumping out terrific seasonals, one-offs, and creating events to drive people to their breweries. Our Ontario breweries work with charities, win awards at various national, provincial and international competitions on a regular basis and are winning over beer drinkers of all stripes.

Since I started with TAPS Media (TAPS The Beer Magazine), I tend to stay subjective with things like this. Sure, I like some breweries more than others, but each brewery that I work with have their own traits, quirks, hidden gems and 'new-found' direction. Debates and polls like this are fun because it allows the breweries to see what people (beer enthusiasts') are happy with. We (beer enthusiasts') were a minority years ago, and still are, but the change we've been pushing for has spilled over in the mainstream market as evidenced by the strides our breweries are taking in gaining a bigger fan base.

*Beaumont has also stated that his vote for Canadian Brewery of the Year goes to Alley Kat Brewery of Edmonton, AB. Check out his blog post. 

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