At the end of this month, there’ll be a new champ in town: the best Ontario brew.
If you’re the Liquor Control Board of Ontario and you want to piss off a bunch of local beer writers, here’s one way to do it: hold a contest asking Ontario imbibers to choose the world’s best beer—but don’t include a single bottle made in the province.
Yes. It happened. The LCBO’s Brewmasters Cup, launched in July, put 16 beers from around the world to a vote. (America’s “big craft” brewer, Samuel Adams, beat out Stella Artois and Carlsberg for the crown.) It’s a surprising omission, given how much the LCBO has done to promote provincial microbreweries over the past decade. So to prove to our liquor monopoly that there are plenty of great Ontario beers sitting on its shelves, four Toronto beer writers—Ben Johnson at BlogTO, Jordan St. John at the Toronto Sun, Greg Clow of canadianbeernews.com, and me—decided to hold a contest of our own.
The Ontario Brewmasters Cup pits 16 homegrown beers against one another in four categories: lagers and pilsners; pale ales and IPAs; stouts, porters, and dark ales; and wheat, fruit, and flavoured. Recently, we held a live draft on Twitter to pick our bracket of four—one beer for each category. The contest had three rules: The beer must be made in Ontario and available at the LCBO year-round, and each brewery could only be chosen once. This last rule added an element of strategy, so if I chose a Muskoka Cream Ale early on, for example, that would knock the Mad Tom IPA (a big hit with beer nerds) out of the running.
Things, predictably, got ugly. The draft was rife with F-bombs, trash-talk, and a few surprises: Due to fierce competition in over-crowded categories like pale ales/IPAs, and some of that strategic manoeuvring, beloved breweries like Great Lakes Brewery and King Brewery didn’t crack the top 16. Equally predictably, people are passionate about their beer: When voting began on August 14, over 1,100 people came to the website (see URL below) that day. Keep clicking—the first round of voting closes August 26.
Allow me to make a case for my number-one draft pick, Denison’s Weissbier. I’ve long thought it should be deemed Toronto’s official tipple: A zippy beer with big banana notes tamed by spicy clove, it’s ranked among the top three wheats in the world on ratebeer.com, and it’s the brew that put our city on the craft-brewing map when it debuted in 1989. Denison’s is one of my absolute favourites. The bragging rights I’ll get if it takes the cup are, I swear, just a bonus.
Cast your vote at ontariobrewmasterscup.com. The final round closes on August 31; the winner will be announced in early September.