Editor’s note: 2017 saw us tasting many, many great craft beers. Over the next couple of weeks, our team will be sharing their favourites – up today, Ryan Heighton.
I had a LOT of great Craft Beer this year. There was no shortage to choose from.
In selecting just my three favourites for the year, there are bound to be some fantastic brews that are neglected from the list (I’m looking at you, Beau’s – please keep making consistently wonderful brews).
I’m also a bit fickle and my cravings and tastes are constantly shifting. However, here are my three standouts for the year (in no particular order)…
Raspberry Juice by Barncat Artisan Ales
A real gem. It strikes the balance between a mid-range ABV and the fruity sweetness of a lighter beer. It is dangerously drinkable (like the growler that I single handedly polished off in a single sitting earlier this year), very satisfying, and terribly under produced.
Raspberry Juice on for fills starting this Friday. A stronger version of our 'The Juice' Pale Ale conditioned atop heaps of raspberry puree. pic.twitter.com/bsHWp4liJp
— Barncat Artisan Ales (@Barncatales) July 27, 2017
This is my biggest gripe about Barncat. The Cambridge, Ontario upstart has produced a consistently excellent product in recent years, but with very limited and inconvenient hours and a lack of distribution, it is a tough commodity to acquire.
That said, it is worth the trip to the inconspicuous industrial park that Barncat calls home. If you have the opportunity to make it to Cambridge, I can’t possibly recommend Barncat enough.
Gouden Carolus Cuvée Van De Keizer (Blauw) by Brouwerij Het Anker
I spent a great deal of my year drinking as many Belgians as I could get my Canadian hands on. My only folly on a trip to Europe in May was the single day that I spent in Brussels, between Iceland, England, and France.
Belgians know beer. The commonly held belief is true, so much so that UNESCO included Belgian beer culture on their list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity. I was lucky enough to find that this particular Belgian was carried in Ontario liquor stores.
Clocking in at 11% ABV, this beer is produced annually on the birthday of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor (born in the same Flemish town of Mechelen, where Het Anker was founded in the 15th Century. This particular brew is heavy on flavour, but velvety smooth.
Amidst the many Belgians I tried this year, this was the clear standout and a new annual favourite for me.
3-Point Saison by The Collingwood Brewery
The third beer on my top 3 was the hardest, with so many standouts. However, when I reflected on my consumption patterns for the year, this fantastic Farmhouse Ale from Collingwood Brewery was a clear top 3 selection.
The saison has gained heavy popularity among craft brewers, and I hazard to say that of the many I have tried, Collingwood has done it best.
The alluring yellow can contains a golden nectar that is incredibly complex while still being drinkable and smooth. One would be forgiven if they forgot that this particular saison packs a sneaky boozy punch at 7% ABV.
As seasonal product, I will be counting the days until this quintessential summer brew is back in the rotation from this fine brewery up in Ontario’s cottage country.
If I had to recommend a single summer beer from the Canadian craft scene, this would be the one. One sip makes me regret every Molson that I drank in my younger days. This is real beer.