5 Beer Scene Trends in Ontario
To some of you this may seem obvious but i'd like to share with others my thoughts on current trends in beer in my home province of Ontario :) Some trends are here to stay and here are a few I believe are proving they will stick around...
1. The Haze Craze
IPAs (India Pale Ales) have become a year-round fixture in many a beer fridge, there’s always something new to try and the spectrum of IPA's reaches coast to coast ... literally. If you've had or seen a beer recently that looks like juice, thick and opaque, odds are it's a part of the Haze Craze. A new meaning to Hazy Days of summer.
This year’s hits are New England-style IPAs (NEIPAs), which are also known as juicy, Vermont style or hazy IPAs. While I’ve seen them on the rise over the past couple of years in the USA and other parts of Canada this hazy, fruit forward and almost chewy at times IPA style has exploded in 2018 here in Ontario.
Both the selection and distribution have grown beyond the scarcity of tasting-room-only in the trendiest of breweries and though Hazy is not yet a recognized style in Canada as per the guidelines (correct me if i'm wrong) it is in USA as of recent along with double or imperial IPA under the the Brewers Association Beer Style Guidelines. So as trends go haze lovers can expect to see that promotion here soon too. If that's not enough, Julia Herz states, 2018 will be 1st time since 2002 American IPA is no longer the top entered beer style into GABF it's juicy or hazy! How’s that for a juicy year-one showing?
Love it or hate it, the haze craze is here to stay. I'm not seeking them out like most but good grief Charlie Brown there are a few choice ones I couldn't live without.
Some great examples to try: Juicin' by Sawdust City Brewing, Life In The Clouds by Collective Arts (they have a few), Greenwood by Left Field Brewery and Laurentian Consensus IPA by Dominion City out of Ottawa.
2. So Much Sour
While sour beers aren’t new they’ve become increasingly popular, perhaps sour is the new bitter? Accept this style seems to appeal to both beer lovers, wine lovers and those not so fond of "beer taste". The increasing popularity may suggest that brewers are on to something new but in fact there is a long standing history to both the techniques and the "bugs" being welcomed in to these beers. Sour Beer may sound off putting to some but it's the variants of sour that are intriguing many drinkers to explore the sweet-sours, dry-hopped, fruit mixed, varying tartness and barrel aged variety of these beers.
I am a huge fan of lambic's myself, Belgium’s most ancient beer style but the process is what I find fascinating as there are several to choose from, including Koolships, each method adds to the bustling personality that these styles offer. “Wild” yeasts or bacteria—like Brettanomyces, Saccharomyces and Lactobacillus—are added during fermentation and as traditional sours are usually created through a second fermentation and long aging in various styles of barrels, there has been a recent rise in kettle souring, where wild organisms are pitched directly into the kettle before a traditional fermentation, has allowed more brewers to jump on the style’s and produce them at a faster rate and gives the brewer full control over the process.
Some great examples to try: Grain & Grit's Cherry Picker Sour Ale, Becky a lemonade beer by Fairweather Brewing Co, ANY of the Paradise Lost by Blood Brothers, Rodenbach Grand Cru available at LCBO
3. Back to Basics
Well this may just starting in Canada and not yet a dominating trend it's more in the swing south of the border. This is one I feel I need in my life, a little "back to basics" if you will. More breweries are adding a Lager, Pilsner, Kolsch style to their main lineup and in the heat of these summer days I dig it. Now I am not at all stating I want to see a Lager revolution but these beers are leaps and bounds from large-brewers’ fizzy yellow water versions. They offer subtle complexity and drinkability without sacrificing flavour and quality.
It also can be difficult to create a well-made, balanced lagers or Pilsner as their isn't much to hide behind so they are something to be appreciated. Though it can take longer to brew them therefore space and time becomes an issue for some but schedule correctly and there is always one tank happy to appeal to a broader audience as well as those who are “craft curious,”
Some great examples to try: Clifford Brewing East Hamilton Lager, Muskoka's Cool As a Cuke, Bell City's Real McCoy Kolsch style,
4. Beer Festivals
Ok, OK .. so yes they have been going on for awhile now but something has changed! Beer Festivals are popping up more style specific or leaning toward a certain palate to set themselves apart from the rest ... it's a fantastic idea. Some festivals are offering more than beer and adding in local ciders and wines to cater to all crowds along with live music and activities. So if you are concerned about attending another beer festival and worried about not finding your favourite style, or being bombarded with the same breweries and tap list then these festivals may appeal to you! If you are just loving the fact that beer festivals are on the uprise and popping up everywhere and you have a chance to drink good beer and meet new friends then you are equally in luck ... they are here to stay.
Some to check out are: Cask Days a 2 day Cask Beer Festival in Toronto, Wild Things where you can sip low-intervention wines, funky brews and hazy ciders made with indigenous or wild yeasts, Funk Fest a sour & funk beer put on by The Beer Sisters and Erica Campbell in Toronto, On and music festival Canada Day weekend at Sawdust City Brewing in Gravenhurst, ON and Block, Stock & Barrel is a Barrel-aged Beer Festival at Block 3 Brewing in St. Jacobs, ON
5. Less Beards...
Well who am I kidding it's still beard strong but we, as women, are making strides in this daily! I am seeing more women not only enjoying beer but getting involved in the industry through sales, retail, brewing and owning a brewery or opening a beer related social media account, attending beer school, discovering craft beer or being a voice for women in beer. Therefore less beards, including men with shorter ones ;)
Making space for everyone is easy and important. Check out a RAD lady beer event in your area and join in supporting each other. Discover how you can make beer more diverse in your workplace and life. It isn't just the industry I am referring to here it's the scene and the public too.
My advice to women wanting to get involved in the industry is to do your own thing – don’t follow the crowd, be you and follow your passion. Beer should be enjoyed by all, from working in the industry to enjoying the drink itself!
Groups to discover: Iron Beer Maidens in Hamilton, ON, Society Of Beer Drinking Ladies in Toronto, ON, Queen of Craft out of Guelph holds an excellent annual event in March, Hoppy Bitches in Guelph hold fun events based around friends, food and beer.