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Summer is high season for road trips and the perfect time to explore some of the 250 or so craft breweries in Ontario and bring home new beers that might not be available at your neighbourhood LCBO, Beer Store or grocery store.
Craft beer, after all, makes for a better souvenir than snow globes.
Here’s a six-pack selection, well suited for backyard quaffing, that’s happily landed in my fridge via travels, friends and the Ontario Craft Brewers.
MacLean’s Bent Spoke Sessionable IPA. Hanover may not be much of a tourist town, but it is on the route for many heading to Tobermory to catch the Chi Cheemaun, hike on the Bruce Trail or sun on Sauble Beach. A side trip into Hanover’s industrial park south end finds you at MacLean’s, famous for its English-style beers. To quote its website blurb, MacLean’s “threw tradition out the window” with Bent Spoke, no doubt in a bid to give the people what they want. Lemony and hoppy, Bent Spoke is a light 3.9 per cent alcohol and is an ideal cottage and campsite beer.
Second Wedge Brewing Day Tripper Trail Ale. A disclaimer here. Early in my career, I was editor of the weekly newspaper in Uxbridge when it won best-in-class at the Canadian community newspaper awards. I thought that would stand as the highlight in the history of the town, but that was before Second Wedge opened in this GTA municipality well-known for its golf courses and craft beer excursions on a local tourist train. Day Tripper, brewed seasonally, is a nice pale ale which uses malt from Barn Owl in Belleville, hops from small Canadian yards, and yeast from Escarpment Labs in Guelph. It’s a feel-good beer purchase because 30 cents from each sale goes to the Trans Canada Trail Foundation, hence “trail ale.”
Boshkung Brewing Co. 35 and 118 Cream Ale. Figure skater Kurt Browning is a regular at this Minden brewery, so how cool is that? Cream ales in general are excellent summer beer choices and this one is pretty decent — a gold medal winner at the Canadian Brewing Awards. The name is an ode to two cottage-country highways that literally wind through and intersect in the region. Boshkung 35 and 118 is a big seller at the brewery. At the LCBO, check out Boshkung North Country Kellerbier, a gold medal winner in 2015.
Old Credit Amber Ale. OK, Mississauga isn’t the Ontario hinterland, nor a day trip destination unless you’re a Torontoian who thinks exploring Ontario means going beyond the subway line. Old Credit, noted for its ice-brewed beer and unhurried fermentation, has captured gold, silver and bronze medals at the Canadian Brewing Awards for its amber. It’s easy to see why. Amber was Old Credit’s first-born, ergo the favourite. It’s malty, nutty and will have a recurring presence in my fridge.
Beau’s Farm Table Saison. One of Ontario’s best known and most prominent dare-to-experiment craft breweries, Beau’s has a new saison with an aroma of pineapple and pepper. A light 4.7 per cent alcohol, Beau’s itself suggests pairing it with fresh sheep milk feta, which like this saison ain’t available everywhere. I’ll settle for sipping this on its own at sunset.
Wellington County Rhubarb Saison. It’s hard to cozy up to a rhubarb beer from somewhere else when you’ve got Forked River’s Mojo Rhubarb Wheat brewed nearby. Still, if a beer’s going to give Mojo a nudge, it’s Wellington’s Rhubarb Saison. Its tartness will scare off your cream ale-drinking patio guests, enabling you to have an air of craft beer snob.
Wayne Newton is a freelance journalist in London.
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