Thursday, 4 January 2018

2017 Beers of the Year - Part Two

Now it's on to the good stuff, or, to put it another way, 🎜these are a few of my fav-or-it things🎜

The IPAs, the Imperial IPAs and most things IPA. (Except for the dark IPAs and the Belgian-inspired IPAs, because I covered those yesterday.)

Part Two of the blog will also have my choices for Brewery of the Year and Best Newcomer, as well as my top Brewmaster and the ultimate prize, the highly coveted (by at least a dozen people as well as my Mother) Beer of the Year.

It's been a good year for beer. As Robin LeBlanc and Jordan St. John so succinctly put it in their book, the Ontario Craft Beer Guide, "Every day that passes is the best day for beer the province has ever had."

Amen to that.

So let's get to it.

IPAs and their friends

Milkshake IPAS - Definitely one of the hottest trends of 2017 (as well as one of the most controversial as it was far from universally accepted), Milkshake IPAs took the craft beer world and turned it upside down. I had Milkshake IPAs with bananas and chocolate, I had them with fruit loops cereal and I enjoyed a whole line with various fruits added to the mash.

from Bellwoods
The one constant was lactose and usually vanilla as well, which set it apart from another new(ish) style for 2017: New England IPAs. But I'll get to those in a bit.

Left Field produced an amazing Lassi IPA (Lolly Mango Lassi IPA) that wasn't classified as a Milkshake IPA, but it had lactose in it and looked and tasted like a fruit smoothie, so I'm including it here. Bellwoods released a whole range of Milkshake IPAs under the Milkshark line, and I missed out on most of them.

But I didn't miss out on Milkshark - Pineapple (Bellwoods), and this was a game changer. Juicy and tropical, like a pineapple smoothie, this is my winner.

Milkshake Pale Ale - Grimace's Tears (Great Lakes), Rally Cap (Left Field)

New England IPA - This style had an even bigger impact on the market than Milkshake IPAs, with very little of the controversy. Hoppy and Juicy, without most of the bitterness found in West Coast IPAs. Most breweries now produce a variation of this super delicious style.

Greenwood (Left Field), Aromatherapy (Beyond the Pale), Juicin (Sawdust City), Summer IPA (Rouge River), Somewhere Down in Moxie (Great Lakes) and Salem's Lot (Little Beasts) made my final list.

Tough call here, but I found a beer that replaced Juicin, last year's winner, in the top spot: Greenwood (Left Field).

American Pale Ale - So many great APAs last year. I narrowed my finalists down to Pinion (Little Beasts), Naughty Neighbour (Nickel Brook), Jutsu and Monogamy - Citra (Bellwoods), Armed 'N' Citra (Rainhard) and American Pale Ale (Burdock).

There were two that stood out from the pack: Jutsu (out-of-this-world aroma) and Naughty Neighbour. In the end I had to choose an old favourite and my 2015 Beer of the Year: Naughty Neighbour (Nickel Brook).

Session IPA - Hop Therapy (Russell), Hot Tropics (Manantler), Daywalker (Rainhard) and Mystery Beer 'B' (Nickel Brook).

I couldn't decide between the B.C. beer sent to me by my pal Trevor (a former Manantler staffer) and Hot Tropics, so I picked them both. *tie* Hop Therapy (Russell) and Hot Tropics (Manantler).

Blended IPA - Swamp Juice #40 (Great Lakes)

Strawberry IPA - Milk of the Poppy (Blood Brothers)

Aged IPA - Enjoy After 07.04.16 Brett IPA (Stone)

IPA - Always my favourite category, and one that Great Lakes usually dominates. But this year the two finalists from GLB was doubled by four honoured beers from Bellwoods, along with entries from Radical Road, Halo, Nickel Brook and Bells.

Octopus Wants to Fight (last year's winner and Beer of the Year) and Karma Citra from Great Lakes; Ghost Orchid, Roman Candle, Monogamy - Double Dry-Hopped El Dorado Hop Hash and Cat Lady Double Dry-Hopped, from Bellwoods. Headstock (Nickel Brook), 8-Track IPA (Radical Road), New Wave (Halo) and Two Hearted Ale (Bells) round out the list.

One day Karma Citra will get its due, but the incredible aroma and citrus awesomeness of Ghost Orchid IPA (Bellwoods) wins the day.

Imperial IPA - Another category with dozens of deserving beers, but I narrowed it down to 11, including another four from Bellwoods. One of those four was a collaboration with Trillium, a Boston, MA brewery who also earned a spot on its own. Other finalists came from Redline, Indie Ale House, Flying Monkeys, Nickel Brook, Great Lakes and 5 Paddles.

The tap list includes Cock Puncher (Indie Ale House), Immodest (Nickel Brook), Witchshark, Goblin Sauce and Double Jutsu (Bellwoods); Cutting Bells (Bellwoods/Trillium), Heavy Mettle (Trillium), Double Clutch (Redline), Super Collider (Flying Monkeys), Robohop (Great Lakes) and Dr. Juice (5 Paddles).

Always a tough choice, but I'm going with the power of the Cock Puncher (Indie Ale House).


This is usually a competition between Ryan Morrow (Nickel Brook AND Collective Arts) and GLB's Mike Lackey, but there's a few more brewers on my list this year, including Erin Broadfoot (Little Beasts), Mike Clark and Luke Pestl (Bellwoods) and Jason Fisher (Indie Ale House).

The 2017 Brewmaster of the Year goes to Mike Clark and Luke Pestl (Bellwoods).

Best New Brewery

I've had to limit this to breweries whose beers I've actually tried, but there was still quite a few exceptional newcomers to the Ontario brewing scene last year.

Little Beasts, Town, Merit, Cowbell, Godspeed and Rorschach made my final six. And the winner is a brewery that opened quite late in the year: Little Beasts Brewing.

Best Brewery

Hard to say no to Great Lakes, but they had stiff competition in 2017 from the likes of Bellwoods, Left Field, Little Beasts, 5 Paddles, Nickel Brook, Rouge River, Blood Brothers and Indie Ale House.

Looking at all the category winners and finalists, it could only be Bellwoods Brewery.

Beers of the Year - My Top Dozen

Less IPA-heavy than previous years, these are the beers that seriously wowed me in 2017:

Milkshark - Pineapple (Bellwoods), Ghost Orchid IPA (Bellwoods), Karma Citra (Great Lakes), 30th Anniversary Barrel-Aged Belgian Style Quad (Great Lakes), Cock Puncher (Indie Ale House), Rabbit of Caerbannog (Indie Ale House), Greenwood (Left Field), Paradise Lost - Mango (Blood Brothers), Ceres (Nickel Brook), La Saison d'ete (Little Beasts), Dayslayer (Stone/Maine) and Dark Lord 2011 (Three Floyds).

I've gone on about the aroma and the incredible taste of this beer long enough, so I'll just say it:

My Beer of the Year for 2017 is Ghost Orchid IPA (Bellwoods).


  1. Ghost Orchid is a good choice. I tried that for the first time around March last year when I was writing a piece on sour beer and stopped by Bellwoods to talk to Luke. I think it has like a tamarind candy thing going on. I hadn't seen that before.

  2. The aroma is overwhelmingly awesome. But most Bellwoods IPAs and pale ales are like that