This winter, here are some beer trends you should keep your eyes open for.
Bottle shop bliss
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the AGCO amended Ontario’s liquor laws for breweries and licensees to include the sale of beverage alcohol with takeouts. The changes were swift, sweeping and historic.
In response, coffee shops and restaurants adapted to create retail bottle shops within their spaces. Oftent, purchasing direct from Ontario craft breweries and cideries to curate a list of products not available elsewhere. Gone are the days of only having access to what the LCBO chooses to purchase. It looks like these bottle shops are here to stay. We have entered an era of unprecedented choice. Let’s embrace it.
Every fall in Ontario marks the transition from brewing one-off kettle sours, IPAs and witbiers to brewing fantastic seasonal stouts, American Brown Ales, and porters. This year is no exception.
Behold the pasty stout, an unofficial beer style/term that has been adopted by the craft beer community to refer to a stout that is brewed to be intentionally sweet usually with ingredients you might find at your local bakery. Expect to see graham crackers, cocoa nibs, lactose, single-origin coffee, marshmallows and other sweet treats in your brew. These beers are the perfect companion to a chilly night indoors, an après ski, or a French vanilla beer float.
Well-crafted classic lagers
Producers in Ontario will continue to experiment and push the limits of brewing as we know it, but this doesn’t always mean high-ABV flavour bombs. The demand for a well-made Ontario craft lager continues to grow, and Ontario producers are taking note in a race to perfect the art of the all-grain lager.
While fruited sours have taken the beer scene by storm, consumers clearly aren’t satisfied with settling for one type of fruited sour. There has been a huge surge in interest in fruited beers that are frankly over the top.
Enter the slushie sour – a kettle sour that is brewed with lots of thick fruit and purée additions post fermentation. The end result? A beer that looks, smells and drinks like a real fruit smoothie! Both beer geeks and the public have taken note because the slushie sour seeks to redefine what beer can and should be. This style was a real highlight this summer and sparked a lot of debate.
We’ve noticed breweries continuing to experiment, and work with darker fruits. This type of sour – adored by many and hated by some – might be here to stay.
While brewing with fruit has become quite commonplace in the world of beer, the concept of using wine grapes in brews has created an entirely new category of beer. There are many names for these kinds of beers – the Italian grape ale, the oenobeer, the sour with wine additions or simply the beer-wine hybrid. While the flavours and aromas produced in these beers can be quite vast, what they do have in common is the use of wine grapes in the brewing process.
Ontario craft ciders
Some of the most experimental producers in the province are cider makers, and they are turning to hops, butterfly pea flower, fruits, second-use barrels, wild yeasts and other microbial cultures to redefine the boundaries of cider making. While most still do not have shelf space at the LCBO, they are creating cider in our own backyard – often with less residual sugar than their international counterparts.
Jennifer Tamse is director of beer and beverage at Charcoal Group.
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