The northern Ontario beer scene made quite a splash at the 2020 Ontario Brewery Awards recently.
Sudbury’s Stack Brewing and 46 Northeast, Timmins Full Beard Brewing, Haileybury’s Whiskey Jack Beer Company and North Bay’s Gateway City Brewery all brought home awards.
The showing impressed Jordan St. John, a beer writer and the head of the beer certificate program at George Brown College.
“They’re punching above their weight on a per capita basis,” he said.
“The thing that stood out to me the most is that Stack Brewing from Sudbury, they won four medals. But the most impressive of those feats is ‘Impact’ (an Amber Bitter European Beer) won gold for the third year in a row.”
St. John said the brew is like a style of beer from Dusseldorf, Germany.
“This is really old-school stuff, kind-of German ale. It’s from before lager beer was even a thing,” he said.
“So you’re talking about a 300-year-old style that is being apparently exemplified by a brewery in Sudbury. That is really something.”
St. John pointed to a couple of other award-winning German-style beers that were produced by North Bay’s Gateway City Brewery.
“Their Rauchbier is kind of an old-school, smoked German-style of beer, and their rye pale ale, which is just a regular American pale ale, but using a little bit of rye in order to add some spiciness to the body of the beer,” he said.
“So these are really sort-of esoteric styles the northern breweries are winning with.”
Sully Sullivan is one of the founders of Gateway City, and says bringing home two bronze and one silver medal is a “huge honour for sure.”
“There are a lot of amazing breweries out there,” he said, noting there are a few hundred craft breweries in Ontario.
“So to place any kind of medal is a huge honor.”
Sullivan adds that he’s glad to see the industry growing.
“It’s great to see the variety that’s out there and allowing people’s flavour palates to open up by trying new and exciting things,” he said.
“Ontario, because of liquor laws and the way it was set up before, had a lot of the same styles of beers, a lot of lagers out there and a lot of pale lagers.”
But with craft beer being introduced, there’s a lot more interesting flavour profiles going on in the beers, thanks to the different types of hops that are being used from around the world, Sullivan said.
“So people get to taste those kinds of things because we can do a little bit more small-batch stuff and we don’t need a large chunk of those hops.”
St. John says the popularity of northern Ontario craft beers is only going to expand, as more people become aware of their local producers.
“Building the rapport with your audience is not really about your beer. It’s about local pride,” he said.
“With craft beer, it’s as much about the people you’re selling it to and as much about the people making it as it is about the liquid in the glass.”
Up North8:12Northern breweries win big at Ontario Brewery Awards