The Ontario Craft Brewers marked their first anniversary today with a press and media event at the Summerhill LCBO. Joined by such dignitaries as Minster of Economic Development and Trade Joseph Cordiano and Public Infrastructure Minister David Caplan, the OCB hosted a tasting of many of their products, outlined the progress that they have made in the last 12 months, and presented their plans for the upcoming year. Below is a report on some of the highlights of the event, and news about new beers and breweries from across the province.
First, here are some of the numbers that illustrate the successes achieved by the OCB in the past year:
- Sales of Ontario craft beers have increased by 33% at the LCBO in fiscal year 2005-06 compared to 2004-05, and more than 10% in the total Ontario beer market in the past year.
- The OCB’s share of the Ontario beer market has increased from 4% to 5% in the past year.
- Members of the OCB employ more than 450 people, up 17% from this time last year, and accounting for 20% of all brewery jobs in Ontario.
- More than $15 million in capital investments have been made into the Ontario craft brewing industry in the last two years, including expansions at Amsterdam, Mill Street, Cool and Brick, and the establishment of new breweries Niagara’s Best and Robert Simpson.
- With the addition of seven new members to the OCB in recent months, they now represent 90% of all eligible brewers in Ontario.
The LCBO representative announced that they will be increasing their committment to the OCB with more and larger store displays, more in-store tastings, and an Ontario Craft Brewers Fair at the Summerhill store on July 28th-30th.
As for brewer- and beer-specific news, there’s a lot to report…
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the event was the unveiling of a new line of beers from Brick. Dubbed the “Founder’s Series,” this line of all natural, 100% malt beers is intended to bring the company back to its roots as one of Ontario’s craft brewing pioneers. Brewery reps were pouring samples of J.R. Brickman Amber and J.R. Brickman Honey Red (a third beer, J.R. Brickman Pilsner, will be following soon). All three beers will be available at the Beer Store, and the Amber and Pilsner will also be found on LCBO shelves. To make way for these new products, the majority of the current Brick line-up is being retired, including Brick Premium Lager, Brick Yellow Label Lager, Brick Amber and the draught-only Brick Honey Red.
The brand new Ottawa-area brewery Beau’s All Natural Brewing was there with the last few bottles from the pilot batch of their Lug Tread Lagered Ale. This Kolsch-style beer is brewed with 100% organic malt and imported German hops, and is currently being produced for them at Church Key while work on their own facility is being completed. Lug Tread will initially be available only in the Ottawa area, although they may ship a few kegs to select Toronto outlets this summer.
Also being sampled in advance of its official release was a new summer seasonal from Better Bitters, Nickel Brook Apple Pilsner. Inspired by the light fruit beers of Germany, but brewed to 4% rather than the 2%-3% more common of the style, they expect it to be a popular choice as the weather gets warmer. Also new from this Burlington brewery is a Premium Lager that they consider their answer to Creemore Springs, and their Nickel Brook Ale has recently been slightly reformulated to come closer to their original vision for the beer.
Changes have also been made at Glenora Springs, a small Picton brewery that has had quality control issues in the past. They recently had Doug Pengelly of Ste. Andre in to help them refine their brewing process, and they’ve added some new equipment to their facility as well, with the end result being a much more stable product. Retail availability of their beers in the Toronto area is currently limited to the Dufferin & Wilson LCBO, but they are hoping to have their McKinneys Triple Chin Irish Dark Ale and Red Coat Pale Ale available in more locations soon.
Coming in from Virgil were the folks from Taps Brewery who were pouring their Charleston Lager, Premium Lager and Red Cream Ale. The brewery is also currently aging a lager in wine barrels – hopefully, some it will make an appearance at one of our local establishments.
Finally, a bit of seasonal news from some local favourites – Black Oak are bringing back their Saison, and Mill Street are doing another batch of their Belgian Wheat. Both brews will be available in bottles and kegs soon.
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