As the Ontario craft beer industry continues its unprecedented ascent, the Ontario Brewing Awards have grown in kind.
In previous years, it was held at more modest venues, which didn’t accommodate quite the audience the Ontario Brewing Awards was attracting. Starting last year and continuing this year, the awards were held at the Great Hall (on Queen.) Not just a large event space, there’s a palpable sense of historical importance in the century old Great Hall.
It’s rare for there to be a large gathering of bearded men in a single room (except maybe at the Ontario Craft Brewers Conference). Veritable beer royalty crowded the space to discover who among them rose above the rest, and represented Ontario’s brewing best.
The beer flowed like, well, beer. Free for all ticket holders (albeit served in dinky sampling glasses), there were dozens of brands and styles to choose from. Unsurprisingly, the OBAs were loud and cheerful with an abounding sense of camaraderie. Or that may just have been my buzz.
Some notable winners are included below:
Best American Brown Ale: Left Field Brewery’s Eephus
Incredibly well deserved. Eephus has been a go to of mine for over a year now when I’m looking for something nice and malty. It’s a great intro beer for drinkers not yet comfortable with dark beer, but looking to try.
Best American IPA: Flying Monkey’s Juicy Ass IPA
Understandably, the American IPA category is a highly contested one. Flying Monkey’s Juicy Ass IPA is a damn fine example of it, and a deserving contender. That said, the palpable murmurs in the crowd indicated some surprise from the audience.
Newcomer of the Year: Napanee Brewing Co.
I’d agree with this one, and it wasn’t very surprising. With it’s slick branding and interesting lineup, Napanee is a major up and comer. Now with an award under their belt, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot more of Napanee in the future.
Best in Show: Lost Craft’s Revivale
This one is frankly shocking — and disappointing. Best in Show implies a certain special distinction, one which many beers are more qualified for than Lost Craft. A simple, inoffensive Kölsch, Revivale doesn’t really bring anything new or interesting to the table. This definitely caused a rumble of dissent in the crowd.
The Big News at the Ontario Brewing Awards
It wasn’t just the venue that changed this year — no, there was much bigger news. At the end of the awards ceremony, it was announced that TAPS media (owners of TAPS Magazine) had bought the Ontario Brewing Awards. This ownership change means that TAPS now operates both the Canadian Brewing Awards and the Ontario Brewing Awards.
A long time advocate of independent brewers and staunchly against the Beer Store monopoly, I would expect to see some changes to sponsorship (and possibly winners) from TAPS next year.
All in all, the 2017 OBAs were extremely successful. The venue was an excellent onw, and the surprise new ownership moves control over to TAPS which has proven itself more than capable of managing brewing award shows. I suspect more interesting changes in the future.
In the meantime, cheers to all this year’s winners!