With how much I talk about beer in my daily life, one of the most-raised inquiries is “Where do I start?” I find that, generally, people who haven’t tried local (for whatever reason – usually lack of brand knowledge, or non-availability) have a pretty open mind, and would love to support the craft industry if they could find a beer they liked. I usually hear that they had a bad experience trying someone else’s IPA or stout (“I don’t like dark beers!”, they dramatically state), and it’s turned them off to expanding their taste completely.
So here, ladies and germs, is the list – 7 beers (in order!) that will show off the best OCB has to offer in the light-and-non-offensive-to-a-macro-palate beers.
Remember now, it probably took you years to get to that bourbon-barrel aged dry-hopped Imperial Stout; don’t be mean to new craft drinkers. Encourage them to explore pressure free, and simply make recommendations when asked. LCBO links included for your (and their!) visual shopping pleasure.
“But (big beer) is the only one I like!”
Well, this is about as close to the perfect summer-day beer one can get. At 4.16%, straw-pale, and light as a feather, Amsterdam’s ode to the Toronto area code is the simple, easy to drink, palatable introduction to craft, or as I like to call it, “What beer really tastes like”.
“I don’t like Ales. They’re too bitter.”
Well good, because this is another one you might like. With at least some body, and scratching the surface of a malt taste, this well-rounded lager will please any thirsty person. A bonus point for appealing to hockey fans in it’s branding, which (through my experience) actually draws inexperienced drinkers to it.
“I’ve had this before!” / “I love the Hip! WHERE THE GREAT PLAINS BEGIN!”
Probably. A widely circulated light lager (thanks, Mill St!), I find Organic is usually the only option for craft at some smaller-scale bars, especially on the outskirts of Toronto. More of the easy-to-drink style, and looks appealing in it’s clear bottle. A little bit more “beery-ness” (A word I invented just now) as well, which leads us to the Amber.
If they’ve already experienced Organic, 100th Meridian is a fantastic alternate. (Pour it into a glass and watch your friend’s eyes widen as they exclaim “It’s too dark, I’ll hate it!”. Giggle condescendingly.) It is fresh, clean, and most of all, likely different from what your pal is used to tasting, which is always important.
“I DON’T LIKE THE AFTERTASTE.”
Quiet, you. Welcome to Pilsnertown (though I guess we can just call it Plzen). With a taste and flavor profile any Toronto beer fan could pick out of a lineup with relative ease, Steamwhistle is the first and only Pilsner on the list. Take time to explain the malt and Saaz hop combo they’re tasting, and remind them of your (read: Mike’s) favourite Czech proverb: “A fine beer may be judged in one sip, but it is better to be thoroughly sure.” Make sure this one’s in a glass for the full experience. For the bonus round, take ‘em straight to the brewery for fun, a tour, and free beer.
“Why are all the labels different?”
Collective Arts did something really, really cool with their packaging, by making different series bottles and labels featuring “indie” artists and musicians, as well as collaboration with local Toronto radio station Indie88. Beer wise, they’re also doing incredibly awesome small-batch beers, like this citrusy low-ABV blonde ale. Your new craft buddy will appreciate its not-so-subtle orange and lemon flavours as well as a distinct, crisp (but not intimidating) bite that sets it apart from its nearest comparison (The orange guy with the mohawk).
“Do I have to drink the whole bottle?”
And now, for something completely different. Trying to explain what makes a Lagered Ale a Lagered Ale will be fruitless, so I’d usually introduce this as “It’s beer, and it’s new, so f**cking drink it and tell me what you think”. Beau’s most circulated offering, this favourite of mine really profiles a solid, crisp lager with a bitterness that, (if you’ve followed this list) by now, shouldn’t intimidate your new craft fan. That, I think, is the best descriptor of Lug Tread for a new beer drinker: different. At least to me, when I had it, I didn’t know how to describe what I was tasting… but I knew I hadn’t tasted it before. And yes – you do have to finish the bottle. What did I tell you about the Czechs?
“An IPA? OMGWTFBBBQ SERIOUSLY? NO. TOO MUCH HOPS. WHY ARE YOU GIVING ME THIS?!?!”
Because it’s 30 IBU, and damn solid as an intro to the world of IPA that all of us snobs love. A great chat to have with Detour is the absolute unworldly variance of what an IPA actually is, and how intense a hop profile they can get. Again, the introduction to craft should be about the fun and interest in trying something different, and exploring what the “style” or “label” means behind the brewery’s philosophy or the kind of beer in your glass. Muskoka’s golden IPA smells sweet and even slightly cirtusy, and though you can absolutely taste the dry-hopped intensity, I don’t think this is intense enough to turn anyone off of IPAs entirely.
With my introduction to craft now complete, I feel like a reminder is due: This list is intended to spark an interest in the story of local craft brewing as well as a “there are other options out there” attitude with new craft drinkers.
With that in mind – may your glasses be full, your friends open-minded, and your craft-snob integrity intact. Cheers!