(This is the first of several posts detailing what I found to be the breweries of the year for 2011 in various regions, beginning with my home province of Ontario. Note that there is no science to the choices I have made, just my own highly subjective reasoning as detailed in each post.)
My home province of Ontario made great strides forward in 2011, with breweries embracing both new styles and a new found willingness to experiment. Some of those experiments were more successful than others, of course, but even the failures marked a change of approach for what has traditionally been a most conservative craft brewing culture.
To my mind, there was one brewery that stood out as embracing innovation, the tried and true and so-called entry level beers with equal enthusiasm, and corresponding success. It was the Muskoka Brewery of Bracebridge, Ontario.
Not since the brewery’s founding days has Muskoka so astutely read the lay of the beer land of Ontario and reacted accordingly, with flagship beers like their Cream Ale for neophytes, a dry-hopped beauty in the form of their new Mad Tom IPA for the hopheads amongst us — even more enticingly fragrant on tap than in the bottle — and a developing seasonal program of releases, including the highly impressive autumnal Harvest Ale, for people like me with short attention spans.
Add in a finely thought-out rebranding across the company — no, marketing is NOT a dirty word! — and some aesthetically pleasing packaging decisions, and you have a definite winner. Well done, Muskoka, and here’s looking forward to seeing how you top 2011 in 2012!