Ontario Brewery of the Year – Bellwoods Brewery

(With the co-Beer Places of 2012 out of the way – see yesterday’s post – I turn my attention now to the various breweries of 2012, beginning locally with my home province of Ontario. I’ll take the weekend off, returning on Monday with the Brewery of the Year for Canada, followed by my picks for the U.S., Latin America, Australasia and Europe.)

The last few years have seen craft brewing in Ontario improve by leaps and bounds, with new breweries, new beers and a refreshingly new attitude that eschews much of the conservatism that dominated the provincial beer scene during the 1990’s and for most of the new century thus far. This has (thankfully) made choosing a provincial brewery of the year an exercise of increasingly difficulty.

Looking back over 2012, however, I came to the realization that no brewery had made as significant an impact as did Toronto’s own Bellwoods Brewery.

From almost the first day this Ossington strip brewery and pub opened its doors, it attracted vast amounts of well-deserved attention. The local beer cognoscenti was abuzz; visiting brewers and owners from none other than the acclaimed Dieu du Ciel! sang its praises; and the line-up of would-be collaborators grew quickly. Here was a brewery the likes of which Toronto had not before seen.

Thanks to my rigorous travel schedule this year past, it took me a while to get myself to Bellwoods, but when I finally did, I was immediately impressed. Arriving sans notebook for a friend’s going away drinks, I sampled my way across the entire draught list, finding several very bright spots and, more importantly, encountering zero duds. A return visit was quickly planned.

On that return, some of the taps had changed – Bellwoods being nothing if not an operation keen on experimentation and innovation – but the Lost River Baltic Porter still inspired with its licoricey, boozy beauty, and the new to me Mash Pipe smoked Berliner weiss was a tart, refreshing and wonderfully balanced gem.

Since that second visit, a third and a fourth have been scheduled and executed, but I still don’t feel I make it to Bellwoods nearly enough – unquestionably a sign of a very good brewery. In fact, I have yet to visit its on-again, off-again bottle shop, although home to do so in the near future.

For all the above, and much more besides, Toronto’s Bellwoods Brewery is my Ontario Brewery of 2012!

Monday: 2012′s Canadian Brewery of the Year!

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