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A Guide to Spring Beers, at the LCBO and Beyond

Get ready for patio season with these spring beers and beer events.

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Photo by Ryan Tir from the Torontoist Flickr pool.

If you’re reading this in the future, consider this a plea for help from a spring-starved, over-wintered Toronto.

And here we were wondering why the local LCBO still had so many bottles of winter beers like Olvisholt Lava Smoked Imperial Stout kicking around. Turns out booze sellers are better at predicting the seasons than some dumb groundhog. Nevertheless, spring is probably around the corner, and with it renewal, new love, and the prospect of someday drinking on a patio again. Even if it all seems a bit far off at the moment, here are some spring beers and spring-related beer happenings to tide you over until the warmer weather arrives.

Soon We’ll Have A Brewery For Every Night of the Year

The number of breweries in Ontario recently topped 100, and here in Toronto new beer makers are popping up faster than you can say “market oversaturation.” We recently told you about the soon-to-launch baseball-themed Left Field Brewery. Over the coming months, look out for announcements from Kensington Brewing Company and Liberty Village Brewing Co., both of which of are on the hunt for permanent locations. (They currently rent production facilities from other breweries.)

While those new breweries take their first steps, some nearly new breweries are easing into maturity (which, in the Toronto beer scene, means being at least six months old). The Indie Alehouse and Junction Craft Brewing are both settling into their neighbourhoods nicely, with the latter now in permanent digs just south of St. Clair. Meanwhile, if you didn’t yet know that Bellwoods Brewery’s retail store is open, it’s definitely worth a visit, if only to get your hands on some of the company’s tasty creations without having to deal with the table service at the brewpub. And while those former new kids on the block establish themselves in the city, one of Toronto’s veterans is getting ready for a new direction: Mill St. Brewery plans to launch a beer-hall–themed extension of its Distillery District brewpub in April, which will include a still for producing bierschnaps (basically liquor distilled from beer).

Spring at the LCBO

There was a point when all the LCBO needed to do in order to improve its seasonal beer selection was stock something that wasn’t brewed by InBev. Those days are long gone, and yet somehow Ontario’s nanny-state alcohol conglomerate continues to outdo itself, season after season.

A few of the LCBO’s spring 2013 releases have arrived on shelves already. Of those, the kind-of-fruity, kind-of-spicy, kind-of-chocolatey, and kind-of-smokey Grand Cru, by Belgium’s Brasserie de L’Abbaye des Rocs, is worth the trip to one of the few stores in town currently stocking it. (Note: The labels on the LCBO’s bottles actually say “Brasserie des Rocs Grand Cru,” So is the malty-sweet and caramelly Bridge Burner, by Milwaukee’s Lakefront Brewery. Also, the infamous Italian sour beer Panil Barriquee—difficult to find when it came here a couple of years ago because of media hype—is back and hopefully not yet sold out. Not to be outdone by the foreigners, the ludicrously packaged Radical Road Canny Man, brewed by an offshoot of Etobicoke’s Black Oak Brewery, delivers sharp notes of peat and smoke in what’s quite possibly the most interesting beer to come out of Ontario in a while.

As the rest of the spring releases are (hopefully) rolled out over the coming weeks, look out for the boozy and highly anticipated Kuhnhenn Fourth Dementia, a barrel-aged ale from Michigan. Also look for the citrus-laced and mildly hoppy 8 Wired Hop Wired IPA from New Zealand. Notable as well is a selection of four beers from Belgium’s Brasserie Dupont, which, if not available at the LCBO’s Dupont Street store, will be a case of bitter irony.

Drink Beer, Eat Food, Help People. Sound Good?

As the weather prepares to maybe someday get a little nicer, you may soon find yourself shaking off your curmudgeonly winter ways and remembering that you do, in fact, care about other people. Here are two ways to show some charity while having a good time:

On April 7, the folks at Dishcrawl are putting on a Brew Benefit. It’s a self-guided pub crawl through various St. Lawrence Market establishments to benefit The Stop Community Food Centre. While the brews aren’t likely to blow the minds of most avid beer drinkers, they would serve as a good primer for that friend who hasn’t taken the plunge. There are also affordable food pairing options on offer, and it’s all for a good cause.

On the pricier (and fancier) side of things, the Brewer’s Plate charity dinner returns April 17, this year to benefit Not Far From the Tree. You’ll be able to taste beers from Great Lakes Brewery, Cameron’s Brewing Company, Granite Brewery, and more with food pairings by such local chefs as Cowbell’s Mark Cutrara and Keriwa Café’s Aaron Joseph Bear Robe. Like at the Brew Benefit, proceeds go to help people in need of food, so consider ponying up.

CORRECTION: March 21, 2013, 11:05 AM This post originally misstated the name of Brasserie de L’Abbaye des Rocs’ Grand Cru.

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