Celebrating the best, brightest, and tastiest in Ontario's beer industry.
The Golden Tap Awards, put on by Ontario beer site The Bar Towel, bill themselves as “Ontario’s most democratic awards event,” and function as a sort of People’s Choice Award for the Ontario beer industry. Members of the public are encouraged to vote for their favourites in categories ranging from best brewery in Ontario to best cask-conditioned ale in Ontario. As with all vote-based award shows, the use of social media is key to a win.
There were many Toronto-based recipients last night, including Great Lakes Brewery for best brewery in Ontario, Bellwoods Brewery for most innovative brewery in Ontario, and Bar Hop for best draught selection in Ontario.
The full list of categories and the winners have now been announced—here’s some background information on each winner:
Best Brewery in Ontario: Great Lakes Brewery
For years, the Etobicoke-based Great Lakes Brewery has been setting the bar high with quality beers that have enflamed the imaginations and tastes of Toronto beer drinkers. If you want, you can celebrate their wins from last night, as well as their Canadian Brewery Awards win of Brewery of the Year, tonight at the 918 Bathurst: Culture, Arts, Media and Education Centre at 6 p.m.
Best Brewery for Cask-Conditioned Ales in Ontario: Great Lakes Brewery
Again, Great Lakes Brewery has been producing some top-notch beers, so it comes as no surprise that they’ve been acknowledged for releasing these beers on cask as well as draught.
Best Brewpub or Tied House in Ontario: Bellwoods Brewery
Located on the Ossington strip, Bellwoods Brewery has both rustic ambience and often innovative and excellent beers that are brewed in-house—making it one of the top destinations for craft beer lovers.
Best Cidery in Ontario: West Avenue Cider Company
Since its debut at Cask Days last year, West Avenue Cider Company has established itself as one of the leaders in the craft cider movement by challenging the misconception that good quality cider is “simple.”
Best Regularly-Produced Beer in Ontario: Beau’s Lug Tread Lagered Ale
Best Seasonal or One-Off Beer in Ontario: Great Lakes Brewery Thrust!
Thrust! made some major waves when it landed in bars earlier this year, and starting today, it’ll be available in cans at the brewery itself. At 6.5 per cent ABV (or alcohol by volume), the beer has delicious notes of pine and grapefruit.
Best Cask-Conditioned Ale in Ontario: Granite Brewery Hopping Mad
The English Pale Ale made by the Granite Brewery & Restaurant has been a longtime favourite for fans of the style. The beer is simple done well, with citrus notes followed up by a warm caramel that is highlighted best on cask where there is no carbonation.
Best Bar for Draught Selection in Ontario: Bar Hop
In the two years since its opening, Bar Hop at King and Spadina has established itself as one of Toronto’s go-to places for excellent quality Ontario beers on always-rotating taps.
Best Bar for Packaged Beer Selection in Ontario: Bar Volo
One of Toronto’s stalwarts of the craft beer scene, barVolo remains one of the best places in Toronto to get bottles of unique and hard-to-find beers.
Best Bar for Cask Ale Selection in Ontario: Bar Volo
Best Beer Event in Ontario: Cask Days
Taking place every year at Evergreen Brickworks, Cask Days is a beer event that shouldn’t be missed. Tickets are currently on sale for this year’s event, which runs from October 24 to 25, but they’re going fast.
Best Beer Writer in Ontario: Ben Johnson
The insightful blogger and BlogTO beer writer’s fierce social media campaign and passionate writing paid off in this well-deserved win. Johnson has taken the announcement with his usual grace and sense of humour.
Best Staff in Ontario: Bar Hop
Each staff member at Bar Hop is specially trained in the ways of beer and uses their knowledge to help customers figure out which beer might suit them best.
Best Newcomer to the Beer Scene in Ontario: Side Launch Brewing Company
One of the more perplexing wins, as Side Launch Brewing is technically a merger/rebranding of the now retired Denison’s Brewing. Two of the three flagships of Side Launch—Wheat and Dark Lager—have been brewed by co-owner and brewmaster Michael Hancock under the Denison’s brand since 1989. Solid beers, but one might hesitate to call it “new.”
Most Innovative Brewery in Ontario: Bellwoods Brewery
Since opening its doors in 2012, Bellwoods Brewery has consistently pushed the boundaries of people’s perceptions of how beer should be. With new and interesting beers constantly coming out both on tap at its brewpub and in bottles at its retail store, the win is unsurprising.
Best Beer Design and Branding in Ontario: Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company
Beau’s has really established itself in the public eye as a brewery with unique and interesting label designs and incredibly popular branding campaigns.
A note on Brewmaster’s Choice: This particular category involved professional craft brewers picking their favourite beer in Ontario.
Brewmaster’s Choice – Best Beer in Ontario: Sawdust City Lone Pine IPA
With pronounced taste notes of citrus and pine and a balanced bitterness, this beer from the Gravenhurst-based Sawdust City Brewing Co. has been a longtime favourite of customers and industry workers alike. Lone Pine is currently available in LCBO stores.
A note on the Editor’s Circle Award: The Editor’s Circle Award is given out to those who have made significant achievements in the Ontario craft beer industry and have helped in shaping the landscape of the province’s beer scene. The awards are chosen by a selection of Bar Towel members, and there are no set categories.
Editor’s Circle Award: Buster Rhino’s & Durham Craft Beer Festival
Hosted by Buster Rhino’s Authentic Southern BBQ, the Durham Craft Beer Festival made the region come alive over the summer with its offerings of some of Ontario’s best breweries and cideries. Tickets are currently on sale for its next event, happening this weekend.
Editor’s Circle Award: Society of Beer Drinking Ladies
On the last Friday of every month, the Society of Beer Drinking Ladies holds a ticketed “bevy” at a location not revealed until the day of the event. There, it showcases and shares some amazing beers with women of all backgrounds. In the nine months this event series has been going on, the society has created a strong community.
Editor’s Circle Award: Beau’s Oktoberfest
The annual Beau’s Oktoberfest celebration and fundraising event in Vankleek Hill has long been a festival destination for many. Taking place over the course of a weekend, it features over a dozen special Beau’s beers, multiple events, good food, and excellent live shows. Tickets are currently available for this year’s festival, which takes place October 3 and 4.
Editor’s Circle Award: George Milbrandt
Best known as the man behind C’est What?, George has been operating one of the mainstays of Toronto’s craft beer scene since 1988.
Editor’s Circle Award: Nickel Brook Brewery
From its excellent Über Berliner Weisse to its “Bastard” series of Imperial Stouts, the Burlington-based Nickel Brook Brewery offers customers some solid choices in bars throughout Ontario.
A note on the Best Beer of the Fest: During the awards show last night, attendees were encouraged to vote for the best beer they had that night, and the votes were tallied and the results announced later on in the evening.
Best Beer of the Fest: Bellwoods Bounty Hunter
Bounty Hunter is a 10.3 per cent ABV Strong Porter brewed with raw Coconut and Vanilla. Its notes are very bitter chocolate with a subtle and creamy note of vanilla and coconut. The beer is currently available at the Bellwoods Brewery retail space on Ossington.