Posted on June 28, 2012 by Marina

Last week, we celebrated Ontario Craft Beer Week with our fellow craft brewer friends. This was the third annual celebration of Ontario’s independent craft brewing industry with tasting events and opportunities in communities across the province. The aim of OCB Week is for the 29 OCB member breweries to bring craft beer awareness to Ontario residents.


Last year, LCBO sales of Ontario Craft Brewer products were 45% higher than the previous year. The LCBO have been huge craft beer supporters by offering high-quality products Ontarians can enjoy all year round to help grow the industry.

After all, craft beer is a win-win proposition — it supports local economies by creating jobs for Canadians, and it tastes great.

Our brewer Erica not only joined friends from Amsterdam and Great Lakes in collaborating on a special GTA Belgian Farmhouse Ale but was also a frequent attendant of events. Below is her recap of the week.

What is your favourite part of Ontario Craft Beer Week and what does OCB mean to you?

Ontario Craft Beer Week means a chance to celebrate our province’s craft beers through a series of beer dinners, tap takeovers, pairings, beer fests and themed events. It’s a chance for OCB breweries to reach new audiences and to show why local craft beer is best. My favourite part of OCB Week is trying one-off and collaboration brews. The inspiration for the brews can come from anywhere, and it highlights the diverse, creative, and ever evolving side of brewing.

How did the collaboration brew with Great Lakes & Amsterdam come about?

When the OCB Week organizers announced that one of the key themes this year was collaboration, brewers at Amsterdam and Great Lakes decided to get together and invited other OCB brewers to join. Although at Steam Whistle we do one thing, I’ve always been encouraged to take part in collabs which are lots of fun and a great learning experience for me. We decided to brew the GTA Farmhouse Ale, a Belgian style beer fermented with a saison yeast, and we spiced it with sage, cardamom, and peppercorns. The result was a dry, refreshing beer with a distinctive spicy aroma that I thought paired really well with food.  It was available on draught at various bars throughout the city, and in bottles at the Great Lakes and Amsterdam retail stores. With only one small batch made, you have to seek it out if you want to try it, and that’s part of the appeal. Once it’s gone, it’s gone…until next year maybe?

What events did you attend?

My OCB Week kicked off on Friday with a launch at the Summerhill LCBO where we heard about growth in the craft beer industry while toasting with a glass of GTA Farmhouse Ale. Saturday I went to Wvrst for a Dieu du Ciel Brewery tap-takeover where I tasted some delicious new creations, including 2 collaboration beers. I spent Sunday afternoon at the Brickworks enjoying the Brewers Backyard, which is a series of events showcasing a local brewery in a casual and relaxed setting with top-notch food vendors and live music. By Monday I was a bit tired, but I just could not miss the Amsterdam Brewery vs. Flat Rock Winery dinner at Beast restaurant. Tuesday I went out to one of my favourite bars, Brydens on Bloor St, for their Best of the West event. Several breweries from the west end participated by sending a keg of their best beer, including the GTA Farmhouse, for this collaborative tap takeover. By Wednesday I was ready for a couple of nights off, but I was back at it Friday for Bar Volo’s Belgian night, featuring all local Begian-inspired brews. Saturday was the Session 99 Craft Beer Fest with over 100 beers, food sampling, live music, and I got to catch up with several friends to talk about which OCB week events they liked best. It was a busy but amazing week, I can’t wait to do it all again during Toronto Beer Week in September!

The Amsterdam/Flat Rock dinner at Beast restaurant on Monday was one of my favourites. It was part of the Canadian Beer News dinner series, which brings together top breweries and restaurants to create unique beer and food pairings. The chef paired each of the four courses with a wine and a beer, and the dessert was paired with a special collaborative brew from Amsterdam and Flat Rock Cellars’ head winemaker Ross Wise. Ross was a brewer before getting into wine, and the sour cherry Imperial Stout aged on oak that they produced was spectacular. Overall, the food and pairings were fabulous, the atmosphere was nice and relaxed, and the winery and brewery working together really pushed the collaboration theme to the next level. Congratulations to all involved, it was a great night.

Can you sum up the week in one sentence?

Probably not! There was just way too much good stuff going on.

Cheers to keeping the craft beer industry strong!