News and Notes: January 12, 2024

Getty Images photo

Hello, and welcome to a new biweekly feature here on The Growler Ontario website where we’ll be rounding up happenings around Ontario. 

Here at the beginning of 2024, we find ourselves in interesting times for the Ontario beer scene. The expansion of sales to convenience stores is in the offing for 2026, but in the meantime the market is very much in flux. For this reason, we’ll be covering openings, closures, renovations, renovictions, mergers, acquisitions, and the odd hootenanny. 

We’ll list the most interesting looking events across the province including festivals and feature notable new releases from a wide selection of breweries so that you can keep up with what’s going on out there in beer land.

It’s likely the format will change as the weeks progress. Bear with us. Greg Clow at Canadian Beer News did a hell of a job.


Openings and Closures

Muddy York’s brewery cat, Nelson, is retiring on January 24. photo

While Muddy York’s East York location doesn’t shut down until the 17th of February, it is important to note the retirement of their brewery cat Nelson on January 24th. If wishing his owners, Jeff and Susan, good luck in Stouffville is all you wanted, then you’ll want to attend the Hoppy Trails party on February 3rd. 

Brantford’s Mash Paddle Brewing has, as a result of the retirement of Theodore Scholten, gone in a new direction and is currently rebranding as Sassy Britches Brewing. 

Some breweries are taking advantage of the January lull to rest, recuperate, and generally improve their situation. If you visit them before they re-open, you won’t get beer:

Ridgeway’s Brimstone Brewing will be closed until the third week of January. 

Stratford’s Heritage Hops Brewing is closed until February. 

Gananoque’s Gananoque Brewing is closed until March. 

The Kingston branch of Something In The Water is closed until renovations are complete.

Fenelon Falls in Fenelon Falls, is closed for renovations until spring 2024, and is now under the ownership of Waterbridge Chocolates. I sense a White Stout in the near future.

Haliburton Highlands Brewing is closed pending relocation from Haliburton to Carnarvon! It remains to be seen whether they will tear down the yurt or simply turn it sideways and roll it down the highway. They plan to reopen in May of 2024.

Boshkung Brewing’s Hwy 118 location ceased operations at the end of December. Their Water Street location continues to operate and the new Smokehouse location in Haliburton Forest is replete with a retail shop. 

Upcoming Events

Celebrate Storm Stayed’s anniversary with tickets to one of three all-inclusive party sessions. Storm Stayed image

January 13

Storm Stayed Brewing’s Sixth Anniversary Party
3 Sessions over the course of the day. Celebrate one of London’s favourites.

January 19

Hawksley Workman at Refined Fool
You’ve heard him on Radio 2. Now see him at Radio Fool. 

Granite Brewery Robbie Burns Night
Upgraded to two nights for the 30th anniversary. Prime Rib, Haggis, Fine Ales, and Poetry.

January 20

Godspeed Smoked Beer Festival
You want the smoke. The great taste of Bamberg without leaving Toronto. 

Granite Brewery Robbie Burns Night
Upgraded to two nights for the 30th anniversary. Prime Rib, Haggis, Fine Ales, and Poetry.

The Only Cafe Non-Alc Festival 
Finally! A festival where you stand a chance of remembering people’s names!

Toronto West Oysterfest @ Henderson Brewery
A shucking great time, plus beer and lobster rolls!

January 27

Blood Brothers Over the Tap 2024
Local heroes and hazy beers from Quebec. You’ll want to move fast on this one.

Collective Arts Sober Speakeasy, Saturdays until the end of February
A subterranean speakeasy for the sober-curious. Saturdays!

February 3

Glenn Milchem of Blue Rodeo at Together We’re Bitter Co-Op
More like Lost Together We’re Bitter.

February 10

Roundhouse Winter Craft Beer Festival 10:30 – 6:00
Please don’t throw a snowball at me! I’m holding a beer!

March 1-2

Beerhurst @ Deerhurst 
The best rhyming beer festival since … ever. 

Editor’s Top Low-Alc Picks For Dry January

Bellwoods Jelly King Tropical Fruit Dry Hopped Sour Tropical is Growler Ontario editor Jordan St John-approved. photo

Listen, I’m the editor of a beer magazine. You can take it as read that I’m not the world’s biggest fan of non-alcoholic beer. In fact, just writing about it gives me the wibbles because I have to ask myself if I’m being honest about recommending them. That said, because I work for a variety of publications, I have tried just about everything you can get in Ontario, from mass market brands to niche craft products. I can tell you honestly: I would not buy most of them.

The problem a lot of non-alc or low-alc options have is that they don’t do a very good job of being beer; they do a passable job of being liquids. The six pack I’ve listed below do a good job of both. They’re not texturally compromised and some of them even contain bitterness. I’m going to pay them the highest compliment I can: They’re some of the best the province has ever produced and I would happily drink them.

Bellwoods Jelly King Tropical Fruit Dry Hopped Sour Tropical
The brilliant thing about Jelly King as a non-alc is that the basic model doesn’t rely on alcohol for interest. It’s bright, tart, and citric. This fruited version increases the complexity, but the basic model is also worth your attention. 

Left Field Brewing Skipper Micro IPA
You’re a big fan of hazy IPA and you’re waiting for spring training to start. You’re going to want Skipper. At 2.8%, it’ll satisfy the verisimilitude portion of the equation with tropical fruit and floral notes that might even remind you April is coming.

Harmons Bump Start IPA
When Steve Abrams retired from Mill Street, he founded Harmon’s. Perhaps unsurprisingly, their IPAs actually contain bitterness because Steve is old school. While I’ve chosen to plug Bump Start because of the Cascade and Citra, Jack Pine is more classically a West Coast IPA.

Barrel Heart Blackcurrant Spritz
Leave it to Mark Horsley, head brewer at Barrel Heart, to come up with a product with table presence. This Blackcurrant Spritz is made as a sort of table beer version of their Blackcurrant Saison. At 1.8%, it’s as sophisticated as the genre gets.

Godspeed Baby Svetly
Some low alcohol beers suffer from a lack of texture, but here you’ve got the honeyed sense of decocted malt and the bitter sting of finest Czech Saaz. At 1.5%, Baby Svetly is very nearly as satisfying as its bigger brothers.

Wellington Chinook Sparkling Hop Water
Alright, you caught me. It’s not a beer. I actually prefer Hop Water to most non-alcoholic beers because it’s not trying to be beer. It’s very much its own thing. Wellington makes two flavours, Cascade and Chinook, and they’re different enough that the highlights of the Ontario hops being used are obvious. I think the Chinook is a little more floral. Why not order a bouquet?

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