Food & Drink

Six of America’s biggest beer trends, and where to find them in Toronto right now

Brewers, tastemakers and hardcore hopheads congregated at the 35th annual Great American Beer Festival in Denver earlier this month to sniff out trends among 3,800 American-made brews. While the festival is where folks get their drink on, the prestigious GABF Awards are like the Oscars of U.S. craft beer, and a bellwether for the next big thing in brewing. Here are six top trends from the fest, and where you can find examples of them closer to home.

Coffee beer

It’s no longer just conventional porters and stouts: craft brewers and artisanal roasters are hooking up to birth a suite of java-infused brews, including cream ales, lagers, IPAs and white stouts.

Where to find it:

Collabrrrewnaut, Beau’s All-Natural Brewing A pilsner infused with fair-trade espresso roast coffee from Honduras, its aroma is a mix of spicy hops and bitter espresso notes, with chocolate and coffee flavours playing off the clean, crisp pils. Available at: LCBO in the Best of Beau’s 2016 mix pack on Nov. 3

Bricks and Mortar, Left Field Brewery Made by the east-end brewery in collaboration with the neighbouring Pilot Coffee Roasters, newly roasted beans were added to the porter, and the flavours were slowly cold-extracted, adding berry and vanilla notes typical of the Ana Sora Ethiopian beans used. Available at: Left Field Brewery    

Foraged beer

Brewers are venturing beyond local malts and hops, and heading out into the woods to find ingredients such as juniper berries, heather tips and wild ginger root to toss into their brews. Scratch Brewing Company from southern Illinois won a bronze for its Oyster Weiss, made with locally foraged oyster mushrooms.

Where to find it:

Pengo Pally, Bush Pilot Brewing Foraged arctic herbs, including Labrador tea and crowberry leaves are hand-picked in Nunavut (the brewery works with an Inuit cultural organization to source the ingredients). The farmhouse style ale pours gold, with herbal and tropical fruit notes, a biscuity malt backbone and a dry finish. Available at: The Rhino, and select Sobey’s locations.

Polaris Ale, Beau’s Brewing Co. Forager Francis McDermott has been plucking spruce tips and bog myrtle for Beau’s from his camp near Petawawa since 2008. A sniff of Polaris ale is like a walk through a northern forest, with some lemon and pepper notes on a bed of Ontario malts. Available at: 3030    

Wild ales

Breweries dedicated to wild ales, carefully brewed using controlled amounts of potentially invasive yeast strains, are popping up everywhere. Colorado is home to one of the best, Crooked Stave, and some of their funky ales will be pouring exclusively at Birreria Volo in the next few months.

Where to find it:

Nickel Brook Funk Lab, Burlington Ontario brewery Nickel Brook is right on the heels of this trend after converting their old Burlington location into a brewery specializing in sour beers. Drive out to the brewery and pick up their latest assortment, which includes Raspberry Über, a fruity Berliner weisse, and Uncommon Element, a pale ale spiked with wild Brettanomyces (or brett) yeast.

Folly Brewpub, Toronto A small, brett-focused microbrewery on College Street. Try Inkhorn, dark with a touch of tart cranberry.    

Year-round gose

Salty, sour gose is perfect for warm-weather sipping, but it’s not just a warm weather beer. At the Great American Beer Festival, it seemed like every fourth brewery was pouring one, and while lots of Ontario breweries are already making them, we have yet to see a permanent gose listing in the LCBO.

Where to find it:

Hors Série Gose, Les Trois Mousquetaires This Quebec brew pours a hazy gold, with zesty lime and bread notes, topped with a sprinkle of salt. Available at: Bar Hop Brew Co.


Ceres Cucumber Lime Gose, Nickel Brook Funk Lab A refreshing brew with lime, cucumber and a touch of sea salt. Available at: Wvrst    

Lagers everywhere

A reaction to the big, bitter IPAs that have dominated the American scene, breweries are producing more and more easy-drinking lagers, recreating the traditional pilsners and helles lagers imbibed by early German settlers.

Where to find it:

Pick Up Truck Pilsner, Thornbury Brewing Thornbury Village Brewing (formerly King Brewing) exclusively brews lagers, and its Pick Up Truck pilsner just won gold at the World Beer Awards, beating out competitors from across the globe. Available at: The Beer Store and LCBO    

The Crowler

A portable jumbo-canning machine that will change the way we transport fresh beer? Yes, please. Not to be confused with a growler (those clunky, expensive, hard-to-scrub brown jugs), the Crowler is a 32-ounce jumbo can that can be filled with fresh brews at a brewery or tap room. Pioneered by Oskar Blues Brewery, the Colorado-based operation has been selling the machines across the U.S. since 2014.

Where to find it:

Redline Brewhouse, Barrie The brewery’s retail store is the first in the GTA to take advantage of the format, but we’re hoping more will follow.


Tooth and Nail Brewing, Ottawa That’s one of their crowlers pictured above—in action.


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