What do you get when four breweries and a lab get together? Best case Ontario, you end up with a foedre-aged, Farmhouse Ale, that marries both classic and modern brewing ingenuity, into a lovely beer. And what better name to call this best of all situations but, Best Case Ontario? If you’re a little lost, what I’m talking about is Four Winds’ latest offering, made in tandem with Ontario breweries Nickel Brook Brewing, Great Lakes Brewing, and Sawdust City Brewing. Adding an extra layer of collaboration to the mix, Guelph, Ontario’s Escarpment Labs provided a strain of wild yeast for this project. This marks the second foedre-aged beer that Four Winds has released, joining another successful collaboration, Bløðberg, in that category.
What excites us the most about Best Case Ontario–next to the fact that it’s the latest beer Four Winds has brewed with their new toy–is that this is such a big, trans-provincial collaboration. While many of you are already familiar with Four Winds, due to their reputation and our previous article, we’d like to introduce those who are unfamiliar with their collaborators, to the people involved.
While located on a lane more synonymous with Muffin Men than brewmasters, Nickel Brook Brewing has nonetheless made a name for itself on Drury Lane. The Burlington, Ontario based brewery has been a driving force behind the burgeoning, Ontario craft-beer scene and brings 12 years of brewing experience to this collaboration. Utilizing premium ingredients and an almost MacGyver-esque sense of ingenuity, Nickel Brook has established itself as one of Canada’s best and most innovative breweries. Not resting on their laurels, Nickel Brook recently (2016) converted their original brewery into the Funk Lab: a small-batch brewery, dedicated to adding funk to their suds and pushing the boundaries of sour beer.
Wine is often the adult beverage that first pops to mind, when thinking of Ontario. For over 30 years now, however, Great Lakes Brewing in Etobicoke has strived to change that narrative. The 2013-2014 Canadian Brewing Awards, Brewery of the Year, Great Lakes is proof that beer drinkers have always had a taste for bold, flavourful suds. Whether you have a taste for full-bodied ales; crisp, flavourful lagers, or something with a bit more of an experimental twist, Great Lakes Brewing has got your back.
Muskoka is Cottage Country in Ontario and there is no more satisfying thing to do, in the summer, than to recline on your favourite chair and sip cold brews with your buds, by the lake. So it makes perfect sense that a brewery would make its home right in the heart of this mini-paradise. While Sawdust City Brewing is the youngest of the Ontario collaborators, what they lack for in age, they make up for in spades with ingenuity. Taking the classic ales and lagers we know and love and then pushing the boundaries and limitations of these beers, Sawdust has positioned itself as one of the most avant-garde breweries in Canada.
Last but not least, Escarpment Laboratories is the final piece of this beer’s puzzle, as they provided the yeast strain for this delicious brew. For nearly three years now, Escarpment has been developing their collection of yeast strains, from both beer bottles and the Ontario wilderness. The brainchild of scientists and homebrewers, Richard Preiss and Angus Ross, Escarpment has quickly become a leading source for all sorts of different yeasts, while continue to develop and grow their library.
Ok, now to the beer. Best Case Ontario has a lovely amber hue, with a thin, white head. The nose is light and refreshing, showcasing a berry-like fruitiness and slight funk. The taste is far more complex than how this beer appears upon first pour, something I attribute to all of the contributors. Light and effervescent, Best Case Ontario has notes of apple, brett, and a significant spiciness. The foedre comes to the forefront on the back-end of this beer and imparts a lovely balsam-wood characteristic. While the beer is fantastic right now, a little extra time aging in the bottle might allow the wild yeast to develop a little more. Consider snagging two bottles to see how it evolves! As for pairings, while rustic favourites like roast chicken and bouillabaisse are often the perfect choices to enjoy with farmhouse ales, I might suggest going to your local gas station and picking up your favourite pepperoni and some Zesty Mordant Doritos instead.
Best Case Ontario a fantastic beer, but don’t let my word be the final say on it. Go grab yourself a couple of bottles of this limited run beer and after you’ve enjoyed its brilliance, don’t forget that I toad a so.