Crystal Luxmore

From a pub with 99 bottles of beer on the wall to a 9.2-percent ale brewed by monks, award-winning critic Crystal Luxmore unveils the year’s best beers, breweries and hotspots.

Crystal Luxmore is a Toronto-based beer writer, editor, a Certified Cicerone and a Prud'homme Beer Sommelier whose work has appeared in the top magazines, newspapers and sites in Canada and the U.S. She leads beer tastings, seminars, beer and food pairing workshops and hosts beer dinners for clients and festivals. Read on to see her Top Ten beer picks.

Top Ten Beer Picks

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Detour

MUSKOKA BREWERY, ON

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"Session ales — flavourful, lower-alcohol brews — are all the rage. This local craft IPA-lite (just 4.3 percent ABV) is one of my favourites: delicate aromas of mango, peach and florals are balanced by Cheerio-like malts. Try it with mango salad or rice paper wraps."

Rochefort 8

ABBAYE NOTRE-DAME DE SAINT REMY, BE

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"The monks who brew Rochefort in this Trappist monastery in Wallonia, Belgium make just three dark brews — Six, Eight and Ten — and they make them very well. This beautiful ale has notes of figs and prunes with a firm hop centre and a warming 9.2 percent alcohol. Delicious with hearty stews or chocolate cake."

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Collective Arts Brewery Company

TORONTO, ON

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"Promoting emerging artists and musicians on its rotating labels, this ambitious rock ‘n’ roll brewery has partnered with Nickel Brook Brewing Company (they share brewmaster Ryan Morrow) to revive an old Hamilton brewery. The new site will host concerts and art exhibitions, bringing a creative hub and tasty brews to the Hammer’s blossoming arts scene. Saint of Circumstance Citrus-Infused Blonde Ale has aromas of pineapple, mango and orange supported by a sweet cracker backbone and spicy floral hops."

Junction Craft Brewing

TORONTO, ON

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"After two decades running bars and brewing respectively, pals Tom Paterson and Doug Pengelly launched Junction brewery in Toronto’s railway neighbourhood. Pengelly crafts easydrinking British and German-style brews in a tiny brewhouse he constructed himself from old dairy and refrigeration equipment. Conductor’s Craft Ale’s woodsy, pine and citrus hops are balanced by a caramel-like centre; their softer, biscuity Brakeman’s Session Ale arrives in LCBOs soon."

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100th Meridian Organic Amber Lager

MILL STREET BREWERY, ON

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"The second organic lager from Toronto’s Mill Street is bolder than the original. Made with citrusy-American hops and a stunning mix of malts, it’s a beautiful all-day-on-the-dock sipper that strikes a perfect balance between honeyed Digestive biscuit–like malts and pinkgrapefruity hops. Try it on pizza night or with grilled vegetable skewers."

White Shield

WORTHINGTON’S, UK

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White Shield is a revival of the classic English Pale Ale. In the 1850s, brewers in "Burton-on-Trent found the local waterway’s gypsum-rich water lent hops a remarkably crisp, pointed flavour—this combined with a judiciously biscuity base gave birth to the famous beer style. The Shield has aromas of juicy caramel, grape candy and wet leaves. Great with curry."

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Alexander Keith’s Galaxy Hop Ale

NOVA SCOTIA

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"Rather than using a combination of hops like most beers, this ale is flavoured with just one varietal: tropically fruity Galaxy hops from Australia. Notes of passionfruit and pineapple dominate the nose, while its rich, toffee body makes this IPA sweeter and gentler than most. Try it with Mexican fare or grilled tuna."

Hungry Brew Hops

NEWMARKET, ON

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"Housed in a historic bank building, this 150-seat eatery is packed with locals craving a craft pint and owner/chef Boris Fong’s globe-trotting approach to home cooking—including bacon-fat popcorn and beer-braised beef short ribs. A beer fanatic, Fong encourages noshers to roam 25 Ontario-heavy taps or 20 bottles from Belgium, Western Canada and the U.S. Look for Nickel Brook Naughty Neighbour Pale Ale, a local craft beer whose fresh-pine bouquet and citrus hop aromas belie its easy drinkability."

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The Wren

TORONTO, ON

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"This Toronto saloon was a labour-of-love for couple Dennis and Rhonda Kimeda, who fashioned the bar and one wall with boards salvaged from an old barn. Twelve taps boast local brews while a 50-plus bottle list fills out the American, Quebecois and Belgian quotient. Tex-mex fare, like spicy, pulled-pork chimichangas, was designed with pints in mind. Look for Boneshaker IPA, judiciously hopped from start to finish with citrusy, floral and piney American hops and a caramel backbone."

Bent Elbow

KITCHENER, ON

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"Harold Kroeker became a “beer guy,” after working at the LCBO as a student. “I was the guy always bringing weird beer to the party.” Now he and his wife, Deanna, are bringing wacky brews to Kitchener-Waterloo: all but three of the 32 taps rotate, showcasing local breweries like Grand River and Innocente. The Bible (their beer menu) has a one-pager on each of the 100 rare, mostly imported, brews in stock. Try Jever Pilsner: soft well-water lends this classic Pilsner a creamy body and clipped, grassy finish."

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