Category Archives: Breweries and Brew Pubs

Sour New England

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Somewhat recently I joined the family for a short holiday down to New Hampshire. Naturally, the most exciting prospect of this whole road trip was the opportunity to sample new-to-me beer from the East Coast of the US. On our first stop into a tourist info. centre I picked up a map of the breweries of Vermont so I could strategically let my car companions know when I needed to take a wee break from driving.

It has been a very long time since this West Coast gal has made it down to the New England states and I was blown away with the quantity and quality of craft beer – dare I say it felt almost west coast-like (high praise indeed!). Based on the map of Vermont alone I think I would need months, not days, to hit all the interesting looking beer hot spots. Undeterred I made the best with the time afforded me.

And I have to say I was beyond impressed with the beer I tried. It was a veritable paradise for sour enthusiasts like myself with not only sour beer options but whole breweries, literally, getting their funk on!

Here are a few highlights…

 

Rock Art Brewery, Vermont 

 

 

Schilling Beer Co., New Hampshire

 

 

Hermit Thrush Brewery, Vermont Green St. SIPA (Sour IPA)

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Allagash Brewing Company, Maine Uncommon Crow

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Chutters Candy Counter (world’s longest), New Hampshire Draft Beer Jelly Belly

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My (Very Visual) Beer Tour

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Now that I am back in starving student mode I have found myself having to be a wee bit more discerning when it comes to my craft beer hobby. Gone are the days of bringing home whatever random beer catches my eye …first world problem indeed. Nonetheless like any good student I also know when to throw caution to the wind, chuck the books and spend a day going on a beerventure with a couple of enthusiastic comrades.

 

Our beer road-trip began early one Saturday morning with a stop at the recently opened Brock Street Brewing Company, located on “the most refreshing street in Canada” aka Brock Street in Whitby, Ontario. We were so keen to get things started that we actually arrived before they were legally allowed to serve alcohol so we had to be satisfied with a quick tour, some great swag and bottles to go, of course.

 

After our first stop we literally went up the street landing at 5 Paddles Brewing Company, which thankfully by this time, was both open AND able to turn on the taps. Here we were able to sample the line-up from tiny table-sized canoes whilst sitting atop old kegs converted into barstools replete with cushions up-cycled from grain bags. A really neat space inside if somewhat unassuming from the parking lot.

 

Next on the itinerary the Old Flame Brewing Company in Port Perry, Ontario. Truly a standout in terms of location, this brewery is housed in a historical local building, the former Carriage Works, and the re-purposed space makes amazing use of the architecture, which mixes old and new materials. Also, I was very impressed with the whole layout of this brewery and tasting room not to mention the fact they had Bluegrass drop-in jam happening on the Saturday we visited.

 

Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery in Barrie, Ontario was next up and, to be honest, this was the one that the whole trip was built around for me. I love this brewery’s quirky, fun take on craft beer not to mention their killer marketing strategy “normal is weird”. This brewery is putting a ton of beer out of a relatively small space and as such, there is not much in the way of a tasting area though staff informed me that a new (and larger) pub is opening very soon. Flying Monkeys was resplendent with swag and generous with tasters. They even offer regularly scheduled tours of the operation behind the scenes.

 

Last but not least was Barnstormer Brewing Company and Pizzeria (yay carbs to soak up the beer) also in Barrie, Ontario. A microbrewery tucked in the back of a very busy pizzeria and pub. While we did not get to tour the brewing facilities they do have tables looking into the brewery portion so you can get a sense of how the magic is made. A much smaller operation than Flying Monkeys but they are producing some interesting unfiltered craft beers.

 

Overall a very good day and as for the beer highlights? Well, I don’t like doing reviews based solely on taster flights but if I had to name a favourite stop of the day I would have to say Old Flame Brewing Company in Port Perry, Ontario for overall impressions and 5 Paddles Brewing Company for some unique craft beers though I still have a few take home bottles to sample so we’ll put a pin in it for now…


Shhh, there is a Beer Gem in Carp

Do you know what lay behind that infamous smile of the Cheshire Cat? Well I do, he found a fantastic little spot brimming with craft beer and creative pub fare in Carp.

Oh yes, I said Carp as in Carp, Ontario. Never heard of it? Well, no surprise there as Carp is a tiny rural community west of Ottawa that boasts many unique amenities like a post office and a convenience store oh, and as I alluded to, a little grey stone church with a giant smiling cat a perch a sign indicating you have found The Cheshire Cat.

Full disclosure here, when our landlord recommended The Cheshire Cat as a ‘great little spot for beer’ my inner (and possibly outer) beer snob scoffed at the notion that out here in rural Ontario any sort of beer menu resembling greatness could be found.

Well, shut my mouth because this unassuming little church boasts a quality bottle and tap selection, accommodating servers who offer up samples to help you make up your mind, an informed bartender who can help with a pairing as well as an interesting food menu with gluten free options to keep my hubby content no less.

Beer Menu

I sampled the cask options on tap finally settling on a huge malt bomb from Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co. that paired nicely with my British style pub fare while my hubby tried out the Mongozo Pilsner with a gluten-free pot pie.

Beaus

Mongozo

Clearly the locals are already well aware of this hidden gem in their midst since every night on my commute home the parking lot for The Cheshire Cat is literally packed with cars spilling out to line the road in front of the pub. While my Dad was visiting for the weekend we made reservations for a Monday night just to be sure we got a table.

Despite their general busyness we never felt rushed and it did not feel crowded inside, more like a cozy living room full of good company and good beer. On the weekends you can even enjoy live music. Can you really ask for more?

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There will be Dragons

KBC Truck

As of late I have been using my beer touring as a cover for my larger goal of finding a permanent place I would like to live and work (and drink) in. Essentially this boils down to me picking breweries to visit that are located in towns or cities where I could see myself putting down roots.

 

Me and my Beer

On my hit list was Kingston, Ontario home to a lovely waterfront, historic buildings, a university, green space, prisons, an old fort and a craft brewery the not-so-surprisingly named Kingston Brewing Company.

Somewhat surprisingly though this brewery is home to in-house crafted cider and wine, which meant my gluten-adverse hubby could also partake.

Kingston Motto

The brewery is located in the downtown withing walking distance of shops, eateries and entertainment stops. Like many businesses in Kingston, the Kingston Brewing Company (KBC) is housed in a historic building with lots of interesting details like the bricked archway leading to the patio, colourful wood work and an interior boasting an immeasurable quantity of breweriana.

KBC Interior KBC Entrance KBC Outside

One little issue I seem to be having with the Ontario breweries is the absence of taster flights. The breweries are happy to pour you a third of a taster glass to sample their wares or a full pint obviously but for light-weights like myself that want to try an entire line-up while remaining vertical you just have to close your eyes and pick a beer. Hopefully this is something that will change as beer culture here continues to develop.

Beer Menu First Capital Ale

My drink of choice was the limited release cask ale First Capital, a deep copper coloured beer that comes with just a little skim and a ring of head around the glass. Being a real ale this beer had minimal carbonation and was served close to room temperature. The server informed me this ale incorporates a single hop though she was not sure which hop this was. Flavours include some bread character, caramel maltiness and the tiniest presence of hop; I think it was slightly citrus in nature. A very light bodied ale that felt a bit thin to me but this is not uncharacteristic of real ales. No lingering finish to speak of. Overall an approachable real ale but one I did not find particularly memorable.

I tried to tour the brewery but I was told the brewer had already left for the day (sweet gig since it was only 2:00pm when I visited) so hopefully I can take a peek behind the scenes next time I am in town.


You know that beer could kill you…

William Street Brewery

This week I visited William Street Beer Company in Cobourg, Ontario, which is located in an old white car garage on (where else) William Street. The brewery is pretty small with space for a couple of beer fridges at the entrance, a shelf for some beer swag and a bar where you can grab a small pour of whatever happens to be on tap. When I visited this happened to be nothing.

William Street Info Beer Fridges

The behind the counter beer guy explained they have been having some up and downs since opening, selling a lot of beer (a good thing) and have refrigeration issues (a not so good thing). The fridge stocks were likewise depleted so my only option was to purchase one of the half dozen or so remaining bottles of their English Golden Ale. I was told this beer did not turn out quite like expected but it had an interesting citrus note. A little unsure about the descriptor I hated to leave empty handed so I tried it. I mean what do you have to lose right?

Beer Swag Beer Swag

Beer Menu

Well apparently a little more than I would have thought.

I popped the beer into my freezer bag in the car and when I got home I put the bottle in the basement, which is always pretty cool (temperature not style). After dinner I am sitting upstairs when I hear a loud bang followed by a loud yell. I hurry downstairs to find an exploded beer bottle and beer everywhere and my very startled looking spouse standing midst the carnage.

Broken Dreams

Now being the dutiful beer geek I am and having had a previous experience with a combustible bottle of my own home brew I thought I should notify the brewery so they could pull those last couple of bottles from their fridge.

Their response was not what I expected.

Instead of saying thanks for letting us know or saying sorry about the exploding bottle or even offering to pour me pint next time I stopped in, I was told (via Twitter as they never wrote back to my email) no one else reported the ‘spontaneous combustion’ of their bottle and ‘they could not replace the bottle’?!?

Ouch. Not the answer I hoped for and to be honest this response kind of puts me off the brewery. I mean I am not some beer neophyte who left the bottle in the blazing sun for hours and hours and even if I were they made no effort to discern what could have went wrong. Not to sound trite but I like to think I know a bit about beer storage and bottles just are not supposed to explode at random.

So I have to ask, what do you think fellow beer geeks? Is a blown-up bottle just a random occurrence? Was something wrong with the beer? Should a brewery take some interest in this?


I Brake for Barley Days

 

Barley Days Counter

One of the good things about moving to a new province is the chance to stumble across a brewery you have never visited and whose beer you have never tried. This was happily the case for me and the hubby as we were out touring around Prince Edward County when I saw a sign that said brewery and we had to slam on the brakes – do they make I Brake for Craft Beer bumper stickers yet? If not, I hereby patent the idea!

 

But I digress.

Barley Days Brewery

 

Hot Dogs

Barley Days Brewery is located, as mentioned, in the very lovely Prince Edward County region of eastern Ontario. An area filled with historic little towns, vineyards, a craft distillery, a cidery and a craft brewery of course. The brewery is your regular set-up, tasting room, some beer swag, pretzels, chalkboards but they also boast a sausage maker hawing his product out front (and tempting patrons inside with free samples).

Beer Taps

Not sure about anyone else but I am starting to get the impression there is a standard start-up kit for dressing up your craft brewery that includes wooden everything, rustic/industrial themed fixtures and a chalkboard menu. C’mon people let’s think a little outside the proverbial box we certainly do when it comes to our beer so why not when it comes to our breweries?

Hops on Counter

This is not to say there is anything wrong with the ambiance at Barley Days it just feels like I have not seen anything different in quite some time.

But I digress yet again.

Beer

There were no less than three people behind the bar to ensure I got to try the line-up and to provide the details on the brewery. One particularly nice fellow (an BC’er no less) showed me behind the scenes and even gave me a sneak taste of their new collaboration Rye beer brewed with spices from a Toronto area deli. A nice, if slightly young tasting beer, that has lots of potential. I also sampled the rest of the available regular line-up as well and despite my initial reluctant I was persuaded and impressed by their Loyalist Lager (not usually a big lager fan).

Behind the Scenes Behind the Scenes

All their beers were consistent and quite drinkable and I look forward to sampling some of their darker beer offerings after the summer.

Barley Days is also committed to making use of their neighbours and uses locally grown when available. I am a pretty big fan of this ethos and it makes me like their beer just a little bit more…

 


My Neck of the Woods

On the long and longer road trip through Ontario from British I happened to find myself in Kenora right around lunch time. As luck would have it Kenora, Ontario is home to Lake of the Woods Brewing Company, which just so happens to serve both beer and food!

Lake of the Woods

Lake of the Woods is located in an old fire hall in the heart of this very pretty town. The converted fire hall is a very big space boasting a large restaurant, a patio, a room with a pool table, arcade games en route to the washrooms, a gift shop, a stage for live music and the brewery of course.

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LOW Staircase

I am a sucker for breweries with historical connections so I think a fire hall made for fantastic brewery site.

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LOW Interior

LOW Arcade

The menu is pretty standard pub fare but they do have vegan and gluten-free options, which was impressive for basically the middle of nowhere (aka Northern Ontario). Though I have to warn other celiac sufferers my hubby got ‘glutened’ from items on their menu so perhaps steer clear of the food stuffs just to be safe.

LOW Taps

LOW Last Call

LOW Beer Menu

I wrote about my beer selection in a previous post but just as a quick reminder, I tried their Last Call Rye and Ginger beer a very spicy brew that lived up to its name. Copper colour with lots of white head and decent carbonation. A slightly sweet malt forward nose with a bit of spice. First few sips were light-bodied and sweet with a warming quality from the ginger not the alcohol content. As you continue to drink the heat of the ginger and the tang of the rye really become more pronounced. A tough beer to pair with food but an eminently drinkable brew nonetheless.

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LOW Swag

Lake of the Woods has a great gift shop with tons of beer swag from t-shirts to camouflage hats to belt buckles all with their very nice logo and in very cottage country colours and patterns. The gift shop also had a growler fill station and bottle sales.

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The big surprise for me was how empty the place was. Good beer, decent food, interesting space but perhaps things really pick up on the weekends and/or closer to summer. If it was not such an insanely long drive to get back to Kenora I might just make this place a regular destination.

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Beer from the Rock

Growlers

Well as Murphy’s Law dictates if you plan to move at the end of any given month during the last week of said month a craft brewery will finally open within walking distance.

To further rub salt in the wound said brewery will be adjacent to your hairdresser so you will have been patiently biding your time, watching the slow progress as the brewery moved in equipment, put up a cryptic sign referencing beer, proceeded to paper all the windows all on your regular trips to the area while never knowing for sure when the doors would open.

White Rock Beach Beer Company

But enough whining on my end, the White Rock Beach Beer Company has finally opened its’ doors (door actually) and I paid them a first on their inaugural weekend.

The White Rock Beach Beer Company was started by a trio of fellows Rob Kwalheim (Brewmaster), Peter Adams and Bill Haddow (Marketing), a couple of whom were local teachers (can you think of any better motivator to lead you to beer?). While there is not a whole lot to describe about this tiny brewery, they do have some swag emblazoned with the brewery logo, growlers and half-growlers for fill, and a standing-room only tasting space. Personally, the brewery branding is not really my style I do like that they managed to incorporate that giant White Rock we are all so fond of …(cough, cough).

Beer on the Wall

One thing myself and my entourage noticed were the bricks in the wall, not in the anti-establishment kind of way but the tangible bricks bearing peoples names. Turns out when this brewery was a mere idea the proprietors shopped the concept around to people and got some of them to put their money where their mouth was so to speak and turn the dream of craft beer in White Rock into a reality. To honour those early supporters they get their names proudly displayed, swag AND they get dibs on some free growler fill-ups.

Oh, and  there are some interesting opening beers as well.

Menu

Menu

Currently there are three options on tap a pale ale, a nut brown ale and a porter, granted these are pretty safe choices but they are done well. I sampled all three at the brewery and me and the gang took a growler of the pale ale home for further dissection.

The East Beach Nut was in fact quite nutty, which sounds like I am being trite but in fact I often find the nut brown ales miss the mark by not keeping that nut flavour at the forefront. While I generally like this style for blending with other beers it is quite drinkable in its’ own right. The Border Porter was decent as well but I would really have needed a bigger pour to offer any fleshed out opinion.

The West Beach Fruit really surprised me because pale ales are so not my thing but I have to say I really enjoyed this beer. It was sessionable, well-balanced and like the nut brown kept the fruit character at the forefront. It was much more of a stone fruit taste and not an overt sweetness, there was a bit of hop character but nothing over-powering.

Beer Superfans

So if you find yourself at the Rock stop in for a growler before you hit the beach.

 


Crowd Surfing at Brassneck Brewery

More beer

On my recent pilgrimage back to the city I stopped to try another new Vancouver beer hot spot Brassneck Brewery, which just happens to be the progeny of some serious local beer pedigree, Nigel Springthorpe (of The Alibi Room) and Conrad Gsomer (former brewer at Steamworks).

The Growler Wall

Brassneck Artwork

Brassneck is located on Main Street just north of many great food spots, quirky used book stores, trendy coffee shops and local clothing merchants, in other words in a pretty great neighbourhood.

The brewery, growler fill station and tasting room are housed in a rather nondescript building but it has a big glass front allowing people the chance to see the brewers in action and to see the depth of the line-up at the growler fill counter.

Barely open two weeks when I stopped by, the hubby and I just squeezed into the seating area under the max capacity allowance.

A View to the Room

Brassneck Entrance

Food Truck

Nice touch

The long narrow tasting room is, well, woody, which for some reason seems to be the decor choice of many a brewery. A giant communal table extends from the end of the bar and the other half of the room has equally cozy tables where drinking with your neighbour is somewhat unavoidable – the exception being one table tucked away at the back for secret meetings and brewery espionage (I presume). Little cutout windows afford patrons a view behind the scenes.

The aesthetic here seems to be studied quirkiness (very Main Street) with pen and ink sketches for the beer ‘labels’, underwear branded with the brewery name and, of course, a food truck parked in front – oh, and a grain sack for a garbage.

Behind the scenes it looks like most breweries lots of stainless steel, plastic bucks and an endless nest of hoses running here and there.

More behind the scenesBeer, Beer and more Beer

The Maze

Beer, beer, beer…

They have a lot on tap for a new brewery, ten beers in fact. Oddly though the taster flights come in fours so this begs the inevitable question what to leave out? I decided to let the guy pulling the taps make that decision for me so I would not discriminate uninformedly (not sure this is a real word).

One other thing that seemed like an ‘ironing out the kinks’ kind of issue is that there is no means to differentiate the beers in your flight other than the whirlwind recount from your server. So when you are forgetful like me (or you’ve had one too many beers) this lack of labelling makes it hard to remember what is what and I noticed more than one beer geek (myself included) with the beer order jotted down on a scrap of paper.

Flight of the Beer

Flight of the Beer part two

While we were at Brassneck we tried:

Small Wonder – A table saison meaning a light and accesible drink to be shared. Light pale gold gold in colour, just a little head and the tiniest bit of funkiness to remind you that this is indeed a saison style brew. A good starter beer.

Kingmaker – A clear golden coloured pils with a light skim of head. A slight yeasty nose and a bit of nutty flavour, which is pretty typical for the style. An okay beer but I wasn’t loving it.

Brassneck Ale – Moving along the colour chart we have a clear light amber ale. A little bit more flavour and depth that the first two beers. Some toasted elements, a hint of bitter and a bit of a coppery taste.

Blichmann’s Finger – We are now onto the golden ale, which in appearance is pretty close to the Brassneck, perhaps a bit darker in colour. Hoppy on the nose and in flavour with equal parts maltiness.

Old Bitch – Cloudy reddish-brown in appearance with very little head. A very tepid and thin beer lacking the malt flavour I expected. A bitter finish but overall really lacking in character.

Passive Aggressive – Bright cloudy orange pale ale with nice lacing. Big floral hop nose with some piney notes. Lots of sweet malt flavour and even more hoppiness as you drink -perhaps more IPA than pale ale. Dry bitter finish. This one is the best of the bunch so far.

Barn Burner – Dark black-brown with some mocha coloured head. This dark saison has a sweet and funky nose, nice roasted malt and leather flavours and a dry finish.

The Geezer – Last but not least the porter. A dark black-brown beer with mocha coloured head. Chocolate and roastiness on the nose, lots of roasted malt flavour. Chocolate is dominant, coffee notes very slight, making this porter not too bitter but it is quite thin. Dry finish.

What's on Tap


33 Acres Brewing Company

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This past weekend I paid my first visit to 33 Acres Brewing Company one of the many new breweries and tasting rooms popping up all over the Lower Mainland. 33 Acres is centrally located where east meets west on 8th Avenue in Vancouver.

33 Acres Brewing Company

The tasting room is housed in a somewhat spartan space that feels a bit like the people from a J.Crew catalogue met for a beer at a Restoration Hardware.

White everywhere, silver and wood accents and the occasional succulent dot the tasting room and, to be truthful, I felt just a little too old and a little too un-hipster to be drinking in this space but I did because I liked what I tried at the Great Canadian Beer Festival and what the hey, we are all beer geeks inside.

All in all it is not the most warm or inviting tasting room I have ever been in but at the same time the staff were informative and accommodating letting me take a peek behind the scenes and showing me their in-progress kitchen area and mentioning plans to have a rotation of food trucks available for patrons – waffle Sundays anyone?

Also, I have to say 33 Acres has really nice, if expensive, merchandising (ceramic growlers and surf boards) and clearly they have a cohesive vision for the aesthetic of their brewery.

33 Acres Bar

 

33 Acres Interior

33 Acres Merch

33 Acres Brewing Equip

But really I have been to tasting rooms that are little more than old garages and dingy basements so when it comes right down to it it is all about the beer you are pouring…

While I was there 33 Acres was serving 33 Acres of Life California Common and 33 Acres of Ocean West Coast Pale Ale both of which were available to GCBF patrons though word has it another seasonal is in the works (they had a seasonal called 33 Acres of Sunshine at the GCBF) but I could not get any more details than that.

33 Acres Samples

33 Acres of Life (4.8%) pours a bright copper penny colour with just a little white head and some lacing. Very good clarity and carbonation to this beer. You get a burnt sweetness on the nose and a rich caramel flavour as you drink with just the slightest bitterness. Fairly light in body. The finish is fairly sweet. Overall a very approachable beer though not terribly memorable.

33 Acres of Ocean (5.3%) pours a lighter amber/copper colour with a little white head, some lacing and very good clarity. In appearance remarkably similar to Life but just a lighter colour. One sniff of the nose tells you this is an entirely different beer. Sweet and piney hop-forward nose with an undercurrent of citrus. Light bodied, hoppy in flavour but not over-poweringly so and a clean finish. Overall a very nice pale ale that retains a West Coast character while not being a hop-bomb.

33 Acres Beer


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