Tag Archives: Church-Key Brewing Company

Kawartha Craft Beer Festival


It has been quite some time since I have had the opportunity to put my beer skills to work so when I saw a local beer festival advertised I heard the hoppy siren song…


The Kawartha Craft Beer Festival took place in Peterborough Ontario this weekend. The venue was Millennium Park, which is located alongside the river in the city’s downtown. The park provided a picturesque setting with lots of green space to sit and sip. The organizers had several food options, live music and a total of eleven brewers and one cidery in participation. So while technically it was the smallest beer festival I ever attended they put on a good show nonetheless.


I am still really getting to know the Ontario craft beer scene so there were lots of new-to-me breweries to explore (one of the best things about beer fests) as well as some familiar faces.

A lot of the breweries stepped up on their serving options, maybe to compensate for the smaller size of the festival, with multiple booths pouring from kegs, bottles and cans.


Compared to many other festivals I have attended this was a pretty subdued drinking crowd; I do not recall seeing a single drindl or even a person in costume! To be fair this is only the festival’s second year so give it time for the fanboys and fangirls to come out en masse and I definitely was not the only note-taking, picture-snapping, beer geek in attendance so just a heads up Peterborough.


A few of the standout brews for me were the festival-only option from Port Perry’s Old Flame Brewing Company, a regular line-up beer brewed with stone fruit and the Saison from Bobcaygen Brewing Company based out of, well c’mon guess, Bobcaygen.

I also have to give an honourable mention to Church-Key Brewing Company from Campbellford who brought a Brett beer, which I was so happy to see …for this sour gal it was like finding a long lost friend. Sadly, this Brett brew did not pack the funky, sour wallop I had hoped for but kudos for bringing some sourness to the province.


My gluten-free hubby (who also happens to be my only hubby) made do with the two offerings from County Cider Company, who brought a Ginger Peach Cider and their very nice, dry Waupoos cider. He also indulged in some olfactory appreciation of my selections.

Overall a pleasant evening spent sipping beer alongside the river and a great reminder of what I have been missing as of late. Perhaps I have been away too long, beer my old friend…




Why it’s Great to be a Canadian Beer Geek!

First and foremost I would like to say Happy Canada Day to all my fellow Canuck beer enthusiasts. There are many, many reasons why it is great to be a Canadian beer drinker and to celebrate our nation’s 145th Birthday I want to, in the best Canadian fashion, give a top ten list of the reasons I think being a Canadian beer geek is so great.

  1. An amazing emergent and thriving craft beer culture that continues to push brewing boundaries.
  2. Driftwood Brewing Company in Victoria, BC.
  3. All the fabulous Quebec microbreweries bringing Belgian styles to Canada.
  4. The friendly beer people from brewers to bloggers to importers to cicerones to sales reps we are all one big happy family encouraging and supporting craft beer love.
  5. Molson Canadian (you have to know what you don’t like to brew what you do).
  6. All the foodie-centric tap rooms bringing us rare casks, endlessly rotating taps and hard-to-find bottles.
  7. Central City Brewing Company for any number of reasons; the brew pub, the cask fests, the award-winning IPA, the incredible liquor store …need I go on.
  8. The Great Canadian Beer Fest in Victoria, BC.
  9. Church-Key Brewing Company in Campbellford, ON.
  10. We can enjoy our craft beer in one of the most beautiful and diverse countries in the world!!!

Church-Key Brewing Co.

I have been intrigued by Church-Key Brewing ever since I saw a brief reference to this small scale brewery in a craft beer documentary.  The program showed a tiny red brick Church situated in rural Ontario, which housed an equally tiny ‘micro’ brewing operation.  Here small batches of carefully selected, uniquely flavoured ales were lovingly brewed in limited quantities for the most discerning and daring palates.

Now I’ll be the first to admit I tend to over-romanticize the small-scale brewer by envisioning a David versus Goliath struggle of the beer purist struggling against the tyrannical beer-opolies (you know who I mean); the proverbial ‘little guy’ who cares more about the craft than the cash. So during my trip to Ontario I planned to visit the facilities and find out for myself just what was brewing at Church-Key.

The Church-Key Brewing Co. is located in an old Methodist Church dating to 1878. I am told the brewer consulted with the good people of Campbellford to ensure there would be no objections to opening the brewery in a former Church. The brewing equipment is located inside the common area of the church where an old wooden staircase winds up to an office. Countless bottles lining the walls attest to the brewer’s interest in all things ale related while beer names like The Great Gatsbeer, Catch Her in the Rye, Riders of the Purple Loosestrife and The Scarlet Pilsner indicate a love of literature. The guide informs me little has been done to the original layout of the Church and indeed the fermenting tanks and kettles seem like an extension of the existing architecture -I am not even sure how they got in or could get back out. My father assures me, and the tour guide, even the original ceiling materials are still in place. The retail portion of the brewery is located in an addition adjacent to the Church, and the entire tour takes about five minutes to walk from one end to the other.

An interesting fact I learned is despite the obvious link to the physical Church the name Church-Key actually refers to various types of bottle and can openers some of which resemble a simple key.

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The Unbearable Lightness of Being (East)

It is my yearly pilgrimage east to visit the family and I have been sampling some of the craft beers Ontario has to offer to keep my    tasting skills finely honed.

First up I tried Mill Street Brewery’s Tank House Ale. This beer pours translucent amber with minimal head and a 5.2% ABV. The taste and nose seem vaguely like an IPA; clean drinking with a subtle bitterness but it does not have the bite of an IPA brewed on the North West Coast.  Drinkable but not particularly memorable; you will find this is a theme that will re-occur throughout this post.

I moved on to Orange Peel Ale from Great Lakes Brewing in Toronto and lo and behold much of the same.  The nose and appearance reminded me of wheat ale, and there was a subtle sweetness when drinking. Yet in a blind taste test I would be hard pressed to discern the ‘orange peel’ element that is the namesake of this beer.  Not a bad beer, but a definite summer sipper that you would want served ice cold.

Ever the resolute tippler I bought a six-pack of Campbellford-based Church-Key Brewing Company’s Northumberland Ale. Originally created to commemorate the anniversary of the Lift locks in Peterborough the popularity of this beer led to the continued production of the ale under the name Northumberland. The ale pours clear and amber with a diminishing amount of head. I wish I could spend more time waxing fondly on the subtle interplay of flavours but this is straight-up ale, a quiet mix of hops and malt that is easy to drink in multiple quantities (you can’t buy singles for a reason).

I have to say there is a highly drinkable quality underpinning all of these beers, kind of like the kid brothers of bigger bolder brews.  I should qualify that I have nothing but love for great everyday ale, the go-to beer that you can drink with anything and serve to anyone, but I hoped to discover something really unique that I could brag about when I got back to BC …the search continues.

Overall I would give Mill Street Tankhouse Ale a 3 out 5, Great Lakes Orange Peel Ale a 3 out of 5 and Church-Key Northumberland Ale a 3.5 out of 5

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