Tag Archives: Ontario Beer

Something’s Brewing in Peterborough

Very belated update: so I found this post that somehow managed to get lost in my drafts and never make it to publication … So, I am going to share it with you now with the caveat that Smithworks is now known as Smithhaven and they are no longer new to town lol. 

It is always great to see a new brewery set-up shop in your hometown. You, the always curious beer geek, gets the chance to try something new and the craft beer community gets just a little bit larger and a little bit more diverse. And if you are really lucky and very quiet someone somewhere will put down their Molson product and try craft beer for the first time.

Last week I visited Smithworks Brewing Company in my childhood hometown of Peterborough, Ontario. Smithworks is not located in the trendy(ish) downtown or in the gentrifying East City but unassumingly in a industrial part of town adjacent to the Lays Potato Chip factory.

From the outside the brewery is not much to write home about, a storefront in a brick plaza, but the tasting room inside is spacious, woody and adorned with all the requisite beer trappings i.e. Beer swag, a take-away fridge, a large bar and a smattering of ready-made food stuffs.

Chatting with the guy behind the bar I find out the brewer is Graham Smith and the brewery will be focusing solely on Belgian beer, not craft beers (ouch). The only beer currently being served and bottled is their hefeweizen.

When I hear a brewery is focusing on Belgian beer tiny alarm bells go off and my inner beer critic skeptically ponders why any sane person would try to out Belgian Belgium, I mean you are emulating beer royalty how can you ever hope to measure up?

But hey you gotta swing for the fences right?

The Smithworks hefe poured a nice straw gold colour with lots of white head and the familiar banana and clove nose. First few sips are nice, it is not too yeasty and the fruitiness is subtle without overpowering the beer. Light in body and clean on the finish. I only tried a taster so I can’t get into great detail but I have to say this hefe might be enough to win me back over!









My (Very Visual) Beer Tour


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…

Winter Brew Fest in Ottawa


For some indiscernible reason people here in Ottawa actually celebrate winter with a two week long festival called Winterlude. Perhaps more believably they bookend this fete with beer festivals, which in my humble opinion is the only sensible way to “celebrate” -30 weather i.e. stay indoors and drink craft beer.


Winter Brew Fest was held on the final weekend of the City’s Winterlude festivities at the Horticulture Centre in Landsdowne Park. Here people could step out of the cold, even straight out of their skates if they so chose, and into a heated building with a coat check for your parka and a mason jar for your beer.

The festival ran three sessions, one on Friday night. One midday Saturday and one on Saturday night. The organizers bravely kept the event going until 1am and put the coat check up a couple of flights of stairs and gave everyone glass jars for samples so fingers crossed all went well on that front.



The Horticulture building is a large open concept room and for the brew fest it showcased twenty or so breweries in various booths as well as a food station offering up some well-paired options like poutine and fish tacos. Burlap, wood and vintage Edison light bulbs added just enough hipster touches that you new you were at a craft beer festival. This is also the first beer festival I have been to that was kid friendly, or at least babes in arms friendly, which I guess why not because who needs a drink more than new parents!

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One unique element was the self-serve beer station where you could (under close guard) pull your own sample. The far end of the room had a row of casked offerings though only two were on-deck when I arrived. Another booth offered samples where the monies raised went to a local hospital.

Twenty dollars got you entrance and tickets were sold in sheets of twenty for ten dollars and while initially I was impressed with the price point for samples I became less so when I saw the beers cost a minimum of four tickets all the way up to eight tickets. Granted math is not my first choice of beer fest topics but paying out two to four dollars for a four oz pour was a bit of a thorn in my side especially when many of the offerings were not exactly rarities.


Putting that issue in the beer fridge, I decided to be somewhat discerning in my picks aiming to try things I knew I could not readily obtain from the local LCBO. At the same time, being new to the area, I am still pretty unfamiliar with the smaller microbreweries in and around the city so there were lots of new-to-me options. Perth Brewery, Thornbury, Nickelbrook and a wine and spirits bar ensured that my gluten adverse hubby could begrudgingly tag long (though I don’t think he was thrilled with his options).


Three beers that stood out for me for varying reasons were Earl Grey Marmalade Saison from Dominion City, a cask version of Long Dark Voyage to Uranus (oh yes that is what I wrote) Imperial Stout from Sawdust City and Pink Fuzz Grapefruit Wheat Ale from Beyond the Pale.


Of these three I think the Pink Fuzz was my favourite, a refreshing palate cleanser that brought just the right amount of bitter citrus to complement the wheat characteristics of the beer. The saison with tea was interesting though I found it a bit thinner than a typical saison, like it was slightly lacking in that barnyard funk. The imperial stout was big and malty but not very liquory for a casked stout. I also felt like this stout needed more balance because the roasted malt flavour just took this stout completely over. To be fair, it is nearly impossible to judge a beer based on such a small pour so I am intrigued enough I will try to follow-up with grown-up sized pours from these breweries.

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Overall an interesting festival, very different in scale to those on the West Coast. Here you had room to move around, tables to put your beer down and a reasonable chance to sample something from each participant without needing to be carried out. Though I do wish they had a beer list, a map and tasting notes so you could make informed choices and track what you liked but then again I am no rookie at these festivals so perhaps I have become a bit too experienced …lol.

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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.



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?


Happy New Beers!


Happy 2015 to all you beer aficionados out there. It promises to be another great year in the ever-expanding world of craft beer, cider and spirits and I am looking forward to seeing (and tasting) things to come.

As I begin 2015 there are many beer-related happenings I anticipate such as, continuing to discover new-to-me beers and breweries in Ontario and Quebec, following along with my hubby in his quest for the best gluten-free options for a former hardcore stout lover, heading stateside to explore what the Eastern US has to offer (hello other Portland you have a lot to live up too!), blogging the highs and lows of the years beer trends (let’s get some sour beer and cider happening here), getting to know a whole new community of beer geeks in the Ottawa area and continuing to write, drink, photograph, drink and drink some amazing beer.

To kick off my New Year’s I delved into my best of box from the now very local Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company. I sampled the Burnt Rock Vanilla Porter and the St. Luke’s Verse Lavender Gruit two very disparate but two very good beers from a veritable Ontario institution.

Burnt Rock is a light-bodied British style porter, think cold-coffee with just a hint of vanilla bean. The beer pours deep black brown with lots of mocha coloured head. A straight-forward porter; easy to drink at the low 5.6% ABV with no sickeningly sweet vanilla taste that some (no names) winter beers abundantly include. Thin and dry with roasted malt at the forefront giving way to subtle sweetness and a bittered finish. I liked this porter, while personally I prefer Baltic style porters, I can see why this is a fan favourite for the brewery.

St. Luke’s Verse is an entirely different animal. This beer is a Gruit, which is a herbal beer. Beau’s chose lavender giving it a challenging but ultimately pleasant flavour. Light gold in colour with airy white head a BIG floral nose and a slight effervescence. Nice served quite cold in a flute. Fairly light in body and, well, herbal tasting. That is too say there is a sweet, grassy kind of flavour. Finishes very clean. This beer really impressed me. I’ll admit at first I was skeptical about the inclusion of lavender but I am a convert.

Two more ‘best of’ beers to sample so stay tuned…


Malt Heads and Liquid Bread

Now I know for many the changing seasons are marked by the arrival of pumpkin beer, which are now as ubiquitous as pumpkin spice lattes but for me it is not  the beer with pie spices that signals ‘winter is coming’ rather it is beer that unabashedly showcases malt front-and-centre or to put it another way liquid bread.

There are those who live for hops year-round and in the warmer months I do love me a West Coast style IPA as much as the next beer geek but once I see my first snowflake I am a full on convert to the malt head camp.

And really what’s not to like about liquid bread? It is cold and crisp outside, the sun sets before the work day ends and rises after it begins, so what if we console ourselves with a meal in glass?

My recent relocation to Ottawa aka the coldest city in Canada (well not technically but for a BC girl it pretty much feels like a truth) has only deepened my love for rich, caramel, roasty brews and as luck would have it I have recently tried a couple of great examples.

Cameron's Dopplebock

Cameron’s Oak Aged Dopplebock (Ontario) pours a deep dark brown with dense mocha coloured head that clings to the sides of your glass. The nose is sweet and oh so very malty. Not really roasted malt on the nose but caramel rich malt that reminds me of toffee. First few sips are much like the nose belies sweet at the front, bready and even a bit earthy in the middle and just a little roasted bitterness on the finish. This beer is deceptively light bodied but strong and warming at 8.6%. You really kind of ease into this beer as it improves with some warming and exposure in the glass. Overall a very impressive Dopplebock from Cameron’s.

Simple Malt Wee Heavy

Brasseurs Illimités Simple Malt Wee Heavy (Quebec) pours dark reddish brown with just a light skin of beige head. BIG sweet scotch nose that has a nice alcoholiness. First few sips are thin but rich and caramel flavoured giving way to a nice roasted grain character. As you drink this is a warming beer that really benefits from both warming up and breathing in the glass. It remains a slightly sweet beer but it does not veer into cloying. The big alcohol content kind of keeps everything in check. The finish has a slight harshness that I enjoy, makes you feel like you are having a grown-up beer. I am eager to try some more from the Simple Malt line-up after this Wee Heavy.


Saison Saturday

I am finally coming back around to saison style beers.

Initially farmhouse beers were one of my favourite styles but as more and more breweries tried their hand at crafting their own version I found myself sampling more and more misses than hits. After which I became a bit burnt out on the whole concept so like any diligent beer geek I quit cold turkey.

Perhaps it was my recent uprooting that got me (re)thinking that it was time to check back in or perhaps it was the fact that hot Ontario summers demand a different kind of beer but I got curious to see just what kind of saisons are brewing now.

So as I sit outside on this very warm and breezy Saturday listening to my neighbours blare music with lyrics like "Country girl, shake it for me" I am indulging in Saison from Black Oak Brewing Co. based in Toronto.

This unfiltered Belgian style ale pours a hazy, well carbonated orange colour with some airy white head. This beer has a big yeasty nose with lots of coriander. First few sips are light bodied, very orange flavoured with a slight funky taste. As you drink the citrus really stays at the forefront. Not a challenging saison but a perfect thirst quencher for a sunny Saturday. It is like a wheat beer infused with oranges, more than that little slice on the side of your glass usually imparts. The coriander and clove spiciness hits the back of your throat the more you drink while the finish brings the yeast back into the mix. Overall a very, very nice beer one that is making me think I stayed away from saisons a little too long…


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.

And monkeys will fly…


In honour of my über talented hubby and his newfound passion for restoring vintage audio equipment tonight I am trying out Stereovision an American Kristall Wheat beer from Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery based out of Barrie, Ontario.

First up I have to say a few words on the very cool label on this bottle; psychedelic colour scheme, trippy metallic font and a big eyeball staring back at ya from the bottle all tying perfectly into the beer name and the brewery ethos ‘Bee Beer Differently’.

Stereovision pours a bright gold colour with tons of white head and tons of carbonation. It is all wheat beer on the nose with the requisite banana and clove but when you take a few sips you realize this is not your standard wheat beer. The flavour is more pale ale with malt at the front and a slightly bitter finish but you do still get some wheat beer qualities; a nice depth, medium body and some spices. I like that the inclusion of elements of a ‘North American late-hopped beer’ (as described on the label) separates this beer from your standard wheat beer.

Overall a great way to cap off a night at the fair and a much better option than the Molson or Coors on tap in the beer garden!


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?

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