Tag Archives: Ontario Breweries

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…

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Toronto Festival of Beer 2014

Beer Fountain (just water)

This past weekend was the 20th annual Toronto Festival of Beer, held at the Exhibition grounds. The festival is described on the website as “a celebration of Canada’s rich brewing history, hosted by experts of the brewing craft from around the world. Featuring 300+ brands onsite, this is Canada’s premier celebration of the golden beverage!”

First Beers of the Fest

As a recent transplant from the West this was my first time at an Ontario beer festival and I was eager to try out some of the breweries I had previously only heard or read about.

Stone Hammer Booth

 

Belgh Brasse

Right off the bat I have to say I was really impressed with the set-up for media. We entered through a separate gate with those who purchased VIP tickets, we were given wrist bands, which allowed entry to the media lounge -a nice spot to escape the masses and tweet, blog, instagram etc.-, we received two free beers, which were on a rotating pour schedule throughout the day, there was lots of brewery swag available, and volunteers were around to answer questions.

Media Lounge

After leaving the relative sanctity of the media lounge (shelter) I found myself full-on immersed in one of the busiest (and drunkest) festivals I have ever attended.

To be forthright I was forewarned from another blog that this would not be the sipping and note-taking kind of fest, I believe the term douchebaggery was coined, but rather the chugging and chugging kind of fest nonetheless it was still felt like being in a beer commercial.

Beer Fest Goers

Carlsberg

MadJack

And in this spirit of  full disclosure, it is well-stated that the Toronto Festival of Beer is sponsored by the (dun-dun-dun) Beer Store so obviously big beer had a very prominent if not dominant place.

Big Beer had lounges and dance parties, drinking games and buxom servers, swag galore and adverts everywhere, they probably even served some of their beer but I pretty much steered clear so I can’t say for certain.

Umm...

Steam Whistle

Thankfully the small(er) guys also did their best to make an impression on the crowds and on that note I have to mention a few highlights.

Kensington

Cameron's

Hops and Bolts

First up, Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery (Barrie ON) with their psychedelic tents, fun swag, insane number of beers and beer blends on tap, and overall wow factor. I know I found myself returning more than once to sample their radler creations (pictured below is just one of three distinct menus).

Flying Monkeys

Beer on Tap

Beer Glass

Snowman Brewing Company also merits a special mention not for their volume or for their display but for the fact that they brewed a good gluten free beer. Yup, I said a good drinkable gluten free beer.

This meant my somewhat disillusioned hubby could break up his cider binge with something that reminded him of real beer. I am pretty sure he returned for three full pours from these guys.

Snowman Brewing Company

Hubby

Lastly, I would like to mention Nickel Brook Brewing Company (no don’t run away screaming I did not say Nickelback) who opted to turn two of their beers into ice cream floats. I sampled the maple porter float and it was pretty darn tasty though the heat may have been swaying my palate towards the ice cream end of the taste spectrum.

Nickel Brook Beer Float

 

Beer Floats for Sale

There were lots of things I really loved about this beer festival.  It was easily accessible by transit, the hours were long enough that you did not feel rushed, there was live music throughout the weekend, there were a number of educational classes held where you could escape the crowd and take the time to learn and appreciate the beer you were drinking (ahem beer and cheese pairings), there was a pretty good volume of beer to sample, there were lots of different food options, there was a mobile app that provided festival information, you could get half or full pours, and did I mention there was a TON of beer swag to amass (my beer mat collection grows).

Beer Lecture

Beer and Cheese

Twisted Tea

There were also a fair amount of things I really did not love about this festival. The party atmosphere (it got tiring pretty quickly), the insanely long lines to get tokens, the lack of beer descriptions (you needed to go to the booths to find out what was pouring and how many tokens it would set you back), the insanely long lines to get to the port-a-potties, the corporate feel of the whole event, and, if I have to be honest, the beer itself. I felt like there were not many unique festival beers like cask-conditioned ales, experimental styles etc., which made the whole thing feel like I could have just picked up a some random beer from the Beer Store or LCBO, sat down on my patio table and sampled those.

Quebec Beer

 

Token Line-up

Beer Fest

At the end of the day I am glad I went to the Toronto Festival of Beer because it was interesting to get a feel for how craft beer culture has developed and continues to develop in Ontario. To me,  it seems like Ontario craft breweries are still in their infancy, finding (or making) space in a province largely under the thumb of Big Beer but based on some of the beer I sampled I think good things are coming…

Train Home

 


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…

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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.


New Brew Friday Holiday Honey

Happy Friday beer aficionados!

This time around we have Holiday Honey from Old Credit Brewing Co. out of Mississauga, Ontario. We visited the brewery to pick up some of the beer and the brewery is in a great location right down near the Lakeshore. The brewery itself is pretty blasé, a red brick store front, some beer historical memorabilia in the shelves, a few fridges stocked with the three available beers and a nice gentleman behind the counter offering wisdom on which beer to pick up. I’ll post a brewery write-up soon.

The said gentleman recommended their award-winning Holiday Honey so I took his advice and brought a 650ml home.

Holiday Honey pours a really clear reddish gold colour with lots of airy head on the initial pour and the head dies down pretty quickly. Sweet honey on the nose, first few sips are very malt forward with a mineral water taste. There is just the slightest bit of bitterness on the finish but nothing to really discern the hop character. A light bodied 5% ABV beer, a nice choice for summer, one that drinks well when it remains cold. Overall a nice beer, not outstanding but safe and easy.

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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…

 


Beer, meet Blueberry

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Fruit beer is tricky. Err on the too sweet side and you risk alienating beer fans, err on the too sour side and you become a niche beer but when it all comes together in harmony the results are good, really good.

Lanark County Blueberry Mead comes to us from Trafalgar Ales and Meads based in Oakville, Ontario. It is described as a braggot style mead brewed with berries and honey from Lanark County in Eastern Ontario. The mead incorporates hops and barley making it a bit of a hybrid.

Blueberry Mead pours a clear berry colour with just a hint of head on the initial pour that quickly dissipates and slight carbonation. Very honeyed on the nose. First sips are sweet at the front of the palate then giving way to more complex tastes of roasted grain and liquor. The berry presence is more visual than flavourful imparting a slight earthy quality. There is a deep warming sensation as you drink probably due to the relatively high ABV of 8.5%. The finish is also pretty earthy so the description of terroir mead noted on the bottle seems fitting. Overall an interesting beer that blurs the lines on just what defines a craft brew.


Beers Across Canada Day 4

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Fourth day on the road and nothing too exciting to report other than for the first time I saw the beautiful northern lights that decorate the Manitoba sky at night.

We made it to northern Ontario so it feels like we have progressed until you look closer at the map and realize just how big Ontario actually is!

Luckily today I saw something that cheered me up immensely, Kenora Ontario, or to beer geeks, home of the Lake of the Woods Brewery and tap room so we pulled in for lunch and a beer.

My Ontario beer of the day was Last Call a rye and ginger brew. This beer poured a nice clear copper colour with lots of white head and decent carbonation. A slightly sweet malt forward nose with a bit of spice as well. First few sips were light-bodied, sweet and with a bit of a warming quality from the ginger not the alcohol content, which seemed pretty sessional. As you continue to drink the heat of the ginger and the tang of the rye really become more pronounced. This beer is a pretty tricky one to pair with foods as the flavours in beer change with the dinner you are having.

Overall a really nice beer, one probably best consumed before or after a meal. Looking forward to trying more from this brewery.


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