11 January 2017

A Saturday Night in Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls has long been a favourite spot for Kat and I. We honeymooned there 13 years ago and have been frequent overnight visitors since. It has always been a blast but of course it was usually fuelled by copious amounts of macro lagers and drinking way more than was healthy. Taking the sink over to keep my beer chilled to the point it was palatable was my number one concern and then the night could begin.

It's been a couple of years since we've visited and on Thursday night I decided it was time to head back and see what has changed. Of course, the fact that we could hit a few Craft Brewers on the way home and visit the Niagara Brewing Company on Clifton Hill in the Falls had a little bit to do with my wanting to go again. Both of us were off Sunday, so a room was booked for Saturday and we both were relieved to have a night away after a less than stellar holiday season.
Arriving at our old stomping grounds with but 3 beers and a bottle of wine, we had a quick drink in the room as opposed to power drinking as many as we could before heading out on our first brewery tour this year. I even brought proper glassware...because of course I did. Good start with a nice English Style Pale ale from Flying Monkey's brewery. New to Tall boys, Hoptical Illusion is a toasted malt, bitter easy drinker was the perfect kickoff to a night on the town.

We headed to the Hill and Niagara Brewing Company first, having heard mixed reviews on the beer, I wanted to check out this pretty amazing location and judge for myself. Located almost at the bottom of the hill with some beautiful views, it makes for a great way to spend some time planning your activities for the evening. Saturday nights are live music and we were treated to a couple of acoustic performances while we perused the menu. Having been a frequent visitor to Niagara Falls has led me to expect a certain up charge just because its such a popular tourist destination, but I was pleasantly surprised to find both the beer and food prices to be very reasonable, right in line with other breweries we have visited. We decided to order the Big Bang flight, which consists of all 8 of their regular or seasonal beers in 7 oz. glasses. Again, at $19.75, not out of the regular price range and that was a fantastic start.
The selection was pretty varied and we each tried the samples before deciding which ones we liked best. First up where the core brews. The lager was on point for the style, nothing outstanding, but sure to be a favourite of a macro drinker who stops in while vacationing. The IPA leans English with a toasted malt body and grapefruit/pine notes, while I found the Amber a little bitter for the style but not out of the ordinary. Finally for the regular brews, the stout was a little thin on body, but had a pleasant smoky and roasty note that I enjoyed.
The seasonal and one off selections was where I found some really unique picks and both of us found our favourite of the night. They've brewed three that I referred to as "Tourist" beers in an Ice Wine, Peach Radler and Maple Wheat. The fourth turned out to be the best of the night, a Marzen.
  We started with the big 9.7 % Ice Wine beer, which was a little extra to get added to the flight but I wanted to try all the beer, so add away was my philosophy. Clean and slightly scented of Ice wine, it was pretty easy drinking and hid that ABV well. Fruity on the finish, that was when the Ice wine kicked in. Sure to be a hit with those wine fanciers who want to try a beer, a little sweet for my liking. Next up was the very crushable (under 4%) Peach Radler Wheat. Loads of peach aroma with an unfiltered body that kept up the promise of that aroma. A pool beer in the making, it would be perfect for the summer months and again, a choice to showcase one of the regions most known attributes. The Maple Wheat was perhaps the most aromatic of all their offerings and smelled like syrup covered flapjacks and made me wish I could have bought some to take for breakfast the next morning. Creamy mouthfeel with a sweet maple flavour that would make this ideal for A.M. consumption or perhaps as a dessert beer. These three beers try to showcase the unique Canadian or Niagara flavours and would do well with visitors from all around. A little gimmicky but fun to try in my flight.
The biggest surprise was the Marzen. Very crisp and clean with a caramel note, toasted malts, bready texture and slight bitterness to give it a great balanced mix. Even Kat liked it and we ordered a glass (12 oz) and a Pint (20 oz) to sip while we enjoyed the atmosphere. It's a big space with two floors and an industrial chic look. The service was not only quick, it was friendly and that is all you can ask for when you hit the town for a fun date night. While we didn't get anything to eat, I saw a few items come out of the kitchen and again, the prices were not inflated for the pub style fare (Pretzels, Charcuterie board) that I would have enjoyed myself. I will say again that I was happy to see them keeping the prices reasonable despite the touristy location of the brewery.
The bottle shop had a nice selection but sadly none of the Marzen or Maple Wheat was available and we headed up the hill for our next stop.

Mrs. Polkaroo has always wanted me to go on the Ferris Wheel in the Falls and despite my crazy big fear of heights I agreed, on one condition...that I get to do a video beer review high above Niagara Falls. Check out the video on my YouTube page here. Suffice it to say that having a delicious Equilibrium ESB from Nickel Brook helped me have some courage while we soared into the night sky. The view was spectacular and I am glad I finally put my fears aside and tried it.
On the way back to our hotel, we decided to stop in at Kelsey's Restaurant at the top of Clifton Hill for something to eat and check out if their craft beer selection had improved since we last stopped in. It used to be near impossible to find anything that wasn't Molson-Coors or INBev while in the Falls and I was very happy to see a few great selections on the menu. The Black Lager from Silversmith Brewing in nearby Virgil was my favourite of that style last year and as soon as I saw it on the beer list, a pint was in front of me. Big smiles from this guy at a surprising and delicious improvement on what used to be in my glass. We enjoyed another acoustic set and meandered over to the bar for a nightcap and to my joy, Muskoka Detour was also on tap and helped finish the night with a hoppy kick.
Sunday morning found us headed home but not without a few stops along the way. We couldn't head out this way without popping in  at Silver Smith and Oast House in Niagara on the Lake and even managed to finds a new to us brewery in Port Dalhousie, Lock Street Brewing. Picking up some new beers and old favourites capped off a wonderful, albeit too short, couple of days. These types of road trips always fun and I would encourage you to be a tourist in your own area, exploring something new and revisiting places you haven't been in along time. It is eye opening to see things again for the first time with a new perspective. Plus, think of all the new beers you can bring home, that makes it a winning plan all around.
Until next time my friends,
Raise your glass and your standards,
One Beer at a time.


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