30 March 2017

Polkapolooza Craft Beer Tour 2017 - Day 4 Take the Long Way Home

Polkapolooza Day 4 had 8 great stops!
  Things start better when you wake up to a homemade breakfast. While most of our trip started with a stop at Tim Horton's, on Day 4 of Polkapolooza, our good friends Verena and Richard made sure we left Barrie with our stomachs full of awesome. Staying with fellow beer geeks made for a late night, but walking into the kitchen and seeing fresh waffles, whipped cream and back bacon to go with a hot cuppa joe is the perfect wake up call. Sitting around the table, we relived some of our moments from the night before, talked about the days ambitious trek home and the capper for the evening. Saying good bye and loading all the Day 3 purchases and Beer Saint gifts into the car, we hugged it out and solidified plans for a summer adventure at their cottage, with brewery visits planned of course.  

Always make time for Redline!

The stops of the previous day were supposed to have included one of Ontario's fastest growing and highly praised breweries and I was delighted to see that Redline Brewhouse opened at 10 a.m. so we could hit them up before we left Barrie. It was a quick stop, time was a real problem all day and I will endeavour to make more room in the schedule for a pint when we return later this summer. Be on the lookout for Clutch, a Pale Ale not to be missed.
First time here, but not the last!

  Next up was a brewery we hadn't been able to hit despite numerous trips up north. The Collingwood Brewery was unfortunately closed on the days we had visited previously and after driving through the wind swept roads to the town of the same name, we made another "drop in and run" visit for a few beers to take home. Greeted warmly and offered a tour, we had to decline because of our deadline of needing to be home by a certain time to meet up with Mom and Dad. I will again carve out more time when we return this summer to enjoy the patio and the hospitality.
The spot for beer and food in Collingwood!
  Just up the main drag in Collingwood is Northwinds Brewhouse and Kitchen and it was supposed to be another in and out stop on this jam packed day. But, as we have learned, you go with what the day brings and as we perused our selections and went to pay, Jason made his way to the counter and the talking began. Northwinds have been a pretty constant participant in my live shows on Instagram and while we chatted about beer, their expansion into another location and Ontario Craft beer in general, I was once again blown away by the passion and generosity of so many people we met on tour. He gave us our beer on the house and even went in the back and grabbed a couple of their delicious Rainmaker IPA, which had just come off the line. Wishing we could stay for some of their amazing food, we had to make our way a little further up the road for the first meet up of the day.
A beer saint in action!

  When we were having breakfast at Rich and Verena's, I received a message on Twitter from another friend I haven't met yet and she wondered if we had time for a pint when we stopped at Side Launch Brewing before leaving the city for the drive home. Always a pleasure to meet new friends, I messaged Joanne back with a hearty "Hell Yeah!" and told her we would let her know when we were close by.
Time for a pint with a new friend
  Arriving at this gleaming and huge brewery, we saw our new pal already there and grabbed a few pints ourselves and settled in to exchange stories and talk beer. Joanne is a recent transplant to the city and she filled us in on her experiences so far. We engaged, as we often did on this trip, in the fun get to know you questions and sitting in the reigning Canadian Brewery of the Year, it was a great break before the long and winding road south. Joanne and Kat each had the delicious Dark and I couldn't help myself and had one of my favourite Wheat beers in the world. Fresh, it was even better if that's possible and I savoured every drop. Saying goodbye with another promise to meet up when we return for a longer visit, we hung out at the bar talking all things Side Launch for a bit longer before making our way out to the Polk-mobile for the next leg of our trip.
What a wheat beer!

  As we drove, Kat helped me consult the OBN map and I realised our time really being compressed by our stopping and visiting with folks. I was fully prepared to run in and out of most breweries as we had done last year but something had changed and it was pretty awesome. Meeting people and having time to chat about beer and other things was the best thing about this year and I was willing to make sacrifices on the amount of stops we could hit because it should always be about people and not just beer. Trimming the planned tour a bit, we headed for Guelph and a quick 3 stop visit before the push to home.
Getting our Welly On!

 Up first in this growing Ontario town was actually the initial stop on last year's Polkapolooza, the newly expanded Wellington Brewery. Again, we planned a run and gun stop but engaged in another wonderful conversation and had to reluctantly turn down a tour of the brewing space. "Another time" became the words I used most this day and despite the quick nature of this visit, we left happy in our hearts with a smile that kept growing.
Stout time

   Just around the corner is Stone Hammer brewing and it was a no brainer to stop in here despite the closing window to get home in time for the evening's activity. But I hate to miss a chance to revisit a stop from last year and I knew their stout would be a big hit with Kathryn when we could actually start trying all the beer we were accumulating. It's in a plaza with a craft distillery too, so double your fun if you're out in Guelph on a beer run soon.
Really miss my pals from Royal City

  The third and final stop on the truncated drive through Guelph was Royal City Brewing and it pained me to not be able to stop in for at least a flight. Many of the beer fests we hit in the last year would find me spending all my time hanging out with the good people from this brewery and enjoying the beer. But we had to be home to head out on the days final trip with my parents so we grabbed a few treats for later and left with the knowledge that we can come back soon and relax with friends for a pint.
Looking for some fun

 We arrived home with a few moments to unload, freshen up and get on the road with my folks for the days final stop. Mom had been trying to come up with a way to spend some time with us on the trip and while she is not a beer drinker herself, she has always been game for an adventure or new activity. When she saw that Bell City Brewing in Brantford was hosting a guided paint Night, she asked if they could buy us all tickets to go and try it out. Never one to miss out on a beer related anything and eager to see my pals at the brewery, not to mention a little quality family time, I was all too happy to accept this thoughtful birthday present. Dad drove and when we arrived, it was the legendary Kevin who was manning the bar and keeping the libations flowing. I brought him a few beer saint gifts from the tour so far, including the much sought after Twin Pines from Sawdust City and he was surprised and happy to see that Double IPA of awesome in his hands. We grabbed a few pints and after Dad tried a few sips of the stout and IPA without much success, I was blown away when he fell in love with their Belgian style Ale, Lenoir. Never would I have thought that the first craft beer my Corona loving Dad would like would be this bubble gum, banana and orange peel beauty but here he was sipping away and loving it.
One of my favourites!

  The painting was about to begin and we took our seats around a table while our instructor handed out the paint and started the lesson. It was far more entertaining than I had envisioned and as the paintings took shape, we were all impressed that it looked pretty good despite our complete lack of talent in this art. Paint Night did a great job of walking us through each step of the painting, encouraging and cajoling us to be creative and feel the canvas take shape as the beer and conversation flowed. I was so impressed with being able to actually create a painting and it will not be the last time we have this experience.
Polk and Paint

Stouts for Kat

Mom and Dada having fun with paint...and a good beer in Dad's hand!

  Kevin kept the pint glasses full and as we finished up, brought me a box of Beer Saint gifts of his own from the back. Bell City has long been a big supporter of everything I do and I will keep them dear to my heart every time I look at our creations. What a way to end Day 4 and as we drove home, I thanked my parents for not just the night, but for their unwavering belief in me and constantly being there when I needed them. I am a very lucky man to have such wonderful parents and while I don't say it near enough, I love them so very much.

Finished product. The lady is an artist at heart

These two make my heart happy!

  This day was such a variety of experiences that it was a great showcase for what this tour was supposed to be about. So many Ontario Craft brewers have events every week at their taprooms, friends meet up for a pint and families come together for a night out where good beer is made. The 8 stops of Day 4 were all staffed with knowledgeable and friendly staff and it was a great birthday eve spent with the ones who make my life better every day. Thanks to Craft beer, I am here to tell the tale and my actual birthday loomed with a return trip to one of my favourite areas in the province and two of my "hometown" brewers. But that story will have to wait, see you soon...

Make your next beer run a little more epic
 Break your routine and Explore everything Ontario Craft Beer has to offer.
You will be happy you did.


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