23 October 2017

The Road Home - Polkapolooza 2.1 Day Four

The road home on the last day of Polkapolooza is usually a straight shot with no stops but since this was a truncated tour to start with, I wanted to keep the good vibes going with a few more Ontario Craft breweries that just happened to be en route. The first stop was bang on at 11 a.m. in Stratford at Black Swan, where a half dozen ladies of the senior persuasion were waiting out front for their porters as part of a chocolate tour that was happening that very morning. The best part was they all tasted the beer and then proceeded to purchase a litre bottle each to take home. It was pretty awesome to see to be honest.
We gathered ourselves to the bar and ordered a pint of said porter for breakfast and stayed for a little under an hour for some conversation with the guy keeping things moving. A hopping place that had people wandering in for refills, pints and more refills, we grabbed an Elixr (1 litre) of the IPA and made our way out to take a photo of the street sign, which was most appropriate for the soundtrack of our week after the death of Canadian icon Gord Downie.

  A little up the way was a fairly new to the scene brewery in Shakespeare Brewing Company. Founded by husband and wife team and still in its' infancy, it nonetheless has some legs and is perfectly situated on a busy stretch between KW and Stratford.
Grabbing a flight of their three available beers, we chatted with Ayden about how they got started on a farm in England and took that six month unexpected apprenticeship and are trying to grab hold of a piece of this crazy craft beer dream we see exploding all over the place.
We took our leave after filling up with one of each from the fridge and Mrs. Polk eyeing the Merlot barrel holding their Farmhouse Ale with a promise to return as the weather turned colder and the stouts appeared.

  New Hamburg was just a short hop up the road and is home to Descendant's off shoot Bitte Schon Brauhaus, a salute to the area's German population and an homage to the culture of tiny brewhouses that dot the landscape there. Greeted warmly and taking a short tour, we marvelled at the equipment and heard about their experimental but leaning traditional brews. Of course we grabbed a flight in the cool Bauhaus looking tap room and were happy to find a very good Hefe and an show stopping Doppelbock that left me wanting more. We kept our heads about us and after a quick stop at the bakery next door, because of course we did, it was on to Cambridge and two more stops.

  By nature of their operating hours, I had yet to get myself to Barncat Artisan Ales. Open only 4 to 7 on Friday and 12 to 4 on Sunday, I was happy to finally have a weekend off to see what all the fuss was about. Easily surpassing what I had heard, a small sample of both the Grapefruit IPA and Rye Porter were enough to convince me to purchase a litre of each with the nagging suspicion that I should have bought three times that much. While they currently aren't as accessible as I'd like, given the high quality of their beer, I'd say that dream of long term success is almost guaranteed.

  A hop and a skip away was another in and out stop as time had become pressing. Northworks Brewing was host to a few thirsty travellers as we sampled the Jamaican Pumpkin Ale and I couldn't help but grabbed a couple of those Crowlers they sell their beer in. A SMASH IPA with mosaic and my ever favourite style, a Black IPA found their way into the trunk as the old Fiesta turned its shiny Ford nose toward home and our final stop.

  Hamilton's latest craft brewery to open was jumping as we pulled up to the open garage doors and full as could be patio at Grain & Grit Beer. Finding a pair of chairs at the bar, we ordered a flight and spent a little time chatting with the good folks who were living the dream they had worked so hard for. Pride, joy and love could be felt as we talked about the process of transforming this former garage into a gleaming but down home kitchen party feel of a space. The laughter and conversation came easy all around us and we once again grabbed one of everything and left to finally get home to Jinx and some sense of normalcy...Polkaroo style.

  The final moments of any road trip fill me with a poignant sadness because I always think I could have done more, visited this brewery or that and I of course don't want that feeling of what the Craft Beer community has come to mean to me to ever end. Getting to share that with Kathryn makes it even better as we can now talk about our favourite and not so favourite moments, beer and breweries. She helps me flesh out my ideas for what we experienced and gives me the support to keep going no matter what. So this 1400+ kilometre, 24 brewery tour comes to and end and I am left with some great memories, more new friends and a fridge full of Ontario Craft Beer that will help me remember all of that every time I pop one open.
  I hope this has inspired you to step outside your normal routine of visiting the same breweries over and over again. While I too have my own personal faves that I go to often, after making it to over 100 different Ontario Craft Breweries this year, I can attest to the reward of hitting the open road with an open mind, an empty cooler and a song in your heart.


Raise your glass and your standards,
One beer at a Time!


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