2 September 2016

Head West with The Polkaroo...and Craft Beer Too!

Not a bad way to spend a day off. 6 Ontario Craft Brewers and a whole lot of fun.

I am as guilty as the next person of being a little myopic when it comes to Ontario Craft Beer (OCB). For many, it begins and ends in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and the breweries outside of that sort of expanded suburban context tend to get lost in the mix. The fans of these small town breweries, however, are legion and as passionate as any I have encountered. Inspired by the current Golden Tap awards that recognize the best in OCB and being a little out of the mainstream myself, I decided to visit some breweries that fall outside of that invisible boundary and talk about the great things happening there.

Bell City Brewing

Their slogan game is on point!
Located in Brantford, Bell City has been stepping up their beer game with new releases almost weekly and you could spend all day in their beautiful taproom. Always a welcoming place, they are fans of all craft beer and have time to talk to anyone who stops in. We grabbed a few bottles of the new wheat ginger beer and sampled the famous Breakfast with Tiffany, which was made with 57 boxes of captain Crunch. An ever growing list of awards dot the brewery and their new Flight Club on Wednesdays is a great way to get over the hump of the work week. Only a little over a half hour from my house, I always head here when there is a new brew to be had.
I really like Captain Crunch!

Kevin was a wonderful host!

Lots going on when we got to Grand River Brewing just outside of Cambridge in Galt. Getting ready to can some more of their LCBO releases, this almost 10 year old brewery is a favourite of mine for their Curmudgeon IPA, one of my first craft beers that became a regular in my fridge. I had to get a sample of the pumpkin beer and was impressed with it. We grabbed a few bottles of Curmudgeon and some other tasty treats and hit the road again.

TWB was a place we had visited on the Brew Donkey tour back in the spring. A co-operative brewery that is filled with enthusiastic and friendly folk who love their community and a good pint. We were greeted with open arms and even Kat was pulled in by their pure joy. Trying samples of everything and taking a few fun pictures, we grabbed a growler of the delicious IPA for sharing this weekend. A must stop in the area if you want to see how people can come together for the love of beer. When I told them about how I used one of their smaller growlers to store my home brew (I know, not a good idea, but we ran out of bottles) and the bottom had popped off, they offered a replacement even though its demise had nothing to do with them. I politely declined and told them I want to pay for my stuff because I know every dollar counts when you are growing. We will be back and you should make the trek yourself.

TWB let us have a little fun with the mash paddles

She's the best!

Our next stop was a place we have been to many times. Descendants just opened this year and it is a huge space that gets better every time we drop in. An open bier hall concept has led to many new friends and interesting discussions. Not only do they have great beer, but they also offer several beer cocktails which I think we will be returning to try on a less hectic travel day. The new Sugarman's stout was just bang on and I bought 4 to share and sip at my leisure as the weather turns to fall. Once again we experienced people who love what they do and that is infectious. Great spot in Kitchener for a break from your day.

We love this space!

Flights and my favourite person
Hitting the road to beautiful St. Jacob's, we arrived at Block 3 to meet up with my friend I just haven't met yet, Scott. We have exchanged messages on social media for quite a while and when he heard I was coming to his favourite local brewery, figured it was a good time to meet up. The building is one of the most unique I've seen and the taproom was hopping with people when we arrived. Greeting my new friend, we settled in for a flight and some beer talk. Brewmaster Kevin was there and he joined in the discussion as well. Personable, excited and again, passionate, everyone we encountered at Block 3 was exactly why I love to head out and visit my OCB. You can combine a trip to this quaint town, perhaps a stop at the local Farmer's Market and several pints of a growing list of amazing beers. I left with 12 bottles, some for me and a bunch to share with my friends who've never been here. What a great time we had, but there was one more stop and we had to say goodbye for now.

Love this entrance

Flights once again. The Noon on a Weekday IPA was my jam!

Getting to meet new friends and sharing our stories. Thank you Scott!
Innocente Brewing
I have been to Innocente many times. Their Two Night Stand Double IPA is not only award winning, it is one of the best beers I have had this year. No trip to the KW area would be complete without a stop in this beautifully set up brewery.
We were lucky enough to arrive on brew day and founder and brew master Steve was working hard on a new beer. Our friend Craig was hard at work as well, but stopped to say hi and talk about their new Berliner Weisse (we even got a sample right from the tank! Thanks Craig!). Steve came over and we chatted about the future of Craft Beer in the province and the realities of getting your beer into the hands of consumers. He is one of my real joys to talk to in this industry because of his honesty, passion and vision. They have a few releases in the LCBO right now and it would be an even better thing if they had more. We have discovered that Kat loves porters, so we grabbed some of their amazing Charcoal Porter, 4 bottles of  the Conscience IPA to share with my fellow hop heads and made our way back to the highway for the trip home. The Two Night stand will be ready in a short while, so I will be back soon.

One of my fave logos in Ontario.

First full beer of the day and Conscience is spot on.
Home again

At the end of the day, the GTA is the dog that wags the tail of brewing in this province. By sheer numbers in population and breweries alone, it will always dominate the social and news feeds of beer lovers. But you would do yourself a great beer injustice if you didn't step outside your normal routine and explore all this provinces' brewers have to offer. The people who are setting up shop in small towns all over the country are bringing great beer to places where often the only choices are dominated by the tiny local liquor or beer store.
We love to find new to us breweries, meet the people who create them and their fans. There is nothing better than sitting in a small town craft brewery and sipping away your afternoon with people who would love to share a story or two about their journey.
Remember to vote for all your favourite Ontario Craft Beer, people and other categories for this year's Golden Tap Awards. Show your appreciation and love and make your voice heard for your local brewers.
Vote Here and then get on the road for a day of adventures in Craft beer, you will not regret it.
Maybe we will meet up and you can share your story of discovering better beer and leaving macro behind. I would love to hear it.
Raise your glass and your standards, one beer at a time!

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