Bell City Brewing, Brantford

Bell City Brewing is an unimposing small brewery at the edge of the unimposing small city of Brantford. It has a range of beer from a range of styles, with new seasonals and one-offs popping up regularly.

Bell City Brewery, Brantford, Hoppily Ever After, craft beer

THE PLACE

We dropped it on a quiet afternoon in March, and we were the only ones there, so we were able to sidle right on up to the bar to chat with the bartender. It looked like a nice place to while away an afternoon, and we bet it could become a hang-out destination for local good beer fans. And there’s a great view of the brewery itself!

Bell City Brewery, Brantford, Hoppily Ever After, Ontario, craft beer, beer

THE BEER

There’s a few Bell City year-round brews that will be familiar to LCBO-visitors, namely the charmingly branded Eureka! Cream Ale (get the inventor connection yet?) and Lenoir Belgian Style Ale.

Bell City Brewery, Brantford, Hoppily Ever After, Ontario, craft beer, beer

At the brewery, we did the $5 sampling flights. The sign said the flight included four 5 oz beers, but they had five on tap while we were there, so each of them were included (bonus!)

Bell City Brewery, Brantford, Hoppily Ever After, Ontario, craft beer, beer

It was March during our visit, so they were still into more wintry brews. We tried:

  • Eureka Cream Ale (year-round) – They call it a pre-prohibition cream ale, and it’s both richer than some cream ales, and has a more hop-forward profile. The creaminess is still there, and it gives an overall smooth taste to this gently bitter brew.
  • Raven’s Heart Belgian Stout (winter seasonal) –  A winner for us at Hoppily Ever After. Rich, thick, and very roasty with a hint of banana and clove (the Belgian style elements shining through).
  • Lenoir Belgian Style Ale (year-round) – Another really great brew. Those sweet-tangy Belgian yeast flavours in a lovely golden ale with a hint of clove.
  • Elijah’s Real McCoy (year-round) – Perfect example of a kölsch – other than not being brewed in Cologne, Germany, of course. Light but more complex than your usual light lager (kölsch is a lagered ale).
  • The Mad Mechanic of Belfast (one-off)- We got lucky with this one. It seems that it was rare enough that it’s not even listed on their site with other one-offs – and we do both enjoy Irish Red Ales.  This one was malty for an Irish red, with a hint of the light bitterness you might taste in an English bitter, but well-balanced so as not to overpower.

Bell City Brewery, Brantford, Hoppily Ever After, Ontario, craft beer, beer

On our wishlist: Cherry Brown Ale, a summer seasonal, and winner of Session Toronto 2015!

THE FOOD

Where we got lucky with the one-off Irish Red Ale, we got unlucky with the food. They were just about to start serving food when we dropped by. They apparently do now!

Bell City Brewery, Brantford, Hoppily Ever After, Ontario, craft beer, beer

THE EXTRAS

Yes, that’s Bell as in Alexander Graham Bell. Also known as the “Telephone City”, Bell City Brewing plays up their namesake from decor around the brewery to their “inventor series” of beers.

Bell City Brewery, Brantford, Hoppily Ever After, Ontario, craft beer, beer

Our Visit Date: March 20, 2016

Cameron’s Brewing – Ontario Brewery Tours

Cameron’s Brewing has been in business since 1997, which makes them one of the oldest players on the Ontario craft beer scene. They’ve had the time to hone their craft to create some really solid brews, and now they’re undertaking a branding revitalization. 

Ambear, Cameron's Brewing, Hoppily Ever After
New brand on the Ambear Red Ale

THE PLACE

Cameron’s Brewing is a classic brewery, tucked into a business park in Oakville, Ontario. It has a simple front end, with just enough space for tasting and purchasing, and then a back-end busy with the operations of beer creation.

Brewery, Hoppily Ever After
Some of the older style, externally insulated tanks

THE BEER

The $10 tour included a whole raft of samples. Here’s our take on what we tried:

  • Cosmic Cream Ale – Clean and creamy. This is the original Cameron’s Cream Ale, with an updated name and brand for the 21st Century.
  • Ambear Red Ale – Red & roasted, some toffee notes. Another rebrand, this is a slightly modified version of their Auburn Ale.
  • Dark 266 – A sweet and roasted dark lager. Smooth and rich, with a hint of bitterness that tastes more like raw cocoa.

Cameron's Beer, Hoppily Ever After

  • Resurrection Roggenbier – With the banana bread flavour that’s customary in Roggenbiers, which use malted rye in place of some of the wheat. Reminiscent of Hefeweizens in that sense. This one is sweeter than the Roggenbiers we’ve tried, and a little peppery. Very sessionable.
  • Dry-Hopped Tripel – Sweet like a Belgian tripel, but lighter and not at all syrupy. Definitely a fruity taste, we were envisioning grape. The Cameron’s guys told us the aim was to be a “white wine of beer”, and that makes a lot of sense to us.  And doesn’t taste like a 7.5%!
  • Rye Pale Ale (RPA) – A rich hopped brew with a little white pepper undernote. Smoother than a lot of hop-forward brews, but still too hoppy for Jessica’s tastes – Josh quite enjoyed it.

Growlers at Cameron's, Hoppily Ever After

THE TOUR

Cameron’s tours are Saturdays at 1, 2, and 3pm. For $10, you get the tour and the tasting. On the tour, you get the story of beer creation, and in particular Cameron’s style of doing it. You’ll also see all their equipment and packaging, from old to new.

Cameron's Brewing, Hoppily Ever After
Original branding on the boxes

They also showed off their towers of the new cans, and different rooms throught the brewery like the barrel-aging room.

Barrels at Cameron's, Hoppily Ever After
Doppelbock being aged in Bourbon barrels

THE EXTRAS

There’s a  tiny shop with a few items – namely this Beer Geek shirt and some beer brittle candy.

Beer Geek, Hoppily Ever After

And as we’ve mentioned throughout, Cameron’s Brewing just went through a rebrand. We think the cans give a very hip and updated look to this old stalwart brewery, but you can hear even more about it from our friends at Hamilton Small Fries.

Cameron's cans, Hoppily Ever After
The new look

If you want to check out Cameron’s – and a few of their friends – further, they’re having a Cask Night on April 1, 2016.

AprilCaskNight

Our Visit Date: March 19, 2016

Trafalgar Club – Ontario Brewery Touring

Oakville’s Trafalgar Club is a combo of Trafalgar Ales & Meads and the Trafalgar Artisanal Distillery. They do the meads, the hard liquor, and the beer – and they do it damn well.

Trafalgar Club Interior - Hoppily Ever After

THE PLACE

The tap room was redone back in 2014, and now it’s a rustic haven with wood panels, long benches, and a pot-bellied stove. When we visited back in November, there were only three taps. But now they’re really close to unveiling their 16 growler filling stations, which means that soon we’ll see all  the varieties from their fridge on tap.

Flavoured alcohol at Trafalgar Club -Hoppily Ever After
Flavouring hard alcohol

THE TOUR

On Sundays at 2pm, there’s a great tour around the facility. It’s $10, but that includes a good round of samples (plus you can apply the $10 to a purchase).    It’s not a huge place, so we didn’t expect the tour to last a full hour, but between the two of us, the other guys on the tour, and our guide, we got to chatting.

Beer ingredients at Trafalagar Club - Hoppily Ever After

We talked beer, brewing at Trafalgar, distilling, homebrewing, and the state of beer in Ontario. Plus, we poked around the back end of the place

At Trafalgar Club - Hoppily Ever After
Josh checking out the equipment

THE BEER

Though there were only the three beers on tap, doing the tour meant we could dig into all the goodies in the fridge. Some standouts of beer and mead included:

  • Norfolk County Baked Apple Mead – like apple pie in a glass, with all the spices
  • Wet-Hopped Ale – the fresh, local Cascade hops gives it a leafier taste than some hop-forward brews
  • Trafalgar ESB – that classic, undefinable bitter ale done just the way it should.
  • Potato Stout – quite a dry, old-timey, classic stout. Can’t actually taste the potato though!
  • Irish Brown Ale – tangy, proper, Irish brown, perfect for the cooler seasons

Beer on Tap at Trafalgar Club - Hoppily Ever After

THE EXTRAS

The big extra is, of course, the distillery! Trafalgar makes quite a list of unique or creative spirits. Along with vodka and unfiltered gin, they make “shines” (as in moonshine, but with a name more palatable to the LCBO), which is basically unnamed whiskey – and Trafalgar does it in multiple flavours: berries, apple pie, pumpkin, and more. We even took a few home with us.

Shine and Hard Alcohol at Trafalgar Club - Hoppily Ever After

Our visit date: Nov 28, 2015

Refined Fool Brewing

Sarnia might be quite a ways from most other cities, but Refined Fool is worth the trip. It’s the sort of brewery that has it all going on: it’s a good place to hang out, it has a great batch of beers, and it even has a neat brand and interesting merch.

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THE PLACE

The big colourful mural down the side of the building makes it stand out, and they keep up that quirky, old-timey theme (heavy on top hats) throughout the building and throughout their brand.

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And they have a proper bar. Not a standing-awkwardly-tasting area, but a place you can get cozy at one of the table. It feels like they actually want people to hang out there.

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So you can hunker down at a table, and try a flight of interesting samples, or have a big glass emblazoned with that logo.

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THE BEER

Refined Fool makes a lot of beer in a lot of different styles. Jess & Josh have conflicting views on this. Jess thinks: how exciting, keep pumping out the brews! While Josh thinks that maybe a focus on 3-4 might be the better way of doing it.

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Still, they go across the field, from European standards to beyond, playing with the bits and pieces, and interesting ingredient ideas to make some pretty unique brews.

When we were there, these were the offerings on tap.
During our autumn visit, these were the offerings on tap.

Some of our favourites:

  • She’s German, Oktoberfestbier –   perfect for the season, less malty than most Oktoberfest styles
  • Pouch Envy, Australian Pale Ale –  quite unique. With a fruitier, more citrus-y taste than most IPAs, and less of the hoppy bitterness, this was a winner for both of us. We took a bottle home.
  • Serenity Now,  Extra Special Bitter (ESB) – we’re always on a hunt for a good local ESB, and of the Ontario craft ESBs we’ve tried, this one probably matches the traditional English style best. Well balanced in hops and malts (and not particularly bitter).
  • Troll Toll, Cream Ale – uncomplicated, simple, and refreshing. What else can you say about a good cream ale?

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THE EXTRAS

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Now as we’ve mentioned, the Refined Fool brand is strong – and pretty freakin’ cool too – and the little shop at the back of the store shows it. (Jess regrets not picking up a t-shirt).

We even caught the brewer at some paddling.
We even caught the brewer at some paddling.

 

Visit date: October 17, 2015

StoneHammer Brewing – Guelph Brewery Crawl Part 3/3

Part three of our three-part Guelph, Ontario craft brewery crawl. 

Our third and final Guelph stop was to StoneHammer Brewing. You may know them under their previous name, F&M Brewing (StoneHammer was the product line). Regardless, they’ve been making their brand of all-natural, hand-crafted, fine-brewed ales and lagers for 20 years.

In fact, it was StoneHammer Dark Ale that first sparked Josh’s love for craft beer, so he’d been particularly eager to visit and check it out.

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The Place

StoneHammer is tucked away inside a quiet commercial-industrial park, designed for utility more than aesthetics. Not very pretty, but it does the job. Inside, it’s set up like a storefront rather than a bar/hang-out. A few fridges, a table with a register, and a tiny serving area. We weren’t lucky enough to get a tour the day we went, but there were tastings.

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The Beers

We came between any of their seasonals and one-offs, so it was just their five year-round signature pours up for sampling. Samples were free, so we tried a bit of each.

  • Light Lager: We’ll be honest – neither of us particularly like light beer, nor do we drink it. That said, this one is certainly an improvement over the major commercial offerings.
  • Pilsner: There’s not much to say about a pilsner – it’s simple, crisp, and either done right or done wrong. This one is definitely done right.
  • Pale Ale: This is a brew you won’t get anywhere else. Yes, beer has a “terroir” just like wine does – the flavour of this one comes from Guelph’s unique municipal water, heavy on limestone, which gives it an almost savoury quality. Perhaps a bit of an acquired taste, but definitely worth trying.
  • Dark Ale: Easily the best of all. It has a malty aroma and a toasty flavour that anyone who enjoys a dark beer will certainly appreciate
  • Oatmeal Coffee Stout: One of the better blends of beer and coffee that we’ve tried. The oatmeal gives it a sweetness almost like a regular coffee at your favourite shop.

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The Extras

Stone Hammer is pretty much bells-and-whistles free. There’s a rack of t-shirts, but not much beyond that. But hey, look at that shelf of awards!

Visit Date: October 9, 2015 

Post 1 in the Guelph Brewery Crawl – Royal City Brewing: http://hoppily-ever-after.com/2015/11/03/royal-city-brewing-guelph/

Post 2 in the Guelph Brewery Crawl – Wellington Brewery – http://hoppily-ever-after.com/2015/11/12/wellington-brewery-guelph/