Wellington Brewery – Guelph Brewery Crawl Part 2/3

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

Our second stop on our Guelph craft brewery crawl was Wellington Brewery. It’s  basically the old standard in local craft brewing – currently celebrating their 30th anniversary, it’s the oldest independently owned microbrewery in Canada.

And with age comes experience. They’ve got the full package, from the Welly brand itself to the location to the full roster of good beers.

 

Wellington Brewery Ivy

The Place

Wellington is in an ivy-bedecked building with one little tower. We found out that its style is an homage to the traditional oast house (not to be confused with the brewery by the same name), or hop kiln,  the farm building where hops were taken to be dried.

Half of the public area is a retail store with all their beer and merch on display. The other half is for tasting. It has an English country club vibe,  and was bustling on the Saturday afternoon we visited.

Wellington Brewery Interior

The Beer

Wellington’s brews are well distributed throughout Ontario. You’ve probably seen them in every LCBO or in craft beer-friendly restaurants across the province. However, unlike some beer you see everywhere (I think you know what we mean), with Wellington, it’s entirely justified. The folks there know how to make damn good beer.

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In the sampling room, you get little wooden coins for $1 to get samples of whichever size you’d prefer. Here’s a little sampling of some of our standouts:

  • 30th Anniversary Ale – a unique brew for this year. It’s got a lot going on- but it all works. It’s strong (8.2%) with floral/fruity notes. It’s malty ale brewed with elderberries, aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels, mixed with dry-hopped imperial golden ale infused with heather tips. Wow!
  • County Dark Ale – The ideal English style brown ale. It’s malty, it’s smooth, but it has just enough zing to stop it from being boring. We’re both big fans.
  • Imperial Russian Stout – Despite the name reversal, this is your quintessential Russian imperial stout – as black as Putin’s heart, and as bitter as the man himself. Josh is a big fan of Russian imperial stouts, and particularly this one.
  • Special Pale Ale (S.P.A.) – Jess first described this as “coppery, super drinkable, with no overt flavour other than good beer”.
  • Trailhead Lager – A surprising complex amber lager, but still light enough for the easy beer drinker.

Wellington Brew

The Extras

Some of the vines on the building are actually… hop bines! We like that sort of touch.

Hops at Wellington

And they’ve got some great merchandise. Josh couldn’t bear to leave without buying a big glass beer drinking boot. They also have a fridge in the retail store which on our trip included one of their ‘Welly One-Offs’, that wasn’t in the tasting room – Fresh Off the Wire, a wet-hopped pale ale made with local ingredients.

Wellington Brewery Merch

 

Visit date: Oct 9, 2015

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

Royal City Brewing – Guelph Brewery Crawl Part 1/3

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

Guelph is home to a burgeoning craft beer scene, as well as a long history of brewing – Ontario’s oldest brewery, Sleeman, is a large part of the city’s history. And between September and April, 15% of the city’s population is students. The University of Guelph (Josh’s alma mater), a major landmark in the city, brings a youthful vibe and plenty of folks willing to grab a beer.

Our first stop was Royal City Brewing.

Named after Guelph’s unofficial nickname (“royal” because Guelph was the surname of the British royal family when the city was established), the brewery was founded in 2013. The owners seem to lean toward brews with a hint of flair.

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This flair is best exemplified in their flagship product. Usually flagships tend toward the status quo, but Royal City pulls no punches. Smoked Honey is a light brown ale made with smoked malt and fermented honey. Despite its complex formation, it’s actually on the milder side, and even those who aren’t big on smoked beers can enjoy it (we’re into smoked beers, but we also like this one!).

The Place

The brewery is tucked away inside a busy strip mall. Not much to look at from outside. But inside, it’s got the bare essentials you need for a decent brewery hangout: a long bar for interacting with the staff and ordering samples, a few tables for sitting down with friends, and a fridge off to the side with the take-home bottles. The brewing area is clearly visible from the bar area.

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Also… Han Solo frozen in carbonite (with Royal City growlers)? Yes, also that.

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The Beers

At Royal City you can try your beers in a full glass for $5, a little sample glass for $2, or just a taste for free.The beer is split up into several categories. First the mains, available year-round, then the rotating offerings – some seasonal, some just based on availability – and then “by the glass”, a special handful of beer only available in full glasses. They also offer a “Barrel Select” – a limited-time offering, specially crafted and barrel-aged.

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Here’s a selection of what we tried:

  • Dry Hopped Pale Ale – definitely for those who tread on the lighter side of hoppy pale ale. The flavour is crisp and clean.
  • Autumn Ale – Made with sweet potato and butternut squash instead of the usual pumpkin, but with the “pumpkin” spices. A bit avant-garde if you’re not expecting it, but all-around a good beer for those who like their gourd ales.
  • Munich Dunkel – Dark and malty, mixed with a strong, almost fruity taste. A bit too fruity, and not quite rich enough for our tastes.
  • Oktoberfest – Made in the traditional märzen style, but somewhat less malty than most. Nevertheless, the flavour was spot on. We were happy to find a proper Oktoberfest beer.
  • Bamberg Smoked Lager – Definitely our favourite of the bunch! A rich, amber lager with a medium-strong smokiness running through. Worth a taste for any fans of smoked beers.

We also bought their Barrel Select offering at the time – a Russian Imperial Stout. A heavy, bitter body mixed with slightly sweet undertones made for a truly delicious brew. It ranks near the top of Imperial Stout-loving Josh’s list, and even Jess enjoyed this one.

The Extras

They’ve got a teensy little rack of Royal City merch, but the really interesting extra is the huge line of growlers from other breweries all along the top wall of the bar. Interestingly, they’ll trade you a growler from another brewery in exchange for one of theirs in the same size – but only if they don’t already have one from that brewery.

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We’re fans of Royal City, but we’re fans of Guelph’s breweries in general too! Stayed tuned for our next Guelph brewery crawl series coming soon. 

A Visit to Beau’s Brewery

Beau’s Brewery is just outside the little town of Vankleek Hill, Ontario, which is about an hour from Ottawa and even closer to the Quebec border.

It was one of our further afield brewery visits, so we were excited to have the chance to wander in during our travels. It wasn’t until we saw the place that the significance of Beau’s tractor logo quite dawned on us – this is a country brewery.

THE PLACE

Beau’s brand is totally countrified, and they aren’t shy about it. From the tractor on each bottle of Lug Tread, to the rustic wooden accents in their tasting room/shop, even to the corrugated metal dividers in the washroom, this is a fully themed experience.

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THE TOUR

The tour was free; brief but satisfying. We took a few steps into the brewing area, got a run-down of their process, a look at their beer going out for sale, and some info about their machinery, like the big, shiny “RE-BIER” machine for re-bottling empties. It ended in a session where we could check out the extra ingredients they add to their varied beers – like sweet gale and yarrow for the Kissmeyer Nordic Pale Ale – most of which are locally sourced.

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THE BEER

Beau’s had a solid selection of 10 beers on tap, with free samples and $5 pints. However, they’re also really good at distributing their beers to the LCBO, so we’d already had most of them, like the Tom Green Beer (a Milk Stout and one of our favourites). We went for the new-to-us brews:

  • Festivale is a decent summer seasonal in the style of a German Altbier.
  • Channel Ocho was a special “back from the vault” Winter Ale, rich and deep with festive flavour notes. We’d have bought some of that if we could!
  • The Beaver River I. P. Eh is,as you may have guessed, an IPA. Josh thought the hoppiness and maltiness were well balanced, though Jessica avoided it because she’s not usually an IPA fan.

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THE EXTRAS

Beau’s has a nice selection of their beers, including the special members-only row we drooled over. And they’ve got a great little gift shop, including a whole bunch of items that match their countrified brand, ranging from the ordinary to the quirky. We decided to take home a Beau’s Mason jar glass and a handful of Ontario Craft Beer buttons.

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Out front, there’s a rustic, wooden, hop bine-covered patio with a bar and a few things on the food menu. And, of course, the trademark tractor is out front! It would be a nice place to spend a few afternoon hours.

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Visit Date: June 21, 2015