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.
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.
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.
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
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 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’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.
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.
Some of the vines on the building are actually… hop bines! We like that sort of touch.
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.
Visit date: Oct 9, 2015