Hometown hops and local lagers

Bill McTavish

Over the last couple of years there has certainly been a renaissance in the beer industry in the KW Region, and it’s in- credibly exciting to be able to witness it first hand. In what was a fairly gloomy environment for those looking to quench their thirst with substance and flavor, there are now numerous producers and establishments where beer drinkers can be sufficiently satisfied. There are four brick and mortar breweries in KW right now.

The baby of the bunch, Innocente Brewing Co. has been around for all of about six months. A baby they may be, but in order to truly appreciate Steve’s beers, you must have a sufficiently developed and mature palate. These are not for the light lager drinkers. These are certainly not lawnmower beers. Innocente is going to blow you away with hops, in the best kind of way. That is his intention. His Conscience American IPA is measured at 80.2 IBUs, which seems low given the abundance of hops in this beer. Innocente wants to brew beers for hopheads, and there are an abundance of hopheads in Ontario, so they’ll do well to give these brews a try. But what impresses me more about Innocente is his ability to reign it in. Their new pilsner, Encounter, is one of the better pilsner’s to hit the market in a long time. A pilsner is the type of beer that will highlight any flaws. And this pilsner has none. Just ask him. What Steve lacks in experience in the Ontario Craft Beer Scene, he certainly makes up for in confidence and bravado. Refreshingly, he is more than able to back up his claims. Innocente has been aging some Imperial Stout in barrels, which will be released this winter. Look out for this one.

The first thing I’ll say is that any brewery that has a craft “division” should immediately stop calling themselves craft brewers. I liken the Brick to A&W, they would love to be as big as McDonald’s, but they’ll never reach that level. And in the same sense that A&W is a great restaurant, the Brick is a great brewery. Their website states that their Waterloo Brewing Co., their craft division, is a high growth high profit business, which to me means they’re putting less into their beers, charging you more for it, and putting your money into their shareholders pockets. While most of what the Brick brews is unremarkable, their Waterloo Dark has been a mainstay on taps in KW since the Brick opened their doors in 1984 and is actually a decent mass produced beer. Adding to that, their seasonals are better than what most beer aficionados might expect. their new kolsch is quite good. The one thing that I could truly appreciate about the Brick was their in- credibly affordable hospitality room, and sadly, they’ve just sold that to condo developers. Just what we need.

I recently moved from Guelph to KW. Even as a relative newbie to KW, I already know there’s really no good reason to go to Cambridge – save for the Grand River Brewery. You might as well check out the Kiwi and monogram while you’re there. I mean, maybe if there were some kind of light rail transit system that could get me to Cambridge, I would go more often, but alas, I digress. the problem with Grand River Brewing is not the beer; in fact, the beer is quite good, well above average, even. the problem is that you’ve likely never heard of them. they seem to want to market to your father, or even your grandfather, which makes no sense, because study after study show your granddaddy is likely drinking coors light or the aforementioned laker Ice. Know your target market. Grand River’s Russian gun Imperial stout is an impeccable beer, and for a lazy afternoon, or anytime really, you can’t go wrong with their Galt Knife old style. It’s pretty tough to find them on tap, even in their hometown, but finer establishments (…ahem) carry them frequently. They also brew an executioner’s ale, a great brew sold exclusively at the Bent Elbow.

The relative new Kids on the Block are the crew at the Block three Brewing co. in St. Jacob’s. They just celebrated their first Happy Birthday and step by step they’ve been capitalizing on being the first true craft brewery to open in the region (ooh baby). Bryan Maher, a transplant from the Wellington Brewery, has been hangin’ tough, brewing their King St. saison to much fanfare. And while the saison is certainly an easy drinking beer, I find more creativity and boldness in their one-offs or seasonals. Their Blocktoberfest will be available very shortly, and if it’s anything like last year’s batch, KW Oktoberfesters will have an actual Oktoberfest style ale to truly enjoy during the festivities. I was very excited to learn that they are planning to do a series of Belgian ales, not something a lot of breweries in ontario are doing right now. And call It what You want, but since You walked Into my life, Block Three, I’ve just kept on Smiling, Because You Got the Flavor.

The KW region is quickly becoming the beer mecca of craft brewing in Canada. It would behoove you to go out to the breweries, try new beers, go home with a growler (oh my god, we can finally fill a growler in this region)! I’m not going to tell you why craft is better than mass, why local is better than not local (what’s the antonym there?), you already know this. So I’m just going to tell you to drink. Drink Beer. And drink beer from here.

Disclaimer: CCE does not subscribe to McTavish’s opinion of Cambridge.