Wine has always been my alcoholic beverage of choice.
I’m sure you know that, given all of the wine-related stuff I’ve written for this blog. So it came as a bit of a surprise to me to realize that one of my most popular posts ever hasn’t been about wine.
It’s been about beer.
Well, not just about beer. It was about two great local guys sharing their love for Niagara craft beer.
Last year, it was totally my pleasure to meet up with Steve and Jakob from Niagara Craft Brewery Tours. At that time, they were just starting their business, and I loved the chance to get to know them a bit and learn about their exciting plans. I also loved that we sampled some great local beer as we did so.
I’m not kidding – over a year later, that post still gets hits Every. Single. Day. Seems you guys are crazy about all things craft beer.
I thought it would be interesting to catch up with them a year later, see how the business was going, and share that update with all of you. But I was in for a pleasant surprise. Not only were we going to catch up, we were going to go on a customized beer tour made just for me.
What can I say. I’m a lucky girl.
Steve picked Ken and I up in one of their brand new touring cars that they use for hosting private tours, and we were on our way.
As our outing was created just for me, Steve asked me which breweries I hadn’t been to yet, and suggested we visit those ones. It’s always great to go back to spots you’ve visited before, but I was happy to have an itinerary that would bring me to places I hadn’t been to yet.
I was also happy that our first stop was at Ironwood Hard Cider.
There are a couple of cider stops available through Niagara Craft Brewery Tours, which I think is terrific. Though I am appreciating beer more than I used to, having cider included made for a nice mix. It appears that people can’t get enough of cider these days too.
Roslyn gave us a tour of the production area, and took me through a tasting. I tried their Original, which is made from eight different types of apples, and the Perrydise cider, which is made from both Bosc and Bartlett pears.
Each cider was scrumptious.
I’ve also heard very good things about their Screachin’ Peach cider, and I hope to try that one soon.
As Ironwood Hard Cider is located at Sunnybrook Farm Estate Winery, we finished up our tasting with some of Sunnybrook’s Spiced Apple and Iced Apple wines. It was interesting to taste the use of apples in cider and wine in the same flight. I particularly enjoyed the Iced Apple, which I found a bit similar to Icewine.
Then we were on our way to Niagara College Teaching Brewery.
Where I was warmly welcomed with a sample of Beer 101 Lager and the 1812 Butler’s Bitter. Both were tasty, but I was fascinated to hear that the Butler’s Bitter was created based on historical recipes. The time traveler in me thinks it’s neat to sip something just like what folks in 1812 might’ve been sipping.
Ian, one of the students from the College, gave us a great tour.
Then he took me out for some more sampling. I was especially curious to try a student brew called Smurf & Turf. I admit, it was the name that got me. It’s inspiration comes from the fact that Smurf & Turf is a Belgian style beer – and, well, the Smurfs are Belgian too.
A totally reasonable line of thinking, no?
The only negative part about it was that now I can’t get the Smurf theme song out of my head.
You know you want to sing it with me.
We had a lengthier drive to our next stop, so it was a great chance to catch up with Steve on how things are going for the business.
Well, it’s booming – as I thought it would be. With such a great variety of tours, and the surging popularity of craft beer, I knew they would be a success, for several reasons.
First, because Steve and Jakob are two great guys who are passionate about our local craft beer. As any entrepreneur knows, a passion for what you do sure makes the ups and downs of running your own business a little bit easier.
Second, of course, is the tours themselves. Organized according to region, you can choose to sample brews from the Southern or Northern areas of Niagara. As you’ll be doing a good bit of tasting, there’s also a food option offered on each tour too, which is awesome.
Aside from the main tours, I have to tell you about a couple of their special ones too.
The guys are big fans of the Niagara Ice Dogs, and this past winter they came up with a fantastic way to combine their love of good craft beer and hockey – the Bark ‘n Brew tour. Before that puck hit the ice, guests were taken to two breweries and a cidery, with a dinner stop available at Silversmith Brewing Company. After that, it was off to catch the Ice Dogs in action. When the game finished, you were driven back to your place or hotel too. Sounds like a perfect way to be able to enjoy your day out responsibly.
Such a great idea for the beer and hockey loving folks in your life, huh?
You can also chat with them about creating your own private, customized tour.
An option that I certainly enjoyed.
Our final stop was at Brimstone Brewing Company in Ridgeway. We didn’t do a tour or structured tasting here, just relaxed and chatted on the patio while enjoying some deliciousness from Crave Local Fresh.
I also sampled my way through a flight of Brimstone’s brews.
Brimstone is located in a former church, which is now the Sanctuary Centre for the Arts.
I have to say that I adore their tongue in cheek words – both for the brewery name, and the names of their beers.
I’m a sucker for clever marketing, I guess. But it must be matched up with good product.
Which it certainly was.
My personal favourite though, has gotta be the Sinister Minister.
Brilliant. And the name makes me chuckle every time I hear it.
The patio vibe is relaxed and welcoming.
A nice spot to while away an early summer evening with friends.
Especially if you can while it away over the Baked Double Cream Brie Wheel made by Crave Local Fresh
Baked Brie is my ultimate weakness. I usually treat myself to it once a year – at Christmas – and it is a no holds barred kind of feast.
But on that summer night, it was Christmas again.
Ken and I both enjoyed the Reuben sandwich as well.
While Steve went for a tasty, healthy option – the Black Bean Burger
Our conversation kept right on flowing as we ate. We talked about life in Niagara, the tourism biz, spots we love to travel to and so much more. Then to our surprise, through all the chitchat, I finished my entire flight of Brimstone beer.
This is a new step for me, friends.
Beer novice that I am, I never seem to be able to make it through an entire flight when sampling. So it looks like my stamina for craft beer drinking is improving.
I think I have Steve and Jakob to thank for that.
It’s all because of good old Twitter that I met them, and I’m so glad I did.
If you’re looking for a fun, beer-loving day out yourself, you can find all the details here.
** Disclosure – my tour was generously provided by Niagara Craft Brewery Tours, but all opinions are – as always – my own**