Those that know me know that I love beer. I was an early adopter to the scene, I love drinking tried and trues, and I’m always searching for something new. I wear my extra 30 lbs on my waist with pride (might as well own it, right?), and I have a silly hop air balloon tattoo to back it. I love beer. I’m not ashamed (well, maybe sometimes…).
Beer in Niagara is really starting to become something special. In our first issue ever (June 2015!) we did a feature on all the breweries in Niagara – there were five plus the college plus the Brothers ( who are now located in Guelph, congrats, I have to make a trek down soon!). Now we’re at 13. What a difference a few years make.
One of the best lines that I heard through all these interviews was from Jill Currie, Retail Manager at the Niagara College Teaching Brewery:
“The best beer in the world is the one in your glass and the one that you enjoy. Whether or not I enjoy it is besides the point. What you like, you like, and that’s ok.”
So lets raise a glass this month to celebrate all these fine places. I challenge you to at least once this month have a beer from one of these breweries. There’s a beer out there for everyone, you just have to find it – and that’s half the fun.
Oh, and a quick thank you to all that were willing to take a few moments out of their day to talk to me. To those that have taken me in as more than a customer, or a newspaper guy or whatever, a double thank you. You know who you are. We all know that as good as a product may be, its the people that support it that make it special. Most of you house The Sound, and it’s much appreciated. It’s been my pleasure. Let’s do it again next year.
Bench Brewing Company
Location: 3991 Regional Rd. 81, Beamsville
Date Opened: End of June 2018
What You Need to Know: “We have so many interesting things going on like the hop field, coolship, and wood cellar with 14 foeders and 200 wine barrels. I guess the best way to summarize all that is that we are really focused on capturing the unique terroir of the Twenty Valley in our brewing process. From using local fruit and other ingredients, to capturing indigenous wild yeast in our ‘funk house’, to aging beer in oak barrels sourced from our neighbouring wineries, we are really trying to craft great beers with a true sense of time and place.”
— Anthony D’Aprile, Head of Sales & Marketing
Location: 46 Clarence St., Port Colborne
Date Opened: February 2018
What You Need to Know: “We’re family owned and operated in the heart of Port Colborne. Breakwall Brewing Company has restored the century old tradition of brewing along the Lake Erie shoreline. We brew in small batches to ensure consistently fresh beer using a variety of local hops and specialty grains. We offer a huge variety of drinks and food with a fully operating brewery, restaurant and bar.”
— Conrad Davies, Head of Sales & Marketing
Brimstone Brewing Co.
Location: 209 Ridge Rd. N, Ridgeway
Date Opened: July 2013
What You Need to Know: “The brewery is in the basement of an old church and has an accompanying taproom with a really cool feel.
The brewery is attached to the Sanctuary Centre for the Arts which has a lot to do with local art as well as being an event space for bands and also covering things like weddings and parties.
We have and will continue to grow together as a team without any shortcuts or handouts. We may have not taken the easiest or straightest road but I am very proud of what we have accomplished over the years so far and what the future brings for us.”
— Zack Gagnon, Head Brewer
The Exchange Brewery
Location: 7 Queen St., Niagara-on-the-Lake
Date Opened: January 2016
What You Need to Know: “Our brewery [located in old Niagara-on-the-Lake] never really had a flagship beer because we do a little bit of everything. We get a lot of opportunity here to try new things, but we do have some mainstays in our Golden Ale and our Amber Ale. We have our Session Saison in our Italian sparkling bottles at Loblaws and our Hefeweizen and Berliner Weisse in cans now. We’re actually doing a limited seasonal run of three different brands at the LCBO. We do a lot of casks and we always have so many different beers to offer at any given time.”
— Christine Nagy, Brewer
Kame and Kettle Beer Works
Location: 25 Pelham Town Square, Fonthill
Date Opened: November 2015
What you Need to Know: “The brewery received its name with a tip of the hat to the local topography, featuring the Fonthill Kame. In nature, kames are often associated with kettles and since Fonthill lacks a glacially formed kettle, we say our beer kettle completes this partnership.
Attention to process, use of fine ingredients, have allowed us to experiment with over 100 different beer styles to date.
We have made over 100 different beer styles since opening and we continue to experiment with different styles.”
— Dave Beifuss, Co-Owner
Lock Street Brewing Company
Location: 15 Lock St., St. Catharines
Date Opened: May 2017
What you Need to Know: “Our brewery is set in one of the most historic buildings in a Niagara; a historic hotel built around the time of the first Welland Canal and was the place of meetings and stays from the most notable game changers of the era. Now symbolic of our brand; Lock Street Brewing Corporation is all about “Time”. Time to yourself to reflect, time with clients to do business, time with the people you love most. We take our time (making beer from scratch without additives and without rushing any of the processes), so you can enjoy yours!”
— Wolfgang Guembel, Founder
Merchant Ale House
Location: 98 St. Paul St., St. Catharines
Date Opened: May 2017
What you Need to Know: “We weren’t the first brewery in Niagara, but we were the only one when we opened, and it was a very daunting task in the beginning to stay strictly craft.
We recently got our retail license, so now we’ll be equivalent to all the other breweries in the region. So, you’ll be seeing some more products that will help meet the demand for new and exciting beers. I’m glad we didn’t compromise 19 years ago when we started. Now we make great food and great beer and it’s been a great experience having done it this long and we’re on the cusp of becoming greater.”
— John Tiffin, Owner & Brewmaster
Niagara College Teaching Brewery
Location: 135 Taylor Rd., Niagara-on-the-Lake
Date Opened: September 2010
What you Need to Know: “The Brewing program here started in September 2010, at the time we were the first brewing school in North American and one of the first in the world. Last year we brewed over 250 kinds of beer. We also have our standard Beer 101 series and our Butler’s Bitter and Cherry Pilsner.
Our beers can change almost daily, which gives both locals and tourist alike a great reason to constantly come and visit the college because there’s always something different to offer.”
— John Downing, Brewmaster
Niagara Oast House Brewers
Location: 2017 Niagara Stone Road, Niagara-on-the-Lake
Date Opened: November 2012
What you Need to Know: “I think our brewery built a reputation for being innovative. We came out with bottle conditioned farmhouse ales and a lot of people thought we were crazy. We wanted to be a boutique farmhouse artisanal style brewery with a lot of spins off that. We also rolled out a product called Barnraiser in year one. It took off so fast, that it literally took up all our tanks and almost took us towards Steamwhistle status of doing one thing well, but now it’s probably the number one selling beer in Niagara. We also came out of the gate doing fruit beers because we had that local sense of place and we wanted to support local farms from day one.”
— Cian MacNeill, Marketing Manager & Owner
Silversmith Brewing Company
Location: 1523 Niagara Stone Road, Virgil
Date Opened: November 2012
What you Need to Know: “They say you have to be good to be lucky, and we’re really good, because we got really lucky.
We really wanted to have an important beer hall experience to be had at the brewery and it continues to this day to be pretty unique. The building here is really a big part of what makes Silversmith Brewery unique.There isn’t another place like this in Ontario.
Our Black Lager has developed a life of its own. It’s become it’s own brand and it’s own experience. We think we can be to Black Lager what Guiness is to Stout.”
— Chris Pontsioen, President & CEO
Taps on Queen Brewhouse
Location: 4680 Queen St., Niagara Falls
Date Opened: June 2009
What you Need to Know: “When Taps opened in Niagara Falls in 2009, Ontario breweries were mostly large factories with small retail stores, where you picked up beer and left. Taps was the first to focus on being a destination and creating an experience for our guests.
We saw that people wanted to enjoy great craft beer along with fresh, delicious food and exciting entertainment. Taps has always tried to work with other local organizations and individuals to provide unique and varied entertainment.”
— Eric Martin, Owner