Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Breweries of Niagara: Part 1

Over the Easter weekend I was privileged enough to visit two of the newest attractions in Niagara , and latest additions to the growing craft beer boom in Ontario. Oast House Brewery, Silversmith Brewery and the Niagara Teaching College Brewery have been busy creating names for themselves and enticing would-be and die-hard tourists to the vine capitol of Ontario with the tempting call of barley and hops. I was able to make quick visits to Silversmith and Oast House – the teaching college will have to wait – and thought readers might like a glimpse of what's brewing in wine country.

Silversmith Brewing Company

Silversmith Brewing, black lager, niagara on the lake, wine country, ontario
*This photo is from last summer
Since my last visit, Silversmith has seen quite a few changes to their home in a renovated old church on Niagara Stone Road, and I'm glad to say a healthy crowd of tourists was flowing through to appreciate it. The bar - created with massive timbers from one of rural Ontario's many decaying barns- is now complete and brings the rustic character and hard-working feel of farm country indoors, where it can speak to how Silversmith brews their beers; with blood sweat and tears. Their new brew-house addition is coming along nicely but unfortunately was not yet ready for a sneak peek. One feature I am very excited for upon my next visit is the oyster bar that promises future on-site food pairings for their tasty beers.

Silversmith Brewing, ontario, craft beer, black lager, church, niagaraSilversmith excels on originality and unique, seldom seen styles. Their four taps give regulars coming in for growler refills, and tourists passing through, a chance to see experimentation and development as it happens. All the beers I tried, except for their exceptional flagship Black Lager, are in the the process of development, and the management are not shy about it. Silversmith want you to participate in the creation of their beers and make you feel at home by starting the conversation or taking your feedback with interest and enthusiasm. Here are the brews Silversmith was working on during my visit:

Black Lager, Russian imperial stout, silversmith brewing, niagara, ontario, wine countryRussian Imperial Stout: This stout currently clocks in at a mild 7% for an RIS. But Silversmith isn't going for a lightweight version of the powerful style. They're testing out the taste of the beer as they go before increasing the alcohol content. This shows some serious focus and patience on producing a quality beer – kind of like how a smithy finds the perfect mix of alloys and metals and the right temperature to mold metal so as to forge the best possible sword. This RIS has plenty of coffee and dark chocolate flavours and a lean but strong body. I can't wait to see where they take it. 

Bavarian Breakfast Wheat: Lightly spiced and inviting as it is quenching; but it still needs a signature Silversmith touch to set it apart from the wheat beers that will soon be flooding LCBO shelves. I can't wait to see where this one goes as they find its voice.

Bavarian Breakfast Wheat, silversmith brewing, niagara, on the lake, tourism, wineOyster Stout: If there's one thing Silversmith is good at, it's accessible and drinkable darks. The oyster stout takes a few ques from the Black Lager in taste and feel (not necessarily a bad thing), and I couldn't quite detect the oysters added during the brewing process, but it's a solid light stout I could see sold as a session beer with a twist.

Overall, Silversmith is an up and coming Ontario brew house that produces unique and little seen beer styles while keeping them deliciously accessible. The fact they brew with passion and are one of the first in an undeveloped craft beer area - that already thrives on bacchanalian tourism - can only mean great things in their future.

Stay tuned for part 2 and my visit to Oast House Brewing.


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