With an upcoming trip to Montreal to explore the Craft beer and cider scene in Quebec, I wasn’t quite sure whether or not to visit the London Beer & BBQ Show this year. Despite enjoying the event in the past, even beer barons have a limit to their disposable income. In the end, the Clockwatching Tart and I decided to go because I was excited to try two breweries I’d never tried before, Elora Brewing Co. and Midian Brewing – and I’m certainly glad we went, because there was more to discover than just those wonderful breweries.
The very first booth we stopped at was Strathroy Brewing Company’s. Craft beer folk tend to be wonderfully pleasant, so the fact that the Strathroy team was engaging, friendly and rightfully proud of their brews came as no surprise. The surprise to me came in the form of their full line of beers:
Me being me, I couldn’t resist trying the stout. Even in the humid depths of summer, good beer is good beer and I’d happily choose a stout over virtually any other style – and their Smokin’ Cannon Stout was a complex and roasty but nicely carbonated and relatively low-alcohol (for a stout) start to the day.
The next surprise came from seeing The Collingwood Brewery and their Fireside Extra Special Bitter (ESB). Collingwood’s Downhill Pale Ale is available at the LCBO, but the Fireside ESB is only available at the brewery right now, so it was a nice chance to try a Canadian Brewing Awards silver-medal winner. As toasty and inviting as a fireside after a day of skiing, it certainly earned its name and award.
I had no idea what to expect from Midian Brewing from Windsor, Ontario, which has very recently become a decent little craft beer destination thanks to Brew Windsor (which has wonderful pizza to go with its very solid craft beer) and Walkerville Brewery, which has a lovely location to sit down an sample from an ever-growing selection of craft beers. As it turned out, Midian’s cask ale was absolutely fantastic. Smooth and low carbonated as you’d expect from a cask, it was nicely balanced and wonderfully aromatic from dry hopping – the type of beer that could make for a great night and inevitable call for a taxi.
The chance to try something from the so-new-they-aren’t-quite-open-for-business Elora Brewing Co. was half the reason I went to the show and I’m happy to say that they didn’t disappoint. Truth be told, I’d probably be smitten with their Lady Friend IPA regardless of the quality of the beer itself simply because it is a perfect storm of things I love: craft beer, comic book-style graphic art, good marketing and pro-female awesomeness. Better still, despite the preponderance of IPAs around this time of year, it stands out for being better balanced than most and definitely worth seeking out.
Since my day started with a stout, it’s only fitting to end with another, this time the Luck & Charm Oatmeal Stout from Maclean’s Ales. While we in Ontario are lucky to have easy access to the wonderful St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout from Quebec, it’s pretty awesome to try – and be blown away by – a new Ontario stout that is wonderfully rich and lush and bittersweet wonderful. I can only hope that someday it will be just as easy to get Luck & Charm whenever I want it, but in the meantime, I happen to love visiting Tobermory and now I can add Maclean’s to Neustadt Springs Brewing as must-stop places to visit along the way.
Even though I almost missed it, the London Beer & BBQ Show was certainly worth visiting as it was a pleasant reminder of just how much the Ontario craft beer scene has grown. If new beers like the Elora Brewing Lady Friend IPA and Maclean’s Ales Luck & Charm Oatmeal Stout are any indication, craft beer lovers in Ontario have a lot to look forward to in the future.
The London Beer & BBQ Show is still on tonight until 10:30pm and tomorrow, Sunday, June 21, 2015 from noon-5pm.