I don’t know if it is all the agriculture in the area leading people to appreciate local fare or just a happy coincidence, but the Guelph area (which is about 90 minutes from the Clockwatching Tart home base) is one of the best craft beer parts of the province – a fact we’ve certainly taken advantage of in the past.
In fact, Guelph’s Wellington Brewery is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a cask beer festival in late September, so the area has certainly earned its craft beer bona fides. So, it was no surprise when I learned that the area would be welcoming a new craft brewery, this time in nearby Elora, Ontario with the aptly named Elora Brewing Company.
At this year’s London Beer & BBQ Show, I got to try Elora Brewing’s Lady Friend IPA, which was much more malty and balanced than most IPAs and was clearly one of the stars of the show to me. At the time, they were still building their brewery, so another brewer was making their beer for them using their recipe, so once their actual brewery recently opened, it was with much excitement that we loaded up the Subaru and headed for Elora.
Build in an old hardware store right on the main drag of the adorably cute “downtown” Elora, Elora Brewing Company is quite beautiful, with exposed stone walls and lots of Edison bulbs, wood and steel for a vibe that is very clean and modern but certainly fits in with the vibe of a town best known for the gorge and natural beauty.
So, the town itself and the brewery – with its still gleaming brewing equipment standing proudly and brightly lit in the back in contrast to the stone and wood up front – are both beautiful, but what about the food and beer?
The bad news is that they were out of Lady Friend IPA – which was sad for me because I knew how wonderful it was, but good for their new business, as it meant word had spread and others were enjoying it too. The good news is that the food was fantastic and the rest of the beer showed a lot of promise and a willingness to explore different styles.
The (obviously) unfiltered wheat beer looked like milk to some and grapefruit juice to others at our table, but it was quite pleasant, light enough to be refreshing after a walk around the town, but still fragrant and showing off the notes of banana and clove I associate with wheat beers.
A little bit more unique offering was A La Mode, a crisp, green apple ale brewed with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Although the spices were delicate and light at first, they came out more as the glass warmed up and it was a lovely match for the food. Beyond their own beers, they also had a few draft taps featuring other area craft breweries, which fits in with the whole “support local” vibe of the place.
After an afternoon of exploring the town and Elora Gorge, we had worked up an appetite.
We started with root vegetable chips...
Before diving into fried chicken, which was locally sourced chicken thighs from Hill Top Farms marinated in their own lager as well as buttermilk and breaded with sourdough crumbs from a local bakery. The portion size was perfect for lunch and the local ingredients made sense and were appreciated all around.
The shrimp and grits were nicely cooked and beautifully presented, although our Southern-U.S. travelling friend wished for a little bit more seasoning and just a drizzle of good olive oil or lemon to add a bit of lightness and balance out the richness.
Personally, I couldn’t resist the burger, made with grass-fed Ontario beef and pork and served with double-smoked bacon and aged cheddar. The burger was good (and could have been great with the addition of a fried egg on top, but that is personal taste and I’m sure not everyone loves it although it is awesome and they are heathens) and the salt and pepper frites with homemade ketchup were amazing.
Between the atmosphere of the town and the design and fare of Elora Brewing Company, it certainly won’t be our last road trip to Elora. Just like certain beers, breweries can get better with age – so if the food, service and beer are this good after only a few weeks, just think how good things will get once Elora Brewing Company has had time to age too.