It is fun to do stuff out of the ordinary and it is especially fun if that stuff is in your own neighbourhood. On Sunday, my wife and I joined the first Brew Donkey tour of some of the region’s craft breweries. We started in Uptown at Abe Erb and visited four very different breweries in St. Jacobs, Waterloo and Kitchener. It was a sampling tour of four of 12 breweries on the three possible tours. There will be four more breweries added in the coming weeks and months. Ours was the inaugural bus ride of beer drinkers to Block 3, Innocente, Descendants and TWB – Together We’re Bitter.
As newbie novices, we were completely out of our element, not knowing the fundamentals like what a growler is, what IUB stands for or even what a Saison is. (A growler is a jug, IUB stands for International Bittering Units and Saison is a pale ale that is slightly spicy and carbonated.)
The tour comprised a mixed group of craft beer connoisseurs, a ragtag army of young and old, some with expensive cameras, others with notebooks, bought bottles and growlers, beer glasses and eventual beer googles as a light rowdy hue of imbuement soon ensued. Brad, our tour guide and leader kept us and things moving along. He was like a life coach at a speed dating session, beer in hand, leading by example, prodding the brewmasters at the various breweries to tell all, to make it interesting for us to think about and to serve up samples for us to drink down enthusiastically.
It was a great afternoon.
Brad started Brew Donkey in Ottawa a couple of years ago after working as a caterer, a mobile bakery operator, and then after a backpacking trip to Europe where, as the story goes, he became a beast of burden (a donkey) for a crunchy granola Australian nouveau hipster hippie and an assortment of other other misfits and lightly-washed nonconformists. It’s what Brad does. He was an awesome host.
So I asked him why KW? Why set up his second brewery tour operation here. I was expecting him to say that Waterloo Region is hip and young or that we have a high concentration of craft breweries here but the answer is because of our sprawl. Like Ottawa, we are a population spread out over a large geographical area. The breweries are quite far apart from each other and as drinking and driving do not make mix, beer tours do. Great answer. He also said that the local brewing community wants to connect. There is a real feeling of brotherhood and cooperation amongst the various craft breweries. They have all set up within the last four years or less. They are supporting each other.
I also learned along the way that beer has four main ingredients and water is the most important one. Our water is hard so I asked one of the brewmasters what would be the best beer to be made with hard water – ‘porter’, he said. The brewmasters had all learned their craft in Europe and much of the equipments we saw had originated there. There is a local connection with grain and recycling the used grain for farm feed.
There is also a local connection with donkeys. Brew Donkey’s logo is of a real donkey named Cargo who lives on the Donkey Sanctuary near Guelph. The Donkey Sanctuary is open to the public and have 80 donkeys 10 mules.
So that was Sunday. I took the day away from Sunday showings and open houses and spent the day like a somewhat regular person. Fun times.