We were glad we did it. And to that, I would like to add one very important caveat. I personally am very frikkin' glad we did it before Kingston.
Because when Josh Hayter, co-owner of Spearhead Brewing, picked up the ball to organize February 22nd's Kingston #BeerFam 2020, geezuz, he ran the length of five football fields with it. For starters, I checked back in my DM with him and he started planning this early last October - four months ahead. Like I said, the dude doesn't screw around. He quickly enlisted Amanda, the brewery's social media liaison among other duties, to help out (there was an ongoing debate, albeit friendly and chirpy, about who did more) and man... whatta day!
Using his status as the most powerful businessman in Kingston (he's never ever claimed that - I'm totally projecting that onto him), he quickly enlisted Tourism Kingston and Kingston Economic Development into helping with the meals - first lunch at Kingston Brewing Company (much more on that coming) and then dinner at Spearhead.
We also had this sharp-ass white bus shuttling us from brewery to brewery (including a very necessary washroom), courtesy of McCoy Bus Service (the owner is a shareholder in Spearhead) with a great driver named John. Josh wisely waited until Spearhead, our last of six brewery stops, before dropping a glass onto our large table and suggesting we all throw something into the tip pot for John. Oakville Brew Crew's Greg was there when John got the tip and reported he was thrilled. Not surprised. Because the day only cost us our purchases at the six breweries, I saw nothing but $10's and $20's being crammed into the glass from all of us. Hey man, John kept a bunch of drinking fools safe from 11 am to 9 pm. No easy feat. Gotta reward that shit.
So here's the thing. When the Ottawa thugs - Matty, Joel and Ben - organized last Summer's Ottawa Craft Brewery Invasion, we already knew about the great craft breweries there. Same when Kimmy, Greg and I organized the Halton-Hamilton Craft Brewery Invasion at the beginning of November. Everyone knew these breweries either through Beer Mails or Twitter posts. But none of us knew much about the craft scene in Kingston beyond Spearhead, to be honest. Josh was about to change that.
We all gathered in the lobby of the Delta Waterfront Hotel until Josh showed up at 11 am to get our party started. Okay, Roll Call: Greg and I from Oakville; artist-cartoonist David from Hamilton, homebrewer Graeme from King City, Glenn, Jeff, Candice and a few others from Oshawa, Paul Peezy from Newmarket, our favourite engaged couple, Curtis and Nichole from Guelph and April and Chuck, the public faces of Waller St Brewing in Ottawa plus a healthy handful more that I didn't recognize. In fact, despite tons of tweets and correspondence between April and myself, I didn't even recognize her for certain. I went out for a smoke with five people in the lobby and came back in to 20 people. I was pretty certain it was April and Chuck but I didn't want to walk up, say, "Hey April!" only to discover I was talking to Sue Somebody. I'm sometimes a little over-cautious on account of being wrong so very often.
When he arrived, Josh was looking resplendent in his Sin City Brewing bowling shirt from Las Vegas (they had some kinda deal where if you bought a couple of pints, they throw the shirt in for, like, 10 bucks) as he herded us like the slow-moving cattle we are onto the bus and it was off to Stop #1 - Daft Brewing.
Now at this point, Daft, owned by Adam Rondeau, had only been open three weeks so yeah, here's a brewery just starting to spread its wings. And what a cool set-up. A former muffler shop (I believe) so it's got those big bay doors that can be opened in the Summer. And they had a lot of fun on the interior with the bright colourful cartoon paintings. Awesome place!
Okay, one of the things Josh set up with all the breweries we visited was that they would offer up tasters, displaying a variety of styles and Daft was in the game. Now, the Brew Crew can correct me if I'm wrong (and I will edit this accordingly - or not. It's a crap-shoot) but I'm pretty sure we got their Never Nude Tangerine Sour, the True Level Fiesta Gose and (boy, I remember this one) Coffee Is For Closers Coffee Milk Stout. I liked the first two - fairly typical but solid for their style - but geezuz, that Coffee Stout? Okay, you know how in a lot of Porters and even some Stouts, you get that coffee background?
But this was funny. I grabbed a pint of their Oat Dirty Bastard Oat Stout afterwards (which I very much enjoyed) and while talking to brewer Ryan, I found out it was a brewery collaboration with the winner of a Homebrewer Challenge that Daft had set up. I told Ryan I quite liked it and he told me that the Challenge was a lot of fun for them. But when it came to the actual beer, there was a slight hesitation on his end.
But here's the thing. That just shows me Ryan is absolutely 100% a craft brewer. They are protective of both what's in their tanks and brewing the way they believe something should be brewed. Right down to the very smallest of details. And that's a good thing. A very good thing.
So Daft Brewing was just the beginning of the day. And as bright and colourful and fun as they are (they really are), things were just starting. Great start, though! As Graeme said to me afterwards, a early-day highlight was, "Seeing Daft so fresh and them talking about pushing the envelope (style-wise) to start." Tell you this for free - on this day, Graeme was truly in his brewer's wheelhouse but we'll get to that further along.
Okay, let's all hop back on the bus for Stop #2, Stone City Ales.
|Someone had brought out a specialty Saison and our|
King City homebrewer Graeme was all over it. It
seemed that everyone came away from Stone City
Ales with an unknown hidden treasure. In this case,
Graeme was trying the Counterpoint French Saison.
But in my distant past (so, you know, five years ago), I had become familiar with some Stone City Ales beers. Back then in Burlington, there was a craft beer bar called Rib Eye Jacks (since shuttered) where a young and knowledgeable beer technician named Kylie worked. She had friends in Kingston and several times she returned with one-litre howlers of their flagship Uncharted IPA for me. So even before I entered for the first time, I knew this brewery had the goods, the right stuff.
While the brewery is owned by Ron Shore, I don't believe any of us caught the name of the soft-spoken gentleman who gave us our samplers and then guided a tour into the back.
That said, I'm fairly certain Uncharted IPA was one. But another I can tell you without hesitation. That would be their Nocturnal Czech Dark Pilsener. Why? Oakville Greg and I, seated at the same table, enjoyed the shit out this one. Just an absolute beauty. Roasty malts, nice medium body (not the norm for a pilsner), light touch of licorice, 4.8% so lighter ABV but certainly not in the Crushable Zone, given the dark malts. Just a fantastic beer.
In the end, I went home with bottles of the Noctural, the Uncharted and the Distant Origin Dry-Hopped IPA. Distant Origin was pretty solid, as well. Containing my two favourite hops - Amarillo and Idaho 7 - the 6% west coaster had some solid citrus in it, a little floral on the nose and a creamy smooth feel. That said, as much as I enjoyed those two IPAs, Nocturnal was the clear winner on the day. Believe me, a pilsner beating out two IPAs is unusual in my corner of the world. But Greg said that beer was a highlight for him as well so, hey, that's gotta be a damn good beer.
Okay, back next with my favourite stop of the day, Kingston Brewing Company, where it seems, oh, one or two of us enjoyed lunch. A quick Brew Crew side-story here if I may. (I write this. Damn straight, I may.) Graeme lost his paternal grandmother yesterday morning. His daughter is her namesake. We didn't learn that until last night. He had messaged me, asking about potential brewery visits but I didn't think twice about it. Graeme has forgotten more about beer than I'll ever know. When we all learned yesterday, it turned out Graeme had spent the day, visiting Ontario craft breweries, helping them stay afloat. Pretty cool gesture. And I also noticed we circled our emotional wagons around him quickly, offering support and hopefully comforting words. But that's the Brew Crew. As much as we sometimes chirp each other, it's a tight brother and sister outfit. You're always just there for each other. I saw that last night. More importantly, Graeme did. So, Scooby Doo Gang, it's it, that's all and I am outta here! More Kingston fun coming but until then, I remain...