Tuesday, 19 July 2016

A quick stop at Brock Street Brewing

Two of the reasons my son, David, likes visiting his
Uncle Johnny and Aunt Trish in Whitby. Number
one, he gets to hang out with my goddaughter, Julia,
and number two, they have a sweet pool. Those are
both good reasons. But now I have another reason...
It's always fun to catch up with my old pal, Johnny. For starters, we grew up in the same neighbourhood so we've known each other since we were five or six years old.

That was many, many years ago now. (Johnny and I stopped counting quite some time back.) Suffice it to say, he and I have gotten into a fair bit of trouble over the years. Nothing so serious that we've landed in jail, mind you. Well, okay, maybe once in the tiny hamlet of Hamburg, New York many decades ago but we weren't actually in jail. You see, my Dad's business had a couple of delivery vans and once every few months, a bunch of us guys (and women a couple of times) would pile into these vans, cross the US border and party our brains out in New York State. We probably hit every bar between Buffalo and Niagara Falls over the course of a few years. I feel certain none of them were sad to see us leave.

But one time, the drunken lot of us stopped at a tiny gas station that was also a restaurant on our way home. Guys stumbled into the place for a pit stop while I gassed up. Once everyone was collected up, off we went. Five minutes later, I was pulled over. The officer said that he had received a phone call, saying one of us had torn an antenna off a car, followed by "Would you please follow me to the police station?"
Well, okay, then, we certainly made
ourselves at home in a Hamburg
Police Station many years ago...

Well, okay, Officer, your call. So I followed him for a few miles and pulled up to one of the tiniest little buildings I had ever seen in the middle of nowhere. This "police station" was like something out of the Andy Griffith Show. A front desk, two jail cells... and nothing else. So there were 16 of us, drunk as skunks (I was driving so not quite so much) and him. Any guesses how that went for the poor officer? While I was talking to him at his tiny desk, explaining that none of us had taken an antenna (as antennas are cheap and plentiful in Canada), laughing guys were opening filing cabinets, singing O Canada in the two unlocked jail cells and getting their pictures taken in there. One guy snatched his hat off of his head for pictures. And man, we were loud! Drunken Canadians are not meant for confined spaces. Finally, he said, "Okay! Enough! Get these jackasses out of here and never come back! Now please!"
Well, how about that? Look what's located five minutes
away from my buddy Johnny's house! I see a couple more
Summer visits to his place this year. For friendship, right?
He didn't seem to enjoy our company at all... Very odd.

So yeah, while Johnny and I have been to a jail, we were actually asked not to stay. If you think about it, that's much trickier than actually landing in jail. A skill of sorts, really. But time passes and Johnny kept moving as his family grew, finally settling in Whitby, an equal distance on the other side of Toronto from me. So maybe an hour and 15 minutes away if I use the usually-empty 407 toll highway that arches north over Toronto, bypassing all that nasty traffic. A couple of times a year, my boy, David, and I try to make the trek out there so he can visit with his Uncle Johnny and Aunt Trish, as well as their daughters, Melissa and Julia. Always a wonderful trip. David and Julia swim in the pool while Johnny and I sit on the patio, catching up. Johnny is one of those rare friends where if you don't see him for a year, you just get together and pick up where exactly you left off. I have a few of those so I'm a pretty lucky guy. But last Summer, I missed the trip to Whitby as the entire lot of us got together at a cottage supplied by his boss at Parkside Beach off Lake Simcoe, just north of Barrie, instead.
Hey, Daddy, look at these big old fermenting
tanks inside Brock Street Brewing! The sweet
girl at the counter told us to wander in and
check out the equipment in the back. We did.

Of course, we had an awesome time as no Canadian ever turns down a free cottage. It's like saying "no" to beer, poutine or free rides on a moose. David, Julia and her dance troupe friends happily swam in Lake Simcoe while Johnny and I drank beers on shore and caught up. We missed Trish by a day and, well, Melissa is in university now so being trapped in a cabin with us parents is about as appealing as eating chalk and vinegar in a bowl for breakfast. (Trust me, Melissa, your Dad and I totally get that. We remember.)

But by not going to Whitby last Summer, it seemed I missed something. Last Spring, Brock Street Brewing set up shop and David and I missed a potential visit. I'm not sure how many beers they had at that point - likely only a small handful - but that's cool. Now, for the record, I have come across Brock Street Brewing on my own turf. They were at the Burlington Winter Beer Festival back in January and even then, I reported that the young turks manning the booth were a crap-ton of fun. They had brought a miniature ping-pong table about a yard (or a metre) long and were taking on all comers. After reporting on that here, as well as their outstanding Brock Street Irish Red Ale, I guess I got on their radar because when they got a mini-Foosball table a couple of months back, they called me out on Facebook with a Foosball challenge. I passed because Whitby is a long drive to lose at yet again another sport. But I appreciated the challenge. These guys and gals love to rock it out.
Some fresh Brock Street Brewing beer straight from the
brewery? Don't mind if I do. That's their Blonde Ale as a
crown on top of two of their Porters and four of their
Double Vision IPAs. The girls there were super friendly.

This time, when we visited, I made no mistake. Before we left, I showed Johnny where Brock Street Brewing was on Google Maps and he laughed, "That's right around the corner." It was literally five minutes away. Oh well, then, world's shortest road trip! David was game because he loves the big shiny tanks in these places. (Being easily distracted by shiny objects comes from my side of the family. I wish I could say it was a strength.) And off we went...

After the arduous 300-second drive, we arrived. "You won't be able to miss it," said Johnny. "On your left. Big sign." Ironically, Brock Street Brewing is on Hopkins Street, although they have an application into City Hall to relocate in a new building at Brock and Dunlop Street downtown. Following them on Facebook, I have watched them clear hurdle after red tape hurdle. It's getting closer. But for now, I kinda like the set-up on Hopkins.

Two young ladies were working at the front counter and as I made my purchase, one smiled sweetly at David, waved to the back and said, "Do you want to go in there?
Working the Saturday afternoon crowd who
were in and enjoying flights of their beer. 
My son flew back there like a shot. He also gets that from Daddy. I'm a little prouder of that. So we checked the place out. Great set-up for a small brewery increasingly getting noticed and lauded on the Ontario craft brewing landscape. At the recent Ontario Brewing Awards, that Irish Red won gold for the Best Dark Ale. On top of that, they were declared the Newcomer Of The Year. A damn good year for a brewery that's geographically located on the wrong street, I'd say.

Having already snagged their Blonde Ale from a local LCBO, I grabbed four of their Double Vision Double IPA and a pair of their Porter. But before I left, the nice young lady at the counter handed me four coupons for a free three-beer flight. "When you're back visiting your friend," she smiled. Okay, that's cool because basically it's like "Go roam at will through our home and hey, when you come back, why not drink some of our beer for free?" Talk about making a guy feel at home. These guys now rock at a Volume-11 Level. They're treading heavily in Spinal Tap territory. But, you know, good.

So how were their beers? Pretty impressive as I picked three that are all very different styles. So let's start with the lightest and work our way up to their bigger ones. Because "That's the way, uh-huh, uh-huh, we like it..."
Beer writing buddy, Paul The Beer Guy, took this cool shot
of two Double Vision Double IPAs poured into a one-litre
(34 ounce) Brock Street Brewing boot. Quadruple vision?
Okay, the Blonde Ale's on deck. As mentioned in this space before, I tend to shy away from blondes ales simply because I consider most to be kissing cousins to mainstream lagers. But the colour and the haziness on this one told me it likely had more oomph. And it did. Floral on the nose and some great carbonation tingle on the tongue, they was some light lemon in the aftertaste. At 4.3%, you could still operate heavy machinery (but probably shouldn't) so it's a pretty solid Summer Session Sipper.

The Double Vision Double IPA poured a really nice copper colour, as you can see from Paul The Beer Guy's picture, but the pine on the nose was mixed with some grassiness that gave this more of a single IPA vibe. On the tongue, it was a total malts vs hops battle, caramel but still bitter. At 7.5% and I'm guessing 75-80 IBUs (international bitterness units), this was a solid beer. I gifted a pair of these to friends before I even tried one because it's all about beer sharing.
Okay, this bad boy right here??? That's what I'm talkin'
about!!! This Porter at just 5.1% was really outstanding!!

Which brings us to their Porter! *Ding, ding, ding!* Ve haf a weiner, as a German guy might (or might not) say. Surprisingly light at just 5.1%, this porter had no outside flavouring, meaning it wasn't goosed by either fruit flavours or barrel-aging. Just a straight up, stand-alone porter. And stand, it did. Beautiful roasted malts and bittersweet chocolate on the nose with a lot more chocolate and a bitter bite on the tongue. This is a porter that's completely true to its style and was, hands down, my favourite of the three.

Johnny, I will be back. I have four free flights of delicious Brock Street beer waiting for me. Granted, only one per visit is the rule and it's a good one. The Halton Police already know me well enough. I'd prefer to stay somewhat anonymous to the Durham Police. Also, we're never allowed back in Hamburg, New York but that's fine. Other small New York hamlets have gas stations. It's all good. So we'll be back to Whitby, well, hopefully soon. On a Deteriorated Scale, my liver is probably about halfway between Ozzy Osbourne and Charlie Sheen. But guys and dolls, that's it, that's all and I am outta here! Until the next time, I remain...