Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Mystery is a-brewin' at Cameron's...

My old Toronto buddy, Foggy (who was christened Craig but nobody
ever calls him that), his ladyfriend Denise and I check out the band
during Cameron's 20th Anniversary Bash last September. Remember
when it was still warm enough for shorts? Winter, go away... please!!
So what's new at my hometown homeys, Cameron's Brewing?

Well, that's the thing. We don't know exactly. Except that we do know something big besides actual (and exceptional) craft beer brewing is going on. But details are a little hard to come by at the moment.

It all started when I zipped down the hill to the brewery to pick up some beer and a glass for my Beer Store Brother Ben, who toils at the Nepean Beer Store, just outside of Ottawa.

Someone on Twitter had posted a picture of Cameron's Dark & Sticky India Brown Ale and we were all heaping praise upon it because it's - what's that word again? - oh yeah, fantastic! Brewmaster Jason Britton hit a bases-loaded dinger with this one.
Yes, the sign is there but the Cameron's Beer
Store is missing in action. Well, physically, it's
still there but it's a hollowed out shell of its
former self, just two empty rooms at this exact
moment. What will it be rebuilt into? That's
the question on this Beer Geek's curious mind.

But suddenly, Ben comes on and says he hasn't had it and would very much like to. The problem? Dark & Sticky was only available in Cameron's Brewmaster Taster Selection Four-Pack (long gone now as it was released last Autumn) or individually at Cameron's Retail. Being as Ben is located 485 kilometres (301 miles) away, it's a bit of a hike for a single beer. If only he knew someone just, say, a two-minute drive away from Cameron's? Oh wait, he does. That would be me. The dude just up the hill from them. The above-identified Beer Geek.

So I told him to PM his address and I'd send a good, old-fashioned Cameron's Care Package. Ben quickly sent me his geographical info and here's where our story begins. I walked up to the Retail and saw... nothing. An empty locked room with an empty office beside it. On the door was a sign reading, "Ring the bell. Enter through side entrance." Because I am, at times, able to follow instruction (that shrieking laughter you just heard is two ex-wives and a handful of ex-girlfriends), I walked through the side entrance. (See, ladies? See?)

That put me in the brewing portion of the brewery - a mystery-shrouded cave-like expanse within the building only seen by street strangers like myself thousands of times at their many Cask Nights, parties, Bar Mitzvah's and Dean Martin Comedy Roasts.
In the Cameron's Retail, this is what is affectionately called "The Donny
Vegas Six-Pack." (Don't ask them. They'll pretend they don't know what
you're talking about. It's a little game we play.) It's three of those tasty
Dark & Sticky India Brown Ales and three of those equally-tasty 12 Mile
India Pale Lagers. I tell you, these guys keep me coming back for more!

There was a make-shift retail counter and their familiar beer cooler adjacent to it. A nice lady came over to help me. So I bought Ben's beer and a brewery glass but then started in with the questions. Starting with "What the hell is going on here?" Turns out, they're doing a little remodeling up front. She noted she didn't have all the details but she knew they were putting their Growler Station up there, redoing their retail area and perhaps even putting in some seats. So finally, a tasting, drinking section, I asked? Well, she wasn't sure. "I guess we'll find out as it's going on," she smiled.
While I got Beer Store Brother Ben three Dark & Sticky
IBA's and two 12 Mile India Pale Lagers, I threw one of
their Black Forest Dark Lagers into the Beer Mail, as well.
Pretty sure my man Ben was happy with the stash but hey,
Cameron's fresh from the brewery in the mail? Ka-ching!

It was kind of weird because I had been there just a week earlier and everything was as it always was. A little jarring to see my hometown homeys torn asunder. But... a new drinking section? Hey, man, I got time for dat. So I dug a little deeper with a friend there. They confirmed that yeah, the growler station info was correct, there would be more fridge space and there would be some seating, though it sounds limited. However, they added, "It will be more for by-the-glass, not a destination set-up." But they added they didn't think it was going to be a tasting room before your purchase. Ultimately, it doesn't matter because I'm two minutes away. I buy my beer, go home and drink it in the safety and security of the Man Cave.

So what do we know from the clues thus far? Not a destination set-up. A by-the-glass place, quite possibly. But not a tasting room. Confused? I know I am. Well, yeah, I always am but about this specifically, I mean. Even my befuddled friend was clear on the partial secrecy. "They aren't sharing all of the details."
Is it possible the Captain's Log Lager was named after Cameron's CEO
and co-owner, Bill Coleman, the thumbs-up dude here, after his time as
a pirate? Or that the Ambear Red Ale is named after that time he went
one-on-one with a brown bear and won? Or that the rebranded Cosmic
Cream Ale is actually a nod to his time as a NASA astronaut? Well, I
suppose it is possible in that "anything is possible" way. We don't know.

So you know what? Maybe I should just wait like the rest of the public and be surprised when the brewery has finally finished its new interior design, right?

Wrong. To put it into 14-year-old girl parlance, "O-M-G!! This is Cameron's. I love them because they're my hometown brewery. Until I know, I can't even..."

So I gave it another shot. With my brother in town, pile-driving into my craft-laden beer fridge, I was in dire need of a Donny Vegas 12-Pack, which consists of six 12 Miles India Pale Lager (a beer I will be heaping praise upon in an upcoming lager column) and six of their Dark & Sticky India Brown Ale. So down the hill I scooted to the brewery to see if I could find out anything else from a lost, wandering and potentially-chatty worker within the brewery. Now this visit, the "Ring Bell" portion of the sign had been covered up so I followed the remainder of the posted instructions and simply walked in the side-door.
I am standing where an administrative office used to be to take
this photo of the hollowed-out retail area. Once the renovations
are done, a growler stand will be set up where I am standing,
the beer fridge and other brewery products will be on the left
and on the right - yes! - a few chairs for people to enjoy a beer!
(That bell/buzzer was really loud so I suspect one day, an annoyed worker probably covered that portion of the sign. I know I would've.)

Here comes the weird part. Turns out that bell-buzzer thing actually serves a purpose. Because I stood alone at the retail counter for a little bit. Finally, I asked a passing worker if someone was working retail. He was very apologetic.

(Truth to tell, I was there less than two minutes and took the opportunity to wander into the ripped-up retail and make-shift retail to snap off a couple of photos. Was I suppose to wander freely like that? Probably not but hey, when Judgement Day comes, we can just add this to an exceptionally long list of my many misdeeds.)

So the worker walked to the front door, opened it and, yup, pressed the buzzer. A man emerged from a nearby hallway, ready to happily serve me. But hey, here I was, face-to-face with another employee so what the hell, I figured, let's see if he could fill in a few of the blanks.
This makeshift retail area within the actual brewery is actually a
combination of their former growler pouring station and the beer
fridge and products that previously adorned the retail area. Soon,
this'll all be shifted upfront to their brand spankin' new retail area.

And he did, which was actually him giving me confirmation of some of the bits and pieces I had been told so far. The east end of the retail where an administrative office once stood is where they are setting up the growler station. Prior to this, the station was always in the brewery so you handed the jug to them, they disappeared and then reappeared with a filled growler. The beer fridge and related products, such as T-Shirts and glasses, will be on the south wall while on the north wall, right beside the window where the retail counter previously stood? Yes, a small, probably three or four-seat window ledge table "where you can enjoy a beer before you buy some."

Because outside contractors, such as painters and electricians, are involved in the project, he confessed it was a little bit behind schedule. But he optimistically suggested it would be ready in three weeks so about halfway through April.
If you missed the Cameron's Brewmaster Taster Selection Four-Pack,
you missed a doozy. President and co-owner Bill Coleman handed this
bad boy to me when I had wandered in on the first day that the Dark &
Sticky India Brown Ale was available in individual cans. With the Black
Forest Dark Lager, Dark & Sticky and Ambear Red Ale, this lastest
mixed pack was, to my mind, the best and definitely darkest one yet. 
The poor fellow must not have dealt with many contractors in the past so I'm calling it mid-May. Since my neighbours have an extension being put on their house that was guaranteed to be done "well before Christmas" and I continue to see workers tracking mud in and out of their place, I perhaps have a little less faith in estimated timelines.

However, the contractors' portion of what needs to be done isn't extensive from his description so fingers crossed that I will happily be sitting in a brand new retail area by April 14th or so. I'm out of town in Las Vegas from April 9 to 13th and if their new retail was all sexy, sassy and set up when I got back... well, talk about a reason to be very happy I dragged my tired ass home.

Anyways, that's it for today. I'll be back soon with a look at Ontario's best craft lagers, a peek into the inner-working of Collective Arts with my old pal, Tony Cox and even a look at some of the big beers I had during my Birthday Week in Sin City. But Scooby Doo Gang, that's it, that's all and I am outta here. Until next time, I remain...