I’m just back from a week’s vacation in Collingwood on Georgian Bay, where I went to about 4 different local craft breweries and wineries, tasting my way through their portfolios. One of the best breweries visited was Side Launch Brewing Co. (sidelaunchbrewing.com; 705-293-5511) named after Collingwood’s historic ship building industry where ‘lakers’ and military vessels were built and launched by slipping them sideways into the water from their construction dry dock parallel to the water’s edge. This is unlike the method we all know where the dry docks are perpendicular to the water and ships are launched stern first, like the pictures you have no doubt seen of the ‘Titanic’ launching at Harland and Wolf shipyards in Belfast, Ireland. We had just returned from Ireland and Scotland a couple of weeks earlier, but more about the visits and tastings from there in future articles.
I arrived at a very large modern (glass and beam) building in Collingwood where they had a large patio and BBQ set up. Inside was a long tasting bar and the sheer number of 2 storey stainless steel tanks behind the bar reminded me of a nuclear submarine missile bay! There were many brews on tap and new versions are being produced all the time. That’s one thing about any brew master. They are creative and always experimenting until they hit another brew for public consumption. If I could use one phrase to describe the beers here it would be “balance in harmony.” Cole served us and was quite knowledgeable about the beers and entertaining us with great conversation while telling us about the place, the brew master’s goals and answering all my questions for this article.
My wife was with me so we ordered two flights of different beers, maximizing the opportunity to share tasting notes with you. Pineapple Sour IPA 5.8%abv: pale yellow, light citrus aroma with notes of bread, medium mouth body feel with lighter sour acidity you expect and with balanced pineapple taste coming through; pleasant and refreshing citrus and pineapple on the finish. Passionate Sour 4.3%abv: passion fruit with toasted coconut, yellow colour with totally balanced flavours of passion fruit and coconut; a great beer! Hibiscus Sour 4.2%abv: lovely salmon pink colour; harmonious hibiscus tea nose with raspberry puree; very well done; Mountain Lager 4.7%abv: a Munich style Helles; golden colour with lovely light spritz in a drier lager style; Wheat Beer 5.3%abv: their flagship beer; an award winning authentic Bavarian style unfiltered wheat beer with notes of banana, spicy clove, and citrus. Using traditional special yeast, this gold and hazy beer is highly carbonated and has excellent head retention, and I picked up fruity blueberry notes; Dark Lager 5.3%abv: mahogany colour, light malt (chocolate notes), well balanced with coffee bean taste on a light to medium finish; Any Day Hazy IPA 4%abv: light hazy yellow with a citrus nose and the same replay on the finish; Hazy IPA 6.4%abv: hazy golden, a modern style IPA with malt, oats, wheat, hops, and caramel tones, along with tropical notes of papaya and mango; medium-bodied and fruity with a refreshingly crisp finish; Peach Light Lager 4%abv; clear yellow colour with peach on the nose and taste; an exceptionally low in carbs and calories premium lager with an infusion of vibrant natural peach flavours making this (as they say) “a guilt free summer crusher!” A uniquely lovely brew in this hot weather we have been enjoying.
I noticed some oak barrels behind the counter among the steel tanks and was informed that this is the new experiment by the brew master – cherries with chocolate in oak barrels to see what happens! Don’t laugh. There are several commercial breweries doing this now, one of them being O’Fallon Cherry Chocolate Dark Wheat, a dark wheat beer that tastes like a chocolate covered cherry using four kinds of grain along with natural cherry and chocolate flavors for a smooth, delicious brew, perfect sipping beer for the cooler winter months. It is from St Louis, Missouri.
Next issue, I will tell you about my experience at Thornbury Craft Co., the other top, multi-award winning brewery, where they make a range of high quality ciders and beers. They started in the late 1800s as a fruit growing operation and by 2016 they became part of the Colio Winery Family of Lake Erie North Shore, the southernmost and warmest wine appellation region of Ontario, and the first winery to be licensed in Southwestern Ontario.