Saturday, 20 July 2013

Fire and Brimstone: A Promising if Premature Visit to Brimstone Brewing

When I first learned of a pending nano-brewery in Ridgeway, Ontario, I got excited at the prospects of my future visits to nearby family and friends to no longer require a trip across the border to procure good craft beer in Buffalo.  Sure, I'd garnered no guarantee the beer would actually be good, but after spending some time with brewmaster Rod Daigle, I am pleased to report that my faithful optimism seems reasonable indeed.

Daigle and partner Jason Pizzicarola have officially opened Brimstone Brewing Company (facebook page here) in the same building as the Sanctuary Centre for the Arts - both so named due to their location in a former church.

Upon my recent visit, I got a tour and chat, over a taste of a (not-quite-ready) IPA in progress.  While their website states their aim as to "bring high quality, small batch (minuscule, really) craft beers to thirsty residents and visitors of Ridgeway and Crystal Beach, Ontario," Daigle articulates a more nuanced, evolving vision.  For him, with much of his life spent imbibing the aggressive, hop-forward IPAs of the North American West Coast, his personal vision involves bringing these more aggressive tastes and aromas to an Ontario market inundated with good, if not great, IPAs and Imperial IPAs with a constantly evolving selection of draught for the local market and the Sanctuary.  While that may not seem such a different goal from many in the burdgeoning Ontario craft beer movement, Daigle further envisions a process building towards this through a targeting of the local (perhaps less craft savvy) market, harnessing their beer evolution alongside unique brewing processes, such as the revival of an ancient, medieval stone-fired brewing technique.

Unfortunately, the purpose for my visit to Ridgeway was timed by family vacation needs and Brimstone's early success meant a complete sell-out of their first beers, while their first IPA batch hadn't yet reached maturity.  As it was close, we talked over a glass that wafted a faint piney and grassy hops nose that presented a decent balance in the mouth with strong resin notes and only faintly apparent immaturity in its slight apple hints.  The full body, alongside unfiltered hops resins made for a promising brew, if an incomplete one at the moment.  Moreover, I am assured of a pending recipe tweak to enhance the nose, though it is currently hopped with Cascade, Chinook, Centennial, and a Williamette dry-hop and hopback infusion.  Though evolving (in batch and recipe), this beer already topped many an IPA I have had and though I am loathe to make a definitive pronouncement at such a limited juncture, my intrigue has assuredly been strengthened!

The private tour displayed the next batch - in fermentation - of a Medieval-style stone-fired ale in which heated rocks are added to the wort allowing for rapid caramelization and smoky notes to build into a base of two-row pils malt with ale yeast.  A shame this oddity was weeks away and will be gone before my next return, but perhaps this process will lead to a refinement and I can return for the legendary output of this plan (in porter form perhaps, please?).  Certainly, it is through such unique endeavours that brewers can find their niche and create those oddities that we geeks so crave and, for this, I wish them every success!

The scale in the photo is the entirety of the brewing capacity, though it is about to triple with further plans of a future increase beyond that.  Other ideas and the opening of an on-site bistro abound.  I am anxious to see the fruits of these labours and the evolution from this strong beginning.  As it stands, the Sanctuary is already scheduled to host the first ever Albino Rhino Beertuberoolapolooza festival celebrating Niagara craft beer on Saturday, April 19, 2014.

In end to this prayer for future success, I will echo the sentiments from their shirts and glasses, "freshly Brewed, Craft Ale... Amen."

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