Growing amongst Niagara’s acres of grapes is a brewing community that has beer drinkers flocking to the Niagara Region in search of creative small batch microbrews. But these are not your typical mass-produced, found in a frat’s keg style beers. Focused on creating strong unique beers that mirror Niagara’s home grown produce, these small independent breweries are converting the once wine dominated region into a hot-spot for exceptional Ontario craft beer.
Brothers Brewing Co.
Pelham, Ontario & Various Restaurants in the Niagara Region
What Makes People Come Back: Experimental brews & a continually evolving roster of Pale Ales
Brewing is a family passion for twin brothers Colton and Asa Proveau. Co-owners and brewers at Brothers Brewing Co. in Pelham, Ontario, their craft brewery is a long harbored dream that has begun to take route within the Niagara Region.
Founded in 2014 on the goal of providing beer drinkers with well-crafted beers, this young addition to Niagara’s craft brewing circuit is quickly developing into a sought-after favourite on many local bars’ tap rails. Offering growing core-brands like their evolving Pale Ale series, a steady stream of experimental batches, periodic multi-brewery collaborations and a rotating selection of seasonal brews, the Proveau brothers are constantly experimenting and evolving their brand into something unique.
“When you’re so small you want to be so creative in every aspect of the process,” said Colton. “The idea was to make something fairly crafty that wasn’t readily available around here but was still drinkable and enjoyable. Something that people could drink and say ‘Oh that’s different’.”
Strategically choosing different educational paths to nurture their independent skills necessary to building a successful venture, Asa enrolled in Niagara College’s Brewmaster and Brewery Management Program while Colton chose the Business Administration program at Brock University. Following the two year program, Asa continued to dive head first into the craft, gaining experience from established breweries throughout Ontario and fine tuning his skills at Sleeman Brewery and Muskoka Brewery.
“We always want to brew with heart and versatility in it,” said Colton. “The reward is just being able to brew.”
It is this creative drive that has grown their evolving Pale Ale series and developed signature favourites like Tandem Pale Ale, White Stout and Pelham Pale Ale – the later brewed using their own home grown hops.
“The big breweries can’t come out with a new product on a whim because of the size of their production,” said Asa. “That’s what people like about the small guys. We come out with things on a whim that have diverse flavours and different takes on classics.”
Though they currently do not have a facility open to the public and brew on contract, Brothers Brewing Co. has made their beer widely available to the public – holding permanent taps at popular pubs Iggy’s Pub and Grub in Fonthill and Kully’s Sports Bar in St Catharines along with a dozen pubs on a rotating basis in Niagara, Guelph, Hamilton, Kitchener and Waterloo when excess beer is available.
Though they currently brew at Niagara College and on a homemade small scale electric system developed by Asa, Brothers Brewing Co. has big plans on the horizon to further expand and establish their brand once Colton graduates. This duo said they hope this expansion will allow for further collaboration with farmers and vineyards in the area, allowing for experimentation with wine barrel brewing and more seasonal brews.
“Niagara Region is a bountiful place and we like to use as much local produce as possible,” said Asa. “We were born and raised here and we are very influenced by that culture. We want our brewery to be more than just a manufacturing facility, we want to create something that the community can relate to and pride themselves in. We plan on working with local businesses, sourcing local ingredients to develop a really Niagara centric thing.”
209 Ridge Road N, Ridgeway, ON.
What Makes People Come Back: Unique and environmentally conscious brews
Sometimes, good and evil can create something exceptional. Inspired by their brewing environment, Brimstone Brewing Company, an independent nano-brewery located in a re-imagined 20th century church in Ridgeway, Ontario, is handcrafting distinct beers and expanding on traditional styles of brewing to create inspired blends.
What began as a hybrid between a glorified home brewing operation and a small scale commercial production, with great brews in place and mass expansions on the horizon, this small scale, environmentally friendly brewery is only growing more prominent with age. Having already outgrown their original 150 litre batch operation, Brimstone has since expanded into a 1500 litre batch brewery, featuring a beer hall, mini tap room and venue for local music.
Owner and head brewer Rod Daigle says this limited space for small batch brewing never hindered their creative process and if anything, allowed their beers to become more unique and evolve into something really special.
“We aren’t brewing by the glass – but it’s close,” said Daigle. “But brewing on such a small scale means you can play around with the flavours and create beers that are new and interesting.”
Featuring unique flagships and seasonal beers, Brimstone manages to cover a broad range of styles and tastes despite their brewery size. Though the majority of their beers are sold exclusively in house, Daigle, along with brewing partner Mark Stephens, are known to brew at a frequent pace multiple times a week to keep up with the demand.
“We brew two to three times a week and then the periphery work we fit around that,” said Daigle. “We brew our flagships pretty much constantly to keep up with demand and try to experiment as much as possible with the others. Our Enlightenment Pale Ale makes up 75 per cent of the beer we brew, we just can’t brew it fast enough.”
Other fan favourite beers include the refreshing and hoppy Hail Mary American Pale Ale and seasonal brews like their Bitchy Witch Pumpkin Ale, Midnight Mass Oatmeal Stout and the Cranberry Dunkel Weiss – refreshingly carbonated dark wheat ale that is fermented on whole cranberries.
But it is the emphasis on environmentally friendly brewing that has captured the attention and devotion of local beer consumers.
“Breweries use a lot of resources,” said Daigle. “An inefficient brewery can use three times its water to brewing ratio. We try to minimize our consumption of water; we recapture water with tanks inside the brewery and if there is extra water we pump it into other tanks and use it to wash with and water plants.”
Brimstone has also started a hops growing initiative that gets interested locals involved in growing hops with the help of rhizomes – small roots that are cut from the main root system of a mature hop plant – to help Brimstone cut down on their outsourced hops.
“We do grow our own hops, but we don’t use them exclusively because we would run out very quickly,” said Daigle. “We started the hop growing initiative by asking locals if they would help us grow hops. We had 25 interested locals – and we could have had even more. We sourced hop rhizomes from the Ottawa area and said if you grow these for us we will brew a Thank You Ale and have everyone in for a celebration.”
Included in their environmentally conscious efforts is a beer centric food menu that is constantly evolving to compliment the in house brews and make use of the produce left behind from brewing. Featuring gastro pub style food Thursday to Saturday, in house chef Matt Macgregor utilizes both the beers made on site and strictly local produce to craft home style food.
“Our chef utilizes the spent grains from the beer to make pretzels and pitas and then from there he makes fish tacos and others,” said Daigle. “Then the grains he doesn’t use he donates to a local farmer who raises quail and then exchanges that for local produce that we then use in our menus.”
The bar also features local music and open mic nights that have performers playing right amongst the brewery equipment, adding unique sounds and a unique experience.