The recent news of Steel Toad Brewing Co. Ltd. closing as of January 31, 2018 sent some mild shock waves through the brewing community.
English translations included
The Quidi Vidi Brewery could not be in a more scenic spot. Quidi Vidi harbour, or “The Gut”, is a tiny rocky inlet only accessible by a 20 ft gap in the rocky hills that line the Atlantic coast near St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Part of the problem is the beer tastes of Canada’s most beer-thirsty province. The vast majority of beer sold in Newfoundland is light beer. Finding craft beer in most outlets, which includes gas stations, is almost impossible. The generic and the macro dominate. The biggest seller is Coors Light.
And so Quidi Vidi’s best sellers are light lagers.
In our tasting, 4 of the seven beers offered were lagers and pilsners. The most unique of these is their Iceberg Lager. Made using water harvested from the icebergs frequently seen on the coast, it comes in a tall pretty blue bottle. Our host told a story of how people would keep the bottles. They eventually asked the local tv news station to broadcast a plea for their return. In a place where little of real excitement happens, it led that evening’s newscast.
The other three beers we tried were a cream ale, an amber, and a British IPA. None of these made this hop head perk up. All seemed to be timidly brewed in hopes of not offending Newfoundlanders’ tastes.
And the labels, though not all important, were as bland as the beer. All the beers other than the Iceberg are sold in standard Newfoundland bottles; no bombers and no growler fills, so there was little differentiation from the big macro brewers.
But the tasting host told great stories. And seven tasters for $10 Canadian was a good deal. Still, most craft breweries open tasting rooms where patrons can sample what they like and socialize with their fellow drinkers.
As I mentioned in my post on Quidi Vidi Brewery, Newfoundland is not a hotbed of craft beer. They like their beer cold and low in alcohol. But they drink more beer here than in any other province in Canada, so I was hoping someone would be helping these prolific beer lovers discover the joys of craft beer.
And sure enough, a brave group has done just that in the village of Port Rexton on the Bonavista Peninsula.
There’s no shortage of reasons to visit Newfoundland. Every Cove and cranny in the rocky shoreline seems to harbour a quaint hamlet of colourful salt box houses and even more colourful people.
Port Rexton is no exception. In fact as of 2016, only 340 souls lived here. The biggest tourist draws are nearby Trinity and the scenic Skerwink trail.
And now beer lovers have a reason to include Port Rexton in their Newfoundland itinerary.
When we arrived at the brewery a little before the 2pm opening, there were already people waiting. By two there were about 10 customers ready to sample their wares.
Finally the doors opened. We were immediately greeted with one of my favourite smells: boiling wort; the stage of the brewing process where the malts and hops combine. They were brewing a batch of blonde in the brewing area right below the tasting room,which was amply filled with long tables perfect for meeting fellow drinkers.
Even though there were only 4 beers on offer at the time, none of them disappointed.
First up was the Mr. McWheaty Pants wheat beer. It was the perfect refresher on a warm day on the sunny deck filled with Muskoka chairs. It would have paired nicely with the grilled cheese truck on site, but unfortunately it didn’t open until 3.
Next up was the T-Rex Porter. Right on style it had the perfect toasty malt and light hops made famous by the original London brew. I later enjoyed this beer at the Bonavista Social Club which I’ll describe in a future posting.
The porter was followed by a simply wonderful saison called East Meets West, brewed in collaboration with Moody Ales of Port Moody, British Columbia. With perfect peppery, fruity, funky goodness, it was the best of the four by far.
Last up was the James Brown brown ale. An excellent representative of the style.
That saison was so good we had to share a full 500 ml mason jar of its golden goodness, accompanied by plenty of yums and aah’s.
Port Rexton Brewing is as good as any brewery on the opposite coast. If you can drag yourself away from the beauty of the Newfoundland countryside, you must stop in!