In Niagara-on-the-Lake, brewmaster Kevin Somerville, the co-ordinator of the brewery program at Niagara College, and partners, Mike Berlis and Cian MacNeil, have opened Niagara Oast House Brewers in a big red barn, the former Forum Gallery building near to the old town, at 2017 Niagara Stone Road.
The brewery has installed a brand-new 20 barrel (23.4 HL) brewhouse from Specific Mechanical of British Columbia, with 4 X 20 barrel fermenters and a bright beer tank.
The brewery will be offering some bottle conditioned beers in 750 mL bottles under cork and cage. They plan to grow a small amount of hops at the brewery, and to partner with other people to grow hops locally.
It’s been quite a transformation from my previous visit when it was all gypsum board and powdery white dust to its present state of a large bar in the tasting room and the spiffy new reception area. The upstairs function room overlooking a vineyard (surely you mean hop yard?) is still under construction.
Kevin Somerville brewing Barnraiser County Ale. Image: Caroline Hughey
“We are brewing more seasonals than there are seasons,” said Kevin Somerville.
Barnraiser Country Ale, 5 percent abv, has a polished golden colour, with fresh malt and a whiff of hops on the nose. On the palate, a refreshing hop bitterness is released from the grasp of succulent malt, with just a hint of grain. The finish is led by a refined hop bitterness neatly over-layed on a crisp malt base. Barnraiser is not a big bold beer but rather is of the type that grows on you with each successive mouthful. Moreish, which after all is what a beer should be all about.
The Saison, 6.4 percent abv, part of the Farmhouse Ale Collection, is brewed in the Belgian style. A milky white head of dense foam caps a hazy golden coloured beer. Zesty and spicy aromas rise distinctly from the glass. On the palate, this refreshingly crisp and fruity ale, has a tickle of alcohol and a gentle nip of carbonation. The finish of this bottle conditioned beer happily delivers more of the same.