What’s brewing this summer?

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by Andrew Coppolino | June 2021

With The Beer Store reporting losses of just over $50 million in 2020, it’s an indication that the brewing landscape is changing – and deliciously so. The pandemic has also been a contributor to its growth as craft beer and small-batch breweries saw a boost in sales as they continue to gain market share.

It’s a testament to the craft brewers’ inventiveness and imagination, and that includes the many breweries that dot the landscape in Waterloo Region.

Here’s a sampling of a few local breweries and what they have on the brew menu for the summer months.

Farm League Brewing, Cambridge

Farm League Brewing recently opened in the ample space of the former Grand River Brewing (and the former Galt Knife Company founded in 1913). As a new business, Farm League is happy to be in The Big Show of brewers in Waterloo Region.

Co-owner Collin McKinnon says that their brewer, Mike Mayo, is rolling out about six recipes as their patio season gets into full swing a bit later in July.

“I’d say one of our specialties is Belgian Saison, but the space here will allow us to brew a real variety. We’ll have some sours, Kolsch, IPA, a farmhouse ale and a light lager,” McKinnon says. “There will also be several collaborations both with other breweries and non-brewers from the community.”

Because Farm League has just opened, everything is new, according to McKinnon who is looking forward to the day Covid-19 restrictions are lifted and indoor food-and-drink resumes. Until then, they’ll be on the patio and looking forward to developing the brew lineup while honing their beer edge with several unique creations.

A good chef has a knife for each job; a brewer has hop and style for each beer. “To tell a brewer to brew only one beer is like telling Jimi Hendrix to play only basic barre chords,” McKinnon says.

I’m looking forward to a Purple Haze IPA, if and when Farm League tackles that riff.

Block Three Brewing Company, St. Jacobs

This beer is perfectly timed: being released right about now – no really, right now – Block Three has a Belgian-style witbier with coriander and orange peel. “It’s bright, dry and very refreshing at about 4.5% ABV (alcohol by volume),” says brewer Kevin Freer. “It’s funny because I am literally transferring this to get carbonated as we speak. It’ll be out next week.”

Otherwise, Freer has also launched Mo Money IPA (4%) featuring all mosaic hops. “There’s classic mosaic vibes with blueberry and melon aromas,” he notes. It sits at 6.5%. Next, Hollaback gose is a traditional German-style sour wheat-ale with coriander and sea salt. Freer says it’s tart with a mild salinity and extremely refreshing. “The Hollaback gose with peaches is essentially the same as the Hollaback but with peaches, of course. This is one of my all time favorite beers that we make,” he says.

You can also look for a couple of fruited variations of Fickle Mistress, Block Three’s dry-hopped kettle sour. “It’s BlackBerry because it’s Waterloo Region, so you know…. There is also Blood Orange Creamsicle which has blood orange, vanilla, and lactose which we have done in the past.”

The final summer’s creation is something Freer expresses great anticipation for, although it’s slightly off the beer path and more along the path to the orchard. “We are now licensed to make and sell cider and wine,” he says. “Initially, we’ll be focusing on a dry cider using local apples we are calling “Offshoot” in cans and kegs, before moving into other varieties and flavors. Eventually, there may even be some red and white wines.”

Willibald Farm Distillery & Brewery, Ayr

According co-owner Cam Formica, there is always something brewing at Willibald, a trifecta of distillery, brewery and restaurant situated on the 100 acres of a former farm once operated by the family of one of the Willibald owners (in fact, some of what you eat and drink at Willibald comes from crops grown on the property).

As for beer, Formica says the brew wheels of imagination are always turning and the doors of flavour perception are always opening on to something new.

“We always have a tonne of new products on the go beer-wise,” he says. “But right now, we’re really excited about our new range of fruited sours called ‘Acid Trip.’ We currently have a version with passion fruit and one with cherry. There are several more iterations scheduled for July which will replace those two once they’re gone.”

The Willibald outdoor Biergarten, featuring both cans and draft, is open Friday to Sunday. To paraphrase Timothy Leary, “Turn on, tune in, and drop by Willibald.”

Counterpoint Brewing Company, Kitchener

As a wee but mighty venue on Victoria Street at Frederick in Kitchener, Counterpoint Brewing counter-punches above its weight with beer that is unique at the same time it strives to take care of the planet – and perhaps the oceans too, as co-owner Graeme Kobayashi would have it.

“As we dive into the depths of a two-dose patio season, we’re letting the weather steer the ship. Crisp, low ABV beers are on the manifest to ensure we can quench our customers’ thirst without spoiling afternoon Zoom meetings. And as always, we’re brewing big hoppy beers because nothing beats an IPA,” Kobayashi says.

Kobayashi adds that the good ship Counterpoint has taken a tack that is designed to help the environment as well as flavour.

“With an increased focus on sustainability, we’ve sourced more Ontario ingredients to experiment with the local terroir while reducing our carbon footprint,” he says.

This is one time when a three-hour tour might be just what the Skipper ordered.

TWB – Together We’re Bitter Co-operative Brewing, Kitchener

TWB gets together again with the return of their popular Hydrocut Session IPA and two new variations in addition to the original. These are named after some of the brewery’s favourite Hydrocut trails: Adam’s Run Double Dry-Hopped and Sweet Street Blood Orange.

These beers see a portion of can-sale proceeds going to supporting the Hydrocut.

If you should find the Hydrocut all gone, TWB owner/worker Alex Szaflarska points to their Patio Stout.

“Dark beers on patios are sometimes rare. But be it a rainy day, breakfast pint, or you’re that person that drinks stouts in 35-degree heat, your fridge isn’t complete without something you can’t see through. That’s why we prepped our Patio Stout. Nice and light like it should be on a patio, but dark and roasty like it should be for dark beer lovers,” she says.

Barncat Artisan Ales, Cambridge

Cambridge’s Barncat is not pussyfooting around with a few tomcat-strength beers. Their Cats in Space is a 100% Galaxy-hopped DIPA at 8.5%, while Extra Juice IPA, hopped with Citra and Motueka, registers a nicely juicy 7.3%.

There’s no sign of Vonnegut satire in this Cat’s Cradle, however: they’re serious about a farmhouse ale that’s aged for nine months in Ontario Chardonnay barrels with Brett and dry-hopped with Nelson Sauvin for 7% – it’s sure to entangle you in its flavours and quality.

Finally, you can peace out on Green Out, Barncat’s American-style barleywine that’s hopped solely with, of course, Columbus to give you 9.5% enjoyment.

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Descendants Beer & Beverage Co., Kitchener

The flavour profile possibly gravitates toward a Gimlet, Margarita or a Mojito with its fresh, summery vegetation, but the crew at Descendants have just put out a cucumber-mint beer that ought to grab attention as a thirst-quencher when it’s hot time summer in the city.

“We love the cucumber-mint combination,” says Descendants’ co-owner Lee Brooks.

There’s more new brews for summer from the brewery located on Victoria Street at Lancaster. “We have also just formulated a lower-alcohol stout for the summer. It will be great for stout drinkers but not heavy. That includes me. I’m pretty excited about it as I drink stouts year round,” says Brooks.

There is no summer release date as of yet.

Shortfinger Brewing Co., Kitchener

In the last days of June, Shortfinger released their next iteration of “No Fixed Abode,” according to Shortfinger co-owner Kat Rogers-Hern.

“This No Fixed Abode is our collab with Revel Cider, out of Guelph. This version is a blend of our saison and their perry, aged on crabapples and Marechal Foch grapes,” says Rogers-Hern, who is a Prud’Homme beer sommelier and accredited by the Beer Judge Certification Program.

You might also anticipate another Shortfinger creation that works into the mix of ingredients the spiky-gnarly hot neon pink-hued but white-fleshed pitahaya that is native to Central and South America by way of southeast Asia.

“Rob (co-owner Rob Hern) is working on a yet-to-be-named barrel-aged golden sour with dragon fruit, mint, and salt. That one will be out later on this summer,” says Rogers-Hern.

The pitahaya, or dragon fruit, looks like a grenade: I’m sure the unnamed beer will be a flavour bomb.

There are beer alternatives too

Block Three Brewing will make seltzers this summer and perhaps a “trial batch” of hop water, Freer says. They are also working on a malted beverage re-fermenting beer with grapes and using wild yeast and bacteria in the St. Jacobs air.

“While it’s legally beer, it presents much like a natural wine or a pét-nat (pétillant naturel which translates to something like “naturally sparkling”),” said Freer. “It’s similar to a Belgian gueuze in process, but very different flavour-wise due to our local ingredients.”

Foundry Brewing in Cambridge jumped aboard the hardwater seltzer train early, and it may have been the region’s first into the stationhouse, according Foundry’s Kyle Priestley says.

“It was a strange time to launch during the pandemic last year,” said Priestley. “But we did a drive-through offering a free six-pack and ended up gridlocking the entire downtown.”

Using Champagne yeast, the seltzer is 85 calories and gluten-free. Flavours include orange, lemon and ginger.

Four Fathers Brewing in Cambridge had a successful trial run with their malt seltzers last summer, so they’ve just launched three this past May: blood orange, mango-pineapple and black cherry.

Jackass Brewing, also in Cambridge, will have about 500 litres of cream soda ready for sale by June, according to owner-brewmaster Keith Saunders, who describes the malted beverage as a light pilsner.
“It’s a natural brewed colour with no dyes. It will be flavourful and 5.5%.”

Waterloo Brewing’s Landshark seltzer is lower calorie, made with real fruit juice and available in lemon-lime, cherry-peach and pineapple-mango. As well, their lineup of radlers (a blend of beer and soda) is low in alcohol and includes grapefruit, pineapple, tart cherry and watermelon flavours.

Wave Maker Craft Brewing owner-brewmaster Scott Pautler says they are currently working on seltzer recipes in their Cambridge facility.

Willibald’s has gone the spirits route for another summer beverage: Formica says the drinks – strawberry-rhubarb, bumbleberry, “purple” (grape) and key lime – are vodka-based and gluten-free with about two grams of sugar per can.

“These are popular with men and women between 20 and 45 years of age. We’ve got watermelon too and cherry-mead, which is a collaboration with Rosewood Estates Winery in Beamsville,” he said.

By the way, it was Homer Simpson who suggested that purple is a flavour. This summer, I’m good with it.


Andrew Coppolino is a writer-broadcaster, and is a food columnist with CBC Radio in Waterloo Region. Following a stint as a cook at a restaurant in Kitchener, Andrew chose to work with food from the other side of the kitchen pass. As a food writer, he is dedicated to promoting and nurturing culinary businesses and advocating for local chefs and restaurants. Andrew’s work has been published in newspapers and magazines across Canada, the United States and England. Follow him on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.


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