For cheese lovers interested in an extra day of cheese-learning and cheese-tasting, a second itinerary has been added to the guided cheese tours offered on the Friday before the third annual Great Canadian Cheese Festival.
The new Quinte Cheese Tour will visit two award-winning cheese producers, Empire Cheese and Maple Dale Cheese, with a lunch stop and tour of Ontario Water Buffalo Company, a pioneering water-buffalo dairy farm. A craft brewery, Church-Key Brewing, and a chocolate maker are also on the itinerary.
The popular County Cheese Tour continues, with stops at Black River Cheese, in operation since 1901, and the new County Cheese Company where cheesemaking will start this summer. Fifth Town Artisan Cheese will be added, if it has re-opened by May 31.
The third annual Great Canadian Cheese Festival takes place Saturday and Sunday, June 1-2, in Crystal Palace on the Prince Edward Fairgrounds in Picton, in the heart of Prince Edward County in Ontario’s Bay of Quinte Region. Cheese tours and a class on cooking with artisan cheese are offered on Friday, May 31.
The Great Canadian Cheese Festival is a multi-faceted event that annually attracts thousands of consumers to meet, learn, taste and buy the best in artisan cheese and fine foods and sample fine wine, craft beer and crisp cider.
Last year, close to 100 exhibitors and vendors and more than 3,000 consumers made the event the biggest cheese show in Canada representing producers from coast to coast. One-third of the participating cheese producers come from Québec, the leading artisan cheese region in Canada.
There is nothing like drinking maple syrup with your dinner—in a beer, that is.
Barley Days Brewery in Prince Edward County specializes in crafting seasonal beers for residents to enjoy with festivities. With spring’s arrival, the sap begins to flow and Barley Days offers customers a Sugar Shack Ale, brewed with maple syrup from nearby Fosterholm Farm.
Judging by the reaction from customers on the brewery’s Facebook page, the season-specific beers are a huge hit. Stocks of the Sugar Shack Ale sold quickly at the annual Maple in the County event and the brewery has almost sold out its entire 2011 batch.
The company also offers a Yuletide beer made with County cherries, a harvest ale made with local wheat, a dark ale, a Loyalist summer ale and a May bock for consumers who still desire a craft beer once the maple syrup has dried up.
Founded by Christopher and Norah Rogers, Barley Days offers local residents, tourists and LCBOs with a great-buy local option. Supported by sales driver Donna Sauvé and brewmaster Alex Nichols, the local business have created a winning recipe for success.
Situated at an old dairy farmhouse outside Picton, Barley Days has based its label and brewing on historical roots. In the 19th century, barley and hops were the cash crops of the County. The American demand for these ingredients was high and the settlers catered to the demand. Barley Days celebrates these boom years by reaching back to the days when barley enabled the County to flourish. With the recent winery expansions, the County is once again reliving the Barley Days.
As a craft brewery, Barley Days uses local, high-quality ingredients to cut down on shipping costs; yet, this allows the brewery to offer their seasonal, one-of-a-kind brews.
The brewery continues the local theme by using paintings by the famous artist, Manly MacDonald. Four different bottles use MacDonald’s paintings, which were famous for their depictions of area landscapes.
When MacDonald’s images cannot be used for bottles, Barley Days employs local artists, such as Aidan Haley, whose work adorns the bottle of the 2011 Sugar Shack Ale. Each year the brewery showcases these local talents when the various seasonal beers arrive in stores.
BARLEY DAYS BREWS
Wind and Sail Dark Ale 5% alc./vol: A dark, heavy ale based upon a nutty and chocOlate flavour is a nice addition to a hot winter meal. Availability: Year-Round
Harvest Gold Pale Ale 4.8% alc./vol: A golden, light ale spiced with apple and peach. Availability: Year-Round
Loyalist Lager 4.5% alc./vol: A smooth, easy-to-drink lager that is perfect for the hot summer days. Availability: Summer
Yuletide Cherry Porter 5.5% alc./vol: An unfiltered, cherry red porter that is a perfect supplement with turkey and cranberries. Availability: Winter
Working Man’s Stout 4.5% alc./vol: A heavy, roasted flavour is a perfect way to reward a hard worker. Availability: Winter-Spring
Sugar Shack Ale 5.5% alc./vol: The famous County treat is the strongest brew by Barley Days and goes well with pancakes or any spring treats. Availability: Spring
The beer is available on tap at nearby Waring House (same proprietors) which offers tourists and locals a chance to taste the seasonal beers along with a meal.Consumers can also find the brew at many Quinte area LCBOs, although selection may be limited to the year-round brews.
Troy Stewart, a recent graduate of the Post-Grad Public Relations Program at Loyalist College looking for a career in PR, maintains a blog called PR with Troy. He likes his cheese and he likes his beer.
The company logo says a great deal about the ethos of Beau’s All-Natural Brewing Company with the old-fashioned tractor symbolizing the hard work of Eastern Ontario’s farmers and the close family ties that strengthen their businesses.
Father and son team Tim and Steve Beauchesne founded Beau’s All-Natural Brewery on July 1, 2006. The family-run brewery also employs members of the immediate Beauchesne clan, in-laws, and close friends who have become like family.
When Tim and Steve started Beau’s, the pair had no professional background brewing beer; Tim ran a textile manufacturing company, while Steve worked for the provincial government. The idea of starting a family brewery was born over a pint in 2004. By 2006 Steve had moved home and the pair opened their craft brewery in Vankleek Hill, Ontario, an hour’s drive east of Ottawa.
“The idea of starting a brewery with my Dad just seemed like too much fun to pass up,” Steve admits.
The team noticed a void in the craft brewing business in Eastern Ontario, compared to the oversaturated Toronto-area market. They decided to brew a beer that reflected the Eastern Ontario geography and culture, because, as Tim said, “Eastern Ontario needs a beer to call its own.”
The Beauchesne’s secured Matt O’Hara as the Beau’s brewmaster. Matt has previously worked for Canadian beer makers McAuslan Brewing in Montreal and Upper Canada Brewing Company in Guelph, Ontario.
They focused on using local, natural ingredients to craft their suds. Their beers are made with certified organic malts and hops, and local spring water. There are no chemicals or fillers, and Beau’s beers are unpasteurized to ensure their flavour is pure.
“There are many, many reasons for this: supporting our community, stewardship of the environment, caring for the health of our customers,” Steve says. “But when it comes down it, for me, the most important reason is that I believe that organic ingredients make a superior beer.”
The Beau’s company also prides itself on being “totally D.I.Y.” – they brew, bottle, sell, market, and deliver their own products.
For the Beauchesne family, being a locally focused brewery means contributing to the community. Since April 2010, Beau’s All Natural Brewery has raised over $104,000 toward charitable works, community building, and independent arts, surpassing their goal of raising $100,000 in one year.
Beau’s All Natural Brewery began with a single beer, Lug Tread Lagered Ale, the company’s award winning, signature brew. In 2010, Lug Tread won Gold in the Kolsch category at the Canadian Brewing Awards. Along with Lug Tread, Beau’s also offers a line of seasonal beers and their Wild Oats line – an experimental, limited-release series geared toward true beer fanatics.
“The idea of drinking only one beer every day just seems wrong to me and so it also seemed wrong to only brew one,” Steve said.
The Beau’s collection features:
Lug Tread Lagered Ale: The signature Beau’s beer, and its most popular brew. Crisp and golden-coloured, Lug Tread is top fermented like an ale, then cold-aged like a lager. Lug Tread tastes of malt and hop with delicate fruit flavours.
Beaver River I.P.Eh?: This Spring seasonal offering is the Beau’s take on an India Pale Ale, combining European and North American brewing styles. It’s a hoppy, strong beer (at 5.5 per cent alc./vol.) tasting of citrus and earth.
Festivale Alt Beer: The Summer seasonal beer celebrates the Eastern Ontario festival season, and was first crafted for the Ottawa Jazz Festival. Alt is a German-style beer, and this interpretation is crisp and light tasting, with caramel flavours.
Night Marzen Oktoberfest Lager: Beau’s Fall beer, Night Marzen is a traditional harvest brew, with bready malt flavours and noticeable hops. It was created in 2008 to celebrate Oktoberfest and the Eastern Ontario harvest season.
Bog Water Gruit Ale: Bog Water, Beau’s Winter seasonal beverage, was inspired by the Alfred Bog, an Eastern Ontario landmark. The beer features a truly unique hop replacement: bog myrtle, an herb commonly used in brewing during the 16th century. Bog Water is a malty beer that tastes of an earthy bitterness with notes of plum.
When I think of cheese pairings, my mind immediately goes to wine: the two are a classic combination. Apparently, mine is not the only brain that works this way. At a beer and cheese tasting held at Black Creek Pioneer Village, one attendee admitted, “I never would have thought to pair beer with cheese”. Though it may be a less-obvious pairing, under the expert guidance of Julia Rogers, I learned cheese and beer can complement one another beautifully.
“Cheese and wine is such a known pairing, it has become a single word, cheeseandwine,” Julia said. “But I am more nervous when pairing cheese with wine. Cheese and beer work together every time.”
Julia explained that cheese and beer make sense together because they share a common origin: beer is made from grain (usually barley), and grain is one of the main foods consumed by dairy animals. This common source can be detected when tasting both cheeses and beers.
But being in a historical replica village, we, the tasters, had to go through a lesson on the history of beer in Canada before we got to test Rogers’s theories.
Black Creek Pioneer Village is set in the 1860s, and so our lesson focused on the state of the beer industry at that time. Many of the big-name Canadian brews lining liquor store shelves today got their start in the 19th century, including Labatt’s, Alexander Keith’s, and Sleeman’s.
These early brewers were part of the upper echelons of Canadian society, dabbling in politics, banking, and business, and they helped to build much of the country’s infrastructure at that time, including schools, churches, and banks. As my tasting companion remarked with awe, “Canada was built on beer.”
Black Creek Pioneer Village opened its own traditional brewery in June 2009. The beers are made as they would have been in the mid-nineteenth century. They are not carbonated, and are served at room temperature directly from the oak barrels in which they are aged. We sampled three of Black Creek’s beers: a brown ale, a porter ale, and an India Pale Ale.
Though initially I was repulsed by the warm, flat beer, my tastebuds gradually became accustomed to the style, and I grew to appreciate the simplicity of the traditional brews and the purity of their taste. The porter ale, a dark beer with notes of coffee and chocolate, was my favourite of Black Creek’s offerings.
After finishing our samples, we were finally introduced to the evening’s cheese selection. Rogers had come with five pairings: four Ontario cheeses matched with Ontario craft beers, and one Quebec cheese and beer pairing.
Julia explained there are different ways of creating a pairing. You can pair by the ‘weight’ of the two (such as a heavy-tasting beer with a strong cheese), by common flavours and aromas, or by regional and historical commonalities.
The first pairing was a Stracchino from Quality Cheese matched with Mill Street Brewery’s Lemon Tea Ale. The two worked nicely together, as the bread flavours present in the wheat beer paired well with the yeasty, tangy Italian-style cheese.
Our second selection included Niagara Gold, a Guernsey cow milk tome made by Upper Canada Cheese Company, and Black Oak Saison Ale. As the name would suggest, Saison is a seasonal beer, brewed at the close of the traditional brewing season, in March. It’s a refreshing beer with flavours of citrus and spice. The Niagara Gold, a savoury, buttery cheese, paired well with it, muting some of the stronger spice notes in the beer.
We then reached the Quebec pairing of Chevre Noir, a goat’s milk cheddar, with Rose d’Hibiscus, a flavoured wheat beer crafted by the Dieu du Ciel microbrewery. The attractive rose-coloured beer is sweet on the nose but has an acidic taste which comes from the hibiscus flowers added during the brewing process. The pairing was suggested by the brewer himself, and the man clearly knows his cheese as well as his beer. The tangy Chevre Noir was powerful enough to stand up to the strong-flavoured brew.
My tasting companion’s favourite pairing was the fourth, Jensen Cheese’s 3-year cheddar with Railway City Brewery’s Dead Elephant India Pale Ale. It was a bold pairing; the 6.8 % ale had strong flavours of grapefruit and hops that were complemented by the zesty, creamy cheddar. My tasting companion had nothing but praise for the pair, and he wondered aloud where he could buy each.
The final match was my favourite: Ewenity Dairy’s Brebette sheep’s milk cheese and Black Creek’s own porter ale. The fresh-tasting, bloomy rind cheese had a velvety texture. Rogers served it with a homemade fig and dark chocolate jam. The porter paired perfectly with the cheese and the sweet spread. Beer often pairs better with desserts and sweets than wine, further proof of the beverage’s versatility.
As the evening wound down, the last of the cheese was eaten while Julia chatted with her students. Meanwhile, my tasting companion, never one to be shy, requested a second glass of the Railway City IPA, and as he savoured his brew, he vowed to create his own pairings at home.
In her latest newsletter, the cheese and wine expert declares beer is a better partner for cheese than wine. This from a lady who spent the last five years earning an internationally recognized Diploma in Wines and Spirits from Wine & Spirit Education Trust in England, the world’s leading provider of wine education.
Julia says beer is best because it works with cheese on four levels:
Physiological – It serves as a counterpoint to salt in cheese and “scrubs” fat and protein off the tongue;
Sensory – The primary tastes and aromatic features of beer and cheese are highly compatible;
Intellectual and spiritual – Beer and cheese are among the primal foods of the human race. Enjoying them returns us to ancient roots.
Put simply, pairing beer with cheese makes for a stellar match. In her newsletter, Julia goes on to suggest 10 pairings. The one that caught my eye—seeing how I like my beer dark and my cheese strong—was Trois Mousquetaires Imperial Baltic Porter and Ciel de Charlevoix, both from La Belle Province. (Another reason to look forward to June and a planned excursion to Montreal and Warwick.)
On June 17, Julia will pair with brewmaster Sam Corbeil to present a tasting class entitled Patio Season Beer, Wine and Cheese at Leslieville Cheese Market in Toronto. She also has something planned on heritage beer and cheese at Black Creek Pioneer Village with details still being worked out.
Georgs Kolesnikovs, who has been known to enjoy a dark ale or three, is Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca.