Follow beer writer, Troy Burtch, as he explores the wonderful world of craft beer and the pubs that serve it. Great Canadian Beer is a place to come to catch up on beer news, read tasting notes, check out event listings, and for pub previews and reviews.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Grand River Brewing: Cambridge, ON

It had been a while since I had gone on a small road trip to visit one of Ontario's many small breweries and the Saturday of the long weekend was the perfect excuse to do so.

My fiance and I jumped in the Jeep and headed west down the 401 to stop into the Grand River Brewery in Cambridge, ON, just south of Waterloo. The weather was dull and grey here in Toronto and I was exhausted after working all day and night at Toronto's Beer and Cocktail show, but I perked up with the thought of fresh beer from an emerging new brewery.

I guess I was dreaming of citrusy hops or the medium body of the mild, but I ended up driving right past our exit and we didn't clue in until we hit the Waterloo cut off. After gathering my bearings and re-grouping, we were in front of the historic building that hosts the brewery in 30 minutes.

We were promptly greeted at the door by owner/president Bob Hanenberg, who by all accounts is a stand up guy who is very proud of his brewery, as he should be. He welcomed us into the retail store and quickly whisked us up to the bar to sample from the excellent line up of Grand River's beers, including the new pilsner.

The Grand River Brewing Co. is just less than a year old with their first anniversary fast approaching this June. The brewery is located in a large building just off the main drag, nestled away on a quiet side street. And it's quite a building. The Galt Knife company occupied the building for over 100 years and much has been left unchanged. Huge windows throughout the building provide natural lighting helping cut down on electricity while creating a warm relaxing environment. The old wood from the defunct factory is still present in some locations but we are saddened to hear that it must be replaced with a 2 hour firewall to appease building inspectors. Bob admitted he would love to keep everything the same, capturing all the history, but unfortunately it doesn't appear it will all happen. He has managed to create a new world brewery with old school flair though.

The large ceiling is exposed with large post and beam rafters throughout the entire site. I don't know what it is but I love exposed ceilings (as readers of this blog may have picked up from other posts). Hanenberg has also managed to keep some relics around for decorations like an old press, cart and wagon and other foundry items. The exterior is a sight to behold as well. Old writing bearing the Galt Knife name still adorns the brick exterior and looks historic in its own right. The event and entertaining room is large and bright, offering plenty of room should the brewery host parties. It is a beautiful building and perfect for a brewery.

As mentioned, Hanenberg took us up to the bar to knock back a couple. We are the only souls in the large empty brewery which provides us with the time for an intimate chat. There are some big plans for Grand River and should they come to fruition, drinkers of fine craft beers will rejoice.

Speaking of good beer, I finally had the perfect chance to try the pilsner, the newest addition to the long line-up of Grand River's beers. Citrusy hops were clearly evident as I held the glass up to my nose, along with a touch of lightly toasted malt. The aroma was excellent and much more prominent than many other Ontario based German style pilsners I've tried.

I got more citrus in the taste, along with a yeast lighter but similar to a German wheat as well as some spicy notes from the two styles of Hallertrau hops (Hallertauer Mittelfrüh, Hallertauer Hersbrucker - known for their aroma). It has a nice light to medium body with a ton of things happening inside the glass to compliment its nice light golden straw colour. After the drive, all the talking and the sight seeing, the pilsner hit the spot bang on. The pilsner, named Hannenberg Pilsner weighs in at 4.5% and features only 13 IBU's.

It started to pick up in the retail store with individuals and groups coming into pick up growlers and sample the ales and lagers, so we said our goodbyes to Hanenberg, picked up a growler of my own and headed to Waterloo to drink and dine at the historic Lion Brewery Restaurant in the Huether Hotel.

Keep your eyes and ears open for news on Grand River's next seasonal brewed by brewmaster Rob Creighton. Hanenberg states that a Raspberry Wheat should be available sometime this summer.


Anonymous said...

A great brewery with great promise. I've heard that they have some financial problems and may not make it to the second anniversary. Let's hope that's not true.

Troy Burtch said...

Anonymous: I haven't heard anything like that floating around. I sure hope that it's not true.

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