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Friday, January 28, 2011

Meet Barbara Ziola - Railway City Brewing Co.

 "Brew Crew" (l-r) Tom Anguish, Ziola, and Mike Gardner
Meet Barbara Ziola, Brewmaster at the Railway City Brewing Co. in St. Thomas, ON.

Ziola is a former Creemore Springs brewer who made the move to St. Thomas to take over all brewing responsibilities in 2008, a year after the doors were open at the brewery. The Dead Elephant Ale is her creation, which had a great year, winning a gold medal at the Ontario Brewing Awards and getting selected as the Speaker's Selection for Queen's Park.

Where is the Railway City Brewery situated and what beers do you currently produce?
Railway City Brewing Company is located at 168 Curtis Street, in the City of St. Thomas which is located in southwestern Ontario. We currently produce four beers, Blonde, Copper, Amber, and Dead Elephant Ale with a rotational seasonal. Our current seasonal is a Chocolate Cherry Porter which uses local sour cherries from Delhaven Orchards in Blenheim, ON

Describe the history behind the brewery.
Railway City Brewing Company was founded by Al Goulding and Paul Corriveau in 2006. In 2007 they purchased all of the equipment and one year later all of the renovations were finally completed. In January 2008 the first test batch was undertaken with the doors opening in April 2008. I came on board in October 2008 and took over all brewing responsibilities.

What is your best selling beer?
Our Dead Elephant Ale is what put us on the Craft Beer map and is the beer that is synonymous with our little brewery. Our Dead Elephant Ale was originally created as a tribute to Jumbo the Elephant, who was tragically killed in a railroad accident in the late 1800’s in St. Thomas. Incidentally, the Dead Elephant Ale was supposed to be a one off seasonal beer.

What's new at the brewery?
We just finished a very busy 2010 and are looking forward to a couple of months of relative quiet (and maintenance!) before the next busy season hits. In April of 2010 we won silver at the Ontario Brewing Awards in the IPA category with the Dead Elephant Ale and our Dead Elephant Ale was also chosen in May by the Hon. Steve Peters as the Speaker’s selection at Queens Park.

Why did you get into the brewing industry and describe your passion for it.
My passion for beer came from my father. I was born in Germany and from an early age I remember seeing the beer delivery man come to our house with my Dad’s weekly supply. When we returned to Canada my Dad took up the art of home brewing and with that came my lifelong interest in brewing. I vividly recall on more than one occasion the smell of wort boiling on the stove…I also remember the smell of that same wort boiling over as well.

Years later I was fortunate enough to cross paths with Creemore Springs Brewery which began my professional brewing career. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity that Gord Fuller and the Management Team extended to me.

What is the best aspect of working in the Canadian craft brewery industry?
The camaraderie of all of the breweries and their respective brewers. I am very appreciative of all of the help that I have received from other brewers. I would be remiss if I did not send a special thank you to Rob Creighton from Grand River Brewing Company who endured many calls from me during the early days of my tenure at Railway City Brewing Company.

Where can someone find your products?
We have our full line up of all brands at our retail store. Our Blonde (product # 132779) and Dead Elephant Ale (product # 175356) are available at select LBCOs. We are also available at a number of restaurants from Windsor to Toronto.

Tell us something about Railway City that not a lot of people know about.
Due to our size (and a major lack of square footage!) we do not have the ability to do test brews prior to brewing our seasonals. I formulate the recipes and then we go ahead and brew. It is a tricky prospect, but each time I gain a better knowledge of how the raw ingredients interact in relation to the final outcome.

What advantages do smaller breweries have over the big guys?
Local flavour. As a small craft brewery we have the privilege of being able to incorporate local ingredients into our products. One of the criteria for our seasonal beers is to showcase a locally produced ingredient. Some of our past seasonals include:
o Colonel Talbot’s Coffee Stout featuring locally fresh roasted Petrolia Blend coffee from Coffee Lodge of Petrolia/Sarnia.
o Honey Brown featuring local honey from Clovermead Apiaries of Aylmer
o Orchard Harvest featuring locally grown Macintosh Apples from Gredig’s Orchards, outside of St. Thomas
o Double Dead Elephant featuring locally grown hops from Elgin County
o Fire Roasted Mocha Porter featuring locally roasted Coffee from London’s Fire Roasted Coffee Company

Best time for a pint?
Anytime that I can enjoy it with friends and family.

What is the highlight of your brewing career?
It would have to be when my boss Gord Fuller (Creemore Springs Brewery) asked if I wanted to be a Brewer. A very close second would be the creation of the Dead Elephant Ale. It was my first attempt at producing a seasonal product and I knew that it would be special the moment I had my first taste out of the filter.

Cold clean lager, big hoppy pale ale, or a nicely roasted stout?
IPA all the way; however, nothing beats a big stout in the middle of winter.

Name your favorite non Railway City produced beer.
I spent 15 years in Nova Scotia and consumed a fair bit of Alexander Keith’s, I will still reach for it when the mood hits. I still am a big fan of the Creemore Springs Lager…old habits die hard.

How successful have the seasonals been? And what has been your favorite?
Our seasonals have really generated a huge interest in our little brewery. Each month we launch our latest offering by way of a small tasting party. The tasting party is always sold out within a few hours of being posted.

My favorite is the Dead Elephant Ale. What can I say, I am an IPA kinda gal!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I grew up in St. Thomas and get back to visit once in a while. I gave my neighbour a couple of the Double Dead Elephants last year. He gave one to his father who fasions himself as a beer afficinado. He proclaimed it the BEST bottled beer he has ever had!

I only wish I lived closer to home.

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