I’ve long been a fan of Steam Whistle, and promise to write a longer post about the great relationship I’ve had with the good folks there over the years, including the direct delivery of kegs to my house that I had maintained when I lived on the mountain in Hamilton. But that’s another story.

I wanted to talk about pilsners and the concept that Steam Whistle idealized in their slogan, “do one thing really, really well” and how we’ve seen that same ideology work really well for start-up breweries.

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On a recent 5 day MLA (Our short term for a Mark/Liz Adventure) camping and beer tour across various parts of Southeastern, South central and Southwestern Ontario, we encountered a relatively new brewery that followed the same mantra.

Stone House Brewing Company was not part of the original tour stop plans, but the brewery popped up on an ad hoc Google Map search on my phone when we were traveling towards Goderich.

So, naturally, we had to stop in.

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The skies might look angry, but the people and beer inside were definitely welcoming

A beautiful stone building easily visible from the highway, the brewery was inviting and charming looking. Stepping through the front door brought even more personable welcomes from the people inside.

Using Canadian two-row malted barley, SAAZ hops (A type of Czech hop popular in brewing pilsner) and their own local well water, they have created a simple, crisp and delightfully refreshing pilsner.

As a smaller brewery, they mentioned wanting to take their time, work out a great recipe and then produce enough of it to meet the ever-growing demand from the locals who have been flocking in to check out their first beer. Because, early in their production cycles they’d found the desire from locals for more beer than they could produce their first main challenge. (A wonderful challenge to have, of course, but a challenge and issue to deal with just the same)

Fortunately, we were lucky the day we arrived, as they had both growler refills as well as bottles to go available. Their pricing was delightfully affordable and the taste that we had in their large open tasting room at the front of the building was satisfying and refreshing.

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I liked that fact that they were crafting a good beer and establishing a market (or taste) for it, before moving on to experiment with other flavors. It reminded me, of course (especially since since it’s a pilsner, like Steam Whistle), of the concept of doing a single thing, but doing it really well. And they’ve done a brilliant job of that.

I also like the fact that a pilsner, being a lighter, easier drinking beer, can often be used as a nice “gateway beer” for those who haven’t ventured far from larger, international brewery offerings. (IE, someone who doesn’t venture far from the standard “top 10” lagers that dominate the Ontario/Canadian market). A great pilsner like this allows those less venturous beer drinkers to give a local craft brewery a try, and, perhaps, something that’s good for all the smaller brewers out there, become willing to reach out for something beyond the “common” multi-national beers that most restaurants and pubs have on tap.

Someone willing to venture to a great local beer like this is that one more step closer to enjoying a craft beer with a little more dynamic flavor to it — because venturing from a light lager right into a hearty and hoppy IPA could be far too much for a typical Coors Light drinker. You have to ease them into the land of flavour, after all. You can’t force them into the deep waters right away.

In my opinion, the craft beer world needs great places like Stone House Brewing Company creating great “gateway” beers that offer just that. The more gateway beers, the more likely the masses who aren’t part of craft beer culture can experience a bit more flavour and variety in their brew. So long live brewers like Stone House – and we say to them: “Keep up the excellent, and flavourful work!

After a fun conversation with the folks at Stone House, Liz and I ended up purchasing a few bottles to bring home and realized, soon enough, that, it being a simple and refreshing beer, it was the first one we reached for the next couple of days when, after work, we wanted to pour and share our first day’s beer together. (IE, our very small local “well” of it went dry quickly)

Oh well, we’ll need to return to get more. The perfect excuse for another mini weekend MLA.

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