Two weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to attend my first Brew Donkey tour – Hidden History Adventures.
If you’ve ever been to a local beer event, you’ve likely seen Brew Donkey owner, Brad Campeau working a booth or sampling the wares or you might be familiar with his company from their efforts working through odd regulatory issues last summer. He’s one of the local beer industry’s biggest champions. He also runs brewery tours through Brew Donkey tours. For this particular tour, he enlisted the assistance of local historian, Andrew King. You may have read/seen Andrew’s work online or in the Ottawa Citizen. If you’re like me, you remember his involvement with Dominion City’s Brewing’s Beacon Ale pale ale. Rounding out the tour-team was Robyn the bus driver, who provided a smooth ride from stop to stop. Needless to say, we were in good hands.
After meeting down in the Market at the Breather room for SuzyQ donuts and roll-call, we hit the road for a day of interesting local sites and beer. The concept for the Hidden History Adventure came, as Brad explained it, from a realization that people like learning about beer and “other stuff”. While this tour paired beer with history,other packages include pairings such as beer with escape rooms and beer with curling.
Andrew lead the tour through Stop 1 as we explored a mysterious stone structure in the east-end before Stop 2 took the group into the cozy space of Waller St. Brewery. The Waller St. crew and Brad explained the brewing process while samples were distributed to the eager crowd. Head Brewer (and Engineer) Marc-Andre’s creative “keg rocker” was an unexpected hidden treasure.
Post beers, Brad instructed the crew to “mount up” (a term that is used more than one might expect… or want) and get back to the bus. The next three historical locations included a mysterious downtown movie theatre, an urban fresh water spring and, of course, the location of the infamous lost beer train tunnel. Between stops, the bus microphone dropped knowledge. Brad provided the lowdown on how to brew and appreciate beer while Andrew handled the historical set up. Between speakers, the bus sound-system played appropriate cuts from the Indiana Jones soundtrack. But also, there was a surprising amount of Phil Collins…
The final stop was Hintonburg’s Tooth and Nail brewery, where head brewer Matt Tweedy explained the delicious brews in our hands and his company’s ethos. We were also shown another brewery innovation, which was T&N’s “aroma” recapture system that turned fermentation vapours into condensation that can be flushed away as waste water, thus preserving their good neighbour status.
All in all, it was a fantastic tour. Both Brad and Andrew knew their stuff and were clearly passionate about sharing their knowledge. Plus, the beer was delicious!
This week, Brew Donkey opened a retail location at 987 Wellington St West, within Maker House. Visit Brad when the store is open, Tuesday-Sunday. Check brewdonkey.ca for info on their tours, growler exchange program and beer delivery service!