Peterborough, Ontario is home to many things - Trent University, Sir Sanford Fleming College, the world's largest hydraulic lift lock (for the Trent Severn Waterway), Canada's Canoe Museum, and the OHL's Peterborough Petes hockey team. Peterborough is also home to a number of great beer establishments: St. Vernous Cafe & Taproom, Publican House Brewery, Ritz Deli North and the Olde Stone Brewing Company Brewpub & Restaurant.
My wife and I were sitting around the house yesterday morning wondering how to spend our Valentine's Day. BarVolo was hosting their first annual Black Sunday Cask Porter and Stout event, we could head there? Ceili Cottage's small ice rink (with a couple of pints) was tempting and close by? The family cottage was empty and a day of snowshoeing up north was discussed, but we eventually decided to jump in the car and take a drive somewhere we haven't been in a while - Peterborough.
We made it there in less than two hours and parked the car in front of Jon Conquer's Publican House Brewery. I hadn't been there since the fall of 2008 when I met Conquer to interview him for a TAPS article. We went inside and chatted with the lone employee who was washing growlers. She mentioned that the brewery is doing quite well right now. They are slowly getting their products into local bars and restaurants on draught and their canned beer, House Ale, should be in Beer Stores by May. I picked up some cans and together with my wife we headed back out to the street and headed into the heart of Peterborough's downtown.
Unfortunately many of the small storefronts were dark and shops were closed for the day, so after a brief walk around the area we headed back towards the Olde Stone Brewing Company and Brewpub for some lunch and some drinks.
The Olde Stone has been a fixture in Peterborough's downtown since 1996 and is located on the busy George Street. The all-ale brewpub features four regular beers and one rotating seasonal and are produced by Doug Warren who got his start with the Upper Canada back in the 80's. But more on the beer later.
The brewpub is split into two distinct establishments. When you walk in off the street you are faced with a dilemma - the door to the right takes you into Hot Belly Mama's, a Cajun inspired restaurant that features all the Olde Stone beers, and the door to the left leads you into the Olde Stone pub. We peeked into Hot Belly's Mama but I'm a pub guy, so we chose the door to the left and walked into the large, yet thin brewpub. Lots of wood. That's the first thing I picked up on. Creaky hardwood flooring with many miles on them set the tone and compliment the large thick wooden tables and chairs, offering a charming, rustic appearance.
The brewpub also features a fully exposed red brick wall that bares a mural of the original Olde Stone brewery. (The menu stated that there was an Olde Stone Brewery and Pub in operation during the late to mid 1800's not far from the current location) There are two chalkboards mounted on the brick wall that inform customers of what's on tap - both Olde Stone creations and guest taps from other Ontario breweries. There is also a garage door at the front of the brewpub that opens up in warmer months to create a streetside patio.
The bar is located at the back of the establishment and instead of the usual 'L' shaped or 'U' shaped bar the Olde Stone has a somewhat triangle shaped bar with enough seating for up to 12 people. Above the bar rests an old cooper malting mill. In front of the bar you might notice a warming glow on your behind. In the colder months at least, as there is a fully functioning stone fire place that the bartender stokes and keeps fuelled every so often. A large mirror hangs above it and separates rows and rows of shelving that hold beer bottles from all over the world.
All the brewing equipment is located in the basement and is behind large glass doors allowing customers to peer in and see Warren hard at work.
So back to the beer. As mentioned, there are four regular Olde Stone beers that are on at all times which are always joined by a seasonal - (regulars) Red Fife American Style Wheat, Pickwick's Best Bitter, Or Dubh Stout, and Wilde Old Ale, with the current seasonal beer being an IPA. I chose the sampler option on the beer menu, giving me the chance to try all the beers Warren produces, and at $5.60 for the five 4-ounce samples, it's a great deal.
The Or Dubh Stout was great. Heavy roasting of the malts produces a good amount of smoke in the nose and on the palate with touches of chocolate and some slightly bitter coffee notes. It finishes nice and dry and has me wishing I didn't have to drive back to Toronto. I feel the same way after drinking my samples of the Pickwick's Best Bitter (English style BB with a good hop presence, similiar to the Granite's), Wilde Old Ale (plum notes with a chocolately body and good bitterness in the finish - named after Oscar Wilde), and the IPA (an Ontario IPA with a good balance between malt and hop, but on the hoppier side). The Red Fife Wheat is made for those who prefer an easy drinking lighter ale. All very well done. Joining them on draught was Mill Street Belgian Wit, Mill Street Organic, KLB Raspberry, Creemore Traditional Lager, and Wellington Trailhead Lager. And a 20 oz. pint of the house beers will only set you back $4.99 (+tax)!
It turns out Warren is at the bar having lunch. We briefly chat while I sit in front of my samples and he explains the newest seasonal, The Pursuit of Hoppiness. "I made a New Year's Resolution to keep upping the hops in my IPA and then wait to hear the reactions of our customers. The first two batches went great and they were warmly accepted. After the third batch however, which was really hop forward, we heard that it might be too hoppy, so I took this one back a bit. The IBU's on this one are in the high 70's though," stated Doug.
The Olde Stone Brewing Company and Brewpub is well worth the visit to Peterborough. Good food, great beer, nice atmosphere, friendly servers, and a wonderful ambiance.
The Olde Stone Brewing Company