Meet Victor and Sonja North, the couple behind Garden Brewers. They were recently pitted against Mark and Mandie Murphy in a cute/sincerity-off, but both couples simultaneously elected to make cheese fondue and play Scattegories instead.
Sonja has been involved with the local beer scene, particularly through her work with Black Oak (where Garden Brewers contract brews). Victor has been brewing for years, both at The 3 Brewers, as well as working with The Ship in Hamilton. Proudly Hamiltonian, they bring a swath of shared experience and passion, and are already making a difference in the young — but growing — craft scene in The Hammer. Their first offering, a smoked pepper ale is nothing at all like the lite lagers so many steeltown blue collars drink, yet it’s a beer that could actually make inroads even with the most fubar-esque Defasco worker. For the growing crowds of young artistic and professional people gentrifying Hamilton, it’s a wonderfully complex and different brew.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, that doesn’t say “Piper Ales”, it says Piperales. “pee-pay-Rrrrah-lays”. Really roll that “R”!
From an industry sample bottle, Piperales Black Pepper pours a hazy deep brown with traces of red. A low 1″ dense head drops to a decent ring and a bit of fuzz. Aroma is woody/peppery, with a touch of smoke and chocolate. Taste is lovely: mostly subtle flavours playing around a dark brown ale (it’s listed as an amber ale, but it’s pretty dark). There is smoke, but it is not aggressive, and with the chocolatey notes from the malts, it hints more at coffee than campfire. The pepper adds a bit of a spicy peppery bite, but it’s quick. There are some herbal hops but they just keep the sweet malts in check. The finish lingers just a little smokey and sweet. Just a touch of dry bitterness from the hops and smoke to punctuate the experience. A fairly notable medium body with the complexity keeps this a nice slow sipping beer. A very tasty and interesting beer. Smoke is not an easy element to use with a light hand. To get it to show up just enough to play with the malts shows that Victor has spent more than a few hours making, tasting, and tweaking this one. And the effort was worth it. A great beer out of the gate, something totally different from the usual hoppy first offerings from so many new breweries. Look for more breweries to follow in Garden Brewers and Left Field’s recent trail-blazing and open with well-crafted “alternative” brews.
Cheers to Victor and Sonja, keep up the great work!
Garden Brewers made the festival rounds this summer, but if you didn’t catch them there, you can find them at a handful of bars around Hamilton and Toronto. Check their website here to get the list.
Drink It With
Well, the most obvious would be some kind of nice BBQ. Maybe brisket? But any meat cooked over a flame is going to work well here. I would also suggest charcuterie/salumi. Nice salty rich preserved meats could offer a cool counter-point to the sweet/smokey/peppery beer. For cheese, you could reach for a smoked cheddar, but I would almost rather see this one of those situations where you let the cheese support the beer, rather than the other way round. Go for a simple young creamy cheese. Maybe even just curds to offer a bit of salt.
About The Brewery
We are contract brewers, brewed with pride at Torontos Black Oak Brewing Company. Black Oak is a champion of consistency and quality within the Ontario craft brewing community, and we are thrilled to be produced at such a stellar brewery by such wonderful people. While we are a small contract brewery, Garden Brewers mission is to grow into a touchstone business of Hamiltons ongoing revitalization. We do not want to mislead anyone or contribute to the growing “hype fatigue” amongst craft beer fans, but we must be plain about our ambitions: We want to build a “Bricks and Mortar” brewing facility in our city. No- we don’t know when. But we do know how and with the support of beer lovers like yourself, We believe that we can thrive and eventually blossom into the brewery that Hamilton deserves.