In June and earlier this month, a spate of stories appeared on a new brewing venture, Blyth Cowbell Brewing Company, in Blyth, ON. Blyth, off the shore of Lake Huron in the southeast part, is about a three-hour drive from Toronto.
The Canadian Beer News has an informative account of the brewery, here. Further details on the origin and development of the project, including the founding Sparling family, are in this story from the North Huron.
The project is carefully thought through and impressive in scope. The Sparlings are building an ethically responsible, “closed-loop” plant on a sizeable farm which will grow barley, hops, and other inputs for the beers. There will also be a 100-seat restaurant overlooking the brewhouse.
Part of the business plan is the theme set out on the label of the first beer, the fact that in 1855 a rich landowner in England bought the town lock and stock but never visited his property.
It’s cool branding but there is much more to the brewery’s plans as the linked stories make clear.
Grant Sparling trained recently at Sunderland’s brewing school in England. Stephen Rich, with stints at Sweetwater Brewing and the former Beer Academy in Toronto, will help Sparling create a range of beers the first of which is Absent Landlord. Since the brewery is still being built, Absent Landlord is currently brewed under contract, in Hamilton, ON (I’d think at Collective Arts).
The beer is first-rate with a fresh and appealing flavour, quite yeasty but in a good way: there are no sulphide notes or that type of flavour. It’s not just a gateway beer, a term that tends to have a left-handed connotation, but a tasty and moreish one that stands on its own merits.
A Kolsch yeast is used and the beer is described as a “country Kolsch”. Unlike modern beers in Cologne, Absent Landlord is fermented warm with the goal to extract maximum flavour. It has a faint apple note, a touch of earthiness, and the flavour of fresh grains.
I plan to keep some cans for while to see if the yeast drops somewhat as I do tend to prefer a clear glass of beer, setting aside weizen and other styles which should be turbid.
Still, tumbling out of the glass after a bouncing trip from Stratford, ON where I found it at a LCBO, it was as tasty as could be. Perhaps this beer will be an example where it needs its full charge of yeast to have maximum effect.