BIG Makes a Splash in Guelph, ON


(BIG means Brewers in Guelph, discussed further below).

Last night we attended Guelph Civic Museum’s formal reception for the opening of its excellent “Brewing Changes Guelph” exhibit which runs to the end of February next year.

Guest curator Eric Payseur, a historian engaged to consult on the project, spoke along with curator Dawn Owen.

They explained the genesis of the program and thanked the many persons who helped make it possible. I mentioned earlier John Sleeman and Charles MacLean but was glad to hear also names such as Lawrence Sherk, who was there and a pleasure to meet, and Gordon Holder.

All who know the roots of post-1970s interest in Canadian beer and brewing history know these names. I met Jim Duffy too who remembered me from the Bartowel discussion forum days.

Lawrence Sherk is a pioneer in the collection of Canadian beer labels, containers, and related collectibles. He started his work in 1972.

There were others to chat with but our time was limited.

BIG are releasing a beer a month to salute the exhibit, starting with Wellington Brewery’s Way Hey Hey, a session bitter style. The beer is meant in a general way to evoke the kind of beer made in Wellington County by early British incomers. It doesn’t replicate a historical recipe as such, we believe.

It was debuted in town at the historic Albion Hotel, now a restaurant-bar where we had an excellent dinner. A comfortable old country tavern it remains despite some updating and attention to the menu.

The beer (pictured above) is on the light side, a latter-day Wellington Brewery characteristic in our view. As it warmed and decarbonated some virtues came out: lightly sweet, with an interesting orangey hop note. I thought it might be lightly spiced or even use a heritage hop culled from an old hop yard.

It will be available on cask in some places and this form would show it to best advantage. You can buy it by growler and at the bar of the Wellington Brewery, currently.

In the Albion is an old painted window of a youthful Eastern dignitary. It seems inspired by mythological, religious, or other art of India. The image might date from around 1950 when there was a “Raj” theme to some bar decor in Canada. I remember seeing survivals in Toronto in the 1980s.

The dark wood in the bar and parts of the restaurant seems mid-1900s but could be older.

The Albion is clad in 19th-century stone and the whole makes a certain impact. The structure was once a town hub and it continues in dignified old age.

A nice evening in a handsome, liveable town. Some streets retain a Scottish rural aspect, as you see below: it could be a street in any number of Highland towns today, down to the impassive sky grey.