A couple of weeks ago the family and I were on our way to a wedding in Barrie, ON. There had been talk of either before or after the bride and groom kissed that we’d get to visit and perhaps go on the tour of one of my favorite Ontario breweries the Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery. Due to time constraints it looked like we weren’t going to be able to even visit, but upon looking at the map and noticing that the brewery was EXACTLY one block away from where the happy couple were tying the knot, we made an exception and took a visit.
Formally known as the Robert Simpson Brewery (According to the official announcement of the name change the reason they gave was “Because being named for a dead white guy just isn’t very exciting. Where’s the fun in that? Beer is supposed to be way more fun than a history class.”), this Ontario brewery is known for it’s wonderful design sense, twisted humour and, most importantly, it’s love of just screwing around with beer and coming up with some wonderful brews. With five year-long brews in constant production along with a long list of specialty brews, these guys keep busy and they love to mess around.
Before visiting the brewery, I was already a fan of the two brews that made them famous. Hoptical Illusion Almost Pale Ale,a beer hoppier than most Ontario brews with hints of citrus, and Netherworld Cascadian Dark Ale, which was originally Netherworld Imperial India Porter, but due to a batch that ended up having coffee tones that smothered any other flavours, was dry-hopped to hell with Cascade hops and…well, that was the result.
Flying Monkeys has also been the source of some recent controversy when the application to put their latest IPA, Smashomb Atomic IPA, on shelves in the LCBO was rejected due to its name and the picture of an explosion on the label. This reopened the conversation over the social responsibility that the LCBO should or shouldn’t have, whether or not breweries should be censored in their works and the (I’ll admit getting better) short stick that smaller breweries get in a board where companies like Molson and Coors have a tight grip.
Right, there’s the background. Let’s get to the brewery itself.
I don’t know why, maybe it’s because every week for most of my childhood the LeBlanc Family Car would zoom past the giant Molson Brewery, or maybe that I took a tour of the temple-like Heineken Brewery in Amsterdam, but my mind always assumes that a brewery that provides beer to outside the town’s borders should be freakin’ huge. I KNOW this isn’t true, as I visited the Brooklyn Brewery which was pretty damn small, but I still seem to fall in to that trap and end up being surprised.
Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery is no exception in this surprise. Where I expected to see a giant factory by the lake, I instead saw what looked like a quaint store in between two others. I could easily pass by this place thinking they just sold some beer products and that was it. Inside there’s a few tables, a fridge for their beers, a sampling bar, and a wall devoted to merchandise, which is primarily shirts, glasses and bottle openers.
Sadly, we didn’t have time to go on the one hour tour, but we did have time to sample some of the beers there and talk to the lovely lady tending the bar. It was also there where I was able to try out the notorious Atomic Smashbomb IPA and talk about it a bit. And…wow. An explosion of flavours such as grapefruit, pineapple, melon and citrus with a HUGE punch of hops. Well…you’d have to have that punch of hops. Afterall, it was hopped NINE times to get it. Damned fine beer. So wonderful that I had two pints of it. And guess what? Flying Monkeys has been working closely with the LCBO since the media attention Smashbomb got and it has been agreed that, with a change in packaging, LCBOs will be carrying this wonderful brew within the next month or so. And just in time for summer!
I couldn’t leave without getting some merch. I left with a t-shirt and a pint glass. My father picked up two shirts and later wished he got more.
My mother and coworker Brian both loved the Anti-Gravity Light Ale and Flying Monkeys Amber Ale, my father loved Hoptical Illusion and ADORED the Smashbomb Atomic IPA, and I was strongly considering buying a keg of Smashbomb (that being the only way it can be bought at the moment).
Before we left I went in to the brewing area with my coworker Brian and excitedly pointed out the kettles, fermentors and other devices and what their purpose was for. It was an exciting moment for me. But, like all fun moments, it had to come to an end and we had to save our alcohol-consuming glands for the wedding reception. We parted with our merch, a six pack of Hoptical Illusion, a bottle of Amber Ale and Anti Gravity Light Ale and a promise to return.
(Should be noted that just down the corner from the brewery was a Chip Truck called Jerry’s Fries, which has the biggest portions ever (I ordered a small and it was about the size of a large) and has the best chips in Ontario. I’ll testify to that. The man who runs that truck really loves his work.)
Note: Do you like what I’m doing here? Would you like to buy me a beer? Would you like to throw in a few pennies that can lead towards buying me a beer? Or do you want to make sure that I can go to a craft beer event? If so, head on over to the newly created TIP JAR. I’d certainly appreciate it!