Run by Ottawa-based entrepreneur Brad Campeau, Brew Donkey is a service that offers beer tasting tours and will soon be delivering beer from Ottawa and area breweries right to your door. The next tasting tour will take place on Sunday, October 27 2013 and having just received his license from the AGCO, Brad plans to have the Brew Donkey delivery service in operation by mid-November.
I had the chance to attend the first Brew Donkey tasting tour on October 12 and thoroughly enjoyed spending the day sampling and talking about my favourite beverage with a range of beer fans from young to young at heart, novice to old hat. About 15 of us met at Corner Bar & Grill on Bank Street and after going over some basics and signing a concise, yet thorough waiver we packed on to a bus and were off to sample some local breweries’ wares.
Along for the ride was British born home brewer Doug Eddy, who gave the group a brief rundown of how the brewing process actually works as we headed to our first stop, Kichesippi Beer Company on Campbell Avenue.
There, we were given a tour of the ever expanding facility that used to house Heritage Brewing and saw a thorough example of commercial brewing, from mashing to bottling. The group sampled Kichesippi Natural Blonde, 1855 and Logger in addition to the Harvey & Vern’s line of craft brewed sodas. After getting a nice glow on, we were back on the bus heading to our next destination.
Broadhead Brewing Company was started by a group of friends that happen to be skilled engineers, which comes through in the way they operate. They custom built much of the equipment used in their remarkably clean and organized brew house, including a monitoring system that can be accessed from their smartphones and after a recent expansion they were able to start contract brewing for Turtle Island Brewing Company.
We sampled no less than a half dozen brews at Broadhead, including their flagship Underdog Pale Ale, Longshot White and my favourite, Wildcard Ale, which is named for the fact that they use a different variety of hop every time they brew it, in this case Centennial.
Next we headed to Clocktower Brew Pub on Bank Street, which has the claim of being Ottawa’s oldest craft brewery, having opened in 1996. We were given a thorough description of the operation and its history and were treated to a sample of their pumpkin ale, which is served with a topping of spice and I spent a few bucks on a pint of the cask version of their Wisharts ESB.
Finally, we made our way a few blocks south back to the Corner Bar and Grill where we were welcomed by bartender Marissa Bégin (The Beer Gypsy) who brought us some great Mexican appetizers. No samples were included at our final stop, but I took the chance to try Squashed Pumpkin Porter from Turtle Island and had Waupoos Cider on tap for the first time.
Brew Donkey tour goers are encouraged to purchase beer in growlers from the breweries they visit. I bought one at each stop and we ended up taking home about 20 as a group in addition to a number of apparel purchases. Growlers are pretty big, kind of heavy and often require a $4-5 deposit.
As someone who doesn’t drive or have a lot of free time, it can be difficult to return these growlers to their rightful homes to have refilled, which often results in what we affectionately call at “Growler Graveyard”. That’s where the Brew Donkey delivery service comes in.
Beginning in November, Brad and his team will take your orders for growlers (and sometimes bottles) from area breweries, bring the beer to your door and haul away your empty growlers while giving you full market value for the deposit you initially paid as credit towards your order.
I’ll admit that when Brad told me about his idea to start a growler delivery service, I was a bit skeptical, mainly because I’ve never heard of such a business operating in Ontario. But, here we are a couple of months later, he has his AGCO license in hand, a successful tour under his belt and two more scheduled to take place before the holiday season. Colour me impressed.
I encourage Ottawa-area readers to check out the Brew Donkey tour on October 27. This tour will take you to the Ashton Brew Pub, Brasseurs du Temps in Gatineau, Beyond The Pale Brewing Company and end at the popular craft beer spot Arrow & Loon Pub & Restaurant.
The tour is a fun way to try out beers you may not get the chance to otherwise and spend a day with like-minded craft beer fans. Your admission fee covers transportation, samples at participating breweries, complimentary bottled water on the bus and appetizers at the final stop.