Coming Home to Canada’s Beer Rush Town
Beer in Guelph, Ontario
I spent much of my childhood in Guelph, a small farm-city hybrid about an hour outside of Toronto. Guelph is renowned for being the home of the Ontario Veterinary College, and the University of Guelph—an agriculture-heavy campus that brings a September boost of plaid shirts and solo cup-toting freshmen. But at the U of G, those heady Friday nights could conceivably be called “studying”—the university offers the Prud’homme Beer Certification as part of one of its programs.
Guelph has long been a hub for the ale-inclined. The Englishman John Sleeman first started brewing on the banks of the Speed & Eramosa Rivers in 1847. The water from these rivers is believed to be the reason behind Guelph’s agricultural and zymological (fermenting) success—it’s fresh, clean, and plentiful enough for every craft brewer with a handful of hops to take their shot.
It’s no surprise that Canada’s oldest independently owned microbrewery, Wellington Brewery, planted its roots here almost 35 years ago. Wellington made its name on Cask Conditioned Beer (English-style Real Ales), at a time when very few North American breweries were doing so.
Having only recently moved back, I was keen to stop by the Brewery. I’d seen their signature Wellington boot tap handle at bars across Ontario, and wanted to taste the brews from the source.
The County Brown Ale and Special Pale Ale are time-worn favorites, but this time I came to taste their “Re-Booted” line, conveniently sold in four-packs of tall-boys: Sour, Witbeir, IPA, and Pils.
The beers are a taste of a place I knew only as a child. While I lived on campus (my father worked at the university), we moved away from Guelph well before I would be cracking any cold ones with the boys. Now, over 15 years later, the city is markedly more global. Japanese-owned Sapporo acquired Sleeman Breweries some years back, and microbreweries are acquired almost as quickly as they open. But Wellington marches on, fiercely independent and undeniably delicious. It’s good to be back.
950 Woodlawn Road W