Grabbing a pint at your local watering hole is a ritual that means more than ever, given the quality of beer now available from microbreweries. And those brews always taste better with a group of friends who, while they may not share the same views on everything, can agree on great-tasting beer. When I asked some friends to accompany me to a new brewpub in the area, my friend Cory responded, “I’m in. You had me at beer.”
A Few Pints with Friends
A short while later, Cory and I headed out to the small fishing village of Erieau on the north shore of Lake Erie to meet my brother Chad and two of my cousins from London, Jeff and Bryce, who were equally willing to try new beer. The newest local haunt to be generating a lot of buzz is Bayside Brewing Company. Patrons are welcomed with a choice of two delicious beers brewed on site — Long Pond Lager and Bayside Light — paired with a full menu of pub favourites.
In 2012 entrepreneurs Ken Royal, Nancy Cowan, Frank Thompson, and Josette deBrouwer opened the microbrewery after a massive renovation of an old hotel near the Erieau beach. A beer tasting room with a limited selection of food was always part of the plan, but with such a unique and panoramic view on waterfront property, it seemed natural to take advantage of the great scenery and evolve into a full restaurant with 65 indoor seats. The expansion continued this summer with a 150-seat patio overlooking Rondeau Bay, creating a fantastic venue for friends to gather, take in the view, and share stories over some fine beer.
The Art of Crafting Beer
One of the great visual features of Bayside is the old-fashioned copper brewing tanks in full view as you enter the building, behind a glassed-in brewing room. The gleaming copper entices you to learn more about what it takes to get the golden brew from those vats into your glass. And Bayside is happy to oblige by offering tours of the brewery to share what goes into the art of brewing.
Brewery sales rep Dallas Pokornik was our host for the evening and he started our tour by showing us a sample of the raw ingredients — hops, wheat, and malt. These get mixed into one of ten 1,000-litre vats to get the brewing started, and the perfect combination results in Long Pond Lager — a clear, crisp beer with a smooth finish. After the initial brewing, the liquid is transferred to a second vat for a two-and-a-half week fermentation period where fresh champagne yeast is added, and then to a secondary fermentation vat to be closely monitored for another five days until it has achieved the correct alcohol level. It is then filtered, carbonated, and put into unique eco-kegs for on-site use or shipping to restaurants. The whole process from first vat to final keg takes about three weeks under the supervision of brewmaster Mike Dumouchelle, a seasoned professional with decades in the industry. Dumouchelle hails from the Windsor area, where he sharpened his craft at Walkerville brewery.
Long Pond Lager is served on tap at every bar in Chatham, and is currently making an appearance in London at The Barking Frog. With such high demand, quite often the kegs are shipped the same day they are filled, which is good for optimal freshness of the product and good for Bayside’s business.
Beer and Food Pairings
Beer is especially great when paired with just the right food, and you can’t go wrong with classic pub food. We started with some standard appetizers like Bayside’s Best Ever Chicken Nachos and Beer-Battered Onion Rings. A classic pairing of pretzels and beer seemed appropriate so we ordered Soft Pretzels, lightly dusted with salt, and a side of honey-mustard dipping sauce.
Walking into a brewery, you expect a certain hoppy smell, but when coupled with a gastro-pub, you get other savoury aromas to accompany it. Bayside’s kitchen includes a wood-fired pizza oven. The yeasty bouquet of baking pizzas assails your nostrils as you step inside. For our mains we had to try those pizzas and we ordered a variety to share: The Fiesta with avocado, corn, beans, and pico de gallo; The Carnivore Classic with five meats; The Erieau Heat Wave with spicy chorizo, chillies, and kalamata olives; The Long Pond BBQ with caramelized onions, pulled pork, and roasted red peppers. The pizzas are tasty and clearly the crowd favourite, but Bayside throws a twist on other pub classics with unique dishes like Chicken Wings from the Fire, large unbreaded wings roasted in the wood-fired pizza oven. It’s good to see that Chef Morgan Lawrence has also taken steps to blend the beer into the recipes, with beer-caramelized onions on the Long Pond BBQ Pizza, and beer batter used for the onion rings. Erieau is also known for perch and a Perch Roll on the menu highlights this favourite local ingredient.
Bayside also sells growlers as an economical option for frequent beer drinkers. A growler can be purchased as a refillable container, holding 2.5 L or the equivalent of six bottles. Growlers were historically created for patrons to fill up directly from local breweries that did not bottle their beer, but wanted customers to be able to enjoy it at home. Erieau residents can now do just that with growlers that will keep fresh for two weeks.
Erieau resident Andy Duquette owns a home two doors down, and finds himself at the brewery quite often on the weekends. “It’s so cool having a place close by where everyone knows you and you can chat with the staff every time you go in.” Sitting out on the patio, he can turn one way to see the expansive sight of Rondeau Bay and the other to see the roof of his house. Andy adds, “It is really fun on Sunday afternoons with live entertainment on the patio. It’s actually becoming a lot like the next Grand Bend.” This is a common sentiment among members of the lakeside community. As Dallas told us during the tour, “Having the brewery here has been a really positive change, making Erieau a sweet destination that brews this epic beer on the beach.” It is in moments like these, out with friends, that beer is best shared, because beer can be a bonding agent. The lakeside village of Erieau now knows it can also bond a community.
Bayside Brewing Company
970 Ross Lane, Erieau
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Daily 11:00 am–9:00 pm
Darin Cook is a regular contributor to eatdrink who works and plays in Chatham-Kent, and keeps himself well-read and well-fed by visiting the bookstores and restaurants of London.