Craft beer is making waves in Port Stanley. The Lake Erie village, known for its beaches, summer stock theatre, and railway nostalgia, may soon be equally famous for an innovative brew pub which opened last year.
Last Castle Brewing Co., which focuses on rustic farmhouse ales featuring local ingredients, is tucked inside the New New Age general store near Port Stanley’s main intersection at Bridge and Colborne streets.
“We have strong family ties to the area and were drawn to Port for its relaxed and fun summer atmosphere,” said brewmaster Aidan Norton. “Many make the trip to Port for its charms, beaches and food scene and we are excited to contribute to the beer landscape on Lake Erie’s north shore.”
Last Castle’s flagship beer is Field Magic, a Belgian-style saison brewed with spelt and chamomile, made with an eye to quenching thirsts on hot summer days. It has aromas of spice, bubblegum and pear. If that seems like a stretch from the light lagers often favoured by the summer crowd, it isn’t.
“Port Stanley sees an influx of people in the summer,” said Norton, who does double duty by also working at a large craft brewery. “Its seasonal ebb and flow aligns well with the Belgian farmhouse tradition of producing refreshing summer ales.”
“I take inspiration from my grandmother, who immigrated to southwestern Ontario from Belgium. Her family brought some of the old world treats such as gouda cheese, and operated a general store. Farmhouse ales, being fermented with house yeast cultures, are not too far off.”
Last Castle draws from medieval beer-making practices, thus its name, and a passion for all things local. “Our team is inspired by our native Carolinian forest, which provides a backdrop and is a last bastion of its kind here in Canada,” Norton said. “We aim to bring in a mix of seasonal ingredients wildcrafted or produced in the region. In terms of brewing tradition, we draw on some medieval approaches to ingredients, such as the use of herbs and teas. The brewpub has the fortune of operating in a store that specializes in custom herbal tea blends. We’re also fans of storytelling and want our customers to discover the story behind the beer.”
Among ingredients used are chamomile from the New New Age farm in Elgin County, spruce tips from Three Ridges Ecological Farm near Aylmer, and hops from Common Ground Farm in Southwold Township.
Norton uses a nano brewing system, producing about 100 litres per batch. The selection is constantly rotating, but Norton’s favourite recipe so far is Hex Breaker, a tart juniper gose. Amaranth Wild Pale Ale, which was available in late winter, featured its namesake ancient grain.
“We love to use adjunct grains in our beers, as they can make unique contributions to finished beer,” Norton said. “Amaranth is an ancient grain that we use in this brew. It’s high in protein, like wheat, making for a fluffy presentation. It’s an American-style wild ale because it’s fermented 100 per cent with a yeast known as brettanomyces that provides a fruity character.”
While exciting experimentation will rightfully attract the brewcationers and brewheads to Last Castle, beachgoers, theatre patrons, and train buffs are the core patrons.
“For beachgoers, if they’ve been out in the sun all day, we likely recommend something like a Kombucha Beer, made in collaboration with London’s Booch Organic Kombucha, which is low in ABV and similar to a shandy or radler. As for the theatre patrons and train buffs, we’d encourage them to explore our latest seasonal and hope that it’s a memorable part of their visit to Port Stanley.”
Last Castle beers are currently available only for in-house consumption.
Last Castle Brewing Co.
286 Bridge St., Port Stanley
(inside the New New Age General Store)