Tales from Niagara is a blog series focused on the people and places that make Niagara’s Greenbelt great. The series will cover everything from local businesses, to seasonal events, to life on Niagara farms. Look out for our upcoming posts to stay up-to-date and informed on exciting going-ons in Niagara's Greenbelt.
My Dad has been a Budweiser guy for as long as I’ve known him. Growing up, we ate spaghetti and meatballs, chicken, potatoes, soup and sandwiches – on white bread. It’s not that we weren’t open to new food and drink, but hey, if it ain’t broke, then why fix it?
That’s why, when my sixty-something year old father told me he had a new favourite craft beer, I knew it must be something special.
To find said craft beer, we took a drive into the Greenbelt, to an old church near Niagara-On-The-Lake. Silversmith Brewing Company sits on the main stretch in downtown Virgil, population 2,325. Tucked in tight, and covered in greenery, it could be an easy place to miss. A small town secret. It was just before noon, and we were early for our 12:45 tour. I thought I’d have some time to snap a few pictures before the other tour-goers showed. We opened the grand wooden church doors and, well, small town secret it was not. The place was packed. Like Saturday night pub kind of packed.
We managed to find a seat and take in the view. It was beautiful. This church, originally built in 1894, has been recreated with perfect style. Its industrial-meets-rustic design and homey feel welcome you in like family. Over the years, it has been a church and a private residence three different times before becoming Silversmith. We’d find out on our tour that the impressive stained glass, the churchiest of features, was actually put in by the former home owner.
On to the beer. As we were a bit early, we decided to split a flight of four sample sized beers, to really get to know the brewery. Our fantastic waitress informed us that a flight was included with our tour should we wish to wait. This helpful tip left us with just enough time for a taste of what brought us here – my Dad’s favourite, the Black Lager. You know, just in case it wasn’t on the tour.
Black Lager sounds intimidating. It sounds like a commitment. It sounds like it might be a little too much. It was not any of those. There is a reason this lager took home Gold at the 2015 Ontario Brewing Awards, why the mantra of Silversmith is “Really Really Good Beer”. It is delicious and dark and refreshing all at once. It lives up to the mantra. After our lager, which went down all too easily, it was time to go on tour.
Our tour guide, Lindsay, knew how to handle a crowd. There were 22 of us on tour, and somehow she managed to be informative, clear, and entertaining. All the beer served at Silversmith is brewed on site, using local ingredients whenever possible. The brewing area we toured is in full production Monday through Thursday, then cleaned out Friday to be ready for Saturday and Sunday’s tours.
The building has its own water filtration system, to make sure they start with the purist of ingredients. Batches of beer are unpasteurized and have no extra additives or preservatives. As hops are a natural preservative, it’s simply not necessary. Malt leftover from the brewing process is given to a Greenbelt farmer in Jordan, who feeds it to his cattle. In exchange, the farmer brings the Silversmith staff fresh picked corn in late summer. It’s things like this that demonstrate just how well the brewery is fitting into this community.
During the tour, we sampled four brews. The Black Lager, the Hill 145 Golden Ale, an easy drinking ale affectionately known as their “patio crusher”, the Dambuster, a thick and delicious English bitter, and my favourite, the Bavarian Breakfast Wheat Beer, a light and fruity highly carbonated brew perfect for breakfast…or maybe lunch. We learned about their process and their seasonal beer selections as well. The Oyster Brew is the most popular non-regular batch, and they make two to three times as much of this as any other limited edition. One pound of whole oysters is added to the tank for every 100L of brew, and it is always a hit at Dillon’s Distillers Oyster Fest in the spring.
As our tour wrapped up, we got the chance to ask all of our deep seeded beer brewing questions. We got to touch and smell fresh hops – which are grown on wires like grapes, we got to keep our tasting mini pint glass. Silversmith has only been giving tours for the past few months, but they do an outstanding job of it.
I strongly suggest you get out to this piece of Greenbelt gold when you’re in the area, or heck, even if you aren’t. Tours are available through Niagara Vintage Wine Tours or on your own with reservations Saturdays and Sundays year round. Take the craft beer (or just beer) lover in your life, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
For more great craft brewers in the Greenbelt check out our Brewery Discovery Tours
--Communications and Outreach Assistant,