Niagara Region may be known for its wine culture (and understandably so), but as craft breweries are on the rise throughout Ontario, so too, are they growing in Niagara.
In Virgil, Ontario, just west of Niagara-on-the-Lake, sits Silversmith Brewing Company. Celebrated brews and a charmed rustic atmosphere have firmly established this brewery in the flourishing world of craft brewing.
Located in an Anglican church that dates back to the 1890s, two friends transformed the building into a brewery and beer hall 5 years ago — the bar itself was handmade from a neighbour’s reclaimed barn.
Now a sought-after destination for tourists and locals, Silversmith has won a gold medal for their Black Lager at the 2015 Ontario Brewing Awards.
Craft breweries like Silversmith have proven that the craft beer industry deserves a place at the table. In fact, hop growing is taking off across the province thanks to a booming craft beer industry and thirsty patrons.
At Silversmith, Doug Blendell, Communications Director, tells us the path of beer ingredients is field, to glass to BBQ.
“Craft beer is essentially an agricultural product that starts with only unprocessed raw ingredients as they’re found in nature,” explains Blendell.
Moreover, the Ontario Craft Brewers Association reports that 92% of its members’ spent grains are diverted to livestock feed; the protein-rich mash has been used for centuries to fatten livestock for market.
Silversmith’s spent grains are picked up every week by local farmer Bill Vaughn. Bill’s family has been operating Lake Land Meats, a 250-acre family farm in St.Catharines, since 1902.
Blendell says that Silversmith has proudly worked to redefine not only the craft beer experience, but also tourism in Niagara, “with passionate and knowledgeable workers who are itching to guide visitors through a unique beer experience.”
And you won’t find Silversmith Beer in the LCBO; one must visit the brewery in Virgil, or one of the few 100 bars carrying the brew — mostly in the Niagara Region.
But talk to a local, and it’s likely they’ve already been to Silversmith (at least once). This Globe and Mail article highlights how Niagara breweries keep the doors revolving even in the winter months, when tourism has slowed down.
A thriving craft brewing industry has been warmly welcomed and supported by the public and through changing government legislation and investment. Craft Beer Week in June kicked off with the provincial and federal governments announcing an investment of over $1.6 million in 20 Ontario craft breweries.
Ontario’s craft brewing industry employs over 1,500 people in direct brewing jobs, and 6,000 in indirect brewing jobs across the province.
Silversmith Brewing Co. was founded by old friends Matt and Chris, whose travels made them thirsty for great beer. They say that Niagara, too, was thirsty for great beer. It seems they were right.
The circle from brewery to BBQ is completed with a visit to a Silversmith Supper Market, says Blendell, with a Black Lager and a Lake Land burger made from Silversmith grain-fed beef — Blendell then adds, “Cheers to the hard working folks down at the farm!”