‘TOQUE NIGHT CAP’:
RECALLING A HAND CRAFTED DAY TRIP
BY CHRIS TIESSEN
‘Red Car’s here.’ And with those three (and a half) simple words, the TOQUE crew – along with twenty of our nearest and dearest – were whisked away into a warm May evening toward wide-eyed adventure, mayhem, and surprise destinations. Sprinkled with just a pinch of debauchery. But before I get ahead of myself, let’s begin at the beginning. At TOQUE headquarters. Just across the mighty Speed River on the edge of downtown in the Royal City – Brooklyn. Or, as most people call it, Guelph. To properly set this stage.
CHAPTER 1: GOODFELLOWS & GOOD COMPANY
I was late to the party. My own party. Our own party, really. A day trip affectionately labeled ‘Night Cap’ that TOQUE organized to animate what goes on between the sheets of our magazine. Highlighting some of our region’s best. Food. Drink. Entertainment. When I finally arrive at TOQUE HQ (just after 4:30pm on that Friday afternoon), almost the whole crew had already assembled. And Chef Ryan Goodfellow – of Goodfellow’s Field to Fork in Rockwood – was holding court. As he’s prone to do. Introducing the charcuterie board he’d brought laden with locally- produced goods.
Grey Stone and Mason’s Delight cheeses from Rivers Edge Goat Dairy farm. Soft-cured cow’s cheese from Taste of Craft. Chorizo, soppressatta, and terrine from Trotter’s Butcher Shop. Nuts, seeds and dried fruit from The Nut Case. Organic sprouts from Nature’s Nurturing Farm. And so much goodness made in-house: pickled beans and asparagus, marvelously-textured mustard, and mouth-watering crostini and ciabatta. Presented exquisitely on a live edge board.
I grab a tall can of Royal City ‘Exhibition IPA’ and dig in. To the cold beer. The charcuterie. And the conversation too. The buzz in our small office space is palpable. I look over at Cai and mouth the words: ‘It’s gonna be a good night.’ She raises her can of Wellington ‘Kickin Back’, smiles, and nods. Yes, it is.
CHAPTER 2: PRIVATE CHARTER & PRIVATE TASTINGS
A handful of minutes before 5pm, an ample shadow crosses the floor-to-ceiling front window of HQ. And stays put. I peer over heads across the crowded room to identify the culprit. Our limo bus. By Red Car. A shiny black twenty-three seater. Appointed with bolstered coach seating and tables with places for four. The perfect transportation solution for the night’s agenda. ‘Red Car’s here,’ TOQUE Partner Cai Sepulis announces above the tumult of friendly chatter. In almost no time at all our crew gathers what’s left of the charcuterie (because how could we not?), pockets a few roadies, and hops aboard.
First stop: Elora Brewing Company – about a twenty-five minute drive up Wellington Road 7 from Guelph.
Once we’re on the road, event co-ordinator Sonia Preisler alerts our gang to the next item on the evening’s agenda: a surprise treat from Grain & Grit Beer Company, whose owners Joe and Lindsey have joined us on the trip. Lindsey introduces ‘Seeing Stars’, a dry-hopped sour, and, as tall cans begin to make their rounds, Joe explains the intricacies of this impeccably refreshing ale. Comet & Mosaic hops. Tropical fruit & citrus. Juicy grapefruit & lime. Finishes with a lingering earthy sweetness. Soon everyone’s echoing the same sentiment: this upstart #hamont brewery is worth the trip.
We polish off our sours as our Red Car enters the roundabout at the top of Elora’s Metcalfe Street. From this vantage point, the gorgeous town is spread out before us, as if in a painting. Indeed, the scene is evocative of any number of oils I recall seeing as a kid in my parents’ collection (and published books) by past local artists Woldemar Neufeld or Peter Etril Snyder. My pastoral vision vanishes as our limo bus pulls up outside Elora Brewing Company and the noisy crew disembarks. As for me, I am full of charcuterie, craft beer and an unflappable desire to get inside what’s probably my favourite place on earth: that brewery in Elora.
CHAPTER 3: FEASTING IN THE BREW HOUSE As we crowd through the front door, brewery staff take charge. Our group is guided
past the tables immediately in front of the retractable glass garage doors (where I was certain we’d be seated), past the staircase leading to the brewery’s open loft space (which we’d already been told was hosting an anniversary party), and past the long wood bar (which is my favourite spot to settle when I drive in for lunch on my own or with a friend). We are guided, finally, into the brew house, where a long table graced with white linen and vased flowers has been set for us. A complete surprise. And absolutely perfect.
Plates of roast beef and falafel sliders, breaded chicken and mussels – all created in-house by Elora’s fantastic kitchen – fill the table. Pints of Elora brew – ‘Lady Friend’ IPA, ‘Three Fields’ Lager, ‘Elora Borealis’ Pale Ale – fill our glasses (including the Kitras hand-blown vessel I get to enjoy every time I come here, as part of my Elora Stein Club Membership). And the next hour is pure bliss.
CHAPTER 4: DOUGHNUTS, A SECRET BREWERY & DERBY
‘I can’t believe how good these are!’ ‘I can’t believe they’re vegan!’ ‘I can’t believe how full I am!’ ‘Can I have another?’
Merit Badge Doughnuts. The brainchild of The Making Box’s Jay Reid and Cas Knihnisky. This amazing vegan confection is available at various cafes and specialty shops across Guelph. And on our Red Car during the ride back into Guelph from Elora on this ‘Night Cap’ day trip. Let’s just say there were none left by the time we reached our next stop – Guelph’s soon-to-be newest brewery: Fixed Gear Brewing Company. Located in the heart of Guelph’s Junction Neighbourhood – a beautiful mix of picturesque two-storey red bricks, mature green spaces and industrial chic – Fixed Gear should be opening by late 150 summer. Which means we are being treated to a sneak peek of the brewery’s offerings.
Florida Track Suit’ Radler. ‘Velvet Tangerine’ Lactose Pale Ale. And more. Although the brewery’s custom furniture – to be created by Bryce and AJ of ThreeCrow (who happen to be on the trip with us and whose recently- finished bar at Guelph’s La Reina is the talk of the town) – is not yet installed, the place already looks fabulous. With a custom- branded vintage Airstream trailer and Land Rover parked outside where the patio will be installed, the spot already looks the part. And is sure to be a new personal haunt when it opens.
From Fixed Gear we head to Guelph’s Victor Davis Recreation Centre for a Friday night showdown at Royal City Roller Derby’s ‘Royal Brawl’ tournament. If you’ve never been to a derby match – either in Guelph or neighbouring communities that field teams – it might be time you gave it a try. Brutal hits. Fast-paced skating. Rowdy fans. A fully- stocked beer garden. And, if you happened to be there the night of our day trip, a special section reserved for almost two dozen rowdy fans filled with Goodfellows charcuterie, Grain & Grit beer, Elora Brewing Company’s incredible food and brews, Merit Badge goodness, Fixed Gear brews and a good measure of piss and vinegar.
The game completed – Royal City’s Brute Leggers wound up beating the North Star Roller Derby Supernovas 174 – 140 – our crew boards the limo bus for the last leg of this adventure: a ride back to TOQUE HQ. Now I have to admit that my recollections of this bit of our journey are foggy. Devouring the last remnants of the Goodfellows charcuterie board. Chants of ‘Eat-The-Cheese’. Me eating the cheese. Hysterical laughter. A tall can of Grain & Grit’s ‘Bitter Sweet’ Double Chocolate Milk Stout spilled. More chants of ‘Eat-The-Cheese’. ThreeCrow’s Bryce Hill eating the cheese. More laughter. More good times.
And home. Will we do this again? You be epic like this inaugural ‘Night Cap’ day trip? It had better be. Can I wait for it? Not even a bit.