WORDS BY CAI SEPULIS; PHOTOS BY CHRIS TIESSEN 

‘I’ll take one of everything, apparently,’ I quip to my TOQUE Partner (and partner-in-crime) Chris with a chuckle – raising my heavy-laden shopping basket to eye level for emphasis. It’s overflowing with beautifully-designed and fantastically-colourful cans from Blood Brothers, Dominion City, Bellwoods, Left Field, and other Ontario craft breweries that you’d have a hard time locating at any common LCBO. I place the basket on the counter – confident in my choices – and stride to the food section where I select a hunk of Mountainoak Chili Pepper gouda and a bag of 3 Gen Organics Honey Garlic pepperettes. ‘Okay,’ I laugh to Chris as I head back to the counter to cash out, ‘I think I’ve got everything I need – for the time being, at least.’

It’s a Tuesday afternoon in late June, and we’re at the Old Galt Bottle Shop, where I’m stocking up for the fast-approaching weekend. Located in the former South Waterloo Agricultural Society building on the banks of the mighty Grand, the Bottle Shop is run by close friends Rob Quilty and Rob Rappolt (or ‘Rob One’ and ‘Rob Two’, as Chris will label them when lining them up for their portraits for this piece). It’s a topnotch addition to the region. And a fantastic space, too. 

Exposed brick walls, timber-raftered ceilings, and original hardwood floors intermingle with more contemporary herringbone tile, white paint, and minimalist furniture in a perfect dance that delights the eye. While much of the shop’s interior design is familiar enough (the space used to house Blackwing Coffee Bar before COVID forced it under), the two Robs have certainly managed to put their stamp on it, both figuratively and literally. The place’s logo is imprinted in large scale on one of its freshly-painted white walls. Hung on the lovely exposed brick wall opposite is a vintage sign that reads ‘Galt’. 

And then there’s that whole wall of fridges.

Robert describes them. ‘This fridge is filled with IPAs,’ he tells us, ‘while this fridge is stocked with lighter fare – pilsners, sours, seltzers, cocktails.’ The list goes on. Robert’s enthusiasm is palpable. As is mine. Indeed, the OG Bottleshop reminds me more than a little of similar spaces I’ve loved visiting on my travels in other provinces and south of the border. I spot brews from almost all my favourite breweries – Willibald, Bandit, Halo, Fairweather, Grain & Grit – all on one wall. ‘We carry over twenty different breweries,’ Robert tells us, ‘and nearly two hundred different beers, ciders, wines, and spirits.’ He continues: ‘And because I’m sourcing direct from the breweries themselves, the beer is fresh.’ I grab a beautifully-designed can from Fine Balance Brewing out of Kingston and note the scribble on the side of the label indicating that it was packaged less than a week ago. It doesn’t get much fresher than this.

Once Robert (Quilty – or ‘Rob One’) has checked me out at the cash, Chris and I head for the door. ‘Not so fast,’ we hear him say, ‘I have something amazing I want you to try before you go.’ At his invitation, we take a seat on the front patio, at one of the picnic-style tables shaded from the sun, where Robert offers us fresh pretzels and dijon – as well as a couple pints poured from the taps inside. ‘Think of the pretzels as representative of the larger menu we’ll be introducing over the course of the next few months,’ Robert tells us. (The plan is to have Lily Ruth Catering provide a fuller menu – soon.) ‘The beers, however, are already pouring and available for consumption on the patio any time we’re open.’ Patio. After the lockdown of these past several months, that word has taken on a particular, enticing radiance.

Set to capture the moment’s gleam, Chris positions Robert and me on one of the outdoor tables for a beer and pretzel shoot. With the pretzels positioned between the two of us, I grab one of the beers Robert has brought outside for Chris and me to taste. ‘It’s Strawberry Gelato Sour from Fine Balance,’ he announces. The other brew he’s poured for the patio: a Greenwood IPA from Left Field. Both are distinctive and delicious – and available in cans to-go. We add some to the basket. ‘For the office beer fridge,’ Chris remarks. ‘After all, hopefully we’ll be able to have clients visit in-person soon. We’ll want something for them to enjoy.’ I chuckle at the suggestion. Chris and I both know that the beers won’t last ’til the end of the week. 

As we’re leaving, we can’t help but notice how Galt’s retro-styled Dickson Field ballpark – a most picturesque baseball diamond just across the street – serves as a hipster backdrop to this place, and, although we cannot see the Grand River from here, how we can hear the water crashing over the dam at the Cambridge Mill. Summer. Sweet.

And made even sweeter by this new addition to our region: a beer’s lovers ultimate destination.