Wellington County Iron Duke
The first Real Beer Tour selection from Canada. That nation has had commercial breweries since the late 1700s. Its first such brewer brought his skills from England, and its original tradition was in the making of ales. The Scots and Irish were also very influential, though the ale tradition lasted longest in the predominantly French-speaking province of Quebec.
The dominance an character of ales diminished in the first three quarters of the 20th century, but has been greatly revived by micro-breweries. An early example is to be found 40 miles south of Toronto, in the town of Guelph, in Wellington County, Ontario. Guelph is an historically important town, home to an agricultural university. It was an early center of brewing, thanks to its artesian wells and hard water (ideal for the making of ales). In 1985, the Wellington County Brewery was established, with a view to making classic styles of ale. At the end of the same decade, the town gained a second brewery, Sleeman's, initially making a cream ale.
One of the driving forces behind the Wellington County Brewery was a local beer-lover who traces his origins to the Scottish whisky island of Islay. Early investors were a local doctor, an accountant and a realtor. The architect gave the purpose-built brewery a traditional flourish by designing it to resemble a malting kiln.
I visited the brewery in its earliest days, and was asked to plant a maple in its grounds. Perhaps it is time I returned to see how my tree has progressed. The first beers were in part inspired by those of the old-established Arkell family brewery, in Wiltshire, England. Members of the Arkell family had founded a village near Guelph in Colonial times.
From the start, Wellington County used some North American raw materials, but also British malts and traditional English hop varieties such as Fuggles and Goldings. The brewery's strong ale was named after the Duke of Wellington, the British military leader who defeated Napoleon. Iron Duke, at 6.5 per cent alcohol by volume, is in the style of an English strong ale.
Tasting note: Full copper-red color. Toasty, fruity, aroma. Great depth of flavor. Malt-accented, but beautifully balanced and rounded, with characteristic ale fruitiness in the middle, and a dry, hoppy, finish.
Food pairings: Prime rib. Roast beef. For traditionalists, steak-and-kidney pudding. Cheese, especially a well-matured Cheddar.
Published: MAR 2, 2001
In: Beer Hunter Online
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