All aboard the Cowbell Express! If you want to tell your friends you spent your Sunday on the West Coast ( That is, Lake Huron, Ontario ) then this brand new voyage out of the city and into the heart of Huron County is for you. VIP coaches and Cowbell Brewing Co. teamed up to create the ultimate country escape for Torontonians that are keen to be whisked away to small town Ontario at any opportunity!
Boarding the bus, we were greeted by the Cowbell team, who immediately make you feel welcome, and an honorary member of the brewery family – it’s not before long that you realize that this is the Cowbell way – community is the centre of everything they do.
Their state of the art facility is a two hour drive from Downtown, but we were entertained with roadside bingo, trivia and a brief history of the brewery and the stories behind their beers. With good company, this drive flies by and before you know it, you are crossing off tractors and horses on your bingo card as you draw closer to Blyth – population 1005. Arriving at Cowbell Brewing Co., I was staggered by the scale and ingenuity of this building. Surrounded by farmland, this structure lives up to its reputation as a unique ‘destination’ brewery, whilst also blending in with its humble surroundings.
First up, we are served the light and sessionable ‘Shindig’ lager. This refreshing Pilsner is a favourite among locals and regulars, and I can see why. It’s the perfect pour after a couple of hours on a coach, and a laid back beer to sip while taking in the glorious architecture of the brewery.
Next, we are swept off on a grand tour of the 111 acre facility. The staff do a great job of engaging everyone in the story behind Cowbell, as well as explaining some of the finer mechanics behind brewing. It’s fascinating to learn about their process – for example, their investments in high efficiency equipment means that they use less energy, less water and less time – resulting in minimal impact to the environment. It’s details like this that mark them out as a socially responsible and eco-conscious brewery.
We are seated in the dining room, where a Ploughman’s Platter is already waiting. What could possibly pair better with a cold beer than artisanal meats, local cheese and an assortment of chutneys, mustards and pickles? To accompany this farm-to-table charcuterie board, we are invited to join our host, Matt, in a tasting of their Boxing Bruin IPA. Bitter at first taste, but then opening up into a smoother, fruitier finish, we are guided through the sensations on the nose and on the palate. In keeping with the Cowbell ethos, the cured meats are produced locally in Huron County and the cheese is from a dairy farm so close we can literally see it from the floor to ceiling windows that frame the dining room.
The highlight of our platter? The subtly spiced salami and tangy, crunchy pickled vegetables. This selection of nibbles leads perfectly into our hearty main course – the Cowbell Classic Beef Burger. This 6 oz patty, with cheddar, shredded kale and pickles comes sandwiched in a branded bun – a detail in keeping with the farm-to-table menu. It’s a delicious and generously sized burger, and just what you need after a flight of craft beer!
To finish our countryside feast, a smörgåsbord of house made pastries and cakes arrives at our table, and we order a round of cocktails. To complement our butter tarts and rich chocolate brownies, we opt for a Smoked Old Fashioned and a Churchill’s Breakfast.
The old fashioned is served tableside, liquid smoke poured over for added flair, while Churchill’s Breakfast really was the ideal ‘dessert cocktail’. Knob Creek bourbon, cold espresso, maple syrup, and black walnut bitters, garnished with a smoked cinnamon stick… I’d call that a sweet finish to a fantastic meal and an all round wonderful trip.
What really stood out about the day on the Cowbell Express is the outstanding service and passion that all the employees Cowbell. For every can and pint of their beer, 5 cents is donated to children’s hospital throughout the province, and they’ve raised the better part of $250,000 to date – which is simply awesome. For a breath of fresh air, in every sense, Cowbell Brewing Co. is an inspiring establishment that’s well worth the trip.