Beer was once considered to be less ‘sophisticated’ than wine or spirits. ‘Craft beer’ changed all that. Now beer is increasingly viewed as its own art form, blending niche flavours with experimental brewing techniques to creates beers as nuanced as a good wine.
It’s this new approach to brewing that has given birth to fresh institutions like the Exchange Brewery, a compact but well-designed walk-in bar and brewery. Situated in Niagara-on-the-Lake, it resides in a historic building once used as a telephone exchange (hence the name, ‘Exchange Brewery’).
The range is varied for a small microbrewery, with rotating cellar specials and a regular line of draft beers on tap. India pale ales are a big slice of the regular range, in traditional black or the wheat-based ‘white’ IPA. You can also count on getting at least one type of pale ale outside the IPA umbrella, including a fruity and slightly spicy saison.
The main factor to the precisely blended flavours in a brewery like Exchange is the hops, and this is a brewery that takes the art of hop selection very seriously. It handpicks hop varieties from all over the world:
and maximises their innate flavours depending on the target blends. It’s a level of detail apparent even on their website, where they list every hop variety in their regular drafts.
The venue itself is interesting to visit when in Niagara-on-the-Lake. With two bars, one of them more enclosed for intimate gatherings, the setup caters for walk-ins and offers its regular varieties for sale to take home. Small personal tours are also on offer for anyone wanting to see the brewery in action.
The Exchange is only recently opened, but is already planning to expand its range and offer more unique blends throughout the year, specialising in niche techniques and taking full advantage of Niagara’s rich agricultural history. It’s the kind of venue that emphasises why beer is so fashionable at the moment, and offers the kind of rich blends to justify that newfound popularity.
It is also one of many Craft Brewery’s that are showing up in the Niagara Region. Others include: