Norfolk County’s Beer Bounty (and a super-sized Pachyderm)

By Sarah Jaquay

The first movie I ever saw at a theater was Jumbo starring Jimmy Durante and Doris Day.

I remember the part where a cop asks Durante, “What are you doing with that elephant?” Durante responds, “What elephant?” Denizens of St. Thomas, Ontario, however, know who Jumbo is. They’re reminded of P.T. Barnum’s star attraction whenever they raise a glass of Railway City Brewing Company’s beer. The brewery’s flagship Dead Elephant Ale is named for the poor pachyderm’s demise in 1885.

He was a celebrity on two continents, so it’s fitting his legacy is being revived for a new generation who appreciate craft beer, history and authenticity. Railway City founder Paul Corriveau notes, “We pride ourselves on sharing a bit of history in all our names.” Corriveau used to work at a brew-on-premise place. He decided to go independent, produce his own styles of beer and open a retail operation at his production facility near some of the town’s ubiquitous railroad tracks. Dead Elephant IPA is worth crossing the tracks for. It’s got sweet and fruity malts with just enough bitterness to keep hop heads happy.

Other styles have train-themed monikers: Iron Spike Amber, Iron Spike Copper (red ale) and The Witty Traveler (Belgian-style wheat beer). “Copper is the training to start people on the dark side,” says Corriveau.

For pairing superior potato chips with suds, head to Ramblin’ Road Brewery Farm in LaSalette, Ontario. Owner John Picard grows hops, peanuts and potatoes. The spuds often end up in Picard’s Extreme Kettle chips, Beer-washed Kettle chips and their famous crispy potato chip-covered peanuts. Ramblin’ Road’s flagship ale is their potato-based Dakota Pearl Ale. For bigger appetites, Ramblin’ Road’s upstairs tasting room offers burgers and freshly cut fries. Ramblin’ Road is a bit off the beaten track, but worth setting the GPS to locate.

For a quick trip to Europe, head to New Limburg Brewing Company in Nixon. Cofounder Mischa Geven grew up in Belgium and started brewing as a hobby. He says they import most of their hops and Belgian Blonde Ale is their flagship style. It has high alcohol for a blonde (7.2 percent ABV) but still refreshes due to its citrus, pear and peppery notes. New Limburg serves bitterballen – a savory meat snack popular in Holland – plus cheese plates, and hosts occasional food trucks. In summer, dining on their inviting patio is de rigueur.

Norfolk County, Ontario is worth including in your summer road trip. It offers a jumbo-sized Ontario craft beer experience.

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