Great Things Brewing in Downtown St. Catharines

What do you get when you combine two new friends, their quiet and reserved husbands, a dinner out and 20 craft beers? Just your typical Niagara adventure. Last night, my friend Becky and I, along with our husbands (who both happened to be names Mike) journeyed to Downtown St. Catharines to Project Brew, a Niagara College event showcasing the talents of the fourth semester brewery students and their delicious final projects.

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Considering the origins of our friendship centered on beer, it was only fitting for our first double-date night to feature those two exact things. Our evening started off with dinner at The Office. If you’ve never been to The Office, you really must go now. Like, drop what you’re doing and GO.  It’s a small restaurant, but what they lack in size, they make up for in flavour! The menu is the perfect combination of apps to share, sandwiches, salads and complete entrées. We didn’t make reservations or even plan for a specific restaurant to eat at – it was more of a “let’s go downtown and then decide when we get there” kind of decision. We settled on The Office when I recalled all the wonderful dinners I have experienced there over the years. I like to think of The Office as a person that has seen me grow up and seen me through all the different stages of my life. It’s witnessed my youthfully ignorant days of working at Starbucks and gathering for dinner with some of my co-workers. It’s been the place I stop at after a night of drinking at The Pepper for some nachos and samosas. It has seen a first date, a “we’re just friends” date, end-of-term parties and girls’ nights. But for the first time ever, for me at least, tonight it saw a double-date.

It was such a relief to see that our husbands had many things in common as well aside from the fact that their wives basically loved each other. The Ricky Gervais Club Sandwich was a hit with the guys, while Becky and I opted for a Chicken Pesto Sandwich and a Steak Wrap, respectively. The food was amazing and the company was even better.

IMG_20170407_194308.jpgDinner was followed by a walk to Market Square for the part of the evening we all had been anticipating the most. For $20 each, we were given a small glass, branded with both the NC and Project Brew logos plus four tokens to sample some of the craft beer that had been created by the graduating brewery students. I chose to start my night with “Come Chai with Me”, an oatmeal stout packed with the familiar flavours of a delicious cup of chai. Actually, the smell reminded Mike and I of Root Beer, which got me thinking, Does Chai always smell like root beer? Have I been missing that all along? I’ll have to stop for a chai tea latte one day at Black Sheep Lounge to investigate further.

Next up, was “Organized Chaos” a sour lemon Biere de Mars. What got me on board this one was the mention of lemon. Ever since my trip to Italy after I graduated from university, the smell, taste and even thought of lemon brings me back to those days wandering through Sorrento with my mom, stopping in all the different shops and basking in the smell of fresh lemons the size of your head and magnolia blossoms overhead. It definitely did not disappoint and had me longing for summer nights on the deck.

IMG_20170407_211054I loved my third beer so much I went back to make it my fourth as well. “Carta de Postres”. This one was my favourite, hands down. Being a “hop-y” beer, I was surprised that I liked it so much, but the warming flavours of vanilla and citrus were oh so pleasing.

By the end of the night, the four of us piled back in the car and made our way home chatting about our honeymoon cruising experiences. It was clear that not only were beers brewing that night, buts was our friendship.

All in all, I’d say that Project Brew was a fantastic event. It was amazing to see the pride and care each Brewer put into their projects. You could tell that they were so passionate about their work. Whenever I see someone who is all-in to their career path, I find it so inspiring. Those who live with passion and love what they do just radiate happiness that is infectious. Of course, that could have been the alcohol as well – I guess both tend to have the same effect. Whatever it was, I drank it up.

-KQ

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