To say they are family-oriented is to understate the case a little. The brewery is named after John Romano's children, Nicholas and Brooke (both of whom I have met working in the brewery during the Summer) and is owned by John and his brother Peter.
So when I started drinking craft beer in the Summer of 2013, the little brewery down the street and around the corner from me has been my go-to craftie as I dare say I might live closer to it than any of the actual employees.
And John is number one on my list of people to discuss the state of craft beer in Ontario. He is a man full of passion about what he, the brewery and the industry itself does and is, frankly, a walking, talking No Bullshit Zone kind of dude. I first met him in November 2013 when I stopped into the brewery to buy some Bolshevik Bastard Imperial Stout. You see, it had been included in an Ontario Craft Brewers' Mix-Six and since I had tried the other five beers, I figured I'd go straight to the source for the sixth brew.
|This photo is less notable for the presence of myself and "Ontario's|
Sexiest Cellarman" Tony Cox, right, as it is for the dude who happily
photobombed us in the middle. Frankly, this man made the photo great.
Finding out I worked for the Beer Store (the subject of considerable but always good-natured teasing on his part), he asked how I landed in the brewery. Well, aside from my love for their Headstock IPA (which, to me, will always be brewmaster Ryan Morrow's greatest creation despite countless other outstanding beers), I said simply, "I guess I just think people should shop locally."
That earned me a grateful handshake on the spot, as well as a free growler of Bolshevik Bastard and two-year-aged bottle of Kentucky Bastard bourbon-barrel aged Imperial Stout.
|Kayla gives us a million dollar smile as she pours|
my pint at the Nickel Brook Fundraising BBQ
on Saturday. Many happy faces filled the day.
And then there's Tony Cox, voted Ontario's "sexiest cellarman," in an exclusive poll taken by his wife, Charis, and their cats. There's nothing that will create a friendship quite as quickly as a mutual love for Batman and we both have that in spades. But there's more. As Tony reminded me recently, "Do you remember when you and (my son) David came in on March 23rd, 2014 and because it was David's birthday, we had a brewery tour?" To this day, Tony remembers the exact date of my son's birthday! It was David's first craft brewery tour and he loved the shiny equipment so much that he has come with me on countless more brewery tours. Man, he sure loved that canning machine. But then, all chrome and a cool conveyor belt, what's not for a young lad to love?
|Tory Lewin, Nickel Brook's trusty Events and|
Communication Manager, didn't ask me if I
would be attending their Fundraising BBQ
so much as tell me I would be attending it. Hey,
I was thrilled to take a day off work and join in!
So why did I and countless others descend on the brewery's parking lot on June 17? Well, I, for one, was told explicitly by Tory Lewin, Nickel Brook's Events and Communications Manager, about a month and a half ago that I would be there when they held their Charity Fundraising BBQ. "Are you coming to our fundraiser next month?" she asked me back in early May. Then she proceeded to answer her own question with a big smile. "Yes, you are coming." (Hey, you don't get to be a communication manager until you have honed the fine art of "subtle" persuasion!)
So when I landed at the Charity BBQ, I quickly sat down with Tory to ask her how it all came about. "We've partnered up with the Ronald McDonald Foundation with the whole Cause for a Cause so the whole month of June, 10 cents from every can of Cause and Effect (Blonde Ale) is going to the foundation." So when I asked her how many of the beer I should buy on my way out, she smiled, "Probably at least two cases."
Looking around at the happy crowd, she added, "It's going really well. It's a really great turnout and people are keen on donating to and supporting such a good cause. Look at that nice long line-up at the BBQ and the beer tent. This is just great!"
|Chris Biggs and Jason Barr from the popular Biggs|
and Barr morning show on 97.7 HTZ-FM out of St.
Catharines were on hand to do live remotes from the
event, as well as help us enjoy some kick-ass tunes.
But while she was the big "day of event" contributor, setting up the tents, getting the licensing and getting people settled in, she threw the credit for the whole event towards the brewery's Manager of Corporate Sales and Marketing Matt Gibson. "Matt took this project under his wing and really ran with it. I'm here today hopefully helping it go smoothly but Matt was the one who put all the brains behind it."
While most people know this, Ronald McDonald Houses were created so that out-of-town children being treated in the hospital had a comfortable place to stay during treatment. Quite often, the families of the sick children are also put up there. However, what you may not know - because I certainly didn't - is why this charity is so near and dear to the hearts of brewery owners John and Peter Romano.
"Well, it's a sad story," John told me, taking a break from his sweaty BBQ duties. "Peter and I lost a sister to Leukemia many many years ago. We grew up north of Toronto (in Bolton) so Mom and Dad lived at Ronald McDonald House for years. So this is not just a charity we picked. It's a charity that's close to our hearts."
|As much as I love my Headstock IPA, I definitely|
made room for some Cause & Effect Blonde Ale
this month. Great beer for a greater cause in June.
Celebrating their 25th year in the same locale, the Romano brothers decided it was high time to get back into supporting the great work done by RMHC and celebrate it with this event. Every single dollar from the day went directly to the charity.
So was he happy with the turn-out? "Unbelievable! I've been sweating my you-know-what off behind the barbeque and I'm gonna have to go buy more burgers soon! We had a couple of hundred burgers and they're gonna be gone shortly." (For the record, they were delicious.)
But it actually ended up for me being an afternoon of hits and even close misses with some of my social media friends.
As well as BigCanuck75, another man I often tag on my many Instagram beer photos is Hoppy_Dad, aka Preston Richards in civilian life. Turns out he and I talked and didn't even realize it. While his kids played the bean-bag toss off to the side, I noted to him, "Yeah, they're gonna need more arch on their throws." Because, you know, pro league bean bag toss is all in the wrists. And we watched them play (somewhat successfully) for a few minutes. Not even knowing we knew each other. When BigCanuck75 posted our picture on Instagram (which got 44 likes because of Glen, not me), Preston piped up, "Oh f**k! Noticed you both and it didn't even register!" Next time, my friend, next time...
But someone has to get the final word and I'm leaving that to my buddy, Tony Cox.
That's a pretty nice socially-aware sentiment, I thought and Tony has a big hand in naming it so kudos, brother! That's as clever as... Funk! But let's get back to Tony at the fund-raiser. "It's a good turn-out. Lots of local support here. The BBQ has been doing very good and I understand donations are as well. It's a good day for Nickel Brook and it's a good day for Ronald McDonald House."
And I understood he had a favourite writer there? "Oh yeah, my buddy, Don Redmond..." Really? Get the Funk out!!! But that's Nickel Brook. Even when you're not family, they always make you feel like you are the biggest part of it. I know I feel that way. You don't need to share a last name to be family. Sometimes you just are. As they say, "It takes a village to raise a craft beer lover." But guys and dolls, that's it, that all and I am outta here. Until next time (in a few days), I remain...