Broken Rail Brewing
480 Glass Street. St. Marys, ON.
Some people are fascinated by ancient ruins, baseball stadiums or even hockey arenas, for me it’s breweries and casinos. You may think this makes me a drunk degenerate gambler, but I much prefer craft beer aficionado who enjoys games of chance. On occasion we are both right.
If you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll know I love Las Vegas. Vegas is a town that doesn’t always embrace its history. When a casino gets tired or loses fanfare, they knock it down and build something new and shiny in its place. I have always been enthralled with watching a casino being built, seeing design renderings and pouring over the bar and restaurant menus. I crave the anticipation of someday walking through the doors to experience it myself. I started following Broken Rail on Instagram mid-way through their journey. It was nice to feel this level of excitement for a brewery opening. Unlike Vegas, they embraced the building’s history and chose to restore rather than rebuild.
Broken Rail Brewing was established by Erin and Ryan Leaman in February 2021, but the history of the building goes back just a tad further…like 163 years. The beautiful brewery and taproom are housed in the historic St. Marys Junction Station built in 1858 as part of the Grand Trunk Railway. The exterior was constructed from locally quarried limestone and is considered the most well preserved station on the railway. And now, the funnest.
In 1941 the station ceased rail operations and by 1965 was earmarked for demolition. Fortunately, the building was deemed of historical significance and saved from demo. In 1993 the exterior structure was further preserved but the building laid vacant until the Leamans breathed life into it. Get all the details in the picture below.
Lets change tracks and talk about Broken Rail owners Erin and Ryan Leaman. Erin has a background in hospitality management, and this experience really shows. Ryan has been a lifelong craft beer fan and a homebrewer for the past 9 years. Their determination and hard work is apparent in every aspect of this brewery. It was wonderful to see the town of St. Marys come out and support their efforts on opening weekend and thereafter.
When you first pull into the brewery on the residential outskirts of St. Marys you’ll notice the big red caboose. It will eventually be repurposed as food truck concept, but for now it's fun to pretend to drive.
There’s ample picnic table seating on their 1200 sq ft patio and grassy areas for overflow and games. The exterior features beautiful stone arch ways with red French doors that can be opened to the taproom on cooler days. As you pass through the archway, it’s hard to believe you are entering a building that is 163 year old. The foyer features access to three spacious and incredibly clean gender neutral washrooms. The interior is highlighted by high ceilings, light wood floors and wainscoting. The interior design is timeless and minimal in the best of ways and is likely similar to what once was, but with 12 glorious taps of delicious beer. Click the little black arrow on the gallery below to see the taproom and brewery (8 pictures).
Inside the taproom, the archways provide lots of natural sunlight. Removed ceiling joists have been saved and repurposed into the bar and tables. The bar features taps with railway spike handles and a wood framed chalk board menu drawn by none other than our server Becky. One of the coolest features is a small ticket window they uncovered during renovations and restored for access into their retail area.
Even though it was only their second day of taproom operations, the staff kept the beer flowing like they’ve been open for years. Becky and Donna were incredibly accommodating to us taking pictures and getting in their way. It’s important to note that the patio is dog friendly with a fenced dog park right beside the brewery. Its also important to note that the patio is kid friendly with a playground right across the road, so bring the whole family!
Don’t get sidetracked, tell us about the Beer!
We were fortunate to visit on a day with ten Broken Rail and two guest brews on tap. Their beer includes classic styles ranging from blondes to stouts with some trendy IPA styles thrown in. There is something on the list for everyone, including a Shale Ridge made cider. We sampled all ten brews and each was fresh, well made and worthy of a full glass, to which I had a few. Special thanks to my wonderful wife for driving, although I would have happily stayed and called that caboose home for the night...or a year.
Teslas Revenge IPA (6.4% abv) – A soft and juicy IPA with tropical aromas and flavours of pineapple, peach, mango and an approachable pithy pine bitterness.
Incandescent Blonde Ale (4.6% abv) - Bright and lightly grassy with notes of honey and strawberry. Clean, crisp dry finish. It tastes like I want five more.
Bad Order Pale Ale (5%) - Clean and crisp American style pale ale with light citrus, pineapple and grapefruit flavours. A patio crusher!
Delta 88 Altbier (5%) – Biscuity nutty malts accentuated with floral, fruity and peppery notes. A style that should be more popular.
Overnight Express Milk Stout (5.5% abv) – I don’t care if it’s 30 degree outside, if there’s a stout on tap I’m ordering it. Roasty chocolately aromas lead to classic stout flavours of fresh roasted coffee, bittersweet chocolate and a peppery finish. The addition of lactose adds a nice creamy mouthfeel.
Square Nail Amber (5.1% abv) – Sweet malty aromas with toasty malt flavours of caramel, light citrus and dark fruits light bitterness.
Easy Sign Saison (6.4% abv) – a refreshing Saison with bright citrus, banana and bubblegum flavours. Really enjoyed this fun Saison and it hides the abv very well.
We spent a beautiful afternoon hanging out and experiencing Broken Rail Brewing. It was nice to feel anticipation again, and more importantly for the first experience to live up to that anticipation. The Leaman’s have accomplished something incredible in St. Marys. They saw the potential in an abandoned historical site, restored and reinvented it. All the while staying true to the original design and embracing its history.
This is the end of the line, stay positive and drink good beer.