Heritage Hops Brew Co.
21 Market Place, Stratford ON.
"Get thee to a brewery” my wife proclaimed after receiving an invite to Heritage Hops in beautiful downtown Stratford from sales rep Nicole. If you aren’t familiar with this well-known tourist destination in Southwestern Ontario, it’s famous for their Stratford Festival. This annual festival features performances of Shakespearean plays and other productions from May to October. A festival that I, an obvious Shakespeare fan, attended during an 8th grade field trip to see The Merchant of Venice, well before I could sneak out for a pint. So forge those permission slips and come along with us.
The brewery is located in a picturesque location overlooking downtown’s Market Square. This community space features open seating for concerts and is surrounded by boutique shops and restaurants. The square is anchored by the Stratford City Hall built in 1900, a Canadian National Historic Site and most importantly a sweet backdrop for beer pics.
It was a beautiful fall day and we started on the patio. We sipped through our first flight, taking in the market square vibe while lounging in muskoka chairs. The patio soon filled up and we moved inside to sample more of the seven different beers on tap and share some lunch.
The brewery itself is housed in the original home of the Stratford Herald Newspaper dating back to 1890. I know you’re thinking “this guy really knows his local history”...never mind the fact the it’s written on the building. On the street level is a quaint but well-furnished patio with heaters, muskoka chairs and even some bar height seating. Inside is a beautiful pub style brewery, that is long and narrow but comfortable. The front features nearly floor to ceiling windows bringing a burst of natural light and views of the city hall. The bar is dark wood with tall shelving and a chalkboard menu; it’s a bar that begs to be sat at for an glass of ale. The wall is exposed brick, the floor a rustic hardwood and the ceiling beautiful stamped tin. I love this place. Towards the rear, four labelled fermentation tanks nearly touching the ceiling remind you this is a brewery.
The brewery was initially opened as Herald Haus Brewing in late 2018 but changed ownership in early 2020. Luckily, the owners retained head brew John and a number of their core brews. The brewery underwent a complete rebrand to Heritage Hops with the interior and can designs receiving a much needed punch of colour. I had visited Harold Haus in 2018, just a few days after they opened their doors. The interior has the same pub vibe but was overly dark. The rebrand has brightened the space with the wood paneled side walls painted white and inset with their colourful can designs.
I was able to meet head brewer Jon, who spoke about the intricacies of water composition and yeast profiles, while I nodded like I knew what he was talking about. As I continue my journey to learn beer, it’s awesome to have the opportunity to talk with someone as passionate as Jon is about the products they create.
In addition to the excellent beer, they offer a menu of house made pub favourites with great daily specials (menu in gallery). Most days of the week they feature half off food specials and lucky for us, we took advantage of the half off fish and chips special. These fish and chips were some of the best we’ve ever had. The battered cod was perfectly cooked, laid atop a bed of house cut crispy fries and worthy of the full price. This dish paired with their British Pale Ale would be perfect. Service inside and on the patio was friendly and ensured we never had an empty glass.
To beer or not to beer? Let's beer!
Heritage Hops offers a solid selection of true to style brews, IPAs and rotating small batches. We sampled all the styles on offer and we enjoyed each one. Standouts for me were the Raspberry Sour, British Pale ale and the Stout.
21 Haze IPA (6.2% abv) – Sweet grapefruit and citrus aromas, bright flavours of lychee, stone fruit and light mango that’s matched with an assertive pithy bitterness. Jon promises the next batch will be hazy, I guess we’ll have to come back to find out.
Perth County Conspiracy APA (4.7%) – Light corn cereal and toffee nose, the medium bodied malt profile adds nice toffee flavours accented by a floral and grapefruit pith bitterness.
Stout (4.7%) – Sweetened coffee and subtle tobacco aroma with a smooth flavour of brown sugar and light roast coffee. This would be phenomenal on nitro.
It’s Noon Somewhere Light Lager (4%) – Light cereal and baked bread aroma, Crisp with a light bitterness throughout the sip to sweet pale malt finish.
Dingman Dark Lager (4.5%) – Sweet dark malt and light black licorice aromas flavours dark roasted malts and some spicy noble hop bitterness. Clean uncomplicated taste and a style that is underrated.
Abandoned at the Alter Raspberry Sour (5.3%) – Aromas of cherry pastry, refreshing sweet raspberry tartness on the sip transitioning into a savory raspberry dry finish. To me, this is one of the most successful fruited sours I’ve had. It really captures everything I love about raspberries, the sweetness, the sourness and the savory flavours of the berry. Exceptional.
Keep Calm and Carry On British Pale Ale (4.5% abv) – Light toffee nose, nice toasted malt sweetness and light bitterness for balance. Perfect beer for this brewery’s English charm. I hope to be able to enjoy another glass of this soon.
The Stratford area is home to 4 breweries; Heritage Hops, Jobsite, Black Swan and Shakespeare Brewing. We had planned to visit another this day but as we were chatting with the staff, enjoying Jon’s beer and soaking in the atmosphere, time disappeared as fast as the beer in my glass.
"I like this place and willingly could waste my time in it"
- William Shakespeare