25292 Talbot Line, West Lorne, ON
This is Matt Derek Soos, graduate of the esteemed Niagara Brewing college Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Program. After graduation, Matt worked in multiple breweries in Ontario while honing his craft and creating recipes to someday brew at his own brewery. Tragically, in August of 2015, only four months after graduating Matt passed away. In a beautiful and heartfelt tribute to Matt, his family carried out his dream of opening a brewery naming it as Matt had envisioned, Natterjack Brewing Co.
Each time I travel to my hometown, I magically find myself pulling off-route and into the brewery. We take every opportunity to stop in and have a glass and chat with the Soos family; it always feels like coming home to friends. Natterjack can be found in Eagle Ontario, just a stone’s throw from West Lorne. Wait, you don’t know where West Lorne is either? It’s roughly half way between London and Chatham, with the brewery only a 7 minute jaunt off HWY 401, exit 137.
Natterjack has held a special place in my craftbeer heart since my first visit. I remember Matt’s brother and brewmaster Dan telling me stories of brewing beer with Matt and his dreams of having his own brewery. When someone shares memories of their loved one and speaks so passionately about their craft, how could you not love the place. Also, the beer is really good! Dan has a certain way about him, a great way in that he greets and speaks with you like you’ve been lifelong friends. It’s an admirable personality trait that few possess.
The taproom is quant: a corner bar, chalk menu, tap wall, cooler full of beers to go and some great Natterjack merch. The Natterjack toad mascot is fun and unique. Each can design features a different version of the toad, some of which are totally jacked. Taking a seat at the bar is like pulling up a chair to a friend’s kitchen table…you just become part of the family.
On the wall you will find a board full of pictures and news articles of Matt, the Soos family and the story of the brewery. I encourage you to take a look through the memories.
Through the double doors, the brewery itself is utilitarian and additional seating is comprised of patio and fold out tables and chairs. It’s a sparklingly clean new facility that is bright with white corrugated steel walls and light grey concrete floors. But if you look around there are some Soos family treasures to behold. There’s Matt’s dorm room freezer emblazed with stickers, some barrels full of what’s to come and the original brewing system that Matt and Dan brewed their first batches on.
When the weather is nice, a big overhead door opens up and the brewery spills out to a grassy area with picnic tables. There is no food here, but you can bring food in and they often have food trucks and venders on weekends.
I grew up in a small village in Southwestern Ontario. The term ‘village’ was loosely applied to was a collection of about 5 farm houses and a railway crossing. Not much different than Eagle. As a young man, my friends and I went to a lot of stag and does. For country kids, this was how we spent many Friday and Saturday nights, you didn’t even have to know the couple tying the knot. These parties were often held in a farmer’s workshop or utility barn. This is the vibe I get from Natterjack but with way better beer! A place where everyone is welcome to grab a beer and take a seat to spark up a conversation with whomever about whatever. This is how you make friends and build a community in rural Ontario.
Not only has Matt's family built a brewery but the Soos family have also established the Matt Soos Project Brew Memorial fund. A scholarship fund for the Brewmaster and Brewery Operations program. They have also become an integral part of Project Brew, a student run beer fest that showcases their graduation projects. Mine would be a beer gushing volcano.
Tell us about Matt's Beer already!
It's true, most of the brews you'll be enjoying are the recipes that Matt crafted. But Dan has been brewing his own unique and traditional styles. The beers offered at Natterjack are unique and their menu doesn't always read like a typical craft brewery. Offerings include some belgian styles, strong ales and lagers. Dan brews whatever he feels like, so there is always something new he is excited to tell you about. And I like that.
Lunker Cream Ale – One of my all time favourite beers. This is a luscious cream ale with a perfect mouth feel and a dense lingering foam. Caramel, Honey, nutty maltiness with light bitterness and an earthy finish. I can't read this paragraph without craving one.
Toad Porter – Bready aromas, with toasty malt and milk chocolates notes, low bitterness and a dry finish. An easy drinking stout for newcomers to the style.
Natterjack Toad – This is a unique beer. It has aromas of light caramel, flavours of banana, brown sugar and a nice nuttiness from the pistachios. You can really taste the cardamom all through the sip which adds an interesting bitterness. Try it and tell me what you think!
Soos Juice – Another unique brew with a light chocolate nose, a semisweet chocolate flavour notes and an assertively bitter finish while remaining smooth. It’s dangerous at 9%.
Logger – A Vienna style lager with caramel and toast malt flavours, light bitterness and a touch of smoke flavour. I find the smoke or peat flavour to be subdued when on draft but quite apparent when pouring from can.
I never had the pleasure of meeting Matt, but his energy is everywhere in the brewery and lives on through the passion of his incredible family. I am so fortunate to have gotten to know the Soos family and share their memories with us. Come to Natterjack, have a couple of delicious beers and send up a cheers to Matt.
Stay positive and drink good beer.