With another busy summer I have come to the realization that day trips are a great option to check off more breweries and sights. It’s often the planned highlight of the week and still leaves room in your weekend to get things done around the house or just plain relax. Also basing yourself in one city can be a much more relaxing way to explore with no rush to move on.
St. Thomas is another worthwhile city in southwestern Ontario to visit for craft breweries and some unique sightseeing. With two breweries currently in St. Thomas it’s ideal for a day trip and I chose to stay the night so that I could enjoy a little more beer and not rush home.
Nicknamed the Railway City this town is filled with just as many urban trails to hike along and has plenty of places to grab cool photos and things to eat as you explore.
My first stop, since I got into town before beer o’clock, was a giant 38 ton statue of Jumbo the elephant. It stands majestically tall as you enter St. Thomas not far from the highway and despite the tragic story of his death here in town this cool attraction was built in 1985 on the 100th anniversary of Jumbo’s death as a tribute and is equally cool to see in the day as it is in the evening all lit up with coloured lights.
As I read a little more about the history from the nearby sign and snapped some photos my pretend watch struck 11am and I headed in the direction of the latest addition to St. Thomas’ craft beer scene, Caps Off Brewing Co.
Owned by Fran & Rick this intimate space is full of flavor and personality and are already upgrading their brew system to accommodate all the beer going out the doors and into the bellies of locals and travellers.
I drank the Pale Ale, IPA & Stout and they all leaned toward English style versions were quite enjoyable. What do I mean by that you may ask? Well to me it means more balance and interplay between malt and hop bitterness and a tad more malt profile and sweetness than American versions of these styles of beers. English pale ales display earthy, herbal English-variety hop character as well which is has less bitterness and citrus character to it.
This husband and wife team has created a friendly environment that seems to be attracting a great crowd already that you’d never guess they just opened their doors a few months ago. Caps Off also has a patio, snacks and a tasty charcuterie board available to enjoy. Currently you can purchase growlers of select brews to take home and once they get brewing on their larger system more varieties of beer to go will be available.
From here I decided to walk off some of the beer and snacks and check out some of the photo friendly places about town.
The Boxcar Murals, located outside the Elgin County Railway Museum (225 Wellington Street, St. Thomas) provides an opportunity for local artists to create works of art on train boxcars within the city. I have always been a fan of public art / well done graffiti and believe it has the power to create discussion, provides mystery and intrigue, brings a sense of community or simply add a splash of colour and beauty to a part of town. Oh and it consistently aids in creating great photos for the ‘gram!
After channeling my inner artist and singing the line “Outside there's a box car waiting” from The Pixies over and over I grabbed my map that I picked up at the visitor center downtown, 605 Talbot St, and cruised over to checked out Canada’s only elevated park that had peaked my interest.
An iconic railway structure in St. Thomas from 1930 has been converted into Canada's first Elevated Park. Spanning 850ft in length and 30ft wide it is a walk-able trail decorated with flower beds, trees, benches and public art and in addition to being a unique public space the city is hoping it will also become a tourism attraction to continue to bring more people to town to visit. Sounds pretty cool eh? Well I was sad to see it was closed for continued improvements until the end of August but I stuck my face up to the fence and gazed upon what indeed looks like a cool space and unique way to cross the valley. If you are interested in donating or supporting the park in any way you can go here
With more than 26 railways spanning the city it is no wonder I crossed about 12 by the time I got to Railway City Brewing. First opened in 2008, in the building where Caps Off is now located, Railway relocated in 2013 to their spacious 14,000sp ft brew house and tap room on Edward st. Most known for their Dead Elephant Ale, yet another tribute to Jumbo the Elephant, they continue to create a variety of styles to please all beer lovers. Dead Elephant is a full-bodied pale ale that pours golden with a fluffy white head that leaves a beautiful lacing on the glass with each sip. The flavour is sweet and fruity malts up front with balanced amount of grapefruit and perfume undertones. Aroma is mild malt and floral from the hops.
I also tried Boxcar Graffiti a tropical lager with subtle notes of pineapple, other tropical fruit and a tad of lemon. It was subtle but very refreshing on a yet another hot summers day.
Railway also had a new release that was by far the most interesting beer I had tasted on the trip. Train Reaction is a sea salt and lime cerveza (lager) though it sounds simple it had a very well done citrus punch to it with a perfect pairing of salt. If you had handed it to me in a blind tasting I have no idea what I would have guessed it to be besides refreshing, unique and drinkable.
If you’re there on a Friday be sure to try one of the wood-fired pizzas made onsite by Elgin Harvest. The combination of ingredients are fresh, unique and pair so well with a flight of beer.
At this point there seemed to be one more obvious stop before I check in to my Air Bnb… dessert!
So you may have caught on by now that I am not a huge dessert person, beer is my dessert, but when it comes to ice cream and highly recommended places, I am in! Seed Confections is a small batch, hand crafted, artisan chocolate and confection company. As I know and preach; flavor is an experience and though I tend to relate that to beer it certainly extends to food.
I had an handmade ice cream bar dipped in chocolate and macaroons… sounds normal doesn’t it? Well the ice cream inside was anything but as it was peach & garlic! Made with roasted garlic and a peach jam it was odd and delicious all at once. They had regular flavours too for the less adventurous and the beautiful chocolates are on display like art.
I highly suggest stopping by and grabbing some treats, I even saw cinnamon buns on their Facebook page today I must have missed! Check out their Instagram here
Well that was my day but instead of returning home I chose to lay me head to rest at a cute Air bnb walking distance from downtown.
Have you stayed at an Air Bnb before? I have to admit I was sort of hesitant the first time we did a few years back. I mean we are very social and not all of them are shared spaces but I wasn’t sure what to expect. All of our experiences so far have been great, besides the one weird one I picked in Milwaukee: note to self read up on the neighbourhood first.
Hosts have always been so helpful and friendly and if you choose a shared space you meet some really cool people. Interested in booking one for your next trip You can get $45 off with this link
Thanks again to Ontario's Southwest and Railway City Tourism for bringing me out to explore another piece of Ontario that contains beer, good food and worthwhile sights!