Sunday, 6 May 2018

Chronicle(ing) the return of the prodigal Jim

When the man who was partly responsible for putting my face on a beer announces he's heading up a new brewery I feel a bit of a responsibility to show up for the grand opening.

When that man is Jim Gorry, the co-founder and original brewmaster at Manantler and known from coast to coast as the Magician with the Mash Paddle (I just made it up so it must be true), then it becomes doubly important to get out to Bowmanville for the opening of Chronicle Brewing.

Jim, who was also my sensei when I learned the secret art of the Bro Hug (Spring, Bro Hugs and our Brewer's Best) left Manantler to head west a year or so ago to find his fortune. Or party, I dunno. I know he worked in sales some and brewed with friends, including our pal Trevor, who had left Manantler around the same time to work in a couple of B.C. breweries.

Chronicle Brewmaster Jim Gorry
The important thing is he's back and he's brewing in Bowmanville again, this time for Chronicle, which opened Saturday on Lake Road in the town's industrial south-east side.

This time Jim is just brewing (assisted by Alan Cowling), as the ownership of the fledgling brewery is in the hands of Ted Paulson. They tinkered with the name of the brewery - they collaborated on a beer with Town Brewery under the name Canadian Parks - before settling on Chronicle, which reflected the passion for "mythology, fables, games, medieval fantasies and sci-fi" shared by both owner and brewer.

So I had to be there.

But it would be later Saturday, rather than earlier, as there was the small matter of a TFC game that day. I was in possession of a pair of tickets gifted to me, courtesy of my cousin Steve, as he and his lovely wife Colleen would be sunning themselves in Hawaii (right next to an erupting volcano) instead of being at the game.

Thanks cuz.

Great seats too, and I figured I should be able to find takers easy enough. This is the defending MLS Cup champions and they were coming off an impressive run in the CONCACAF Championships, which concluded only a few days before.

I asked the J Man first, but he wasn't interested, so I moved on to my pal Steve, who is almost as big a soccer fan as I am. He said sure, but a week before the game he had to beg off, citing work commitments. I got the same answer from my older boys Matt and Cam, so I figured I'd go hang out at the bar and try my luck there.

"Thanks, but I'm washing my hair that day," was the response I got from Shannon, and I got the same answer from Adam.  Philistines, the lot of you, I cried, but I was still stuck without a dance partner for the game.

I was complaining about that very thing the next morning to my work son when Daniel -san interrupted me. "I'll go," he said.

Daniel and I at BMO Field. TFC!!
There. Was that so hard?

So as Jim and his crew were polishing sample glasses and otherwise preparing for Chronicle Brewing's grand opening, Daniel and I were parking my car at the Pickering GO Station for the train ride down to Exhibition Station and BMO Field.

But on arrival we turned north instead of south and walked into the heart of Liberty Village, one of Toronto's trendy new hotspots. I'm a TO kid, but all this development happened long after I moved east so I had never been here. I did know the area was chock-a-block with bars, with most of them of the craft beer variety.

Our first stop was Local Liberty Village, but the place was jammed so tight there was a lineup just for elbow room at the bar. So we moved on to the next bar, 3 Brasseurs, a brewpub chain I was familiar with, having enjoyed their IPA at their Oakville location with Beer Bro Don earlier this year.

This place was also packed, but with time 'a wasting and a soccer game 30 minutes away, I found a spot at the bar and ordered an IPA (go figure) and whiled away 20 minutes or so drinking a fine ale and watching the start of a Toronto Wolfpack game.

Turns out 3 Brasseurs is the home base for the Wolfpack, a Rugby League squad that plays in the second tier of English rugby and, with a sparkling 32-3-2 record in one-and-a-half seasons is likely headed for the Premiership next year.

If it works...go for it!
Each try (they led 18-0 midway through the first half when we left) was greeted with cheers and chants from its supporters on the bar's second level.

But Daniel and I were here for soccer, not rugby, so we soon headed back to BMO to watch the footy, which started strongly - we led 2-0 at the half - but ended on a rough note. The tired legs of the Toronto eleven  - as well as a video review controversy - contributed to a Chicago second half comeback and an eventual 2-2 draw.

The new VAR review system cost us a goal; led to a penalty shot (heroically saved by Alex Bono); and was oddly not used - and I say this with complete bias - when it should have been on Bastien Schweinsteiger's 69th minute goal to narrow TFC's lead.

The tired legs kicked in during a wild finish when Chicago tied it up deep into injury time to send the fans home believing (rightly) their team deserved better.

I had to nudge Daniel a few times during the action to keep him focused on the game however, busy as he was making prop bets on his phone. He made $600 on one bet in fact, though he lost half of that on a couple of later wagers as the game wore on.

The very awesome Shannon and Jen
He bought my beer at the bar (no way I'm drinking the overpriced macro swill at BMO) and bought us snacks, so no complaints here.

But enough about the soccer game: I had a brewery opening to get to, so as soon as the match ended we joined the crowd - most of the 26,000 in attendance took the GO so it's always a bit of a madhouse - and headed for the eastbound train and home.

I had arranged to meet up with my friends Jen and Shannon - the Tiny Perfect Bank Teller Shannon; not the Not Quite as Tiny but Just as Perfect Shannon I mentioned earlier - at 8, so I had time to wash up and pop in to Buster Rhino's for a half-pint before heading out to Bowmanville and Chronicle Brewing.

Housed in an industrial park on the east side of town (right off the highway), Chronicle is employing a 4.7 hectolitre nanobrewing system, with plans to expand later in the year.

The tap room is cozy (and in need of a little colour that will arrive as the team gets settled in over the next few months) and sidled up to the bar to meet brewery owner Ted and grab a pint of Jim's Mind Flay IPA (naturally) while I waited for Jen and Shannon to arrive.

Three of the five beers on hand for Chronicle
Brewing's grand opening
So very West Coast, this beer. With all the NEIPAs (which I love) saturating the IPA market these days, it's nice to see an old school IPA that is bracingly bitter with loads of pine, ripe citrus and caramel malts to assault the taste buds.

Which is pretty much what Jim said when he wandered in a few minutes after I arrived and greeted me with a flawlessly executed Bro Hug.

"You gotta brew the classics when you start a brewery," he explained.

And then the soon-to-be-father was off to dinner (he had been there all day) and I was left to savour my beer and wait for my friends, who arrived shortly after Jim left.

Shannon and Jen took the smart route by ordering samples of all five beers brewed for the big day. In addition to Mind Flay, there was an Idaho 7 Dry Hopped Kettle Sour (which I had already enjoyed at Buster Rhino's a couple of days before), Heros Handbag English Mild; Robust Milk Porter; and Amber Wheat Ale.

I tried a sample of the Heros Handbag (really learning to appreciate this simple style), toasted my friends on their fine choices in life and (eventually) headed for home, though not before grabbing as many Mind Flays as I could carry and one of everything else.

I get the feeling Jim, Ted and the rest of the Chronicle team will have no problem finding their place in Durham Region's growing craft brewing scene.

Glad to have ya back Jim.


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