I am always looking for something fun to do during the summer. Look, as much as I love driving to Niagara to hit a few wineries and grab a bite, you can only do that so many times before you start to get bored of doing the same thing every weekend. On a beautiful summer weekend, heavy tourist traffic can turn a 45 minute drive into a 2 hour excursion and I just don't always want to taste wine, if you can imagine.
Recently, I was introduced to Boxcars and Beer - on three Sundays this summer, you can hop on a vintage 50's era locomotive in Stouffville and spend 90 minutes enjoying a beer and cheese tasting. The trains, part of the York-Durham Heritage Railway Association and operated by volunteers, offer a variety of different trips from Fall Colours to Halloween and Santa Trains so be sure to see what else they have going on. But for now, we are all about the beer and cheese train.
For the Boxcars and Beer experience, fromager, Cecilia Smith and brewery owner/certified beer judge, Joanne Richter will guide you though five pairings of beer from Uxbridge's Second Wedge Brewing Company and a selection of Ontario cheeses.
|our conductor, Ron, the train and the picturesque Uxbridge Station|
The vintage train is set up like a dining car with white linens and at each setting, five four oz beer glasses (you get to keep one to take home) and a cheese plate with some bread and dried apricots to munch on between pairings to cleanse the palate.
Most people probably think wine is the best option for pairing with cheeses, but actually, beer kind of works even better. It might be the shared fermentation process that makes them such good friends but all I know is that it works. First you smell the cheese, then you bite off a bit, chew it up but leave a light coating of cheese in your mouth and then you take a sip of beer and let the cheese and the beer get to know each other in there. I found that with some cheeses, the flavour of the cheese really changed after I had swallowed the beer - the brie, for instance, was really mild when eaten on it's own but after I had a couple sips of the blonde ale, the lingering flavour of the cheese was much more assertive and I enjoyed the cheese much more WITH the beer than I did without it.
On our media tour we tried:
Celtic Blue from Glengarry Fine Cheese in Lancaster with Rain Maker Porter
Albert's Leap Bella Marie Brie, Quality Cheese from Vaughn with Elgin Blonde Ale
Oxford Harvest from Gun's Hill in Woodstock with Daytripper Pale Ale
Providence Cow Cheddar from Monforte in Stratford with 3 Rocks India Pale Ale
Durham (sheep milk cheese) from Carpe Diem Farm in Uxbridge with Monday Night Piper, Scottish style ale
*My favourite was the Providence with the 3 Rocks India Pale Ale but the cheese won't be available for another year so I have something to look forward to
|We stopped by The Passionate Cook's Essentials for a mini pizza making demo but they offer a variety of cooking classes|
|The first place you see upon exiting the train is Second Wedge Brewing Co so you can grab a bottle or six of your favourite beer from the train - so handy!|
|tasty bison sliders and more from Uxbridge's Urban Pantry|
Tickets are $75 each
Leaves Stouffville at noon
arrives Uxbridge at 1:45
departs Uxbridge at 2:30pm
arrives back in Stouffville at 3:45 pm
Buy tickets here
The next two dates are July 30 and August 27 so if you miss the first trip, don't despair because you have two more chances to hop on.
I was treated to my trip as part of a media tour but, as always, I only share what I like and all opinions are very much my own