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Barrel Heart Brewing
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Barrel Heart Brewing & Blending: A boutique brewery experience

June 14, 2023

Discover how this brewery utilizes wine barrels and Niagara fruit to create the ultimate Saison style beer

In Ancaster, Ontario, you will find a unique drinking experience, where a newly opened small-batch artisanal brewery is pouring their heart and soul into their craft (and adding some oak for extra tasty measure.)

On a recent visit to Barrel Heart Brewing & Blending, we were treated to a boutique brewery experience, with a tour of the taproom along with a tasting. Not only was each flavour delicious and interesting, with fruit flavours hitting your palate at every point, it was the stories behind the beer that fascinated us.

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Founder and veteran brewer Mark Horsley uses time-honoured old-world traditions using barrel-aging to make beer in the unique, Belgian Saison style. The ideal Saison is bone dry, sparklingly effervescent, complexly fruity and rustically earthy, leaving you longing for more when your glass has emptied.

At Barrel Heart this is accomplished by aging beer in oak barrels that once held Niagara wine and then refermented on the fruit, including raspberries, blackberries, plums and cherries locally sourced from Niagara. The beer is aged for eight to 25 months, interacting with the microflora in the barrels’ wood and their house yeast strain, creating unique flavours and resulting in delicious brews that anyone can appreciate, and that even the most devoted wine lovers will be delighted by. All the ingredients used are locally sourced, except for the hops, which are from Australia, New Zealand, France and Germany.

Barrel Heart Brewing

Founder and veteran brewer, Mark Horsley, uses time-honoured old-world traditions.

With this incredible attention to detail, the beer here is more an artform, and certainly a passion. Horsley started his career at Nickel Brook before becoming the brewmaster at Bench Brewing. Today, in addition to launching Barrel Heart, he is a professor in Niagara College’s Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management program.

When asked what drives his passion for barrel-aged beer, Horsley said, “The process is beautiful chaos. For as much control as I might have over the brewing process, each barrel imprints its own flavours on the beer in unique ways. Blending the mature barrels of beer back together into a cohesive form that complements seasonal fruit, or expresses our base beer in its best form, is infinitely exciting to taste and share.”

We couldn’t agree more that the blends are exciting to taste. While it was difficult to choose a favourite during our visit, we settled on ‘Cherries Aged Like Grace’. This Saison was aged on whole sour Montmorency Cherries from the Niagara Region and has notes of soft vanilla, aged spices and bloomy rind. This beer is a combination of mature spelt and buckwheat Saison, brewed with a variety of French hops, and their mixed-fermentation cellar culture. It was tart, refreshing and offered a touch of lime zest.

Barrel Heart Brewing

Barrel Heart Brewing’s ‘Cherries Aged Like Grace’ is a standout Saison.

You can discover Cherries Aged Like Grace, and the other beers loaded with flavours both bold and nuanced, in the cellar Taproom. Bottles can also be purchased at their in-person retail store or for delivery from their website. Barrel Heart also hosts intimate events, providing tastings, tours and local charcuterie.

You can tell that the minute you walk into the Taproom and chat with Horsley (he is more than happy to explain the beer, the stories behind them and answer your questions), that the brewery is not only producing fabulous beer, but is also a labour of love. We learned so much and were extremely inspired after our visit and our conversation.

We encourage wine lovers, beer lovers and anyone looking for a truly memorable brewery experience to visit Barrel Heart Brewing and experience for yourself the uniquely delicious Saison.

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– Shannon Mastaler is the Lifestyle Editor for VineRoutes


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