Marching through the snow on Wellington Street, making our way to the riparian Mill St. Brew Pub, mirroring a small castle with limestone walls, it was clear this route is off the beaten path. Perched on the banks of the Ottawa River, the new Brew Pub awaited conquering by our hunger for something distinct and new in the Ottawa Valley. Ensuring the trail was clear and diligently avoiding any hurdles, we hit the road less travelled.
Before entering within the historic walls of one of the first flour mills in the region, and discovering the past that lived within the 1842 Thompson-Perkins Mill, steep resistance emanated. Standing there, the large metallic black front doors seemed like an insurmountable obstacle. Pulling the door, it squeaked open as we gracefully entered awaiting the enchantment from the mysterious elixirs we yearned.
While roaming the halls of the massive pub, which can welcome about 400 patrons, the enchantment slowly wore off as several flat-panel TV’s played sports highlights. Sitting near the side windows, awaiting the unilingual server, dressed up with kilt and knee high socks, we scrutinized the interior, as piled up wet snow fell from the back bay-windows. Decoration depicting Ottawa’s history was a welcomed and tasteful addition. The exceptional view also produced a certain ebullience anticipating warmer days ahead spent on the patio, with the wind from the river cooling your face as the rays of sun strike down while you sip your refreshing beer.
The knowledgeable server explained the different beers Mill St. offered tempting our taste buds. After browsing the leather scented menus, we requested two flights of beers. Unable to provide us with two of their three distinct Ottawa brews, the Ambre de la Chaudière and the Portage Ale, the barman poured traditional Mill St. Brewery products into our glasses. Concocted in Ottawa, the Valley Irish-Style Red Ale was the best beer within both flights, as the thin Cobblestone Stout remained sidelined. The Vanilla Porter and Balzac’s Coffee Porter both had an aromatic start and delicious coffee-like finish, while the Pilsner upheld a nice hoppy taste throughout. The charcuterie and cheese board helped accompany our checkered beers.
This appetizer produced mixed emotions as some products were interesting while others require improvement. The mild blue cheese was salty and savoury, as was the winner of the 2009 World Cheese Awards, the Alexis de Portneuf’s Cendrillion, from Saint-Raymond, which offered a more acidic taste. The odd man out was the St-Albert cheddar which tasted fine, but looked like an ECHL player in a NHL game, out of place.
The cured meats were appealing, nothing offbeat. The homemade beer mustard and house-made chutney were a good addition to the plank, contrary to the insufficiently dried toasted marble rye, making for a hard outside and chewy inside. Leaving the Brew Pub the charm of the location remained intact unlike the Wilson Carbide Mill on Victoria Island.
Walking outside the Brew Pub looking to the west, as powder snow dances on the large wasteland to the beat of the wind, you’re reminded of the failure of the Lebreton Flats development. It remains largely incomplete and hopefully Mill St. Brewery’s investment will spark some interest in an area destroyed by a massive fire in 1900 and by expropriation in the 1960’s.