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  • Norfolk Farms

‘Hop” On Over to Ramblin’ Road Brewery

You don’t need to travel far in Norfolk County to find a specialty brewery owned and operated by local folks.

On our travels throughout the County, my husband and I have come across quite a few but, being non-drinkers, we’ve never stopped to check them out. Recently I decided it was time to change that and learn more about them.

Travelling back roads to enjoy the beauty of local country scenery we have also noticed some interesting very tall posts with growing vines. What are they? What are they used for? These are just a couple of questions I had so I decided to stop by and check them out and headed off to Ramblin’ Road Brewery to ask a few questions. I was directed to give Haleigh Picard Partington a call as she is ‘the lady with all of the answers.’

Started in 2012 by her Dad, John Picard Sr. and now operated by her and her brother John Jr., Haleigh explained to me that the posts I was enquiring about are actually the “garden” for their Hop crop. “There are 3 natural ingredients in beer – hops, barley and water. Hops, a perennial female plant, are the main ingredient and they started as a rhizome – an underground stem that grows on the soil surface. Haleigh added “We first planted ours is 2018. It was a very new agricultural crop for this area known for its tobacco and ginseng”. She added that the soil there is ideal for growing, animals don’t like them because they are bitter and they are also wind resistant.

At the end of a growing season the Hops are cut to the ground to winter out and begin growing again in May. “Growing them is very labour intensive. In May we tie up a string, on the post, and the vines are then hand-wrapped around the poles – always clockwise. It involves a lot of labour to start the vines in Spring but it is an integral part of the operation.

We keep the vines about 18’ tall for convenience in picking. Mid June they start to flower and can grow 3 feet in just 8 days” adds Haleigh. “We take pics every week”.

Haleigh describes hops as a green flower, ‘spikey’ thing that looks like a pine cone and has a yellow powder to it called Lupulin and an oil that is needed to flavour the beer. Hops will mature about the end of August and are then ready to harvest. “Harvest day always seems to be the hottest day of the year!” adds Haleigh. “We cut the vines down, strip the leaves and hops off the vine and the hops are then dried by fans into pellets. This takes a few days but the best way to store the hops is in pellet form.

There are a number of types of hops and Ramblin’ Road grows Sterling, Cascade, Fuggle, Willamette, Zeus, Centennial, Nugget and Mt. Hood. “They each have three characteristics or jobs… Aromatics, Preservation and Bitterness or Acidity. “ Haleigh is most definitely well versed and knowledgeable in all aspects of the Brewery

If you are interested in learning more about the brewing process and Ramblin’ Road or would like to book a tour of the operation- weekdays only - give them a call at 519-582-1444. They are located at 2970 Swimming Pool Road. 


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