Team: Burlington Bandits
Ballpark Basics: A ballpark that proves sometimes less is more.
Ballpark Breakdown: The Burlington Bandits are a part of the Intercounty Baseball League (IBL) that started in 1919. With eight teams sprinkled around southern Ontario the IBL is a great way to catch a game while in Canada. We added a day to our trip north of the border to catch a game here and we were glad we did. The Burlington Bandits are relative newcomers to the league having moved from Mississauga before the 2011 season.
Tucked behind Nelson High School there really isn’t too much to Nelson Park. The field is surrounded by a chain link fence with a small set of bleachers down each baseline as well as one behind home plate. A small building behind home plate houses the press box. Many people just bring their own chairs and set up a spot down the left field line past the fences to watch the game. There was a small but dedicated fan base on the chilly (for July) night we were there. The ballpark shares it field with other ballfields and there was actually another game going on at an adjacent field (albeit a beer league softball game).
The dugouts don’t consist of much more than a metal roof with a long metal bench underneath so the only thing separating the fans from the players in a chain link fence. The bullpens are located right behind the dugouts and are surrounded by yet more chain link fence. Our only complaint of Nelson Park would really be the amount of chain link fence surrounding the field (in some places it doubled up) which make it hard to see the action clearly at times.
Along the third base side you will find the concession area. One tent for food and one for swag. The food stand sells your typical ballpark fare (hot dogs, hamburgers, etc.). However, there was quite a pleasant surprise; beer! And not just any beer, but local beer. They had selections from Nickel Brook Brewing Co., which we had just visited prior to the game (see review below) and Muskoka Brewery. For a ballpark of this size we did not expect to see beer being served, especially local craft beer. It was a wonderful surprise.
After attending a Major League Baseball game the day before in the metropolis of Toronto, you think we would scoff at this rugged little ballpark in small-town Burlington. However, we enjoyed the game and the atmosphere. With a team comprised mostly of local players the fans were extremely invested in the game and made it a fun place to catch an inexpensive game.
Nickel Brook Brewing
Rating: Home Run!
Beer basics: Pioneers dedicated to bringing craft beer to a whole new market.
Originally founded in 1992 as Better Bitters, a wine, craft beer and homebrew supply store. The owner John is a really nice, welcoming guy who named Nickel Brook after his kids, just wanted to bring craft beer to the people of Burlington, Ontario. His homebrew section allowed people to brew their own concoctions using his set up. Wort was the the original intent and they started with some unique offerings to build a customer base and provide some beer options to those who don’t normally like the taste or for those with allergies – think Green Apple beer and Gluten-free beer.
In 2005 they expanded from store to store & micro brewery, and it’s been coming up aces ever since. Out of 64 breweries in the area, NB is ranked 6th. They’re expanding to a 50,000 sq foot building in Hamilton (the neighboring city) and starting to experiment with sours and beers aged in Four Roses Kentucky Bourbon barrels. Their beers have won gold medals all over North America and though you could only find them in Ontario and a couple other provinces when we visited in July of 2014, they will soon also be shipping to the States; New York, Ohio and Michigan to name a few.
They’ve also added another brewer to the roster, Ryan who comes to NB with a few years brewing at Molson under his belt. He’s got his own Collective Arts brewery getting started – See the beer breakdown for our review of his Rhyme and Reason, and check out their website where you can submit work to be put on the beer’s labels. It’s called Collective Arts for a reason.
John is a nice guy who is (rightfully) proud of what he’s got going on. He let us sample anything we wanted and gave us all kinds of info about the different varieties. Burlington is a small town but if you’re coming through the states you basically have to drive right through it if you’re heading up to Toronto so build in a little bit of time to stop at Nickel Brook. It will be worth the time!
Cause and Effect (4.7 ABV/19 IBU) This golden lager is the house beer here at Nickel Brook. It’s a light lager with very little nose, but decent body that is clean and crisp with a hop finish. High carbonation that doesn’t leave much lacing.
Equilibrium (5.5 ABV/ 43 IBU) – Equilibrium ESB is a copper colored beer, again without much lacing. The moderately carbonated Equilibrium has a light upfront palate that builds to a nutty finish. It’s got good malts
Naughty Neighbor (4.9 ABV/ 38 IBU) another yellow colored beer, around a 4/5 on the color scale. Has a hoppy aroma that has more smell than either of the ones listed above.
Bufcafe Pale Ale (5.4 ABV/ 40 IBU) Buf Cafe guys come to Nickel Brook and brew a 200L pot of coffee then they turn it into the Bufcafe Pale Ale. Looks orangey-golden like a traditional pale ale or IPA but smells (and tastes) like coffee. An amazing beer, and a must – try!
Le Paysan Saison (5.7 ABV/27 IBU) A Belgian pale ale of a style that was once thought to be a “peasant’s meal”. Lots of up front wheat with a decent head. The Paysan has a slightly fruity, slightly sour smell, but not so sour that it affects the beer other than to give it a good tang at the end.
Headstock IPA (7 ABV/80 IBU) This is a shining star for Nickel Brook, and it’s won gold medals all over North America. Originally available only in Ontario and the Provinces, it is now expanding to the States. The Citrus and Simcoe hops it is brewed with give it a hoppy, citrus fruit smell and a tangy, well rounded hop flavor.
Sour Uber Berlinerweisse (3.8 ABV/6 IBU). Very light, pale yellow like a one and a half on the color scale with no head or lacing. This is a sour beer and it smells that way, but it’s a unique dry sour unlike the sours that are so popular right now. The flavor is also sour but not in the traditional way, more thin and tart like a slightly sour wine.
Maple Porter – (6.00 ABV) Looks like a coke, with long-lasting deep tan lacing and decent carbonation. This beer smells good and smoky-roasted. It tastes like smoke and a hint of maple is present but not overly strong. This sweetly, smoky beer finishes smoky and clean.
Bolshevik Bastard (9.0 ABV) Slightly more brown but very similar in color to the Maple Porter. This is also a good smoked beer that doesn’t have the sweetness you get in the Maple. Clingy finish that is almost thick and a straight-up coffee taste. Part of a barrel aged series that also includes a Winey Bastard and a Kentucky Bastard.
Cuvee (8.5 ABV) a reserve ale that is brown/maple colored and has that sweet bourbon flavor and wood scent that comes from being barrel aged. Smooth, bourbony and lightly carbonated.
Collective Arts Rhyme and Reason extra pale ale (5.7 ABV) very similar color to the Headstock pale ale that’s light and doesn’t have much head. A good plain, solid hoppy ale that leans also to the golden ale genre of beers.
864 Drury Lane