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Aug. 7, 2020 | Friday
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Great One comes to town
The Great One is pictured with Niagara College brewmaster professor Jon Downing. (Supplied)

Wayne Gretzky was in town last Sunday.

Gretzky attended a private party to launch a new beer garden at Wayne Gretzky Estate Winery, "toasting with pints of Wayne Gretzky Craft Brewing's first craft beer, No. 99 Rye Lager," said Candace Beres, a senior project manager at the Colony Project. 

The construction of a 8,000-square foot garden started in April. Depending on weather, it will be open every day from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday, and from 11:30 a.m. till 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

With a Bocce ball court, a ping pong table, a pool table, a large outdoor firepit and an outdoor cabanas on site, the garden offers a light grill menu with sausages and pretzels as well as draft beer, wine and cider.

Niagara College's brewmaster professor Jon Downing was also on hand to celebrate the opening of a beer garden.

"The event was fantastic, the weather was perfect," Downing told The Lake Report. "It was a great honour to be invited and involved in this project."

After Josh Beach, a master distiller at the Gretzky winery, came up with the craft beer recipes, he approached the Niagara College brewery last October as he needed a place to test the brew. 

Downing and Steve Gills, general manager the college’s Learning Enterprise Corp., supervised the students from the brewmaster and brewery operations management program as they tested Beach's 12 trial batches. At the time, students didn't know they were working on the first Gretzky craft beer.

A second round of brewing was done in November and early December, with the final testing in January. 

"It is a great idea for the students because they can work on a real-world project and see the results at the end," said Downing. "They had fun working on how to develop a beer, how it comes into existence ... It really is a great educational opportunity for them."

No. 99 Rye Lager was officially introduced this April.