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Urban Cowboy: From pub to hub - the Brass Taps opens a bakery

What’s this . . . a bakery in the campus pub?
Urban Cowboy is Owen Roberts' weekly look at agriculture and food in Guelph.

I had to rub my eyes when I saw that the goodie box of mini doughnuts, cinnamon buns, double chocolate brownies and soft cookies that landed on my desk last week from the new campus bakery actually came from the Brass Taps pub in the University Centre.

The Brass Taps is not a place that students, staff or faculty at the University of Guelph would traditionally associate with baked goods. Beer, yes — the pub has 26 varieties of beer on tap, more than any other pub in the area. But baked goods, no.

Times, however, are changing at the ‘Taps, in keeping with the overall refresh taking place in the University Centre. With the addition of the new bakery, located in a room down the hallway from the pub’s pool tables, Brass Taps has its sights set on being an all-in-one establishment, and on exuding a community feel that reflects its locale as a hub for the entire centre.

For example, when classes resume in January, after the holidays, the pub – which previously opened at 11 a.m. — will instead be open at 9:30 a.m., Monday through Friday.

Ben Crocker and Mike Calvert of Brass Taps pub and bakeryIs there anything that smells better than fresh baking? Mini cinnamon buns like these will be available in the New Year from the campus bakery in the Brass Taps, from baker Ben Crocker (left) and manager Mike Calvert. Photo by Owen Roberts for GuelphToday.

On display, it will offer an array of fresh baked goods, made onsite and from scratch by baker Ben Crocker.

It will also feature regular coffee (fair trade organic Columbian beans roasted in Mississauga by Brazilian Canadian Coffee Co.) and specialty coffees such as lattes, cappuccinos or espressos.

“It’s a maturing of the classic coffee-doughnut combo,” says facility manager Mike Calvert.

Brass Taps patrons will be able to get their fare to go, or stay and be seated in the pub. It’s likely to become a popular meeting spot on campus; Calvert is promising competitive pricing and a welcoming environment.

Baked goods, including custom or specialty cakes, can also be ordered for events on campus.

And based on the samples I tried, the quality will be superb.

Campus Bakery productsHere's an assortment of what the new campus bakery will be offering. Photo by Owen Roberts for GuelphToday.

Crocker’s a talented dessert and pastry chef. Expect to see his tarts, scones, buns, muffins, donuts, brownies and cookies in the display case when the Brass Taps opens for the New Year, and beyond. After a successful trial run last summer, in which the pub was open throughout June, July and August for the first time, Calvert expects it will again remain a full-time operation in 2017.

Brass Taps now employs five lead cooks, including Crocker, and operates a busy lunch-time service, complementing the truly amazing array of food services already available at Canada’s self-proclaimed food university.

The “new” Brass Taps is benefitting from the local food movement, of which a sense of community is a huge part. People who gravitate towards this kind of culture will want to check it out.