There’s been an explosion of high quality, small batch, craft beer and cider in Ontario, Canada to match the unique palates of discriminating ale, lager, cider and perry enthusiasts. Awards and accolades are stacking up for these dedicated craft beer makers and brewmasters. Head on up to join us for a pint and discover what the brew-ha-ha is all about.
Image credit: Henderson Brewing Co.
Henderson Brewing Co., Toronto
Tapping into the history and culture of Canada’s biggest city for inspiration on their series of stock and specialty beers seems to be the secret of success for Henderson Brewing. The Toronto craft brewer recently took home two Gold medals from the Canadian Brewing Awards for their North American Style Lager, the Ides of January, and for their Traditional German Style, the Ides of February. The taproom is situated in the centre of the brewery, so you can witness the magic happen while you sample a draught or pick up bottles, cans and growlers to go.
Getting here: With two international airports, VIA/AMTRAK access to Union Station, a major bus depot and numerous connecting highways, Toronto is a transportation hub and a great jumping off point for your Ontario travels.
While here: Torontonians love craft beer, and neighborhoods are fiercely loyal to their local brewery, alehouse or brewpub. Get acquainted with a host of great craft brews during the annual Cask Days Beer Festival in October. It takes place at the Evergreen Brick Works, which coincidentally is also home to Brickworks Ciderhouse 1904, Toronto’s first cidery. The Drake on Queen West and The Broadview in the east end are both trendy digs with rooftop lounges where you can enjoy a craft brew and a killer view.
Image credit: Old Flame Brewing Co.
Old Flame Brewing Company, Port Perry
Old Flame is housed in a historic building dating back to 1874, whose many functions have included horse-drawn carriage manufacturer, a wood and blacksmith shop and a textile factory, before being converted to Port Perry’s favorite brewery in 2013. Free tours regale the full fascinating story of the place. Don’t leave without a couple cans of North American Style Amber Lager, Brunette, another Gold medal winner.
Getting here: From Toronto, Port Perry is a charming suburb located roughly an hour’s drive to the city’s northeast.
While here: There are several not-to-miss craft gems nearby. 15 minutes west is Second Wedge Brewing in the town of Uxbridge, with a whimsical beer garden-of-Eden made for whiling away a warm autumn afternoon. Stop in at the newly relocated Brock Street Brewing, just 25 minutes south in Whitby, for small batch all-natural premium brews and a bite at 12welve Bistro. Satisfy your cider cravings at Archibald’s Orchard & Winery in nearby Bowmanville, and for boutique country accommodations, choose The Hive Bee & Bee in Leskard.
Image credit: Clifford Brewing Co.
Clifford Brewing Company, Hamilton
This east side Hamilton brewery has had a big year. Owner and namesake, Brad Clifford had been crafting award-winning home brews for years, but realized his dream of a brick-and-mortar 10,000 sq. ft brewing facility and taproom which opened to the public in 2018. Clifford took home the Gold for the ‘old world’ rich and complex Clifford Porter, Silver for his Brown Porter, and was named Brewery of the Year at the 2019 Canadian Brewing Awards.
While here: Hamilton’s a hotbed for great craft brews. Experience the culmination of art, music and craft beer at Collective Arts Brewing, whose New England Style India Pale Ale is a Gold medal winner. East of Hamilton, Burlington’s Nickel Brook Brewing‘s Lost in Orbit won Gold for Session IPA, and Cameron’s Brewing in Oakville struck Gold with their super-drinkable, calorie-reduced First Light Session Lager. About an hour east towards the Niagara border, The Exchange Brewery is a beacon for savvy beer lovers in wine country. Try their award-winning Throwback: Belgian Table Beer Session Ale. For cider connoisseurs, West Avenue Cider House is 20 minutes north of Hamilton in rural Freelton. Taste their seasonal Legend of the Fall, pick up an award-winning Autumn from the bottle selection, and stay at the onsite cottage overlooking the Somerset Orchards.
Image credit: Cowbell Brewing Co.
Cowbell Brewing Co., Blyth
Located in a historic village just 20 minutes from Lake Huron, Cowbell makes craft appreciation an immersive experience. With a state-of-the-art production centre, indoor restaurant with outside patio, merch and entertainment space that’s all certified-accessible, they deliver on all fronts.
Getting here: About 170 miles north of two border crossings from Detroit into Windsor (the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel or the Ambassador Bridge). Or take the scenic route 85 miles from the Port Huron border crossing up the southern Lake Huron coast, passing postcard-perfect waterfront towns like Grand Bend and Bayfield along the way.
While here: Find one-of-a-kind, experimental brews at River Road Brewing Co., on the coast of Lake Huron in Bayfield, like the Scurvy Elixir that contains pine needles, or the Oatmeal Stout Breakfast Beer brewed in collaboration with local Shopbike Coffee Roasters. Bad Apple Brewing Co. is another edgy little brewery well worth a visit. Just look for the barn with the apple skull as you drive along the lake from Bayfield to Zurich. The Ashwood Inn in Bayfield is an ideal home base – the lobby bar has a lovely selection of local craft brews on tap.
Image credit: Coffin Ridge Boutique Winery & Cidery
Nestled around the southern shores of Georgian Bay is one of Ontario’s most fertile apple growing regions, and naturally a destination producing some of the country’s finest cider. In fact, Coffin Ridge took home best-in-class Gold for their Maple Rosemary specialty cider this year at the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition held in Grand Rapids, MI. We also recommend the Lavender Earl Grey Perry.
Getting here: From downtown Toronto, Blue Mountain is a scenic 100-mile drive north. The New York border crossings into Niagara are closest, a similar 100-mile drive away. The crossing at Port Huron, Michigan is just slightly longer at 115 miles.
While here: Local cideries creating a buzz include Beaver Valley in Kimberley, Thornbury Village Ciderhouse (hello, rosé cider), Windswept Orchid Cider in Meaford, and new this summer is Spy Cider House and Distillery in The Blue Mountains with their signature Golden Eye. A short drive south to the town of Duntroon you’ll find another can’t-miss stop, Duntroon Ciderhouse. The Blue Mountain Village is a perfect HQ. With suites, chalets or rooms, there are plenty of accommodation options to choose from at Blue Mountain Resort. There’s also the Westin Trillium House for guaranteed comfort.
Image credit: BIG RIG Brewery
Big Rig Brewery, Ottawa
Not much in this life outshines a fine Cream Ale. Head to Ottawa’s largest craft brewery, located in the Kanata hood for Canada’s winning cream ale. The taproom is open for lunch and samples throughout the week, with tours of the brewery available every Saturday.
While here: Another local favorite, Beau’s All-Natural Brewing Co. is an award-winning, employee-owned, certified organic independent brewery open daily for tours and tastings. Stray Dog Brewing Co. in Orléans was recognized as one of the five best new breweries in Canada in 2017, while Kichesippi Beer just opened a new taproom and retail location in Ottawa’s west end. Word is the concierge at the swanky Le Germain Hotel is a local craft beer expert.
As you plan your trip, our handy Tools & Tips are here to help, including a currency converter, info on getting here and around, and everything you need to know about border crossings and customs. See you soon!