Rather than trying to taste-test every brewery in Canada in the name of research (again), I touched base with expert boozehounds across the country for their top tips on where to sup – starting with Joe Wiebe, author of Craft Beer Revolution: The Insider's Guide to B.C. Breweries.
"Victoria's been B.C.'s craft-beer capital since Canada's first brewpub, Spinnakers, opened here in 1984. Five more brewpubs and six breweries have opened in Greater Victoria since – including Driftwood, which always comes up in conversations about Canada's best breweries."
Then there's Vancouver. "Right now, there's no more exciting place to drink craft beer in B.C. – and possibly all of Canada. Since 2012, 13 new breweries and one brewpub have opened within the city limits plus a dozen or so nearby," says Wiebe, whose book profiles favourites from Brassneck to Powell Street Craft Brewery.
But while he also points to pilgrimage-worthy Sunshine Coast producers Townsite Brewing and Persephone Brewing, plus Vancouver Island's Gladstone Brewing and Forbidden Brewing, Wiebe suggests checking into October's B.C. Craft Beer Month events – and sampling his fall-season favourite: Driftwood's Sartori Harvest IPA.
Alternatively, haul your beer belly out East. "Halifax has nine breweries and brewpubs plus another 10 within a couple of hours' drive," says Maritimes beer blogger Chris McDonald (acbeerblog.ca), who recommends trying Granite Brewery and Unfiltered Brewing.
Co-blogger Shawn Meek has his own suggestions. "With a respectable number of breweries – four beer, one cider and one mead – Fredericton's becoming a great beer destination," he says, recommending TrailWay Brewing and Grimross Brewing.
It's also worth sampling Prince Edward Island's grassroots scene. "PEI Brewing Co.'s Sir John A's Honey Wheat Ale uses local honey while Upstreet Craft Brewing uses local rhubarb and strawberries for its Rhuby Social Witbier," says McDonald who, with Meek, suggests fall regional events from Port Hawkesbury's Celtic Oktoberfest to the beer-forward Fredericton Poutine Festival.
But while their fall favourite libation is New Brunswick-made Imperial Vanilla Porter from Hammond River Brewing, you might be tempted instead to tilt your glass toward Quebec.
"Among Montreal's many great beer neighbourhoods, the connecting boroughs of Mile End and Rosemont [are] my favourite part of town," says beer blogger Noah Forrest (beerism.ca). "Vices et Versa and Brasserie Dieu du Ciel! serve exceptional Quebec-brewed beer – including the latter's Péché Mortel imperial stout."
But there's more than Montreal to Quebec's froth-tastic beer list. "Among Shawinigan's many options, don't miss Le Trou du Diable Broue Pub. Their Dulcis Succubus is a wine-barrel-aged Belgian farmhouse ale that changes the way you think about beer."
Over in Ontario, bar crawling on foot (or all fours) is a key benefit of Toronto tippling, says beer writer Ben Johnson (bensbeerblog.com). "I really like the Junction neighbourhood. Its great small breweries include Junction Craft Brewing, the Indie Alehouse, Rainhard Brewing and soon-to-open Henderson Brewing."
And don't dismiss Hamilton. "It's becoming a craft-beer hub with Garden Brewers, Hamilton Brewery and the small-but-excellent Clifford Brewing," he says, adding Toronto-bound visitors shouldn't miss the city's late-October Cask Days (caskdays.com).
If your timing falls flat, console yourself with Johnson's fall-season beer choice: Farmageddon Brett Saison from Bellwoods Brewery. "They just announced a limited-release version made with Niagara Montmorency cherries. If you get your hands on one, save some for me – it's going to be ridiculously good."
OUR READERS WRITE
- Halifax’s Alexander Keith’s Brewery is literally one of the best brewery tours I’ve ever done. @TravelYourself
- The Big Rock [Alberta] brewery tour and a visit to their restaurant is a must. Their wheat beer with a slice of lemon is a great summer throat charmer. Their Traditional is a heftier, full bodied offering. @RichardatWRG
- You gotta try a What the Huck [huckleberry wheat ale] from Fernie Brewing. And our latest favourite is Arrowhead Brewing near Kootenay National Park [both B.C.]. @ToqueCanoe
- Vancouver’s craft beer scene has exploded in recent years: 33 Acres, Steel Toad etc. @travelling_mom
- Gatineau has a great beer history and used to be called Little Chicago. The Museum at the microbrewery Brasseurs du Temps talks about this history! @TourOutaouais
- Elora, Ont. The Elora Brewing Company is barely a month old, but already people are flocking to sample brews. Rent a car and tour the other local breweries making names for themselves: Block Three in St. Jacobs, Wellington Brewery in Guelph, Royal City Brewing Co. also in Guelph and Abe Erb in Waterloo. Carly Jenkins
- Victoria, B.C., is the #1 place for all things beer. Many local breweries carrying on a tradition started in the earliest days of settlement here. The Great Canadian Beer Festival held annually in September. Try the annual ferry boat pub crawl, held throughout the summer where you buy a ticket, hop on the water ferry and arrive at a pub patio ready to drink beer or whatever you fancy. Pamela Jackson
- Collingwood, Ontario! In the past few years alone Side Launch Brewing, Northwinds Brewhouse and Collingwood Brewery have all opened. @MikeySadowski
- Try the Gentlemen’s Pilsner at the Blue Elephant Craft Brew House in Norfolk County, Ont., named for Ben Lovett and Winston Marshall who helped make the first brew of it when their band Mumford & Sons was in town in 2013. Nearby, there is also Ramblin’ Road Brewery Farm, which makes a potato ale and also soaks its kettle chips in beer before cooking them. There are many outdoor experiences, farms, beaches and picturesque small towns and ports in Norfolk County. Clark Hoskin
- I’ve been discovering Vancouver’s Powell Street Craft Brewery, Doan’s Craft Brewing, Parallel 49 – and also Odd Society Spirits distillery @lorihenry
- Victoria. Swans, Canoe, Spinnakers, Phillips, Hoyne, Driftwood and the newest: Category 12. If there is a better hub of stellar craft beer in Canada, tell me and I will go! @KSofen
- Windsor [Ontario] has a bikes and beers tour - www.windsoreats.com/place/bikes-beers-cycling-tour @Msponagle
"We really like the idea of a fall foliage driving trip in the United States. Any suggestions?"
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