Pale ales, pilsners, porters. Canada is overflowing with craft-beer styles, which are being brewed across the nation from the southern tip of British Columbia on the Pacific Ocean to a remote river in Nova Scotia some 3,600 miles away.
Brewmasters are practicing their craft, using pure spring water and locally grown ingredients such as resiny hops and organic barley. Such superb suds are worth seeking out wherever you wander.
Brewpubs and taprooms across the nation are offering tours and tastings, letting visitors take a big old sip of the essence of Canada. Here are 10 of the best breweries in Canada.
Spinnakers | Victoria, B.C.
Canada's first craft brewery and gastropub opened in 1984 — Photo courtesy of Spinnakers
Pairing beer with chocolate might seem strange, but Spinnakers knows a thing or two about gourmet eating and drinking. After all, the Victoria institution kicked off Canada’s craft beer resurgence in 1984 when it started pouring its first pints.
Canada's first craft brewery and gastropub serves farm-to-table fare, unconventional pairings, barrel-aged beers and more in its waterfront setting with views of Victoria’s Inner Harbour.
Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery | Barrie, Ont.
Confederation Ale, an homage to Canada's 150th birthday — Photo courtesy of Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery
Grampa’s basement was where Flying Monkeys’ founder Peter Chiodo started his old-school education on brewing craft beer. Now he’s offering more than a dozen brews in the taproom and bottle shop of his downtown Barrie brewery (it’s on one of Ontario’s Brewery Discovery Routes too).
Pop in for a pint (go for the patriotic Flying Monkeys Confederation Ale or the award-winning Antigravity Lager) and sit on the patio overlooking Lake Simcoe. On weekends, go deep into “Canadian breweriana” and take a brewery tour led by expert Bruce Richardson.
Microbrasserie Du Lac Saint-Jean | St-Gédéon, P.Q.
Alfresco suds sipping at Microbrasserie du Lac St-Jean — Photo courtesy of Microbrasserie du Lac St-Jean
Seeking a sip of local, sustainably brewed beer in the countryside, with lake views? Microbrasserie Du Lac Saint-Jean delivers all that and more. This brewery and brasserie (pub) takes terroir seriously, using natural ingredients for its bold beers such as Houblon Libre, a black IPA; and Gros Mollet, or Lumberjack, an extra-strong ale aged in bourbon barrels.
While you’re here, indulge in a beer-friendly French accompaniment: foie gras crème brûlée.
Yukon Brewing | Whitehorse, Y.T.
Canner in operation — Photo courtesy of Yukon Brewing
When you’re located in Whitehorse, north of 60 degrees latitude, there’s a deeper meaning to the words “cold brew.” Yukon Brewing co-founders Box Baxter and Alan Hansen have cozied up to the territory’s subarctic climate with its beers such as Ice Fog (IPA) and Midnight Sun (espresso stout). Plus, they use hyper-local ingredients such as spruce tips that go into the seasonal Land of the Trees APA.
Brewery tours run daily from May to September.
Farmery Estate Brewery | Neepawa, Man.
Lawrence (left) and Chris Warwaruk — Photo courtesy of Farmery Estate Brewery
Estate wineries champion “grape to glass” and brothers Chris and Lawrence Warwaruk have borrowed that concept for their grain-to-bottle operations at Farmery Estate Brewery.
After purchasing land in Neepawa, about 116 miles west of Winnipeg, the pair planted and harvested the barley and hops they now use for brewing their beer, effectively sowing the seeds for what has become North America’s first estate brewery. Retreat to rural Manitoba to tour the operations and learn more about this fascinating first from two tenacious brothers.
Smooth sipping at 10 of Canada's best craft distilleries
Smooth sipping at 10 of Canada's best craft distilleries
Meander River Farm & Brewery | Newport, N.S.
Visit Nova Scotia's first cottage brewery — Photo courtesy of Meander River Farm & Brewery
It’s all about family and farming at Meander River Farm & Brewery, which sprawls 186 acres in Newport, N.S. Alan and Brenda Bailey started what became the province’s first cottage brewery after successfully growing hops on the family farm, which they revitalized, along with the 200-year-old farmhouse.
Visitors can wander by the river and tour the brewery and hop yard, then taste its signature Lunch Box Pale Ale and seasonal brews like Barn Swallow Farmhouse Ale.
Persephone Brewing Company | Gibsons, B.C.
Brewery and demonstration hop yard — Photo courtesy of Persephone Brewing Company
Persephone Brewing Company more than lives up to its nickname: The Beer Farm. Set on 11 acres of farmland in Gibsons on the Sunshine Coast, the microbrewery (one of three on the Sunshine Coast portion of the B.C. Ale Trail) grows organic hops, raises egg-laying chickens and more.
Tour the farm and demonstration hop yard, then hit the taproom for a pint of its farm-fresh beer, such as the Hop Yard Red Ale. Hungry? Grab a slice of homemade pizza from the Airstream trailer outside.
Beau’s All Natural | Vankleek Hill, Ont.
The employee-owned brewery offers tours and tastings — Photo courtesy of Beau's All Natural
It’s not easy to find a certified-organic beer, but Beau’s All Natural has been brewing sustainable suds since 2006. Local spring water and 100 percent certified-organic malt and hops are the good-for-you ingredients that go into beers such as its award-winning flagship Lug-Tread lagered ale.
Take a road trip and tour the employee-owned brewery in Vankleek Hill. An hour’s drive from both Montreal and Ottawa, the community is famed for its Victorian-era “gingerbread” houses and historic murals.
Prince Edward Island Brewing Company | Charlottetown, P.E.I.
Tour the state-of-the-art brewery — Photo courtesy of Prince Edward Island Brewing Company
What better way to while away an afternoon on Canada’s idyllic island province than sipping a Beach Chair Lager on a hot summer day while chowing down on a shrimp po’ boy sandwich? The award-winning Prince Edward Island Brewing Company has been enticing thirsty locals and tourists alike to its Charlottetown brewery and taproom since its new location opened here in 2013 (its brewing cred goes back to 1997).
Go behind the scenes of the state-of-the-art brewery during a tour – they’re available every hour on the hour – and taste its handcrafted beer.
Rebellion Brewing | Regina, Sask.
Rebellion has something new on tap every month — Photo courtesy of Rebellion Brewing Co
Pushing the limits is ingrained in Rebellion Brewing’s beer DNA, with subversive offerings like the boozy Prairie Cherry Mead (it’s 16 percent ABV), the celiac-friendly Lentil Cream Ale (yup, this “pulse-to-pint” is made with locally sourced lentils and barley) and its spanking-new (one-off batch) Oh Canaduh! pale ale, whose recipe harks back to 1893.
Tour the brewhouse on Saturdays at 2 pm and sample seasonal suds.