Famous for its formidable shellfish bounty (think lip-smacking lobster, oysters, and mussels), Prince Edward Island is also pleasing palates with its expanding liquid assets. After all, you need something to wash down all that sea-to-table fare, right?
A relative newcomer to the country’s burgeoning craft beer scene, the Island is already home to a fistful of thirst-quenching establishments. But thanks to PEI’s rich red soil and Atlantic coastal climate, wineries and artisan distilleries — from the established Matos Winery & Distillery to the newly opened Island Honey Wine Company — also tempt with a variety of homegrown pours. Here, then, are a few top spots to wet your seafood-satiated whistle.
PEI Brewing Company: Award-winning suds
With roots dating back to 1997, PEI Brewing Company serves up award-winning beverages at its state-of-the-art digs in the provincial capital of Charlottetown. Take the 45-minute site tour (~$8 USD per person) to learn about the makings of the Sir John A’s Honey Wheat Ale and Vic Park Pale Ale — both gold winners at the 2016 Canadian Brewing Awards. Then take a seat in the taproom to savor said suds over a plate of loaded potato chips topped with candied bacon (PEI is famous for potatoes!), or house-made corn dogs with beer-based sauce on the side.
Room for more? Visit the affiliated Gahan House for local favorite Brown Bag Fish & Chips and bar1911 for coffee chasers. Also in town is Upstreet Craft Brewing with its variety of flagship, seasonal, and special releases — perfectly paired with share plates or entrees.
Copper Bottom Brewing: A fresh face in an old space
Opened in summer 2017, Copper Bottom Brewing’s 1938-built roost has been a town hall, fire hall, jail, library, hardware store, and newspaper office in the quaint town of Montague. Now all decked in wood, from cedar shingles on the outside to ceiling beams, tables, and floor on the inside, this husband-and-wife-operated craft brewery takes pride in sourcing high-quality local ingredients for its flagship Centennial Stock Blonde Ale, Broadside APA, and Rabble Rouser Red. Pull up a window seat for a pint and picturesque view of the tranquil Montague River in eastern PEI. Meanwhile, the first brewery to open in the west, Moth Lane Brewery in a former shellfish building, beckons with more waterfront eye candy and signature beers — the Moth Lane Stout contains a bit of oyster and shell.
Barnone Brewery and Hop Farm: Homegrown goodness
PEI’s only beer farm boasts up to six hop varieties — taste them in the Barnone Brewery and Hop Farm’s American-style Pale Ale or robust India Pale Ale. But don’t miss the La Vaca Loca (The Crazy Cow) Milk Stout, dark in color yet surprisingly subtle in flavor, or the light and refreshing Summer Sessions Ale. Amble around this pastoral central Island site, set in the lush Rose Valley, complete with corral and barn; time your trip to catch live music in the loft or a barbecue on the grounds.
Rossignol Estate Winery: Fruit-forward flavor
Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and cranberries — you name the locally grown fruit, Rossignol Estate Winery has it covered in its wide portfolio of wines. Late-harvest PEI maple syrup and local Island honey even make it into the mix here. Producing since 1994, this Little Sands estate nestled on a sunny Northumberland Strait south-facing slope also grows red and white varietals like Marechal Foch, L’Acadie Blanc, and Valiant. Tour the white-trimmed cedar-shake-clad facility, which turns out double gold award winners like the 2012 Wild Blueberry and 2012 Liberty Blossom dessert wine, as well as other unique tipples. Open May to October (and by chance during the winter) — or call ahead.
Myriad View Artisan Distillery: High-brow hooch
After celebrating 10 years of making legal moonshine and more in 2017, Myriad View Artisan Distillery continues to woo visitors and locals alike with its Strait line of spirits. Sample or take home Canadian-oak-aged gin, vodka, rum, whisky, pastis and brandy — or the 50-per-cent-alcohol Shine, 75-per-cent Lightning, and limited summer novelty Dandelion Shine. Named for its vista-blessed perch above the Northumberland Strait in east-Island Rollo Bay, the distillery offers free tastings and small informal tours during regular business hours. Open year-round; call ahead from October to April.
Deep Roots Distillery: Authentic to the core
Backed by two decades of farming experience, the owners of Beamish Organic Apple Orchard in mid-Island’s tiny Warren Grove launched Deep Roots Distillery in 2013. Stroll the orchard on your own or take the From Roots to Bottle tour (~$6 USD per person) to learn about growing pesticide-free produce, the distilling process and its challenges, and the final products. Sample such apple-centric delights as Spiced Apple Liqueur and Apple Brandy, alongside the crisp cane-sugar Island Tide Liqueur and classic Maple Liqueur. Open spring, summer and early fall, Deep Roots’ goods can still be picked up year-round at the Charlottetown Farmers Market.
Dubbed Canada’s Food Island for good reason, PEI’s handcrafted beer, wine and spirits scene is also thriving.
For more tasting experiences, visit the Tourism PEI website.