Beer connoisseur? Wannabe? You’re in luck. Ottawa is in the midst of a boom of the craft kind. What started as a homebrew scene has led to a bonafide movement, with microbreweries popping up on every corner.
It seems people like having their own local brew master and getting to know the folks behind the suds. Ottawa’s is a collaborative community of makers loaning equipment and sharing expertise that’s grown from just six back in 2011 to dozens of breweries, brew pubs and contract brewers.
Join one of Brew Donkey’s three weekly craft beer tours, making the rounds in a single afternoon thanks to Ottawa’s compact layout, or sample 100 on tap at Lansdowne’s CRAFT Beer Market. There’s also the August Ottawa Craft Beer Festival featuring fun along the lines of Yoga on Tap — Downward Dog combined with “mindful beer tasting” — a homebrew competition, and Beer University, including a final exam, of course. Here are some of our favorites.
Bicycle Craft Brewery
Husband and wife team Fariborz and Laura Behzadi describe down-to-earth, enviro-minded Bicycle Craft as “traditional, all-grain, small-batch,” including Ontario hops. After years of homebrewing, the couple wanted to share their creations. They host chocolate and beer pairing events, and display local artists’ works. Take a seat on the comfy couch or at the farmhouse table, and try the Base Camp Oatmeal Porter or Abyss Chocolate Stout.
Kichesippi Beer Co.
Family-owned Kichesippi is the largest of the small makers in Ottawa. Paul Meek and wife Kelly focus on quality and consistency, wrapping community heritage into their recipes, with year-round and seasonal brews. Sample the large selection at one of Ottawa’s most popular breweries (beer only, no food). You can also take the tour to get a look at the process and pick up a souvenir at the small store. Sample the Wuchak series, Algonquin for woodchuck.
Beyond the Pale Brewing Company
You’ll find quirky names for Shane Clark and Rob McIssac’s small-batch, high-alcohol brews at Beyond the Pale. This place started with guys chatting over pints and led to a ‘hood brewery. Visit the warehouse tasting room, or head out on foot and sample Beyond the Pale at 30 restaurants citywide. Taste Pink Fuzz, the grapefruit wheat signature suds, a “non-beer drinker’s beer,” as Clark calls it.
Waller St. Brewing
Waller St. is a neighborhood brewery with a Prohibition theme and laidback speakeasy feel, perfect for a cozy date. Take the hidden staircase down to a pub basement in the 1868 building rumored to be haunted. This is Marc-André Chainey and Elie Dagher’s micro brewery and retail shop. Pull up a seat at the old wooden bar and try one of the three distinct styles with all-natural (gluten-free) ingredients: a blonde, red rye, or American porter. The duo aims to be “nimble and quick” to respond to their patrons’ tastes for new brews to sample.
The Clocktower Brew Pub
Want a Kung Fu Noodle Bowl or wings with that house ale? Go to Clocktower’s uber-popular patio for brews over seasonal, from-scratch locavore meals and music. An Ottawa grandpappy, this lively place started way back in 1996 in The Glebe district and has grown to five locations including the ByWard Market. The newish Westboro venue’s super-sized patio is optimal for summer evenings over a pint of Bytown Brown or Clocktower Red.
Ottawa Mill Street Brew Pub
Ottawa’s best known may be Mill Street, which began as small Toronto brewery, then spread to other cities. The makers of Canada’s first organic beer have netted some 100 awards. That, and the Ottawa-exclusive beers paired with Steak Frites and tater tots, are likely why the refurbished historic grist mill on the Ottawa River is always packed.
Clearly, it’s time to tap Ottawa’s craft beer movement. Taste some of your usual stand-bys or, even better, step outside your comfort zone and dabble in an inventive IPA or a rare Weizenbach. Cheers!
Find out how to best eat, drink, and be merry in Ottawa at the Ottawa Tourism website.