Microbreweries are popping up everywhere these days. While they’ve long taken a back seat to wine and whiskey, now are the days of the beer connoisseur, and the Ottawa region is great place to get your taste on.
Draw a circle around the City of Ottawa and you’ll find great microbreweries on all sides.
Maybe check into a hotel in the centre of town (perhaps the Albert at Bay Suite Hotel, an affordable option located within a convenient 15-minute walk from the brand new Mill Street Brewpub on Victoria Island) and gas up the car. These are the four corners of microbrew in the Valley:
East (Vankleek Hill): Beau’s All-Natural Brewing Company
In operation since 2006, this family-owned operation has exploded throughout the Ontario brewing scene. Even if you’re not up for “yet-another” brewery tour, the trek down Highway 417 is worth it just for a stop at the beer/swag shop. Beaus’ very friendly and knowledgeable staff will crack open anything you’d like to taste and tell you as little or as much as you’d like to know about the history and brewing process. Growlers and bottles are available for carry-out, as is a borderline-absurd selection of t-shirts, glasses and other merchandise. If you’re looking for a souvenir that will last more than 24 hours, check out the beer posters, designed by the wildly talented Jordan Bamforth. They’re a bargain at $5 a pop.
West (Beckwith Township):
Formally known as The Old Mill at Ashton Country Pub and Brewery, the Ashton is a small-town secret that is officially out. Located a pleasant 30-minute drive from downtown Ottawa, just off Highway 7, the Ashton is easily accessible by car and – if you’re so-inclined – by snowmobile. This charming pub has been a staple in the community for over 30 years, but the brewery was added only recently in 2011. A mix of staples and seasonals are always on tap, and growlers are available for carry-out. Head over for a nice meal and live music on the weekends.
North (Gatineau): Les Brasseurs du temps
Just a short drive over the ChaudièreBridge, on the Quebec side, les Brasseurs in part of an almost 200-year-old brewing tradition in the Outaouais. An afternoon would be well-spent trying out their wide selection of brews (an average of eight to 12; check their website for what’s on tap from day to day) while enjoying an authentic French-Canadian meal in their restaurant. Round out your visit with a tour of the brewery’s museum, open daily with free admission.
South (Nepean): Broadhead Brewing Company
These guys definitely put the “micro” in microbrewery. This tiny operation, which got its start in a basement (all great alcohol does!), is located in the former city of Nepean, now part of Ottawa. Owned by four friends and built from scratch, Broadhead is worth a visit just to chat with their enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff and try the half-dozen(ish) brews on tap. They’re open five days a week (Tuesday-Saturday).