Ontario’s Innovative Craft Beer Creations
By Adrienne Roman
Creativity and craftsmanship are colliding in Ontario this summer, with an incredible array of quality brewing happening all over the province. Innovative small batch breweries are waiting to be discovered, with beers, ciders, and cocktails carefully hand-crafted to showcase local ingredients and highlight the movement towards sustainable farm-to-table practices. Craft beer culture has expanded, allowing for greater freedom of expression, and beverages are being paired with fresh, inspirational menus that are elevating food and drink experiences.
benchbrewing.com | (905) 562-3991 | 3991 King St, Beamsville, ON
With a steadfast dedication to their zero-waste brewing platform (water is reused for both irrigation and fertilizer), and distribution of their spent grains to feed livestock at local farms, Bench Brewing means business when it comes to environmental sustainability and upholding the important title of “stewards of the land.” Bench is also innovative; they released their first coolship beer last December. (Coolship is the Anglicized version of the Dutch/Flemish koelschip).
“It’s a lambic style of beer that’s made onsite using our coolship open vat and estate-grown hops. Lambic beers are fermented through exposure to wild airborne yeasts as opposed to cultivated strains of brewer’s yeasts, a distinct brewing style that originated in Belgium in the 13th century. We love it as it brings terroir to our beer. These airborne yeast strains that ferment our beer are unique to our location and give them a real sense of place. It has a beautiful distinctive flavour that we are really proud of,” says Matt Giffen, Founder and President.
Whether it’s the ales from Belgium, Vanilla Cinnamon Porter, or lighter lagers brewed with Noble German hops, there’s a little of everything for everyone at Bench.
The Bench barrel room and taproom inside the historic Maple Grove Public School and stunning outdoor beer garden patio for a bite. Visit the “Little Fieldstone Church” on the property, built in 1938, which can also be booked for events.
Niagara Oast House Brewers
oasthousebrewers.com | (289) 868-9627 | 2017 Niagara Stone Rd, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON
The “big red barn” at Niagara’s Oast House Brewers is rich in architectural history: it has been a fruit basket manufacturing headquarters in the late 1800s, an original Farmer’s Co-op Bank, and a John Deere tractor dealership. Today it’s home to one of Ontario’s original producers of traditional Farmhouse-Ales, reminiscent of the Franco-Belgian “olde” style small batch brewing. The barn is home to Oast’s Brew House and Retail & Bottle Shop. Climb upstairs to “The Hayloft,” a cozy and uniquely charming rustic event space complete with panoramic vineyard and brewhouse views. Committed to quality using native Niagara yeasts, local hops, and their own naturally filtered artesian well water, the brewers’ dedication to their craft is evident in their many accolades and five-star reviews. Their two-storey patio, sustainably constructed from shipping containers, is home to Niagara chef Anthony Greco’s legendary back-country Texan style cooking, Brushfire Smoke BBQ. He’s gourmet pitmaster for the summer and pizza-maker for the winter, bringing “Nuovo Americana” New York-style pizza to the masses during the cold season with Oast’s incredible “Patina Pizza.”
With a 1934 federal farm truck, “The Federal,” creatively transformed into a flatbed stage for the latest and greatest musical line-ups, this is one exceptional event venue you don’t want to miss.
The Rural Route Series beers, inspired by the friendly local farmers who often stop in and offer to “drop some fruit by.”
Owner Cian MacNeill hopes his customers will enjoy great company, be inspired by Oast’s beautiful location, and savour each new experience. “Let the soul of the land and all its components guide our beer. In Niagara we trust! Great beer is just down the road, past the old oak, in the big red barn.”
cameronsbrewing.com | (905) 849-8282 | 1165 Invicta Dr, Oakville, ON
When your hazy IPA, “Cruising Through The Galaxy,” wins The World’s Best IPA at the 2021 World Beer Awards, there’s definitely reason to celebrate. Cameron’s Brewing is proud to be one of the true originals in the craft beer industry in Ontario. President Clint Israel is thrilled with their newest release, “Coast to Coast” dry hopped lager: 5.2%, made with tropical orange, passion fruit, and mango.
When the pandemic closed LCBO trade in 2020, Cameron’s decided to take matters into their own hands and quickly moved to transform their entire sales team into an army of dedicated door-to-door drivers, providing the public a free home delivery service and generating a stream of revenue which allowed them to continue operating.
This, in turn, forged stronger connections with their existing consumers and built a bridge for new customers to find them during the shutdowns.
Focused on reducing their footprint, their new brew house recycles heat from the kettle to heat their water, and they’ve installed a PVC white roof to conserve energy. They’re currently busy expanding their brewery space to 9000 sq. feet, their dog-friendly patio is buzzing with the anticipation of summer, and it’s full steam ahead in Oakville. Cameron’s premium, all natural, preservative-free beverages are enjoyed in bars and restaurants all across the province and available at the LCBO, The Beer Store, Loblaws, and Sobeys.
Jungle of Love tropical sour: 4.8%, made with real papaya, mango, and German Magnum hops.
West Avenue Cider House
westavenue.ca | (289) 324-0312 | 84 Concession Rd 8 E, Freelton, ON
Dedication, innovation, and quality ciders prevail at this award-winning 75-acre farm in Freelton.
You wouldn’t know that their small-batch ciders are double gold award-winners at the Canadian Wine Championships, because the unpretentious atmosphere at West Avenue Cider House is a friendly one where “dogs can play and kids can roam,” says owner Amy Robson.
Husband Chris Haworth’s culinary expertise as a chef is a definite advantage as Cider Maker. He’s always enjoyed the art of experimenting with a wide array of interesting wines, fruits, hops, and even grape skins. With a rotation of 15 choices available daily, you’re sure to find a favourite (or three!). It’s a short drive from Toronto, and the perfect spot for a day trip or overnight escape. Enjoy their onsite bakery to sample a variety of local Ontario cheeses, pickles, and preserves.
Booking a stay at “Somerset Cottage,” West Avenue’s peaceful three-bedroom Airbnb, nestled on their picturesque property, for that relaxing getaway. Sit back and enjoy a decadently balanced Digestif of their award-winner, “Northern Lights” Cognac barrel-aged ice cider: 10.8%, made from 2015 heritage apples with notes of baked apple pie and caramel.
LCBO seasonal release this summer: Gem: 5.3%, West Ave’s 0% sugar gluten-free cider, a perfectly crafted creation of Bartlett pear and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Grain & Grit Beer Co.
grainandgritbeer.com | (905) 769-1320 | 11 Ewen Rd, Hamilton, ON
Highlighting local collaborations, fundraising events, and inclusivity, Grain and Grit in Hamilton has established itself as a positive space where anyone is free to be. Owners Lindsey and Joe Mrav have been serving exciting small batch beer since 2017, complemented by a wide selection of mouth-watering food choices from a rotation of local vendors like The Flyin’ G’nosh (try the Tandoori tacos) and Smithers homemade sausages, which will be available this summer every Thursday 5-9pm from May 5th-October 27nd.
Pale ale “Fruit Salad” beer was released on June 13th for Pride month (made with tangerines, cherries and peaches), in partnership with Fruit Salad: Hamilton Edition. Grain and Grit will be donating 50 cents from the sale of each can to Speqtrum Hamilton, a youth-founded and youth-focused program for the 2SLGBTQIA+ youth community in Hamilton.
Grain and Grit’s popular German pils, “Little Thrills German Pils: 4.8%,” available all summer, a creamy, grain-forward beer with a spicy bite that finishes dry.
South River Brewing
southriverbrewing.ca | (705) 792-0808 | 309 B HWY 124, South River, ON
Located in the picturesque Almaguin Highlands just north of Muskoka, South River is currently busy planning an exciting summer at the Brewery. Founded in 2009, their very first beer was a traditional Scottish Ale, a pale ale favourite that’s endured the test of time, created with an Edinburgh Ale yeast strain imported directly from the United Kingdom.
Today, South River Brewing’s management team is primarily female, with Australian Brewster (a female brewer) Kaity Niedeck churning out a lineup of incredible choices, like the new “Hop-A-Roo,” a single dry hopped IPA: 5%, South River’s homage to Down Under blended with three different Aussie hops and bursting with citrus and fruit.
South River’s new release of low ABV beers, 2.5% ABV and under 85 calories, “A Light Paddle” brown ale and “Joey” IPA, both in 355ml sleek cans.
July 9th: Ashley Woodruff with Rob Murphy performing at South River Brewery. August 5th: Rock and country collide with The Redhill Valleys’ concert at South River Brewery. August 6th: Visit South River’s beer tent at the Sunflower Festival in Sundridge!