In 1898 Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier decided that more than 13,000 votes — a 51.3 per cent majority in a plebiscite on prohibition — wasn’t enough to justify stopping the national liquor flow. Nearly 120 years later we’ve (mostly) deemed ourselves responsible enough to enjoy a few beers, and a proliferation of craft breweries means we’re better at making them. Here are 10 of the nation’s best brewpubs.
Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub, Victoria
Soak up the view of yachts and ferries in Victoria’s Inner Harbour from the beautiful patio as you down the likes of a Mitchell’s Extra Special Bitter or a Lion’s Head Cascadia Dark Ale. The pub’s Victorian-era building is a fitting environment for one of Canada’s oldest modern brewpubs, which celebrates its 30th birthday this year.
The Grizzly Paw Brewing Company, Canmore, Alta.
With a view like this, almost anything would taste good. Fortunately, you don’t need the peaks of the famed Three Sisters mountains to distract you from the magnificently named Rutting Elk Red amber ale or succulent bison burgers offered at this cosy pub that resembles a rustic mountain cabin.
Bushwakker Brewpub, Regina
If you’re looking for a reason to celebrate the fact that Saskatchewan produces a lot of barley, then this is the place to do it. Bushwakker is hailed as much for its friendly atmosphere as it is for brews such as the coffee-flavoured Palliser Porter. It’s hard to go against the grain with that level of popularity.
Bellwoods Brewery, Toronto
A relative newcomer to Ontario’s brewpub scene, Bellwoods — located in a converted auto shop (pictured above) — has made a splash among critics for its bigger, bolder brews, including Witchshark Imperial IPA, a citrusy hop-bomb, and Toil and Trouble, which is brewed with Belgian candy sugar.
Les Brasseurs du Temps, Gatineau, Que.
What better place to make — and consume — beer than on the banks of Ruisseau de la Brasserie (Brewery Creek), right across from the nation’s capital? After all, the region’s first brewery was established on the banks of this waterway in the early 1800s. Dive into some beer history at the pub’s museum, then continue your education by ordering the Beer Clock, a 12-sample taster of what’s on tap. Look out, too, for the DumDuminator, a strong, Germanstyle wheat beer.
Dieu du Ciel!, Montreal
It’s not clear which deadly sin the folks at this brewery — which means “God in Heaven” — had in mind when they created Péché Mortel, but gluttony and lust could apply to the imperial coffee stout, consistently rated “world-class” on websites such as beeradvocate.com. And the fermented goodness doesn’t end there — the bustling brewpub’s offerings include the Belgian Trappist-style Rigor Mortis ABT and Blanche de Février, a ginger wheat beer with mustard seeds.
Le Trou du Diable, Shawinigan, Que.
Quebec breweries have found a niche perfecting old Belgian styles, and “The Devil’s Hole” is no exception. Try the orangetinged Dulcis Succubus or the German-style weizenbock Shawinigan Handshake — a cheeky reference to the chokehold former prime minister and hometown hero Jean Chrétien gave to an activist who crossed his path.
Hart & Thistle, Halifax
There’s not much wrong with a place that enlists the help of renowned Canadian brewmaster Greg Nash and throws the best Nova Scotian seafood into the mix. Enjoy any one of Nash’s brews (he’s best known for his hoppier creations, such as Hop Mess Monster and Dank & Stormy) around the fireplace or out on the patio.
The Gahan House, Charlottetown
The expression “get thee to a nunnery” isn’t normally associated with bars, but they do things a bit differently on Prince Edward Island. The province’s only brewery is housed in a building that the Sisters of the Precious Blood used as a convent for a good portion of the 20th century. Would the nuns have enjoyed a pint of the robust Sydney Street Stout as much as the next person? God willing.
YellowBelly Brewery and Public House, St. John’s
Built after a fire in 1846 and a survivor of the 1892 blaze that destroyed almost all of St. John’s, the five-floor stone building that’s home to this brewpub is worth a visit simply for its history. But if you’re wandering past, it would be a shame not to drop in and sample a creamy Fighting Irish Red ale or the lighter Wexford Wheat.