It's been around for more than two decades, yet like the good beer it serves there's nothing stale about the Bushwakker Brewpub in Regina. It hand caps each bottle of beer, grinds its own hops, turns out delicious carefully crafted brews and serves them in a bar that plays only music from Saskatchewan. That emphasis on local flavours of all sorts is a key reason why the Bushwakker was selected as the No. 1 Brewpub in Canada, according to Vacay.ca judges.
In April, our online magazine named the Top 50 Restaurants in Canada -- a journalistic endeavour undertaken to celebrate Canadian chefs and their cuisine as well as create a branded product for Vacay.ca's global audience and our advertisers.
We put careful thought into that list, which includes such iconic restaurants as Vij's, Joe Beef and two eateries owned by Au Pied de Cochon's Martin Picard, and more than five million of our website visitors have read it, as have all major publishers in Canada.
In time for Oktoberfest celebrations across the country, we published our first Top 24 Brewpubs in Canada list, giving attention to a growing segment that's important to Canadians and visitors to the country. (Why a list of 24 and not 25? Because when Canadians talk about a case of their favourite bottled brew, it's 24 -- or "two-four" -- that they mention.)
Craig Flynn, the proprietor of the fourth-ranked YellowBelly Brewery in St. John's, told me last month that he seeks out microbreweries whenever he travels. "It's about getting quality beer, but it's also how you learn about local culture," Flynn said, recalling travels to Germany where brewpubs were defined by the style of beer they make. "People don't have the brand loyalty to beer that they used to in the past. They're more willing to give things a try, because I think they recognize the quality is in locally produced products."
The craft-brew craze has redefined how Canadians and visitors to this country drink beer. It is about finding authentic experiences as well as great taste. The Bushwakker delivers that experience better than any other brewpub in the country. At the 21-year-old brewery, Saskatchewan's best is showcased with confidence -- whether it's the music, the art work or the beer, which is made from the province's bounty of hops. The Bushwakker brews more than 30 beers annually, plus its Blackberry Mead that comes out once a year and is gone in minutes as thirsty patrons line-up at 4 a.m. -- in December, no less -- to grab a bottle or two.
Around the country, you can find a strong local spirit at the nation's finest brewpubs. That's what I've learned as I travelled across the country this year, visiting several brewpubs on this list. Tiny Shawinigan, Quebec, which has a population of about 50,000 people, placed two brewpubs in the Vacay.ca Top 24 list, as did Peterborough, Ontario, which has close to 80,000 residents. Toronto led all cities with four entries; the newly opened Beer Academy (No. 8) ranked highest among those brewpubs in Canada's largest city. The list had entrants from every province except Manitoba. Ontario had nine brewpubs on the list while British Columbia had four and Quebec had three.
Here's the full list of the 2012 Top 24 Brewpubs in Canada: (Rankings were determined on the quality of the craft-brewed beer first and foremost, with food, ambience, service and overall experience also considered.)
1. Bushwakker Brewpub, Regina, Saskatchewan
2. Le Trou du Diable, Shawinigan, Quebec
3. Dieu du Ciel, Montreal, Quebec
4. YellowBelly Brewery, St. John's, Newfoundland & Labrador
5. The Howe Sound Inn & Brewing Company, Squamish, British Columbia
6. Lion Brewery at the Huether Hotel, Waterloo, Ontario
7. Clocktower Pub, Ottawa, Ontario
8. The Beer Academy, Toronto, Ontario
9. Canoe Brewpub, Victoria, British Columbia
10. Wild Rose Tap Room & Brewery, Calgary, Alberta
11. Bar Volo, Toronto, Ontario
12. Broadway Microbrasserie & Pub, Shawinigan, Quebec
13. C'est What?, Toronto, Ontario
14. The Pump House, Moncton, New Brunswick
15. Rogue's Roost, Halifax, Nova Scotia
16. Motor Burger, Windsor, Ontario
17. Mill Street Brew Pub, Toronto, Ontario
18. Spinnakers, Victoria, British Columbia
19. Dockside Restaurant, Vancouver, British Columbia
20. Gahan House & Brewery, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
21. Olde Stone Brewery, Peterborough, Ontario
22. Alexander Keith's, Halifax, Nova Scotia
23. Saskatoon Brewery/Factory Tap Pub, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
24. The Publican House, Peterborough, Ontario
You can read more about each of the Top 24 Brewpubs in Canada at Vacay.ca.
And find the Original Top 50 Restaurants in Canada List here -- for 2013 you can enter the Foodie of the Year contest that will send one Canadian to the top restaurant of his or her choice, including airfare and a luxury hotel stay.