Ever wonder which breweries are an essential Canadian experience? They're the ones that scream "this is what our country has to offer!" From coast to coast, we have some incredible beer and hundreds of breweries that could sit on this list. But for the sake of brevity, I've broken it down to the 10 essential ones that any beer lover should visit. Arguably, this could be broken down into 10 best per province, and I may revisit that concept later, but for now it's the 10 best country wide.
How the list is broken down: Breweries must be independent (aka, not owned by a multi-national), no more than two breweries per province and the breweries chosen really need to demonstrate the strengths of their province and local ingredients.
10) Garrison Brewery (Halifax, N.S.)
Garrison is one of those breweries that just gets craft beer. From their Maritime-grown base malt to locally sourced ingredients like spruce tip, lavender and rhubarb, they've been producing top-notch, intensely local beer since 1997.
9) Troubled Monk (Red Deer, A.B.)
Troubled Monk has only been open since 2015, but they've already managed to make an impact on a global scale. This little-known brewery took home second place for their American Brown Ale at the World Beer Cup just one year after opening. Maybe it's the Alberta-grown malt, but they've got a winning formula.
8) PEI Brewing (Charlottetown, P.E.I.)
Launched in 2012, PEI Brewing has brewing roots going back more than 20 years in P.E.I. Their most prominent beer, Sir John A's Honey Wheat Ale, utilizes lots of local honey to produce the award-winning brew, but their entire lineup is distinctly P.E.I.
7) Yukon Brewing (Whitehorse, Yukon)
Yukon Brewing opened its doors in 1997 under the name Chilkoot Brewing Co. Ltd. Owners Alan and Bob conceived their idea around a campfire on a canoe trip, and it was history from there. Yukon Brewing is a testament to the Canadian spirit, and a love of beer, no matter how damn cold it is!
6) Spinnakers Brewpub (Victoria, B.C.)
Spinnakers is the undisputed pioneer of craft beer in Canada. Not only can they boast a guesthouse that was constructed back in 1884, but they are also credited as Canada's first in-house brewpub of the modern era. Brewing since 1984, you would be missing out if you didn't visit Spinnakers when in Victoria.
5) Amsterdam Brewing (Toronto, Ont.)
Amsterdam Brewing has a simple slogan: Damn Good Beer. They also happen to have a damn good location right on the Toronto waterfront. As far as popularizing the craft beer culture in one of Canada's biggest cities, Amsterdam is one of the leading contenders for making craft beer "cool."
4) Four Winds Brewing (Delta, B.C.)
There is magic happening at Four Winds. Oddly placed in an out-of-the-way industrial area, Four Winds has a spark that many breweries never achieve. Special releases are met with fevered anticipation, and those who know them will swear by their brews. Plus, they have excellent tacos.
3) Bellwoods Brewery (Toronto, ON)
Bellwoods broke onto the scene in 2012 and started right out of the gates with ambitious plans. They haven't shied away from tackling the more difficult imperial stouts, sours, wild ales and barrel-aged beer, and the reception has been as phenomenal as the booze. A second production location was launched in 2016 to keep up with demand.
2) Le Trou Du Diable (Shawinigan, Que.)
"The Devil's Hole" is anything but a hellish experience. In fact, Le Trou Du Diable is a true embodiment of the craft-beer spirit: experimental, bold and intensely local. The production list is constantly rotating, and you're likely to find some truly wild beers like a California Ale with oats, cucumber, watermelon and cantaloupe.
Note: When I wrote this list, Trou Du Diable was independently owned, but as of two weeks ago, is now owned by Molson. However, the brewpub remains independent, so still qualifies.
1) Dieu du Ciel (Montreal, Que.)
Yes, the top two breweries on this list are from Quebec; and no, that's not a mistake. There's true mastery in the quality and variety of beer coming out of Dieu du Ciel, and their stouts can rival any other producer in the world. Dieu du Ciel is a must-try for any Canadian beer lover.
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