While COVID-19 cases continue to spike and we all start to ready ourselves for another slower winter we wanted to highlight some of the great breweries that are right in our backyard–whether you’re looking for a little fall getaway or want to plan a road trip to look forward to in 2021 and beyond.
Over the coming months we’ll be bringing you guides for some of our favorite local road trip destinations so you can start daydreaming about your next beer getaway!
1 hour 30 minutes outside of Toronto
Niagara might be best known for waterfalls and wine, but don’t count out its emerging craft beer scene. If you’re more into Porter than Pinot the Niagara-on-the-Lake region is full of amazing breweries to check out. Come for the grapes, stay for the hops.
First on our list is Silversmith Brewing. If you’re into good beer and gorgeous spaces you’ll love this quaint brewery and beer hall. Located inside a converted 1890s church, this brewery, with its exposed beams and brick walls and handmade reclaimed wood bar, is bursting at the seams with rustic charm.
One of the things we love about Silversmith, aside from their heavenly beer hall, is that their range of beers are delicious and super approachable which means even your craft beer-averse friend that only drinks Coors Light can probably find something to enjoy.
Don’t miss Silversmith’s Black Lager, their multi-award winning flagship brew that claims it will change the way you think about dark beer.
Bench Brewing Company
Bench Brewing Company is named for its location in the benchlands of the Niagara Escarpment. To carry on our theme of interesting converted spaces, the Bench tap room is located in the historic Maple Grove Public School building just a short (30min) drive from Niagara Falls. It’s a little bit of a trek but we promise it’s worth the drive to experience their large eight-acre property that features a barrel-aging facility and their very own hops field (growing Cascade, Centennial, Chinook and Willamette varieties).
If we haven’t sold you on the impressive schoolhouse conversion and hops field, let us assure you that the beer is worth a visit all on its own. From funky farmhouse ales to barrel and feoder fermented sours this brewery is always innovating.
I’m a big fan of their Grove range of beers which is named for the Maple Grove schoolhouse the brewery is located inside. The Grove beers are the perfect introduction to tart and tangy beers, and are also a great study in hops used in the dry-hopping process.
I hear you asking, can you show us more breweries in cool converted spaces? Yes, yes we can.
Located in Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Old Town heritage district the Exchange Brewery is located inside the building that once housed Niagara’s first telephone exchange. This chic and intimate space just begs you to sit down and stay awhile and feels very appropriate for their brewing approach which blends traditional and modern techniques and equipment.
In keeping with the brewery building’s roots, Exchange give their beers numbers instead of naming them. Fun fact, the numbers provide insights into what to expect from the beer — low numbers indicate those beers are approachable and sessionable, while higher numbers have a more flavourful and intense taste. Exchange is best known for it’s American-style and sour and funky Belgian-style ales while often paying homage to its locale with plenty of beers featuring local Niagara fruits.
With something for everyone — from your Pilsner drinking brother to your Dad’s friend Kevin that brings his own tasting glass and notebook everywhere — this multi-award winning brewery is definitely worth cheating on wine country with.
Niagara Oast House Brewery
Now, don’t you dare leave the peninsula without scooping a few funky farmhouse ales from Oast House.
Oast House is housed in the iconic ‘Big Red Barn’ which the owners purchased in 2011 and this old gal has quite the story! The Big Red Barn has lived many lives — as a fruit basket manufacturer in the late 1800s, a fruit packing shed, the Niagara Township Fruit Cooperative, the original Farmers’ Co-op Bank and a long-time John Deere Tractor & Farm Supply Dealership!
Now the Big Red Barn is home to Canada’s first small batch, farmhouse-focused brewery. Oast House’s beers are yeast-driven beers with great flavour, depth, balance, ageability and a little hit of good ol’ rustic, cellar funk! Let the funky times roll!
Counterpart Brewing is one of the new kids on the block, having just opened their doors in March 2019, and this brewery also has an interesting origin story.
Co-founders, Greg Gnys and Joe Sartor, were total strangers before family members connected them to help turn their respective dreams into a joint-reality. Both men were born in Niagara but were living in Vancouver. While Gyns was dreaming of opening a brewery one day, Sartor had his own goal of opening a restaurant. Unknown to each other, they were connected through family members and the rest is history! Both men moved back to Niagara and found a spot for their brewery that’s a little off the beaten tourist path.
For Counterpart, beer, food and community are their North Star. And this idea of forming partnerships with people and with the community is how their brewery found its name.
“Counterpart means something that completes something else, or something that is the perfect fit for something else,” says Gyns, and Counterpart brewing are already succeeding in making their brewery a great community social hub.
With a kitchen menu that’s made to pair with their core range of seven beers, Counterpart Brewing is definitely one to get into before word spreads, because it will, quickly!