Ottawa is a town seemingly built on beer.
Whether it’s a sweltering summer day or a subzero evening in December, patrons routinely pack the city’s many pubs to unwind with a refreshing brew. It’s easy to see why: Canada’s capital city has more pubs per capita than Winnipeg, Calgary and even Toronto, according to recent statistics.
But a new-school approach to one of the world’s oldest beverages is being led by a handful of craft brewers in and around the city. Here are a few of the brewers making their mark in Ottawa.
Bicycle Craft Brewery’s name speaks to its founders’ love of the outdoors — and love of beer, of course. Husband and wife Fariborz and Laura Behzadi opened their brewery in 2014 and have enjoyed a steady stream of praise since.
The On the Lam Vermont-style IPA and Patio Sunshine American Pale Ale have major fruity aromas, with the former showcasing “full, juicy hop flavors of pineapple and ataulfo mango.” Meanwhile, the Simcoe SMaSH IPA — named for “single malt and single hops” — pairs brazen citrus notes with milder pine ones.
Inspired by an actual covered bridge on their residential property, husband-and-wife team John and Kathy vanDyk started Covered Bridge Brewing a few years back after John unexpectedly fell in love with home brewing.
It was clearly kismet: The brewery has won wide acclaim, including a gold medal at the 2016 Canadian Brewing Awards, for its 11.5-percent alcohol, bourbon-barrel-aged barley wine beer.
Like most microbreweries, Covered Bridge Brewing whips up a carousel of one-offs and small-batch brews alongside regulars like Dirty Blonde and Amber Rose, blonde and amber ales respectively, as well as a potent mocha stout by the name of the Covered Bridge Double-Double.
Broadhead’s origin story begins in a basement, where two friends learned to make beer. It moved above ground about five years ago to a decidedly nondescript manufacturing area in the Ottawa suburb of Nepean. The brewery embraces its unusual location, though: “Finally, an excuse to go to Nepean!” its website exclaims.
The tiny brewery usually has about six beers available at any given moment. Broadhead’s Bodacious Blueberry Blonde, for instance, is a crisp golden ale laced with blueberry notes — perfect for summer sipping. For those with a taste for stronger flavors, try the Heavy Lad Scotch Ale or the Horse Stout.
Beyond the Pale’s brew list boasts “real beer with real flavor” — and this brewery isn’t joking around. Its revolving menu of small-batch productions may be small, but it is mighty.
The Morning Goat coffee stout — a collaboration with local café Happy Goat Coffee Company — is a perfect blend for those who like a beer that can pack a punch. The DarkERness oatmeal stout and Kilt in Battle Scotch ale are also on the darker end of the beer spectrum.
Meanwhile, Pink Fuzz — a bitter, and potent, grapefruit-tinged American wheat beer — goes down smooth on a hot summer day, as does the new Aromatherapy IPA, a beer that Beyond the Pale describes as “intensely dry-hopped” and containing “a rich floral and citrus bouquet.”
The British influence in Ottawa is none more obvious than in the names it gives its pubs — usually some variation of (noun) and (noun). Tooth and Nail’s name appears to be an edgier take on this naming convention, which pairs well with its edgier take on brewing.
Located in the heart of Ottawa’s up-and-coming Hintonburg neighborhood, Tooth and Nail has a youthful spirit. The staff here are obviously inspired by rock ‘n’ roll; Tooth and Nail’s Instagram page is spotted with the covers of albums that play over the brewery’s sound system.
The rocker influence is apparent in its choice of beer names, too; the Sucker Punch double IPA and Belgian-inspired wheat ale White Flag, for instance. Stop by the brewery — which pulls triple duty as a bar and storefront — to experience it for yourself.
Take an Ottawa Brewery Tour
If you lack the wherewithal to traipse about the extended Ottawa region tasting beer— or, most importantly, the resolve to remain sober — consider taking a brewery tour. Tour operator Brew Donkey will chauffeur you around to a selection of breweries in exchange for a modest sum. All you have to do is sit back and enjoy the ride.