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Where to Find Ottawa's Best Local Beer

Proper pilsners and piquant pale ales in Canada's capital

In the last five years the Ottawa Valley has added nearly two dozen breweries, resulting in an exciting time for beer-loving visitors.

This marks a return to a long and storied tradition of local brewing in Canada’s capital. The Brading Brewery produced one of the most influential figures in the 20th century in the form of E. P. Taylor. In the wake of prohibition, Taylor began buying up breweries across Canada and consolidating them into the giant Carling O’Keefe consortium.

In an ironic way, Taylor is partially responsible for Ottawa’s current boom in craft breweries, because they might not exist if not for the vacuum in the market that all that consolidation created several decades ago.

Today, the imbalance is corrected and the beer flows freely in Ottawa. Here are some of our favourite local breweries, and some of the beers that make them great.

Dominion City Brewing Co. 

One of the most interesting developments to come out of Ontario in recent years is the homegrown agricultural industry surrounding brewing. Both hops and barley are becoming more widely grown in the province, and Dominion City makes a great place to celebrate the flavours of Ontario. The tap room – clad in boards from a barn that the brewery’s owners personally demolished – serves boards of charcuterie made in nearby Sharbot Lake.

Courtesy Dominion City

Catch the excitement of Ottawa's brewing scene

What to try? Start with Two Flags IPA, which uses Cascade hops from two separate local hop growers to produce a blood orange character that soaks in a body sweet with the flavour of barley sugar. The Earnscliffe ESB, meanwhile, has begun to use Ontario-produced, floor malted barley from Barn Owl Malt to create a mouth-filling texture.

5510 Canotek Road Unit 15, 613-688-6207

Courtesy Dominion City

Dominion City beers chilling in nature's refrigerator

Tooth & Nail Brewing Company

A recent addition to the Ottawa brewing picture, Tooth & Nail has made a name for itself in the scene in a very short space of time. Brewer Matt Tweedy (formerly of King and Beau’s) and owner/manager Dayna Guy (formerly of Toronto’s Beerbistro) have an enormous amount of experience with beer and it shows through on tap. While the IPAs and pale ales on tap tend to be ahead of the curve for the province in terms of the hop varieties they showcase, the standout here is the pilsner, Vim & Vigor. An electric hop aroma really dazzles the senses with a sharp, pungent floral and pepper bite. Try pairing it with the candied salmon to maximize the the contrast in flavours.

3 Irving Ave., 613-695-4677

Big Rig Brew 

Having undergone perhaps the fastest expansion of any brewery in the province of Ontario in the last five years, Big Rig now occupies three separate locations, including a main production facility and two brewpubs. Under brewer Lon Ladell, the complete range of offerings on tap continues to get more diverse and more exciting. The Iris Street location is a neighbourhood brewpub that manages to double as sports bar thanks to the influence of owner Chris Phillips; the menu offers a little bit of everything. Try the Release the Hounds Black IPA, a big dark beer with deep roast malt character and piney hop bitterness – ideally alongside the meatloaf that uses it in the recipe.

Two locations 

Beyond The Pale Brewing Company

Founded in 2012 by father and son team Al and Shane Clark and their partner Rob McIsaac, Beyond the Pale was one of the first breweries in Ottawa to experiment with high bitterness IPAs. Those early forays into the more extreme hop flavours have resulted in an expansion to a second production facility and the refinement of their brewing technique. That said, the place to enjoy their beer is at their original location, which is equipped for sampling. The current flagship of the lineup is a Vermont-style IPA called Aromatherapy, with big aromas of orange, peach and lemon. It’s only available in Ottawa LCBO locations, so you may want to stock up while you’re in town.

5 Hamilton Ave. N., 613-695-2991 

Beyond the Pale

Kichesippi Beer Co.  

While Kichesippi is not a destination brewery in the way that some of the others on the list are, the brewery does have a tasting room where you can sample the wares prior to purchase. (You can book brewery tours here.) The highlight is Heller Highwater, a properly conditioned take on the Munich Helles style of lager. Light and refreshing with a gentle, bready body, it’s a pleasant quaff at any time of year.

Courtesy Robin LeBlanc

Paul Meek, owner of Kichesippi Beer Co.

Kichesippi has the advantage of being particularly friendly to travelers with children, as it produces a line of excellent craft sodas under the Harvey & Vern’s label. The cream soda is highly recommended.

866 Campbell Ave., 613-728-7845              

Kichesippi Beer Co.

And there are more where these came from


Published Tuesday, March 14th 2017

Header image credit: Courtesy Dominion City Brewing Co.



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