I'm a craft beer buff from Canada, but I’ve paid more than ample homage to great U.S. and European breweries. It almost makes me feel guilty, eh?
I’ve immersed myself in a five-hour Brewvana tour of ever-popular Portland, and sipped classic beers at San Diego institutions like Stone and Green Flash. During a layover in Munich, I guzzled Kumulus wheat beer at Airbrau, Europe’s only airport brewery. And on a pilgrimage to Pilsen, I enjoyed unfiltered Pilsner Urquell at the iconic Czech brewery where bottom-fermented lager was invented.
But now it’s time to celebrate super suds in my native land as if a Canadian NHL hockey team had just won the Stanley Cup (fingers crossed!). Here are seven great craft beer tours across Canada.
Victoria: West Coast Brewery Tours
Spinnakers, Canada’s first brewpub, opened in Victoria in 1984 and it still rules. However, Vancouver Island’s biggest city — dubbed “British Columbia’s craft beer capital” by local guru Joe Wiebe — has much more to offer. West Coast Brewery Tours spotlights some lesser-known gems.
At Category 12 Brewing, the bubbly husband-wife team of Michael and Karen Kuzyk delivers scientifically engineered beers like Critical Point, a refreshing Northwest pale ale, and Disruption, a distinctive black IPA that won gold at the Canadian Brewing Awards in 2015.
Twa Dogs Brewery offers a delightfully fruity saison in Mistress of My Soul, and shares space with the triumphant single-malt whiskies of Victoria Caledonian Distillery.
Vancouver: Vancouver Brewery Tours
You know you’ll get a complimentary 16-oz pint glass from Vancouver Brewery Tours, but you don’t know who you’ll meet while exploring this budding West Coast beer mecca by van. On my latest three-hour odyssey, I encountered a bachelorette party from Philadelphia and two brothers from Minnesota attending a prosthetics convention.
This tour company, founded in 2013, hits up such East Vancouver staples as Main Street Brewing, which boasts tasty seasonals like the Barking Mad Plum Porter, and Strange Fellows, whose flourishing tasting room features the Belgian-style Jongleur Wit and also displays quirky local artwork.
Calgary: Urban Pedal Tours
To burn off calories in Calgary’s emerging “Barley Belt,” hook up with Urban Pedal Tours. Pedalling a 15-passenger, U-shaped bicycle around the Manchester neighbourhood, you’ll sample everything from Paddy’s signature Vienna Lager (5.0%), best-paired with the in-house smoked beef brisket, to Annex’s Mackinaw Peaches, an innovative peach kettle sour (6.7%).
My personal favourite is the summer-never-dies flavour of Hi Cutie, Born Colorado’s raspberry mint wheat ale (4.7%).
Edmonton: Edmonton Brewery Tours
When Alberta ditched its minimum production requirements for microbreweries in 2013, Edmonton benefited big-time. With Edmonton Brewery Tours, get your lunch on at Situation Brewing. The Afternoon Tea Saison goes nicely with a bison-and-wild-boar burger and house salad with strawberries.
Other highlights include industry pioneer Alley Kat — try the crisp Aprikat wheat ale — and inventive upstart Bent Stick, whose Baltistar Galactiporter (9.5%) is hard-hitting dark candy.
Ottawa: Brew Donkey
Do some federal politicians take Brew Donkey’s six-hour, bus-based “Rideau Rally” tour, before passing major legislation in the Canadian capital? Likely not...
Ottawa beer buffs recommend Kichesippi’s perennially popular 1855 dark amber ale and Waller St.’s complex, tropical Blind Pig IPA. Brew Donkey’s boxed lunches include SuzyQ’s outrageous Dirty Chocolate and Maple Bacon doughnuts. It’s raucous good times.
Montreal: Montreal Craft Beer Tours
Food pairings heighten the fun with Montreal Craft Beer Tours. Strolling around Quebec’s largest city, you can devour a beer-infused poutine (French fries with cheese curds and gravy) while imbibing at Le Saint-Bock, which has more than 40 beers on tap. This institution offers a warm atmosphere with brass-rimmed tables and a stained-glass window depicting a suds-laden stein.
Personally, I reminisce fondly about the beer-and-chocolate pairings at Benelux, a spacious, high-ceilinged brewpub in a converted former bank.
Quebec City: Broue-Tours
Arguably Canada’s most picturesque city, Quebec City is now a craft beer destination too, and Broue Tours will take you around the burgeoning St-Roch neighbourhood. Noctem, specializing in American farmhouse beers, takes a decidedly non-traditional approach. La Herbosophie, the flagship saison brewed with Belgian yeast, incorporates thyme, rosemary, and sage.
On a sunny day, chill on the treed terrace outside the 1995-founded, cooperatively owned La Barberie and savor everything from the Sure aux Framboises (hello, raspberries!) to the Stout Double Chocolat (are you feeling stout yet?). At the funky Korrigane, operated by brewer Catherine D. Foster, the Feu Follet, an English cream ale with notes of flowers and fruit, provides a mellow conclusion.
The world deserves more you — and you deserve more Canadian craft beer! Check out our small group tours to Canada here.