Hamilton has a craft beer scene to be proud of. Between old mainstays and newer additions, local breweries like Collective Arts, Fairweather, and Merit are churning out consistently excellent beer that takes experimental risks, honours the details of classic styles, and holds its own against some of the best in Ontario.
But did you know there are dozens of breweries worth exploring that are just a short drive outside the city? From small rural towns to big urban centres, Ontario’s craft beer scene is exploding like never before; and a healthy dose of that scene is within an hour’s drive of the Hammer. Without further ado, in no particular order, here are the Top 10 craft beer destinations for you to discover just outside of Hamilton!
In just under an hour’s drive, beer lovers can find themselves immersed in Kitchener-Waterloo’s unexpectedly brimming craft beer scene.
If you’re into all things tart and sour, Short Finger Brewing will have just what you’re looking for in their scrappy young brewery that doubles as a brewer’s supply store. From gin barrel-aged blends to sour saisons, these folks know what they’re doing. Or, if haze and hops are more your thing, Counterpoint Brewing’s recent addition to the city will excite you with their ever-changing line-up of exceptional IPAs.
Then, when hunger strikes, Descendants Beer Co. and Abe Erb Brewing both have brewpubs with stacked menus of pub fare to accompany their strong and varied respective beer selections. At the end of your day, maybe grab a hotel room or take a cab home because, wow, that’s a lot of beer.
While many visit Caledon to sightsee at the famous Cheltenham Badlands, there’s another Badlands worth exploring in town. That would be Badlands Brewery, a literal roadside shack churning out micro-batches of hazy IPAs and DIPAs that are quickly becoming known as some of the best in the province. They’re only open on Saturdays from 12 pm to 5 pm and they pretty much always sell out, so plan accordingly.
But that’s not all! GoodLot Farmstead Brewing is a ridiculously popular spot that actually grows their own hops and ingredients on-site for fresh, farm-to-glass beers. Furnace Room Brewing is also well worth a stop, with a welcoming atmosphere and a stacked yet approachable tap list.
Then, if you’re still relatively sober, take some time to explore the numerous picturesque hiking trails and parks Caledon has to offer!
Cambridge’s craft beer scene just keeps growing. The town plays host to well-loved local spots like Rhythm & Brews Brewing Company, Jackass Brewing, Wave Maker Brewery & Distillery, North Works Brewing Co., and old favourite Grand River Brewing.
While all offer excellent and diverse line-ups of craft beer that change enough to warrant repeat visits, one of the biggest beer draws in Cambridge is the famous Barncat Artisan Ales. An unassuming industrial unit open for only 8 total hours per week, Barncat is legendary for making some of Ontario’s best hazy IPAs, impeccably balancing bright tropical flavour profiles with sumptuous earthy bitterness. Brewed in tiny batches and only available by growler fill, Barncat is known to sell out quickly despite only being open for a barely a blink each weekend.
Only a half-hour’s car ride outside of Hamilton, Brantford’s got some seriously great beer going on.
For food along with a huge list of changing beer, Bell City Brewing is a popular long-standing local spot known for flagships like Edison’s Peepshow IPA or their award-winning Eureka Cream Ale. Then, a homey vibe with bar room games awaits at Mash Paddle Brewing, who make old-school beers that are as approachable as they are flavourful.
Finally, the newest Brantford establishment Steel Wheel Brewery is a tiny farmstead brewery and local favourite, well worth a visit for their gorgeous farmhouse tap room with seriously good sours and pale ales on offer.
Where to even begin with Toronto? There’s simply too much great beer in the 6ix to explore in just one visit; Toronto’s beer scene warrants a couple of serious day trips to explore all the city has to offer.
I could write a novel detailing all of the terrific breweries Toronto hosts, so I’ll keep it super brief and focus on a couple of highlights. Bellwoods Brewery is quite literally world-renowned for their innovative, game-changing IPAs and sours; Left Field Brewery’s baseball theme is now synonymous with their world-class beer; Muddy York’s exceptional brews pay loving tribute to old-world styles and methods; and Godspeed Brewing marries Japanese techniques and ingredients with impeccable interpretations of under-appreciated beer styles.
But that’s barely the tip of the iceberg. Toronto has literally dozens of breweries peppered all throughout the city, just waiting for you to discover them!
While London is a little more than an hour’s drive from Hamilton, the craft breweries that await are more than worth the extra miles.
Toboggan Brewery is a massive spot in London’s downtown that features a restaurant with a loaded food menu and great beer brewed on site, which is also available for takeaway in the adjoining bottle shop. Small-but-mighty Anderson Craft Ales never disappoints with beloved flagships and seasonally-inspired beer releases that are always excellent, Forked River always has a diverse and delicious line-up on offer, and the newer brewers at Powerhouse Brewing Co. and Storm Stayed are already becoming local favourites.
Visitors can also hit up Milos’ Craft Beer Emporium for excellent food and a seriously well-curated tap list of Ontario craft.
A trip to Simcoe is worth it for the calming rural setting alone, but a surprising number of craft breweries and wineries in the surrounding area make the journey even sweeter.
New Limburg Brewery has become well known in the province for making solid Belgian style beers inside a renovated old schoolhouse, and Hometown Brew Co. is very much a hidden gem pouring beer out of a nature-side shack made from a converted shipping container. On top of those, newer addition Charlotteville Brewing is already making impressive beer in their gorgeous farmstead setting.
Whether you’re visiting Stratford to take in some Shakespeare at the world-famous Stratford Festival, or you just wanna hang out waterside with the swans, you should definitely find some time to explore the town’s growing beer scene.
Black Swan Brewing’s tiny storefront spot pumps out its consistently excellent IPA, porter, and English ale alongside always-changing seasonal offerings, and the recently opened Jobsite Brewing has already become a favourite that pairs their beer with fantastic, fresh wood-fired pizza. If you’ve still got room for more, the popular Shakespeare Brewing Co. is also a worthwhile stop. Better still, all breweries are within a very short driving distance of each other!
Simply put, Guelph is just stacked with great local beer. The famous Wellington Brewery is the truest of trailblazers, one of Ontario’s earliest-established craft brewers that is still going strong today with major shelf real estate at your nearest LCBO.
Further still, Royal City offers strong takes on old-school styles, and more recent additions like Brothers Brewing and Fixed Gear are local hits with residents and University of Guelph students alike. Then, a brief drive down the road to St. Jacobs will bring you to the outstanding Belgian-focused beers available at Block Three Brewery.
One of Ontario’s hottest tourist destinations and brimming with vineyards, Niagara-on-the-Lake is definitely most famous as wine country. What visitors may not know is that the region is also becoming its own beer country too.
Two famous earlier establishments are Oast House, an unmissable red barn and farm-to-glass brewery specializing in bottle conditioned saisons and sours; and Silversmith Brewing, taking up residence in a renovated church with a straightforward line-up of beers that includes their award-winning Black Lager, which perfectly balances the easy-going grassiness of a lager with the chocolate and coffee-forward roasted malt character of a porter or stout.
Newer to the scene are The Exchange Brewery, who are doing excellent work with barrel & foeder-aged sour ales in the heart of the downtown strip; and the nearby Bench Brewing in Beamsville, with an absolutely massive multi-level space featuring a restaurant and expertly crafted beers ranging from hoppy ales to please beer nerds’ palates, to fruited sours and barrel-aged fare meant to act as a gateway for wine connoisseurs. Be sure to add at least a few of these spots to the mix for your next VQA wine tour!
What changes would you make to our list? Let us know in the comments!