Canadian beer destination?
Anyone have a suggestion for a city that's not Montreal with a weekend's worth of great beer bars and brewpubs? Montreal is great but we're looking for someplace new.
Toronto is ...
definitely not Montreal
lacking in quality brewpubs (but I like Mill St brews a lot)
home to a few very good beer bars (e.g. Volo)
a place with lots of other stuff to do.
I was in Quebec City about ten years ago. It was one of the gastronomic highlights of my life. I recall having caribou pate served with dijon mustard and cranberry chutney. Later I had duck tartare with a balsamic drizzle and sheeps milk cheese. Later still I had succulent shredded lamb and duck, served atop raisin chutney, surrounded by a ring of raspberries with puff pastry. Then there were the chocolates, shaped like little pyramids with ginger filling. Within the walls I remember a nice Irish pub with communal tables where I made some friends and drank many unibroue beers. It was a great time.
The list from Toronto to try is:
- Mill Street Brewpub (I love several of their beers, many of which are only available at their brewpub.)
- Volo (Excellent beer bar. It has an extensive list of bottles, plus about 10 taps and 2 casks that rotate frequently.)
- C'est What (Technically a brewpub I think because they brew their own beers, but brewing isn't done on site. Their whole beer list is comprised of Canadian microbrews, with a focus more on Ontario/Quebec. I think their tap list is about 20-30 with about 5 casks.)
- Smokeless Joe's (Very small place, but lots of selection. Great beer bar, with similar selection to Volo, but without the casks I believe).
- Granite Brewery (Another brewpub. I don't like this as much as Mill Street, but I am a fan of their stout, ESB and IPA).
You could also throw in tasting visits to Great Lakes (they always make a couple of industrial lagers that are pretty forgettable, but always have an interesting seasonal microbrew going), Steam Whistle (only makes a pilsner, but in an old railroad roundhouse), and Amsterdam.
And of course, there's Beerbistro. All dishes incorporate beer, with a very long list of beers and barleywines to accompany your meal.
I purposely left off Great Lakes/Amsterdam/Steam Whistle because I don't think their beers are up to the level of some of the others (although the Steam Whistle tour can be interesting).
However, I did forget to mention Beer Bistro... I'm not sure how when I work across the street from it. They have a combination of both Canadian micros and import craft beer. I haven't been thrilled with the food there (for the same price, there are much better restaurants in the city), but the beer list is among the best.
In the case of Amsterdam, I'd agree with you, but I do like the seasonal Great Lakes beers (and their Devil's Pale Ale, although the Green Tea Ale did nothing for me - can't win 'em all) and I seem to the the only one around these parts that actually likes Steam Whistle. Not my favorite beer in town by far, but when I'm in that sort of mood, I'd take it over, say, Mill St. Organic. Plus, I just happen to think it's fun to visit actual breweries and talk to the people about what they do, and Great Lakes was great for that, as are the Mill St. tasting room and the Steam Whistle tour. But when I'm in the mood to just park and sample, then the places on your list are among my favorite hangouts. Just trying to help make the case that our fair city is a worthy beer destination. :)
Vancouver, Kelowna/Penticton/Osoyoos, or the area from Comox to Victoria on Vancouver Island. Full of great, albeit, Northwestern-style microbrews and pubs. But they are growing in diversity. Any of these areas are far more than a weekend's worth of great brew. In fact, one pub, strangely in Whalley (a very sketchy district of Surrey), has 18 local and international microbrews on tap, with several more in bottle. Also, it's conveniently located in a hotel. The pub's not a great atmosphere, though. Vancouver proper has great pubs for barhopping.
You can skip the prairies entirely. They are a relative wasteland for brewpubs and beer (except for Alley Cat and Paddock Wood), save for Saskatoon, which has a few nice ones with very good beer in some cases, but it's not worth a special trip. I say this as a prairie boy.
This all said, if you're willing to travel to the west, forget the Canadian requirement. The beer mecca in Western North America is Escondido's Stone Brewery. The one brewery alone is worth the flight to San Diego and may entice you to move there, not spend a weekend. A daily changed beer menu consisting of 48 or more international beers and more bottled, not just their own stuff. Seriously, they make a new menu daily. You'll be happy to know Unibroue does well on their listings. Their own brews are great and extraordinarily creative: a Belgian IPA? That works? Well? Also: Abbey Sundays. Yes, cheap abbey cask beer.
Another vote for Quebec City. The oldest brewery in North America, lots of pubs, strong beer and great food. Maybe my favorite city in North America (sorry NOLA); like driving to France. If you have never been, do it! Just head north on I 91 and turn right after the border. Don't forget your passport.