Niagara might be best known for its waterfalls and wineries, but don’t discount its emerging craft beer scene — the Niagara-on-the-Lake region is full of amazing breweries to check out, even if you’re more into Porters than Pinots. Just an hour and a half outside of Toronto by car, this quaint township is a worthy stop on any food-and-drink loving roadtripper’s map.
Came for the grapes, stayed for the hops.
First on our list is Silversmith Brewing. If you’re into good beer and gorgeous spaces, this brewery and beer hall inside a converted 1890s church is a must-stop. With its exposed beams, brick walls and handmade reclaimed wood bar, it’s bursting at the seams with heavenly, rustic charm.
One of the things we love about Silversmith is that their range of beers is both delicious and super-approachable — which means even your craft beer-averse friend who swears by Coors Light can probably find something to enjoy.
Don’t miss Silversmith’s Black Lager, their multi-award winning flagship brew that’ll change the way you think about dark beer.
Bench Brewing Company is named for its location in the benchlands of the Niagara Escarpment. On-trend with the unconventional converted spaces, the Bench tap room is in the historic Maple Grove Public School building, just a short 30-minute drive from Niagara Falls. It’s a little bit of a trek, but we promise it’s worth the drive to experience their sprawling eight-acre property, featuring a barrel-aging facility and their very own hops field (growing Cascade, Centennial, Chinook and Willamette varieties).
From funky farmhouse ales to barrel and feoder fermented sours, this brewery is always innovating—we’re big fans of their Grove range of beers, named for its home in the Maple Grove schoolhouse. The Grove beers are the perfect introduction to tart and tangy beers, and are also a great study in hops used in the dry-hopping process.
In Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Old Town heritage district, you’ll find the Exchange Brewery inside what once housed Niagara’s first telephone exchange. This chic, intimate space begs you to sit down and stay awhile — and feels very apropos for their approach to brewing, which blends traditional and modern techniques and equipment.
In keeping with the brewery building’s roots, Exchange names their beers using numbers instead of nomers. Fun fact: the numbers are clues as to what to expect from the beer — low numbers indicate those beers are approachable and sessionable, while higher numbers have a more flavourful and intense taste. Exchange is best known for its American-style and sour, funky Belgian-style ales, while paying homage to its locale with plenty of beers featuring local Niagara fruits.
With something for everyone — from your Pilsner-partial godfather to your brother-in-law Kevin who brings his own tasting glass— this multi award-winning brewery is well worth cheating on wine country.
Now, don’t you dare leave the peninsula without scooping a few funky farmhouse ales from Oast House.
Oast House is housed in the iconic ‘Big Red Barn’, and this old gal has quite the story! The Big Red Barn has lived many lives, most of them fruity—a fruit-basket manufacturer in the late 1800s, a fruit packing shed, the Niagara Township Fruit Cooperative, the original Farmers’ Co-op Bank and a long-time John Deere Tractor & Farm Supply Dealership.
Nowadays, the Big Red Barn is home to Canada’s first small batch, farmhouse-focused brewery. Oast House’s beers are yeast-driven beers with great flavour, depth, balance, ageability and a little hit of good ol’ rustic, cellar funk. Let the funky times roll!
Counterpart Brewing is the new kid on the block, having just opened its doors in March 2019 — and this new brew has an interesting origin story.
Co-founders Greg Gnys and Joe Sartor were total strangers before family members connected them to help turn their respective dreams into a joint reality. Both men were born in Niagara but living in Vancouver, and while Gyns was dreaming of opening a brewery one day, Sartor had his own goal of opening a restaurant. Their families match-made, and the rest is recent history! Both men moved back to Niagara and found a spot for their brewery that’s a little off the beaten-by-tourists path.
With gorgeous, ‘gram-worthy branding and a kitchen menu that’s made to pair with their core range of seven beers, Counterpart Brewing is one to check out before word spreads—’cause trust us, it will.