After decades of only being able to buy beer from large corporate breweries, beer lovers have been thrilled to see artisanal breweries springing up all over Ontario, each with their own unique tastes. The industry is booming, with new craft breweries opening every year. And while we’ve certainly been witness to this trend in Niagara (with several fine craft breweries to call our own), here, we explore a little bit further afoot.

Explanations differ as to why craft beer is suddenly so popular. Some say it’s an evolution of the eat-local movement, others point to dissatisfaction with the product being made by increasingly large brewery conglomerates, still more say the whole interest is driven by the millenial age group who seem to appreciate the bohemian, anti-establishment nature of microbreweries.

Me? I just like the experience of sampling new flavours and the thrill of discovering new micro-breweries.

If you like beer, toast the micro-brewery trend by sampling these three unique spots.

Stone City Ales

Located in the heart of downtown Kingston, Stone City Ales is a small craft brewery that does beer right. Yes, the location has a tap room and restaurant, but Stone City Ales is first and foremost a brewery and so their attention is firmly set on making the best beers possible.

That means they don’t cut corners or filter their beer. It does mean they source the best ingredients from around the world and use local ones as often as possible without sacrificing quality. It also means every beer is made with passion and commitment to excellence. The laser-direct focus on quality pays off when the beer hits your mouth.

Stone City Ales is also a great story. The company began in December 2013, operating out of a small, trial site with a pilot system purchased from a brewery in Nova Scotia. The unique flavours of their beers struck a chord with people in Kingston, and success allowed them to move into their current permanent location a year later.

You’ll note a maritime theme in the names of the various beers brewed here: Windward Belgian Wheat, 12 Stars Session Ale and Uncharted IPA. By favourite, both in flavour and in name, is Ship’s in the Night Oatmeal Stout, a dark beer with hints of chocolate, caramel, toffee and roasted dark coffee, surprisingly smooth and easy to drink despite its rich ingredients.  They encourage customers to return seasonally, as in addition to their regular selection a number of short-run brews are unveiled every year. The onsite bottle shop allows Stone City Ales to sell take-out beer to you right out of their front door, ensuring, as they like to say, that “you’re getting the freshest, most tasty beer possible.”

You’ll love the vibe and the flavours at Stone City Ales. It’s a great place to retreat to after building up a thirst exploring historic downtown Kingston. Grab a table, sip on a tasty beer, and reflect on all the many things—Stone City Ales among them—that makes Kingston so unique.

275 Princess Street, Kingston | 613.542.4222 | stonecityales.com

Boshkung Brewery

Boshkung Brewery is a small brewery with a big reputation.

Located at the intersections of Highways 18 and 35 in Haliburton along the shores of Mirror Lake, Boshkung has mastered the art of brewing. Using only the finest ingredients, sourced locally whenever possible to provide a true taste of cottage country, you can taste the passion in every savourful sip of frosty beer. While there are a number of seasonal offerings, Boshkung has four staple beers: North Country Kellerbier, your typical German style ale, Kungaroo, a refreshing IPA, and their most popular offering, 35 and 118 (named for the location), a smooth cream ale. My favorite is Black Rock: the blend of dried fruit, chocolate, coffee and caramel makes this dark a winner. Each flavour is unique and delightful.

But don’t just take my word for it.   

“We won two medals at a recent Canada Brewery Awards. There were 195 breweries from across Canada and we won gold for our kellerbier and silver for our cream ale,” says a proud Terri-Matthews Carl, owner of the brewery with her husband, Christoph.

Drop in on the way to the cottage to buy some beer, or pull up a chair and sample the beers while gazing out onto Mirror Lake. Better yet, enjoy dinner at Rhubarb, the brewery’s adjacent sister-restaurant where Boshkung’s four staple beers are on tap.

Executive Chef and co-owner Christoph Carl is at the forefront of the movement to source food locally within Haliburton. Everything is made from scratch, nothing is frozen, and everything comes from regional farmers.

“We’re the only Feast Ontario restaurant in the County, a label which signifies that we use almost exclusively local produce and meat, and which carries with it a promise of quality,” explains Matthews-Carl. “Our greens, for example, are picked for us every morning at 5am. You can’t get any fresher than that, and you taste the difference in our food.”

The incorporation of local ingredients inspires Carl’s menu, which includes dynamic flavours to satisfy any taste bud.

Boshkung Brewery is a small and young brewery, but it’s on a roll. Reflecting cottage country where it’s located, it’s unassuming and unpretentious but ever-so memorable.

9201 HWY 118 Minden Hills | 705.489.4554 | boshkungbrewing.com

Griffin Pub

If you want to experience the soul behind the recent craft beer movement, head to Griffin Gastropub in Bracebridge. You’ll catch on.

Occupying a nostalgic space within a vine-shrouded building, Griffin Gastropub is one of the town’s most charming spots, famed for live music—our waitress took a turn at the microphone, revealing a hauntingly soulful voice— and boasting unique craft beers on tap with names like 100th Meridian, Skinny Dippy Stout and OJ IPA.

In Britain, they say that any reputable pub has a mystery or two. The Griffin has its share. A brick-lined, closet-sized room in the basement that today is used as a wine cellar may once have been used as a lock-up (the building was a lawyer’s office for more than half a century). On the main floor, the washrooms occupy what was once a safe where lawyers held documents and money.

Childhood friends Curt Dunlop and Jed Corbeil started the business in 2008, catering to people who enjoy craft beers, live music, and well-made food using the best local ingredients. “We wanted to create a place where people could come and hang out,” explains Corbeil.   

Eight years on, Griffin Gastropub is now a thriving and vibrant part of Bracebridge’s cultural scene, and Corbeil and Dunlop have become the driving forces of Sessions Muskoka and Sessions Toronto, premier craft-beer events.

You won’t find any corporate brews here, and patrons wouldn’t have it any other way. The twelve draughts on tap are constantly rotating, featuring a broad selection from great craft breweries, as well as beer made in-house. Some of the beers Dunlop and Corbeil have unveiled in the past include Chocolate Blueberry Vanilla Milk Stout (I kid you not!), S’more Stout, Barrel Aged Session Saison, and Midland’s Best Buttertart Beer, which is sold at select LCBOs. In a very Bohemian way, it’s all about experimentation and playing with flavours and textures.

Live music is performed three nights a week, Thursday through Saturday, starting at 8pm.Talented musicians themselves, Corbeil and Dunlop perform every Thursday. Get there early; the pub is intimate inside, so if you want seating, it’s best to come at least half hour before hand.

Blending good food, great entertainment, and Ontario’s best craft beers into one memorable package, the Griffin is the perfect place to guzzle custom-made ale and while away a lazy summer evening.

9 Chancery Lane, Bracebridge | 705.646.0438 | craftbeerevents.ca