Ottawa is a beer destination whose time has arrived.

Originally selected as Canada’s capital in a compromise by a Queen across an ocean who would never visit in person, Ottawa spent much of the last 150 years shaking off the impression (deep-seated amongst our fellow Canadians) that it was a backwood lumber town with provincial tastes.

While its current reputation as a beer town with something to prove may feel new, Ottawa’s brewing roots run deep. Indeed, the story of Canadian beer in the 20th century belongs to Ottawa.

E.P. Taylor, the infamous beer baron who would set in motion a near unstoppable wave of consolidation in the Canadian brewing industry launched his empire from the Bradings Capital Brewery in Ottawa’s downtown in the 1930s. By acquiring smaller brands and forcing competitors out of business, he’d go on to forge Carling-O’Keefe, one of the country’s dominant breweries until the late 1970s. Taylor, and by extension his hometown of Ottawa, could arguably be credited for establishing the conditions for the country’s brewing oligopoly – and paradoxically, the pendulum swing back towards independent artisanal beer.

But enough history. There’s more than enough happening in Ottawa today to fill a long weekend of great food, coffee and of course, beer. In fact, there’s way too much to cover in one post, but here’s some of our team’s top picks if you’re looking for awesome while you’re visiting. Every spot shares two things: what they do, they do well and they do it with great beer.

Coffee

Ministry of Coffee and Social Affairs

In the heart of Hintonburg, a trendy neighbourhood just west of downtown, the Ministry of Coffee is open early until late every day making the transition from coffee to beer a seamless one. They’ve struck relationships with some of the best roasteries from coast to coast and always feature adventurous yet well-executed drinks for your much needed caffeine fix. All food is made in house and the bar is stocked. Most importantly, they’re supporters of local beer and feature a rotating tap selection of the city’s best.

Morning Owl

Morning Owl’s original location off Preston Street has delicious coffee and features a backyard dumpling truck, Dumpling Park, that has become one of the city’s best hidden gem lunch spots. Inside, you’ll find your favourite caffeinated beverages alongside flavourful options like the Peppermint Patty and Snickers lattes. A large selection of Italian-inspired prepared foods are made in house or sourced from local vendors.

Black Squirrel Books

One of the city’s best independent bookstores just happens to offer great coffee and baked goods during the day, and live music, readings and a selection of beer come evening. Start your night at Black Squirrel reading a good book in a vintage wingback and end up in the basement next door at House of Targ for pierogies, pinball and (more often than not) punk music. Free play on Sunday evenings.

Red Door Provisions

Located on Beechwood straddling the tony Rockliffe neighbourhood and grittier Vanier, this cafe embodies the farm-to-table movement. Whether coming in for brunch or grabbing something to go, the selection of delicious preserves, grilled cheese sandwiches and baked goods galore will tempt anyone who sets foot inside. Both the coffee, which is from Toronto’s Pilot Coffee Roasters, and the small but always delicious selection of local beers are best enjoyed on the sun-drenched patio.

Food

The Belmont

A cozy neighbourhood spot in Old Ottawa South that offers a genre-bending menu with options like the Trini Doubles, their famous take on Trinidadian street food. The Belmont features a well curated selection of snacks, larger dishes, cocktails and (of course) beer, and does a solid brunch on weekends with dishes you won’t find anywhere else. Everything just seems to come together here – the vibe, the food, the drinks, the music – making it a no-brainer for any visit to Ottawa.

Town/Citizen

These sister restaurants on/off Elgin are known for their great food, curated wine list, expertly crafted cocktails and top-notch beers featuring the best Ontario has to offer. The menu at Town focuses on Italian fare in a more traditional setting (whose meatballs are legendary) while recently opened Citizen has more of a casual vibe, serving a small menu of shareable plates that changes often. All in all, with frequent funky beer offerings on tap and a great cellar list, Town and Citizen are your best bets for an excellent meal alongside tasty local craft beer.

Holland’s Cake and Shake

Holland’s Cake and Shake is a bakery in Hintonburg that features delicious personal cakes that change daily. While many come in for a sweet fix, the shop also offers an array of sandwiches built on house-made milk bread. Always one to experiment with unique ingredients in their cakes, Holland’s collaborated with Dominion City on one of four Dominion Day releases called ‘Bonne Fête’, a hazy delicious beer featuring everything you’d expect from an epic 150th birthday cake (think oats, vanilla, cocoa nib and blackberry).

Wellington Gastropub

One of my all-time favourite spots, Wellington Gastropub is a seasonal kitchen with a focus on local ingredients. The food is outstanding, though the atmosphere is relaxed – exactly what you want in a good pub. The Welly has one of the best curated beer lists in town, featuring limited release offerings from Ottawa breweries, but also from folks we don’t traditionally find here like Stone City and others further afield in the US, UK and Europe.

Clover Food + Drink

Hands down one of the most underrated kitchens in Ottawa. The food is fresh, well-executed and delicious. Unsuspectingly, they offer one of  best burgers with a rotating offering every week. Clover is so dedicated to local, they literally aren’t visited by a food service company, preferring instead to buy directly from producers. If you’re in the heart of downtown and looking for excellent locally-sourced food and beer – Clover has you covered.

Beer

Brothers Beer Bistro

Easily the best beer bar in Ottawa, Brothers’ is centrally located near the Byward Market so it’s central location is ideal for those visiting the city. There’s a healthy selection of craft beer on tap and an extensive bottle list featuring several special releases, while the staff are super knowledgeable on the beers available. If you’re interested in trying an array of local beers, grab a flight. The food at Brother’s is also excellent – an elevated pub food menu that perfectly complements beer.

Beyond The Pale Brewing Co.

Having set up shop in Hintonburg in 2012, Beyond the Pale recently made the move to a larger facility a little closer to the city centre. While they currently have only a bottle shop at their new digs at 250 City Centre, they’ll have a full brewpub to enjoy a pint or two when they officially open. The folks at Beyond The Pale are known for having fun with their beers, resulting in unique and tasty brews like Pink Fuzz, a grapefruit American Wheat, and Saison Tropicale, a hop forward saison.

Tooth And Nail Brewing Co.

Tooth And Nail is another Hintonburg staple that serves up delicious beers in their large brewpub. A menu of snacks and boards have been thoughtfully created to pair well with the beer, which themselves cover a range of styles from Pale Ales and Brett IPAs to Belgian Ales and Saisons. Whether you grab a table with friends or a seat at the bar, the combination of the beers, friendly service and comfortable setting make it a spot you’ll want to come back to.

Dominion City Brewing Co.

Dominion City started out as an idea and it kind of brings this post back to where it began. When we were starting out we loved the idea that for most of this country’s history, what you were drinking said a lot about where you were drinking it. That until very recently in our history, beer had always emphasized a sense of place because what was in your glass was necessarily sourced from ingredients that a real person had grown near to where your beer was brewed. It put into perspective that the fad (if one existed at all) was properly the latter half of the 20th century when three companies essentially brewed one style of beer. The craft beer explosion, so often the subject of ‘will it burst’ speculation, was in fact a return to normal.
On that basis, we set out to build a brewery around delicious, boundary-pushing beer that focused on quality local ingredients whenever possible. It’s why we’ve struck relationships with Ontario and Western Quebec hops farmers that see us brew with more locally grown hops than those from any other region. It’s why we buy malting barley grown in Prince Edward County and malted here in Ontario and design beers around yeast strains from an Ontario yeast lab. We wanted to build a business that did things the right way. We try to ensure that carries through to the way we treat our team, customers and community. We’d love if you’d stop by the brewery while you’re in Ottawa so we could share it with you over a pint.

Send this to friend