There is perhaps no name more fitting for a brewery in Canada’s capital than Dominion City. For those of you who aren’t Canadian, or didn’t pay much attention in history class, Canada’s official title, coined 150 years ago when the British North America Act passed, was ‘Dominion of Canada’. In fact, for much of that time our national holiday on July 1st in recognition of the union wasn’t even called Canada Day; it was Dominion Day until eventually changed in 1983.

Dominion City Brewing Co. opened its doors in 2014 after years of home brewing in the backyard of co-owner and head brewer Josh McJannett. Located in Gloucester, a suburb of Ottawa but still within the city limits, the brewery coexists among offices and industrial complexes, and, as my Uber driver points out, one of the best Lebanese restaurants around. It’s a common conundrum faced by any brewing upstart: do you set up shop in the city centre where you’ll get more foot traffic or do you get the space you need a little further away?

This is my first time at Dominion City’s brewery, though our paths have crossed before. It’s everywhere in Ottawa, a city I visit often. From my hotel bar to favourite neighbourhood eateries to the airport restaurant, Dominion’s there. I even open my friend’s fridge when I’m back home in Toronto and the familiar branding catches my eye. A sample dropped off at the brewery she works for, I’m informed. It’s like running into someone you haven’t seen in years and then continuing to bump into them wherever you go.

The brewery’s entrance opens into the taproom, which features a long bar and a few tables with the brewery just behind in plain view. This isn’t the type of place where the brewing equipment is glossed up as a decor element – it’s a true nuts and bolts brewery. Somewhat unexpectedly, the brewpub feels familiar and inviting, and a bit like being at the cottage growing up; there’s a lot of reclaimed wood, from the barn board salvaged from a local barn to timber resurrected from the bottom of the Ottawa River. The space isn’t overly embellished but the few accent details like the four failed Canadian flag designs hanging from the wall in succession gives it the perfect touch of Canadiana. I later learn that Dominion City raised money through a Kickstarter campaign to create their perfect taproom, a part of any brewery startup that can be overlooked when time and money get tight.

About a dozen of Dominion City’s beers are on tap, available to sample or commit to fully with a full pour. Scanning the list, it’s clear to me that the Dominion City brews I’ve tasted – its mainstays Town & Country Blonde, Two Flags IPA and Earl Grey Marmalade Saison – are the tip of the iceberg. It’s a diverse and impressive showing including Picnic Blanket (raspberry and rhubarb Saison) and Sunsplit (a juicy, hazy IPA), signifying that Dominion City isn’t resting on its laurels.

After less than two years in production, Dominion City outgrew its original setup and the team made plans for expansion. And lucky for them they had the physical room to grow, taking over some space next door. Investment was made to increase capacity and carve out separate space for more experimental brews, while the taproom was expanded into a more comfortable space with ample seating.

In conversation with McJannett, I learn about Dominion City’s approach to their agricultural suppliers. Focused on local, homegrown and sustainable ingredients, the brewery has forged symbiotic relationships with regional farmers throughout the brewing chain to ‘make a beer that tastes like where it’s from’, as Josh puts it. Wheat and barley come from an organic farm near Delta, Ontario and hops are sourced from family owned farms nearby. The spent grain, a byproduct of the brewing process, is sent to a farm in the Ottawa Valley for animal feed. By supporting these batch suppliers, there’s a ripple effect that’s generating positive outcomes for all.

The community that Dominion City has built is strong. Though not located in the city centre, Josh notes the immense support the brewery has received from those who live nearby, many who’ve made it a habit to stop in for a drink and a growler fill on the regular. Hosting pop-ups and events in the Ottawa area, like the annual Dominion Day celebration, brings people together over a beer, which is they way the Dominion City team thinks it should be. And in a rising boats float all ships kind of way, there’s a genuine sense of camaraderie and support throughout the local brewing community.

In a time when it seems like everyone is jumping on the craft beer bandwagon, it’s refreshing to see a brewery with passion that goes beyond profit. From the product to the branding to the brewery to the beers, everything Dominion City does fits its Canadian heritage persona perfectly – not in a calculated way, but in a truly authentic one. It’s patriotic, genuine and welcoming – just like the country it represents.

Check out the short video below to learn more about Dominion City Brewing Co. Cheers!

Lauren Barth

Lauren Barth

Lauren Barth co-founded Departful in 2012 is the Managing Director of Departful Media. Since then she has worked between North America and Europe and has published content in partnership with a variety of tourism boards and businesses based around the world. Lauren is currently based in Toronto, Canada.

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