The Big 150

Innovative, local brewmasters have the city and region positively hopping

It’s a golden age of sorts. Golden suds that is. Awash in beer, the capital’s not quite drowning but rather happily drifting along in a frothy sea of microbrews. Last count finds the area home to at least two-dozen breweries and growing.

Not confined to area pubs and bars, the breweries themselves have become tourist destinations such as Beau’s Oktoberfest in September (less chance of snow!), or Les Brasseurs du Temps, a beautiful stone brewery located in Hull’s former waterworks building with patios overlooking — fittingly — Brewery Creek, an arm of the Ottawa River.

What’s driving this industry? — The answer is found in the hardworking brewmasters who pride themselves in being natural and authentic. But to stand out, you also have to be a little quirky (the Broadhead team brags about giving up shaving for its craft) or take a mad-scientist approach to experimenting (an Earl Grey Marmalade Saison anyone?), or get creative with naming beers (Bog Water, Pink Fuzz, Heller Highwater).

We asked some of the city’s top brewers to talk about what makes this city’s suds scene so great.

Father-son team, Tim and Steve Beauchesne of Beau's Brewery put craft beer on our radar, and continue to innovate with brilliant brews, cool events, and a savvy employee share ownership deal to keep Beau's independent. Photo: courtesy of Beau's
Father-son team, Tim and Steve Beauchesne of Beau’s Brewery, put craft beer on our radar, and continue to innovate with brilliant brews, cool events, and a savvy employee share ownership deal to keep Beau’s independent. Photo: courtesy of Beau’s

Beau’s Brewing Co. (Since 2006)
Steve Beauchesne, co-founder, and CEO

What makes your brewery unique?
Our close-knit family and friends, company culture, and each of the beers we brew.

What is your favourite beer?
Bog Water. It started us on a path of experimentation, and has spawned so many interesting projects. When we decided to brew a Gruit beer [beer brewed with herbs other than hops], I don’t think we fully realized how much it would impact our brewery. Now with a full-time Gruit program, and as originators of International Gruit Day, it is something that many brewers [worldwide] look to us as experts on.

La Saison Haute brewed by Hull's Les Brasseurs du Temps
La Saison Haute brewed by Hull’s Les Brasseurs du Temps

Les Brasseurs du Temps (Since 2009)
Alain Geoffroy, president

What makes your brewery unique?
BDT is the first craft brewery established on the Quebec side of the Outaouais. It is literally a temple of beer brewing more than 35 different types of beer [always 17 fresh beers on the menu], located in a heritage centennial building and featuring a self-guided beer museum.

What are your most underrated and favourite beers?
Underrated: L’ Allumante is our nut brown ale. Despite the fact that it is our second best-selling beer [OK, not really underrated!], it remains, to my point of view, one of the best American-style nut brown ales you can find: a subtle nutty flavour sustained by a long and smooth bitterness. Favourite: La Framboyante, our raspberry pale ale. Fruit beers tend to be oversweet to my taste. La Framboyante has a perfect balance of bitterness [like biting into the raspberry seed] and sweetness of the fruit.

Brewery Kichesippi Beer Co. (Since 2010)
Paul Meek, co-owner and president

What makes your brewery unique?
Our commitment to brewing rare global styles and making them available to our customers. Logger (Pennsylvania Porter), Wuchak UK (British IPA), Donny’s Dort (Dortmunder), Phoenix and the Cat (Rauchbier), and Dartmouth Common (Steam Beer) are all great examples of [our] hard-to-find global styles.

What are your most underrated and favourite beers?
Underrated: Probably our Kichesippi Logger. The style is a Penn Porter, which was a style created by Yuengling in the U.S. It is a not a traditional British Porter or Baltic Porter as it uses a lager yeast instead of an ale yeast. Favourite: Our Kichesippi 1855. The great thing about this beer is that it teaches the customer that the colour of the beer is not directly related to its flavour. When you try this amber ale with your eyes closed, you would never guess that it’s a darker beer in the glass.

Whiprsnapr Brewing Co. (Since 2014)
Ian McMartin, founder, co-owner, head brewer

What makes your brewery unique?
We have a baby system (150L) and a big system (2000L). The baby system allows us to play a lot and have lots of different beers on tap, while the big guy lets us get our beers into the LCBO and The Beer Stores. We also have a great front-of-house area [for] events.

What are your most underrated and favourite beers?
Underrated: Our Carol Anne Irish blonde ale. There’s just so much flavour in it for such a light, easy drinking beer [4.7 percent]. It’s got a lot of body from wheat and honey malts, and loads of hops give it a real spring-like aroma. Favourite: Our ginger coriander cream ale. It’s based on some of the travel I used to do to China, Malaysia, and Singapore, and the flavours they use in their foods: ginger, coriander, lemon, and honey. The beer is light, crisp, bright, vibrant, packed with flavour, but still balanced.

Bicycle Craft Brewery (Since 2014)
Laura Behzadi, co-owner

What makes your brewery unique?
We pride ourselves on sourcing local ingredients when available and our passion for craft beer ensures that our beer is delicious every time it’s poured. We are also avid supporters of women in the brewing industry and celebrate International Women’s Day every year with Freedom Machine, our cherry pale ale that’s named after the suffragette name for the bicycle.

What are your most underrated and favourite beers?
Underrated: Vinternat Liquorice Stout. The added raw licorice root gives the beer a crisp finish that cools the mouth and is very thirst-quenching and refreshing. Most people are surprised when they try it. Favourite: Velocipede IPA. It’s our flagship beer and is inspired by the original name for the bicycle. Hoppy, with citrus notes and a refreshing bitterness — it’s perfect any time of year.