Best Beer Towns in Canada, 2018

The best beer towns in Canada in 2018

Ask any hophead from Nova Scotia to British Columbia, and you’ll hear the same refrain: craft beer in Canada just keeps getting better. Hoppier IPAs! Lighter lagers! Even more sour sours! There’s so much going on, it can be hard to keep up—but our annual report of the best beer towns in Canada is here to help. The 2018 edition covers even more hoppy happenings, the latest ester experiments, and the most up-and-coming sudsy cities. We’ve used the same rating system this time around, so here’s a refresher:

🍺 – Taps in Town rates the total number of breweries and brewpubs where you can grab a pint.

🏅 – Praise and Slays is all about awards—the more a town has, the better the rating!

🦄 – Creative Spirit is awarded for originality, whether that means creating unique flavours or building a brand-new beer following.

Whether you need IBU inspiration or are looking for a malty getaway, we’ve got your must-sip cities right here. These towns are home to some of the best breweries in Canada and should be on any beer lover’s bucket list. Let’s get hopping.

17. Guysborough, NS

Brewery and scenery of Guysborough, one of the best beer towns of Canada

Taps in Town: 🍺🍺

Praise and Slays: 🏅🏅

Creative Spirit: 🦄🦄🦄🦄

Craft beer in Nova Scotia is thriving, but it’s still pretty impressive that the tiny community of Guysborough cranks out so many delicious beverages. The spruce beer at Rare Bird Craft Beer, the brewing operation of Authentic Seacoast Distillery & Brewery, is a must-try. While you’re at it, Authentic Seacoast also makes excellent rum and vodka, plus coffee, which you might need after all that drinking. Get there quick—the tasting room is only open during the busier summer months, from June 18 to October 1. 

16. Dildo, NL

Scenic view of Dildo Harbour and fish and chips with beer

Taps in Town: 🍺🍺

Praise and Slays: 🏅🏅

Creative Spirit: 🦄🦄🦄🦄

Newfoundland has the highest beer consumption per capita, and now the town of Dildo is getting in on the action. Dildo Brewing Co., located on Trinity Bay about 100 km west of St. John’s, is an easy day trip from the city for those who need some new Instagram material. Downtown Dildo is buzzing with activity—the new brewery is part of the Dildo Museum, with a tasty full menu and live music on weekends. Bonus: The bay views from the brewery’s patio are “pitcher” perfect. Take a seat and order up the Stout Dildo. You know you want to.

15. Dieppe, NB

Scenic view of Dieppe and flight of beer

Taps in Town: 🍺🍺🍺

Praise and Slays: 🏅🏅

Creative Spirit: 🦄🦄🦄🦄

Something’s brewing in Dieppe . . . homebrewing, that is. Flying Boats Brewing began as a two-barrel operation in owner Marc Melanson’s garage and recently upgraded to 15 barrels and a taproom in downtown Dieppe. It’s a rainbow of beer: four IPAs on tap, plus red, blonde, and white ales. O’Creek Brewing Co. is even newer, a homebrew operation with just one barrel. There’s no taproom yet, but the Route 117 IPA is available at festivals and gastropubs around the province. Stay tuned to this one—there’s much more to come from Dieppe.

14. Calgary, AB

Drinking beer in Calgary Alberta and scenic view of the city

Taps in Town: 🍺🍺🍺🍺

Praise and Slays: 🏅🏅🏅🏅

Creative Spirit: 🦄🦄

Craft beer in Alberta may not be as established as other provinces, but we think that’s about to change. Outcast Brewing won big in 2018, including Rookie of the Year at the Canadian International Beer Awards (CIBA), where Cold Garden Beverage Co. was awarded the People’s Choice Brewery of the Year. Awards are great and all, but High Line Brewing is busy stealing the scene with refreshing cucumber-infused beers and yuzu sours. Want to support the newest of the new? Eighty-Eight Brewing just opened this summer, making supremely crushable beers like a rosé saison and a dry-hopped white ale.

13. Nyanza, NS

Vew of Nyanza Bay and beer tasters at Nyanza breweries

Taps in Town: 🍺🍺

Praise and Slays: 🏅🏅

Creative Spirit: 🦄🦄🦄🦄🦄

Nova Scotia has the most craft breweries per capita, and while many are spread out in rural areas, they’re definitely worth a visit. Take a road trip to Cape Breton Island to visit Big Spruce Brewing—their beer is certified organic, delicious, and has great names like Cereal Killer and Kitchen Party. They do all sorts of amazing collaborations, like with Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil. It’s safe to say that Big Spruce always has something creative up their bunghole—er, sleeve.

12. Laurentides, QC

Beers and scenery in Laurentides Quebec

Taps in Town: 🍺🍺🍺

Praise and Slays: 🏅🏅🏅

Creative Spirit: 🦄🦄🦄🦄

Taking a trip to the ski slopes and beautiful landscapes of the Laurentides? No problem! Acclaimed brewery Dieu du Ciel! in Saint-Jérôme has racked up more awards than a Canadian at the winter Olympics: try Aphrodisiaque, Moralité, and Péché Mortel. To the south, guess the secret spice in the Transylvanian Pale Ale at Microbrasserie Kruhnen in Blainville. Then head to Les Brasseurs du Nord, order up a flight of their crisp, refreshing classics, and give thanks you don’t have to leave awesome beer behind when you’re on holiday.

11. Nelson, BC

Scenic downtown and beer growlers in Nelson, British Columbia

Taps in Town: 🍺🍺🍺🍺

Praise and Slays: 🏅🏅🏅🏅

Creative Spirit: 🦄🦄🦄

There’s no two ways about it: the Canadian craft beer industry is booming in BC. Backroads Brewing in Nelson is a perfect example—they just opened in 2017 and the Marzen already won gold at the BC Beer Awards. Over at Nelson Brewing Co., try the Face Plant Winter Ale and the Hooligan Pilsner if you know what’s good for you. Wanna get weird? Torchlight Brewing participated in “Gruit Day” this year, releasing a limited edition gruit—that’s beer brewed with herbs and spices instead of hops, and it’s definitely unique.

10. Medicine Hat, AB

Beer flight and scenery in Medicine Hat, Alberta

Taps in Town: 🍺🍺🍺

Praise and Slays: 🏅🏅🏅🏅

Creative Spirit: 🦄🦄🦄🦄

Two years ago, the number of breweries in Medicine Hat skyrocketed by 200 percent…from zero to two! Hell’s Basement Brewery is kickin’ taps and making names—really fun names, like Little Bend on the Prairie and Ryes Against the Machine (which won silver at this year’s World Beer Cup, by the way). Speaking of awards, Medicine Hat Brewing Company won bronze at the 2018 Alberta Beer Awards for its Winter Warmer. In this prairie town, beer is the best medicine.

9. Winnipeg, MB

Downtown view and people drinking beer in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Taps in Town: 🍺🍺🍺🍺

Praise and Slays: 🏅🏅🏅

Creative Spirit: 🦄🦄🦄🦄

The number of craft breweries in Winnipeg has more than quadrupled since 2015, making it an easy addition to this year’s list. But there’s no competition here: In the Peg, sharing is caring. Stone Angel, Devil May Care, and Kilter Brewing share a co-working space, so you can visit three breweries in one; One Great City collaborates all over town, recently creating a New England IPA with Kilter. Other spots are really raising the “bar” for Manitoba: Torque Brewing won the province’s only gold medal at the 2018 Canadian Brewing Awards, and newcomer Trans Canada Brewing won bronze. We’ll cheers to that!

8. Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON

Downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario and breweries

Taps in Town: 🍺🍺🍺🍺

Praise and Slays: 🏅🏅🏅

Creative Spirit: 🦄🦄🦄🦄

Niagara-on-the-Lake is seriously cutting-edge. At Niagara College Teaching Brewery, students in the Brewmaster and Brewery Operations program (just about the coolest major ever) create everything from basic styles to experimental small batches. They’re not the only ones going mad scientist on their beers: Oast House Brewers’ Rural Route series uses hyper-local seasonal produce to make limited-batch deliciousness, while The Exchange Brewery’s heart is in the sours. (They’re even hosting an inaugural SourPalooza on September 8). Worship beer? You’ve got to visit Silversmith Brewing Company, which is housed in an old church.

7. Bay of Quinte, ON

Bay of Quinte, Ontario, and beer from area breweries

Taps in Town: 🍺🍺🍺🍺

Praise and Slays: 🏅🏅🏅🏅🏅

Creative Spirit: 🦄🦄🦄🦄

This region burst onto the scene like a ton of Simcoe hops on your palate when Napanee Beer Co. won Newcomer of the Year at the 2017 Ontario Brewing Awards (OBA). But Bay of Quinte isn’t letting fame go to its head—here, it’s all about local pride. Signal Brewing Company has live music every weekend and hosts a summer farmers market of regional products. Over at Mackinnon Brothers Brewing, they’ve got a couple of OBA bronze medals for the Wild Stout and Red Fox Ale, and it’s no wonder. They use wheat, barley, and hops grown on their own farm. Now that’s what we call local.

6. Abbotsford, BC

Tasting beer in Abbotsford, British Columbia, and view of Fraser Valley

Taps in Town: 🍺🍺🍺🍺

Praise and Slays: 🏅🏅🏅🏅

Creative Spirit: 🦄🦄🦄🦄

Abbotsford is probably most famous for BC Hop Fest (taking place September 29 this year), but let us drop some new knowledge on you: it has amazing fruit beers. Old Abbey Ales has a raspberry sour and blueberry ale on tap, while Ravens Brewing Company won gold at the World Beer Cup and bronze at the BC Beer Awards for its Corvus Lingonberry Lime Gose. You should also check out Field House Brewing’s limited edition beers, which have included Pinor Noir IPA and Whisky Sour Ale. In Abbotsford, the more flavourful, the better.

5. Oakville, ON

Oakville, Ontario, beers and the Oakville lighthouse

Taps in Town: 🍺🍺🍺🍺

Praise and Slays: 🏅🏅🏅

Creative Spirit: 🦄🦄🦄🦄

Last year, we highlighted Ontario craft brewers in the region of Halton; this year, we’re taking a closer look at Oakville. Cameron’s Brewing continues to do interesting things, with 2018 seeing the release of a crisp, malty Light Session Lager and limited-edition beers like Forager Wild Ale, with dandelion and bee pollen. All or Nothing Brewhouse, which acquired Trafalgar Ales, Meads & Distillery in 2016, is a behemoth of booze, producing craft beer, liquor, and unique meads like Masala Chai. Feeling inspired? Les 3 Brasseurs runs a Create Your Own Cask program that’s a beer nerd’s dream.

4. Regina, SK

Regina, Saskatchewan, breweries and Central Park

Taps in Town: 🍺🍺🍺🍺

Praise and Slays: 🏅🏅🏅🏅🏅

Creative Spirit: 🦄🦄🦄🦄

Regina is home to some top Canadian breweries, and continues to slay the prairies’ beer scene. District Brewing Co. took home a new medal in 2018 for the Lemon Ginger Radler, Bushwakker’s Wee Heavy keeps racking up awards, and Rebellion Brewing won recognition for its Flanders Sour Ale. The new kids on the block are doing big things, too. Pile O’ Bones Brewing shows off the enterprising Sask mindset, brewing out of the basement of O’Hanlon’s Pub with delicious results. At Malty National Brewing Corp., the beer lineup changes so quick it’ll make your head spin—or maybe that’s all the Septembeer Pale Ale you just drank.

3. Guelph, ON

Beer samples and the Speed River in Guelph, Ontario

Taps in Town: 🍺🍺🍺🍺🍺

Praise and Slays: 🏅🏅🏅🏅🏅

Creative Spirit: 🦄🦄🦄

How many awards can a town of 120,000 win? Guelph has set out to answer that question, and the answer is: a lot. This city cleaned up at the 2018 Ontario Brewing Awards, so we’ll just give you the highlights. Wellington Brewery’s golds included Country Dark Ale and Rhubarb Saison, while Royal City Brewing Co. won gold for a refreshing Oktoberfest (they also won bronze at CBAC for the Belgian-style Dubbel). Guelph is in the running for “best beer names,” too. Double Trouble Brewing Co. has Hops & Robbers IPA and Grow a Pear cider, while Brothers Brewing Company makes Tropic Thunder Pale Ale and Space Beer. We’re intrigued.

2. Penticton, BC

Breweries in Penticton, British Columbia, and a scenic view

Taps in Town: 🍺🍺🍺🍺🍺

Praise and Slays: 🏅🏅🏅🏅

Creative Spirit: 🦄🦄🦄🦄🦄

When it comes to small towns with big beer scenes, Penticton still dominates. Cannery Brewing Co. picked up some new silver and bronze medals in the 2018 awards season for Heist Maple Stout and Thornless fruit beer; Bad Tattoo Brewing took home Best Pilsner at this year’s Fest of Ale. What’s the Fest of Ale? Well, if you have to ask, we question your dedication to the craft, but we’ll humour you: It’s an amazing and super-popular beerfest that takes place in Penticton every April. There are plenty more events in this thriving community, too, like the Penticton Beer Run, which happens in June, or a beer crawl along the Penticton arm of the BC Ale Trail. Needless to say, you’ll have some epic tales of tannins and esters after a visit to this sessionable city.

1. Vancouver, BC

Beer tasting flights and the Vancouver skyline

Taps in Town: 🍺🍺🍺🍺🍺

Praise and Slays: 🏅🏅🏅🏅🏅

Creative Spirit: 🦄🦄🦄🦄🦄

It’s hard to dispute that Vancouver is the craft beer capital of Canada. Mount Pleasant, known as “Brewery Creek,” is home to Belgian-style specialist (and multiple award-winner) 33 Acres Brewing Co., dry-hopping pros Brassneck Brewing, and the tastemakers at Faculty Brewing Co., who cook up botanical ales and sours. In East Vancouver, aka “Yeast Van,” you’ve gotta try the Craft Lager at Parallel 49 and the Park Life Passion Fruit Ale at Bomber Brewing, which each won top props at three different awards in 2018. Don’t forget the Tart Wild Ale with Plum at Luppolo Brewing Company, which won Best Sour and Best in Show at the Fest of Ale. We could go on and on about Vancouver craft beer—the simple fact is, you’ve gotta ex-beer-ience it for yourself.

Suddenly feeling thirsty? Us, too! The good news is that no matter where you live, chances are you have Canadian microbreweries doing big things near you. Check out last year’s list to find even more of the best breweries in Canada, then get out there and explore.

Let us know your favourite breweries in the comments! 

Image Credits:

17. Guysborough, NS

Top left: Photo courtesy of Authentic Seacoast Distillery & Brewery

Bottom left: Image via Dennis Jarvis/Flickr

Right: Image via VDB Photos/Shutterstock.com

16. Dildo, NL

Left: Image via Kathiroadtrippingnewfoundland/Trover

Top right: Image via Shane Lopes/Shutterstock.com

Bottom right: Photo by Kevin H. via Yelp

15. Dieppe, NB

Top: Image via James Mann/Flickr

Bottom left: Photo by Helen M. via Yelp

Bottom right: Image via MaxyM/Shutterstock.com

14. Calgary, AB

Top left: Photo by Jessica M. via Yelp

Top right: Image via Connor Turner/Flickr

Bottom: Image via JeniFoto/Shutterstock.com

13. Nyanza, NS

Top: Image via marevos imaging/Shutterstock.com

Bottom left: Photo by Ralph M. via Yelp

Bottom right: Photo by Judy P. via Yelp

12. Laurentides, QC

Left: Photo by Audrey L. via Yelp

Top right: Image via Nicholas Spooner-Rodie/Shutterstock.com

Bottom right: Photo by Audrey L. via Yelp

11. Nelson, BC

Top left: Photo by Backroads Brewing via Yelp

Bottom left: Image via Robert Bleier/Trover

Right: Photo by Eric Y. via Yelp

10. Medicine Hat, AB

Top left: Photo by Austin H. via Yelp

Top right: Photo by Medicine Hat Brewing via Yelp

Bottom: Image via Brenda Carson/Shutterstock.com

9. Winnipeg, MB

Top left: Image via Andrew Park/Shutterstock.com

Bottom left: Image via Andrew Scheer/Flickr

Right: Photo by One Great City Brewing via Yelp

8. Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON

Top left: Image via Tamara Smith/Flickr

Top right: Photo by Ryan J. via Yelp

Bottom: Photo by Christopher G. via Yelp

7. Bay of Quinte, ON

Top: Image via jTanCreativeImage/Shutterstock.com

Bottom left: Image via Fil.Al/Flickr

Bottom right: Photo by Lisa V. via Yelp

6. Abbotsford, BC

Top left: Photo by Natasha P. via Yelp

Bottom left: Photo by Paul S. via Yelp

Right: Image via Max Lindenthaler/Shutterstock.com

5. Oakville, ON

Left: Photo by Peter M. via Yelp

Middle: Photo by Jennifer K. via Yelp

Right: Image via COSPV/Shutterstock.com

4. Regina, SK

Top left: Photo by Sarah B. via Yelp

Bottom left: Image via Pashu Ta Studio/Shutterstock.com

Right: Photo by Kat Hartigan

3. Guelph, ON

Left: Photo by Wellington Brewery via Yelp

Top right: Photo by Jennifer K. via Yelp

Bottom right: Image via woodygraphs/Shutterstock.com

2. Penticton, BC

Top left: Photo by Cannery Brewing via Yelp

Bottom left: Photo by Kim K. via Yelp

Right: Image via Amy K. Mitchell/Shutterstock.com

1. Vancouver, BC

Top left: Photo by Soleil S. via Yelp

Top right: Photo by Edward L. via Yelp

Bottom: Image via Frank Fell/Shutterstock.com

Header Image: Syda Productions/Shutterstock.com

 

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About Author

Carolyn Albee

Carolyn Albee is a lover of writing, dogs, and new cities—not necessarily in that order. When she’s not on a mission to find the best late-night snacks in those new cities, she’s off writing about why you should visit them, or doing some exploring of a different kind: Taking to the hills with her dog, Markus.

10 Comments

  1. Great information. The scoring seems weird where 5. Oakville with 434 finishes ahead of 6. Abbotsford with 444 and 7. Quinte at 454. There are actually 5 Locations with 2×4 + 1×3. (5.Oakville434, 8.Niagara434, 9 Winnipeg434, 10 Medicine Hat344, 11 Nelson443) .

    Reply
  2. Why didn’t you write “from Newfoundland to BC”, instead of “from Nova Scotia to BC”, in you opening sentence? Newfoundland has been a part of Canada since 1949. And you even have a Newfoundland town in your list. So it wasn’t a good start to the article, in my opinion. Try to be all encompassing the next time.

    Reply
  3. When you travel to the West Kootenays, make sure you do a detour to Kaslo, BC, 1 hour North of Nelson and go to the Angry Hen Brewing. It’s worth the drive! #angryhenbrewing #bccraftbrewery #findingawesome

    Reply
  4. Your list makes no sense from the east coast, great advertisements for some really good beers but take a look at the craft beer seen and you will find a lot better towns with greater concentration of equally good craft breweries with creative brews and much greater concentrations of taps. Fredericton and Quispamsis alone are better towns for craft experiences then most listed from the east coast

    Reply
  5. I find this article very misleading. Excluding Victoria, BC is a huge mistake as it has one of the oldest brew pubs in Canada. It is also home to one of the oldest and largest outdoor beer festivals since 26 years!! I can only hope that the author of this article does a little more research the next time she decides to write an article such as this. She may also want to research the up and coming Alberta market that is starting to make great gains in the craft beer market and is home to some of the largest domestic beer producers.

    Reply

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