Let’s be honest, one of the most epic moments of your teenage life is getting your G2. That feeling of freedom is incomparable. The world is officially your oyster and it was made for exploring. One of my all time favourite pastimes was to load all my friends into the vehicle, turn up that week’s freshest mix CD (yes, I had a very extensive CD collection – Shaggy anyone?) and play ‘Left or Right’. We would simply drive and at each crossroads, someone would yell out our next direction; Left or Right.
Sometimes it was warm sunny day, sometimes the full moon would light the roadway ahead, sometimes we drove around in the rain with our eyes peeled for a rainbow, whatever the weather, whatever the season, it was always fun.
The best thing about backroad wandering, is the hidden gems you stumble upon.
Like the tiny but mighty smoked meat shop in Coe Hill, or the ‘We ❤️ Horses’ barn on Centre Line Rd in Marmora, or the Maple Syrup place that serves pancakes all year round. But of all my fantastic finds, my favourite discoveries are backroad breweries.
Whether hidden in the woods, at the end of a farming road, overlooking a lake, or on main street in a town with a population of 2500, the beers that come out of our backroad breweries are legendary. The guys and gals behind these operations put their heart and soul into each brew. The main ingredient, the little something that makes each pint so refreshing and delicious is that passion and dedication to excellence. But let me just say that even though they share this passion, each brewery has a unique touch of their own. Here are my favourite ingredients that make the brews from Ontario’s Highlands truly one-of-a kind.
Whitewater Brewing Company: The Chrises (ironically both owners have the exact same first and last name, what are the chances?) value the farming heritage of the Ottawa Valley and source locally farmed hops. Their Farmer’s Daughter Blond Ale is a true homage to their roots.
Backroad Tip: Don’t be alarmed if Siri leads you astray on the way to Whitewater Brewery, it wouldn’t be the first time. Instead follow your gut and the signs pointing you in the right direction.
Cartwright Springs Brewery: Dedicated to creating an environmentally friendly and sustainable operation, this brewery was built 15 metres from their own clean, natural artesian spring which is piped straight into the brewery and into each beer.
Brewery Tip: The blue bottles are oh-so cool and double as great water jugs after the fact -that is until you return to fill them up again.
Calabogie Brewing Co.: Okay, this one is as unique as it gets in my books. One of Calabogie Brewing’s most popular beers is the Grassy Bay. It is chocked full of stone fruits, lemon citrus, spice and of course (you guessed it…) grass. Be brave, give it a try, I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Backroad Tip: After stocking up on Calabogie brews, head over to The Valley Food and Drink Co. for a pint and a plate of their famous fish and chips.
Perth Brewery: These guys are all about community. Their newest brew, the Wet Hop Cascader Invader, was made with locally grown hops that were harvested by hand, by over 50 volunteers and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to a local charity. So you can drink well and feel good about it at the same time.
Brewery Tip: For those of you that are gluten conscious, this is the brewery for you!
Boshkung Brewing Co.: Now, when I say the beers of Ontario’s Highlands are legendary, I wasn’t just blowing smoke. In their first two years of production, two of Boshkung’s Brews, the 35 & 118 as well as the North Country were awarded Gold and the The Black Rock was awarded Silver at the Ontario Brewing awards.
Brewery Tip: This is a two stop shop. Grab your beer downstairs before heading upstairs for a fine dining waterfront experience. Talk about a winning combination.
Haliburton Highlands Brewing: If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to brew, this is the place to do it. Take on the role of brewmaster with one of their sweet brewing workshops, but the sweetest thing about this place is the Honey Brown Ale, made with local honey.
Brewery Tip: They are expanding and the new location is ‘nearly operational’. I’d say wait a week or two to visit this one so you can experience it in all of it’s new glory!
Not a fan of beer? Check out Ontario’s first Maple Winery, Moon Shadows Estate in Haliburton. They use the maple sap straight from their back yard to make some of the most delicious wines.
#ComeWander this long weekend, stock up on local brews and play a little ‘Left or Right’. We’ve even mapped it all out for you: Backroad Breweries Map! As always, if you’re wanting to enjoy any of these great brews on the spot, make sure you have a designated driver and enjoy your long weekend responsibly!