Canada’s national capital, Ottawa, now has one of the country’s most active craft beer scenes, with nearly two dozen small-batch breweries and beer-focused experiences in and around the city.
Though you’d be remiss to visit Ottawa and not tour its stellar national museums, including the Canadian Museum of History and the National Gallery of Canada, you can — and should — take a break from your sightseeing with a craft brew or two.
If you want to combine a stop in Ottawa with a stay in nearby Montreal, it’s close enough for a day trip; you can travel by train between the two cities in just two hours with VIA Rail, Canada’s national rail carrier, as your designated driver.
Follow the below road map to explore some of the capital city’s best brews.
City-Center Craft Breweries
You don’t have to venture far from Parliament Hill to sample Ottawa’s beer scene.
One of the city’s newest microbreweries, Flora Hall Brewing occupies a beautifully restored historic building with a garage-door-style window that opens to the street. Sample the Farmhouse Saison, Oatmeal Stout, North East IPA and other pours along with bar-style bites in the multi-level tasting room.
Dog and Pony Brewlab is in the kitchen of Union Local 613, a good-time joint serving barbecue ribs, fried chicken and other updated classics from the American South. Try the Gamma Blaster, a citrus IPA.
In the ByWard Market district, Lowertown Brewery produces a German-style lager, a hoppy pale ale and a red wheat beer that you can pair with hearty sandwiches, smoked brisket and other pub fare.
Nearby, hidden in the basement of a heritage building, tiny Waller St. Brewing draws inspiration from the Prohibition era, crafting beers like Bootleg Blonde, Speakeasy Red and Moonlight Porter.
Toronto-based Mill Street Brewery operates an Ottawa pub in a restored 1850 mill building overlooking the Ottawa River. Sip the brand’s Original Organic Lager, Tank House Ale and other brews outside on the terrace.
West Side Sips
Just west of the city center, you’ll find more craft beer options: Beyond the Pale Brewing Company, in a rustic warehouse-like building, is where a giant mural dominates the curved bar; Tooth and Nail Brewing Company, just off increasingly trendy Wellington Street West; and Vimy Brewing Company, established by two former Royal Canadian Navy reservists (and brothers), who named their brewery after the 1917 Battle of Vimy Ridge, considered a Canadian military victory during the First World War.
One major advantage of beer tasting on Ottawa’s west side is that the hip Hintonburg and Wellington West neighborhoods have plenty of great restaurants. After an afternoon of sampling the local sips, have dinner at stylish seafood specialist Supply and Demand, or try Carben, where the husband-and-wife chef team concocts contemporary Asian-influenced fare and elaborate desserts.
If you prefer having curated beer tastings, then book a tour with Brew Donkey, a local company that leads guided excursions to three or four different craft breweries or pubs around the region every Saturday and Sunday.
No matter what time of year you’re visiting Ottawa, you can schedule your stay around a beer festival. Coming up in February are two mid-winter hops-centric celebrations: the Ottawa Winter Brewfest, which showcases craft beer from around the region, and the Gatineau Winter Beerfest, held at the Canadian Museum of History, combines music, local food and brews.
If you’re coming here during the summer months, plan an outing to the Ottawa Beer Fest, which will include samples from more than 30 craft breweries, along with a craft beer 5K Run/Walk.
Also be sure to check out the warm-weather edition of the Gatineau Beerfest, highlighting local food and beer pairings.
If you stop by in the fall, you have two options for traditional German-style celebrations. Choose between Oktoberfest Ottawa in the city’s west end, or Beau’s Oktoberfest, a beer-filled extravaganza held at Beau’s All-Natural Brewing Company, an hour’s drive east of the capital.