Its no secret that we love beer. Its a bit of a problem when we visit Niagara. There is beer and wine in abundance! How to choose? How to choose?
Luckily for us, on our last visit to Niagara we were able to fit both a brewery and winery tour in! Shelby joined us for an afternoon of beer tasting.
We were looking to add a bit of exercise into our day so we parked in the free parking lot across from Kurtz Orchards on the Niagara Parkway. From there it was about a 45 min walk along the pathway to Queen St in the village of NOTL. Its really very pretty.
Our first stop and the most delightful surprise of the day was the Exchange Brewery. Located right on Queen Street next to the apothecary, it's in a prime location. The decor was minimal and classy with champagne-esque black beer bottles. Ther beer was delicious! You can get flights of 6 or 8 beers or a flight of 3 paired with cheese. Like I said, classy. Being located smack in the middle of the main street of a major tourist town I honestly did not have high hopes for the beer. Thankfully, I was super wrong and I had most of my favourite beer of the whole day there! Our favourites were the Porter, Stout and White IPA.
A wander down through NOTL is a must. Unfortunately, if it's summer this may take you FOREVER as every tour bus from here to Kapuskasing has deposited a gaggle of the slowest walkers you will ever encounter on this very adorable street. Off-season weekdays are way better. Cows Creamery has the best ice cream, Kurtz the best fancy jams and spreads and the Angel Inn is a great place for a bite. Otherwise, pop into some shops to browse through impressively overpriced sundries. Yup, you're here because it's super cute, not because there are good deals to be had.
We walked back to the car in the warm November sun under a dome of bright fall foliage. So nice! Our chauffeur drove us down the road to Oast. Niagara Oast House Brewers has totally nailed it's marketing. They are located "...just down the road, past the old oak, in the big red barn."
While we find most of the beer at Oast to be mediocre (at best) (although I do like their Gingerbread Porter at Christmas) the brewery throws a super fun Hoedown in December and is home to the best patio around. I really love patios. Thankfully I moved to Ottawa where everyone seems as obsessed with drinking al fresco as I am. The Oast patio is two levels high, lit with Edison bulbs, has fantastic views over the vineyards and live music on weekends. Its pretty epic. Tasters are $2/glass. You have to buy the growler if you want to bring home a beer that they don't have bottled. Once you own it, the bottle is yours forever and you can only refill it. You can't return it, ever. We think is really, really dumb. This is the only brewery we've ever been to that operates like that.
A little further down the tractor path is Silversmith Brewing Company. Located in an old church, Silversmith has consistently good beer, live music and a cozy atmosphere made for winter pints. They also have a patio, so actually it's kinda the best of both worlds. This is the place I would pick to catch up with old friends on a late December evening. Better yet, Christmas Eve in the afternoon they had live Christmas carols. It was straight-from-a movie; Christmas Magic. Thinking back to the entire pub singing Auld Lang Syne acapella gives me the Christmas shivers (J: what are "Christmas shivers?"). So good! Their flights come with your choice of 4 tasters and they have yummy food. Their Black Lager is my favourite.
If you want a good, hoppy IPA go to the Exchange Brewery.
If you’re looking for a great outdoor patio head to Oast.
The coziest meet up spot with delightful beer and a Christmas Eve must? Silversmith is your jam.