Along with health care, maple syrup and the beaver, Canadians love their beer. It’s the most popular alcoholic drink in Canada, with more than $9 billion in annual sales.
No longer content to drink the watery blandness shilled by Molson, Labatt, and Sleeman, Canadians have been upping their craft beer game in recent years. But while some former craft brewers, like Creemore Springs and Granville Island have been absorbed by the larger multinational companies, more small brewers across the country are taking their beer to market.
The best Canadian craft beer is worth the trip—not to mention that the exchange rate makes travel in Canada very affordable. But you can find some of them stateside as well. As they expand production, more are sure to be heading south.
Here are 10 of the best craft beers from the Great White North.
Propeller Brewing Company
This list starts on the East Coast in Nova Scotia with Propeller IPA. This beer is a three-time World Beer Championship gold winner and it’s due to a smooth, strong caramel flavor that’s easy on the hops for an IPA. The toned-down bitterness makes it a good compromise between the IPA lovers and haters. You can pick it up at the Prop Shops in Halifax or Dartmouth, and it’s carried in beer stores across Canada.
Pump House Brewery
The problem with fruit beer is how often they manage to taste more like juice than beer. This is not a problem with Pump House Blueberry Ale. While the blueberry flavor is unmistakable, this ale doesn’t sacrifice the taste of beer. It’s lightly hoppy and smells like blueberry muffins.
You can drive up to visit the Pump House restaurant in Moncton or find the Blueberry Ale at bars across Canada, all listed on the brewery website.
From the McAuslan Brewery in Montreal, Quebec, this stout is sweet and dark, but not too heavy. It’s a good winter beer, though it’s light enough to drink year round, if you’re willing to be the oddball having a dark beer in patio weather.
St. Ambroise has been exporting to New England since the early ‘90s and can now be found across the country. Sadly, if you’re in Montreal, tours aren’t available, but St. Ambroise can be found on tap in pubs across the city.
From Unibroue in Chambly, Quebec, La Fin du Monde, aka “The End of the World,” is named for the European explorers who colonized North America. It’s an attempt at recreating medieval Trappist monk brewing, and a successful one. It’s spicy, fruity, and overall a tasty beer. La Fin du Monde is available across Canada, in several U.S. states, as well as in France, Switzerland, and Belgium.
Beyond the Pale
If Canada is known for its polite, bland niceness, Ottawa, Ontario stands as an exemplary capital. Beneath its placid exterior though, there’s a need to let loose and this beer is a perfect example of that. With a 9% ABV, you can sip this brew slowly, or you can go at it to live up to the Party Animal name. While it is a bit hoppy, the flavor is mostly fruity and sweet. You can check out their brewery in Ottawa, at pubs in the city, or from the beer store in Ontario.
Beau’s, the most well-known Ottawa craft brewery, organizes the local Oktoberfest each year, and keeps the local liquor stores stocked with a rotating variety of seasonals. Their flagship Lug Tread is a classic, though most of their other offerings are also worth a try. The Lug Tread is a light, golden ale that uses certified organic malts and hops before being cold aged like a lager. The best part? It’s available at nearly every bar in Ottawa. The only place you can get it stateside so far is New York, but it’s widely available in Ontario and Quebec.
A bracing bitter flavor, this IPA was made for sitting out at the cottage—preferably in the Muskokas, if you can. The bitterness is balanced by a citrus, grapefruit flavor. If you can handle the hops, also try their Twice as Mad Tom IPA. It’s twice dry-hopped to give it an even bolder flavor than the original. Brewed in small-town Bracebridge, Ontario, both can also be found in city centers across Canada.
Cameron’s Brewing Co.
It has a hoppy taste for a pale ale, but it’s definitely lighter than an IPA. Although it has a bit of a bitter finish, the Rye Pale Ale tastes of sweet citrus. It’s won several Canadian brewing awards, and you can find it at the Cameron’s retail store in Oakville, Ontario, in pubs around Toronto, or in beer stores across Ontario.
Central City Brewers
Brewed in Surrey, British Columbia at Central City Brewing, it’s a beer reflective of the Pacific Northwest’s palate: crisp, bitter and piney. Red Racer IPA has been winning national, regional and local beer awards since 2009.
Part of the larger Vancouver area, if you’re in the city you can book a tour of the Surrey brewery or drink it on tap around the city. It’s also available stateside in Washington, Oregon and California.
Phillips Brewing Company
Another IPA from the Pacific Northwest, what the Electric Unicorn has that the Red Racer doesn’t have is fruit and spice. There are layers of fruit flavor, but even with the aggressive hop bill it keeps a light sweetness. You can find the Electric Unicorn seasonally at the Phillips Brewery tour in Victoria, British Columbia and at pubs around the province.