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Local craft beer explosion seems unstoppable

By Chris Cline on July 25, 2014


It seems like we’ve been writing about the explosion of the craft beer industry in Ottawa for quite some time now. And with new entries to Ottawa’s already strong list of breweries being announced each year, it doesn’t seem to be abetting any time soon.

Excitement for the potential of the scene seemed to start bubbling up around the establishment of Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co. in 2006. Despite not being based anywhere near the city limits, Beau’s benefitted from being among the first craft brewers to serve the National Capital Region and is still arguably one of the most popular local outfits.

But we can’t forget the legacy of early players, like Heritage Brewing and Scotch-Irish Brewing, both of whom predated Beau’s and were precursors to Kichesippi Beer Co. Kichesippi burst onto the scene in 2010, quickly absorbing Heritage and Scotch-Irish after setting up in the west end. They have since branched out with their Harvey & Vern’s line of sodas.

From there we’ve seen the establishment of Beyond the Pale, Broadhead, Cassel, Hogsback and Turtle Island in and around the city. And new entrants like Dominion City, Bicycle, Waller Street, Whiprsnapr and more are set to open in the near future.

But an overview of Ottawa’s craft breweries doesn’t tell the entire story. Local brewpubs like Big Rig have blurred the lines between traditional brewers and restaurants that brew their own beer. The city has also seen an influx of beer bars like Brothers Beer Bistro. We’ve seen the explosion of beer-centric festivals like National Capital Craft Beer Week and Brewery Market. And Ottawa can even boast its own dedicated beer-delivery service/brewery tour operator in Brew Donkey.

There are those who think of the craft beer revolution as a fad, like an alcoholic analogue to the waning cupcake phenomenon. But our appreciation for beer runs much deeper.

Beer has been popular in Ottawa since the first loggers made their living here. Local historians show that beer may have been brewed in what is now Ottawa as early as 1820. Over the years, dozens of local breweries are said to have sprung up. There was a time when supporting local brewers was the only way to go. But as in the rest of North America, Ottawa was affected by the post-war rise of mass produced, pilsner-style lagers, or the pale yellow bubbly stuff that you may have cut your teeth on. Local breweries were swallowed up during this period and for many years local beer drinkers were forced to drink mass produced products.

Viewed through this lens, it seems that the last decade and a half of craft beer activity is a return to form for the city. Presented once again with a diversity of choices, each with their own unique approaches and styles, Ottawans have responded with resounding enthusiasm.

The point is, it seems like the local obsession for all things beer-related is here to stay. And we should be proud to be able to boast such a strong and diverse local industry. Local brewers are producing world-class beers right in our backyard, so drink up Ottawa!