Your Northern Ontario Brewery Tour Guide

There’s a hoppin’ beer tour a couple hour’s drive from Toronto, showcasing a string of off the beaten path distilleries, as well as the beauty of local towns.

The Beer Around The Bay is an ongoing tourism partnership involving five breweries, together with nearby Collingwood, Wasaga Beach, Creemore and Simcoe County.

The initiative also aims to show tourists that the area is brimming with history, recreational activities, culture and more.

In the center of town is newly-opened Gibson and Company, a classy hybrid pub-lounge, whose entrance, for added character, is through an alleyway. In addition to featuring plush leather couches, they have an incredibly impressive rare bourbon selection.

Among the many obligatory stops for the beer lover, the Side Launch Brewing Company offers a unique sampler tasting.

Its boutique offerings include the pale ale, that blends English and American styles; and the mountain lager, a heavenly tang in the style of Munich Hell.

And there’s the Side Launch Wheat, a Bavarian-style brew with taste tinges of banana, cloves, and lemons.

The phrase “side launch” is a common historical phrase in the neighborhood, as the shipbuilding docks were for over a hundred years the main industry until the mid-twentieth century. The docks were so narrow, only allowing completed ships to be launched sideways.

Each summer the Collingwood Brewery Craft Beer Festival allures thousands from the surrounding area and beyond, with twenty-two different breweries participating, including nearby Collingwood Brewery –the host and organizer.

Pop in the Brewery itself for a flight (four sampling small beers), and tickle the taste buds with their Kingpost, Rockwell, and Belgian Blonde, among other specialties.

For that pub and grub feel, check out Northwinds Brewery in Collingwood. Among the favorite on-site productions are the light Pretty River ale, the thick and dark Milk Run Stout, the toasty Anniversary stout, and the Rad Dog Belgian Pale Ale. They also offer homemade pretzels, fried dough balls with thick salt chunks on top, that includes a creamy cheese dip on the side. The added touch is it’s served, piping hot, in a sealed Mason jar.

About a half hour’s drive from Collingwood is the town of Creemore, Gaelic for “big heart”, where you can find historical markers and milestones dating from the late sixteenth to early twentieth-century settlement. That includes the “little lock up” built in 1892, the jail whose first inmate was said to be a runaway cow. The quaint town of 1,200 swells to four times that during their various seasonal festivals.

For example, summertime plays host to the Creemore Springs Copper Kettle Festival, with live music, food, and drink, classic cars and tours of the local Creemore Springs Brewery.

The brewery offers tastings and tours through the distillery, guiding visitors through dozens of tanks that measure liquid in several hectolitres – ie one hundred liters. Known for its smooth tasting Premium Lager, the special German brown ale Altbier, and Lot 9, the beverages have that added touch of being made with spring water, trucked in from four kilometers away.

Nearby Wasaga Beach – the world’s longest freshwater beach – has been much-revitalized after a fire swept through the waterfront a few years back. Compare it to LA’s Venice Beach, but clean, family-friendly, and less tchotchke inundated.

The 14 kilometers of white sand beach, with gorgeous panoramic mountain views, is the perfect backdrop for sunbathing, romantic strolls, family time or enjoying a beer in the shade.

One popular beach-front watering hole, The Beach Bar, launched its signature brew three years ago, dubbed Beach 1 Cerveza. It has been met with such overwhelming demand that the company has had a hard time keeping up.

There’s as much to see on land as there is on water. Collingwood Adventure Voyages offers Georgian Bay cruises, snorkeling, and fishing charters.

If you’re a do-it-yourself boater, then Free Spirit River Paddling is the kayaking or canoeing choice, to explore the winding Nottawasaga River. The guided tour provides not just a ride through quiet unhampered nature, but an up-close view of the abundance of natural habitat, including several species of turtles, geese, and ducks.

Then after a hard paddling, you can go back to beer sampling.

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