In early 2020, I visited Durham Region as a guest. We stayed at The Hive and did the Durham Region Brews Cruise, sampling beers at three stellar Durham Region Breweries. This is all about that stay. Reminder – please drink responsibly.
I am not the world’s biggest beer connoisseur by any stretch. In fact, pretty sure my shoulders will never support that title. But, I know what I like and I love adventuresome and creative breweries. Beers that make use of fruit, coffee, earthy flavours of nuts, rich kicks of coffee and sweet notes of peanut butter, rock my tastebuds.
So, when I found out there was a brews cruise to three Durham Region Breweries, on a trip earlier this year to Durham Region, I was excited to check them out and take the temperature of the local brewery scene.
Visit the Largest Brewery in Durham Region
First Stop on Our Brews Cruise
All Or Nothing Brewhouse, Oshawa
Bright and fun, this Oshawa brewhouse and distillery has a lot going for it. Schedule a tour of the brewery itself. I love how the vats have all been named for people. Winter warmer was yummy. Coffee plus honey is a solid combination and not overly sweet in any way.
Lemon Cranberry Hard Spritzer
I have had a hard time finding a spritzer I like. Hard spritzers and seltzers and ciders always sound like a good idea, but invariably the alcohol plus the fruit cider kind of combination leaves me feeling like the fruits just don’t work. That is not the case here. Love lemon and cranberry together and this hard spritzer might be my new favourite, because it is smooth and the alcohol is not at all overpowering.
Now or Never Winter Warmer
This one was my favourite of all the beers we sampled at All or Nothing. It was smooth and warm and a great blend. and at 8.8% ABV, this is no small feat.
Now or Never Winter Warmer started out as a stout, re-fermented on cranberry sauce, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. Great flavour from orange peel, plus cinnamon and nutmeg, and it’s the perfect warmer for chilly fall or winter evenings.
Rise and Grind Porter
This one is a porter and I typically feel a bit less enamoured with porters, but loved the sound of the flavours in this one. Rise and Grind is a Vanilla and coffee porter, so naturally that caught my eye. Lighter than I expected.
Into the Dark Black Lager
Tasty black lager. There’s a time and place and mood for ever kind of beer – from porter to ale or stout and I think black lager for me is late fall or winter. But that might just be my preferences. We were here in February and this one seems like a wintery beer to me. Heavier feel and finish.
Falcon Brewing in Ajax
Falcon Brewing, which opened in 2017 in Ajax, has a war theme throughout and a range of memorable beers on tap. Bomb Girls was one of my favourites at Falcon, but there was also a new cherry beer that, for me, would be reason alone to return. It was not yet being sold, but was expected to be available in the summer.
Of course, that was pre-pandemic. Still, if you like the fruity flavoured beers, like I do, then you might consider asking about this one.
Falcon is a bit darker and smaller than All or Nothing Brewery and Distillery, so I didn’t know what to expect when we arrived. But that’s also in keeping with the calm dark historical tone of the war themed brewery.
Would the Beer Be as Creative?
Ginger was the theme in my flight of beer, because why not? Also, I am a ginger fan; I find ginger soothing.
Bomb Girls Blonde Ale is a light, pale gold colour, with a crisp spicy flavour and honey notes. That one was a solid choice that I’d recommend to anyone. It’s a crowd pleaser.
At the start, I was not sure how this one would go, but I ended up really enjoying it. So, the ginger beer brew starts a bit gingery and then for me, it finished smooth. There’s a lot to love about ginger, whether you are cooking with it or drinking it.
The first few sips, I couldn’t decide if it was too gingery or not. The ginger is not light and, for that reason, this is not a beer that will appeal to everyone. While I eventually decided I liked it, it was heavier ginger than the others I sampled in my flight.
Historically, you’d brew the yeast and throw it outside. There’s a fair bit of history at Falcon. The inside of the brewery is unpretentious, dark, calm and relaxing. Good spot for a quiet break after work on a Thursday or Friday night.
Our Final Brews Cruise Stop
Brock Street Brewery
The Brock Street Brewery is in Whitby on what’s been dubbed the most refreshing street in Canada. This brewery is a must visit. The inside of the brewery is light and clean and crisp. Every beer we sampled was smooth here. Plus, the packaging is as cute as can be. This brewery is sophisticated.
Traditional Irish Red
Traditional Irish Red surprised me. It was smooth, then again all of the beers here at Brock Street Brewing Company were smooth and tasty.
Irish Red uses a variety of roasted malts to achieve a deep red colour, which is clearly what you notice first. With a medium malt body, a smooth caramel finish, and a subdued bitterness, it’s easy to see why this was the Gold Medal Winner at the Ontario Brewing Awards – Best Dark Ale.
New England Session IPA
Made with New England grown hops, this one is lighter than Traditional Irish Red – 5 % vs 3.8%.
While we did not try Armoured Ale, you should order it and try it because this is a beer that gives back.
You don’t need to take a brews cruise in order to sample these beers. Visit in person, with social distancing in mind of course. You can also order and have them shipped. Several of these Durham Region breweries also deliver.
Don’t miss the restaurant attached to the brewery. I highly recommend their cauliflour buffalo wings because they hit the spot after sampling all those beers.
Why Durham? Why Not.
Asking yourself why visit Durham when there are so many places to see in Ontario? Well, why not? It’s close to home and easy to access plus there are many outdoorsy things to do there. The brews cruise is one more thing to add to the list of adventures ahead when travel resumes.
Alternatively, you can visit these breweries safely now with masks and social distancing in mind.
There are a lot of great reasons to visit Durham Region. These breweries are a definite highlight. Don’t forget to check out their fishing and ice fishing opportunities, which are, of course, seasonal. Also visit the HIVE and schedule a stay or a retreat in their spacious and welcoming converted church. It will be a memorable stay.