In Ottawa, over the past few years, the craft beer scene has been exploding with craft breweries opening all over the city. As someone who loves to support local business, I was looking forward to spending the day on the Rideau Rally tour with Brew Donkey to explore 5 of the local breweries.
With much excitement, I headed to the Brew Donkey’s office which is within Makerhouse Co. in Hintonburg to wait for the tour bus to arrive. As a former teacher, it was certainly humorous to be boarding a yellow school bus to go on a beer tour.
Upon boarding the Brew Donkey bus our amazing friendly tour guide gave us additional information about the brewing process of beer and provided us with a handout to keep track of the various beers and spirits we would be trying. The Rideau Rally tour I took part on went to Whiprsnapr, Waller St, Dominion City and Broken Stick breweries along with N7 distillery and the tour also included lunch and Suzy Q donut too!
Whiprsnapr Brewing Co.
The first stop on the tour was Whipsnaper Brewing Co. in Nepean, which opened in 2014. The brewery was named after the slang “whipsnaper” used to refer to a kid always getting into trouble, which is reflected in the slingshot theme in the logo and the playful theme of the beer names.
While visiting our tour group had the chance to sample Troublemaker an imperial double black IPA (10% ABV, 100 IBU), Carol Anne an Irish blond ale (4.7% ABV, 34 IBU), Black Sunshine a black lager (6% ABV, 40 IBU), and Inukshuk a Canadian IPA (5.5% ABV, 55 IBU). My favourite was Troublemaker with Black Sunshine being a close second.
Whiprsnaper has the philosophy that working hard leads to rewards, so they have the motto to “earn your beer”. As such along the wood-paneled walls of the brewery are photographs of customers working for their beer.
After sampling 4 out of the 12 beers they had available, the tour group was guided to the room where the beer is produced and got to see all the equipment and learn about the beer brewing process along with how they can the beers. The staff at Whipsnaper provided a great tour of their facilities, and I left feeling I learned a lot about how the beer brewing process.
N Of 7 Distillery
The second stop was North Of 7 Distillery, where I was surprised to discover Ottawa’s first distillery I had no idea existed! The distillery opened in 2014 and is near St. Laurent and when you walk in there is a small bar with illuminated shelves where you can sample and buy their whiskey, vodka, gin or rum.
As part of the tour Greg, one of the two owners of N7 warmly invited us in and invited us to sample his White Dog Whiskey (40% ABV), Illuminati Vodka (40% ABV), Leatherback Rum (40% ABV) and Triple Beam Gin (40% ABV).
Greg then guided us to the distillery in the back where I got to look into tanks and learn how the gin, rum, vodka, whiskey are made.
I left N7 with a more robust knowledge about cooperage, the craft of barrel making, and how the charing pattern would affect how the alcohol interacts with the wood and the amount of toasting would change the flavor of the drink.
For lunch, I selected the vegetarian wrap which was made by Farm Boy, and I couldn’t have been more pleased with my flavorful wrap that I absolutely need to learn the recipe for.
Waller St. Brewing
Inspired by the Prohibition era, Waller Street Brewing is a tiny craft brewery in the amazing building downtown that also houses The Loft (a board game lounge), Level One (a video game lounge). Making it the perfect spot to grab a drink with friends, then head off to play a game upstairs.
For this leg of the tour we were given samples of the Bootleg Blond (5% ABV 20 IBU), a Belgian-American red rye session IPA called Speakeasy Red (4.3% ABV 30 IBU), and Moonlight Porter (6.4% ABV 50 IBU) which were all very tasty, but once again the dark beer the Moonlight Porter was my favorite with the subtle chocolate and coffee flavours.
While at the bar if you flip your coaster over you’ll discover all the various tasting notes you can find in beer, which can be useful to describe the flavors notes in beers you are tasting.
To the left of the bar when you enter you can see the tanks that line the wall and help to combine to the warm feeling of the 1930s theme of the bar mahogany bar, copper ceilings, and stained glass.
Opened in 2015, this charming bar, housed in a heritage building built in 1866 won me over with its bow-tied bartenders is and offers affordable $6 growler refills, it is a welcomed addition that is a short walk from the Rideau Center.
Dominion City Brewing Co.
The last two locations of the tour were right next to each other in Canotek Industrial Park in Ottawa’s East End. Opened in 2014, Dominion City Brewing Co. was my favorite location in terms of the decor, there are patio lights strung overhead and you get to drink your beer surrounded by Canadiana-themed decor complete with touque wearing bartenders, canoe paddles, and even a Cangoose gooes.
Many of the craft breweries offer some sort of snack to purchase if you are starting to feel hungry, and Dominion City was no exception offering soft pretzels or sausages to pair withy our beer, but they also had a bunch of clothing such as shirts, mittens, and wooly hats (aka touques) available for sale too.
Recognizing by this point in the Brew Donkey tour we have now heard about the brewery process a few times, the staff of Dominion City focused this time on the tasting notes of the various beers, and gave us the option if we wished to tour the back of the building where the beer is made.
On this leg of the tour we got to sample the easy-drinking Town And Country blond ale (5.5% ABV 15 IBU), Two Flags IPA a hoppy Indian pale ale (7% ABV 63 IBU), and the Hearsay Entire Porter (6.5% ABV).
Out of all the breweries, we went to this was the only brewery that I had previously tried the beer, but drinking it the brewery and having the opportunity to ask questions and relax in their casual Canadiana-themed brewery was outstanding. I’ll be visiting again without question.
Broken Stick Brewing Co.
Tucked into a tiny industrial garage in an industrial park I got to find Broken Stick Brewing Company which is tiny inside and better suited to buying your growler of beer and bringing it home. For this leg of the tour, everyone on the tour took over ever bit of floor space including behind the counter just to fit inside.
Yet, once we were all inside the staff were friendly and passionate about what they are doing at Broken Stick and were knowledgeable in answering any questions people had in the tour group.
At Broken Stick, I got to sample a cloudy pale German Hefeweizen, Part of a “Hefe” Breakfast which was bready and had banana notes (4.5% ABV 12 IBU), the easy-drinking Tipsy Pale Ale (5% ABV 30 IBU), and a chocolate DLB Porter (4.3% 18 IBU).
Overall the Brew Donkey tour was exceptionally done and was such a fun day! The tour I did went from 10:30am-5:45pm, and I had the chance to try 14 different beers and 4 spirits! Thankfully the lunch, water bottles provided, and delicious Suzy Q donut at the end of the tour helped to prevent anyone from getting too drunk, but everyone left the tour certainly happily tipsy, so it is important to arrange for public transit or book an Uber to pick you up after the tour as there is no way you will be able to drive. Similarly, that is one of the things that is amazing about this tour, as I’ve often wanted to visit the breweries but there is no way my friends and I were going to drink and drive, and the Brew Donkey tour provided us with a safe way to tour around Ottawa. The tours have two pickup locations, at Landsdown or in Hintonburg both beside public transit making them easy to get to.
While on the tour I was joined with a group of guys celebrating a birthday, and I have to agree the Brew Donkey tours would make for an amazing party, and they offer both full day or half day tours making it easy to pick something that would work best with your schedule. These tours would also make an outstanding gift, so skip buying someone that boring LCBO gift card and give them a fun experience instead.
With one tour under my belt, I’m eager to book some more tours with Brew Donkey to visit the other local breweries and expand my knowledge about craft beer, and I’d love to try their non-alcoholic tour about all things brewed including coffee and Kombucha tea.
Ready to book your tour? Here is a $10 off discount code for your next Brew Donkey tour G5K8-78DB-DAHT