Top 6 Local Craft Beers You Must Try

Top 6 Local Craft Beers You Must TryTop 6 Local Craft Beers You Must Try

Here in Waterloo Region the Ontario Craft Beer Industry got its start and it is still the best place to tour and taste!

Throughout this region’s long history, the words Waterloo and beer have been joined together. Visitors, of course, recognize Waterloo as the location of the world’s 2nd largest Oktoberfest celebration, trailing only the original in Munich for sheer gallons of beer consumed while wearing feathered caps and lederhosen.

Waterloo’s beer story, however, started way back in 1860 with the establishment of The Olde Heidelberg, a stagecoach stop located in the heart of Mennonite horse and buggy country, and the first licensed Brew Pub in the region. Although they no longer brew their own beer, you can still stop by to enjoy a pint served with traditional local food such as the smoked pork hock. The region was also at the forefront of the craft beer renaissance, when Ontario’s first modern craft brewery, the Brick Brewing Company (Waterloo Brewing), opened its doors in Waterloo in 1984.

Today, the region’s love affair with beer remains strong.  Waterloo’s craft beer industry is booming, with breweries turning out premium, high-quality beer, and more craft breweries rumoured to be on the way.  There is a fast-growing group of consumers eager to try every variety that hits the shelves.  Walk down the beer aisle or into a brewery retail shop these days and you’re blessed with choices. You can grab your favourite six-pack or growler, or peruse the shelves on a mission of discovery, wondering what’s new, different and unusual.  Taste-test a pumpkin ale, oatmeal coffee stout, blueberry mead or wine-infused porter. There are traditional pilsners, well-balanced English pale ales, sturdy dark lagers and crisp wheat beers, as well as seasonal brands, limited edition one-offs and award-winning favourites.

Why the success? First and foremost, there is the wide choice of fresh ingredients. Craft beer has a base of malted barley, hops, yeast and water.  Both barley and hops are increasingly home grown. Harvest fruits and vegetables, spices, honey, hemp, maple syrup and other natural ingredients are locally produced and easily sourced, encouraging unending innovation by the creative brewers.

Do a brewery tour and tasting, and discover the passion, vision, hard work, and love that goes into each beer’s creation. See the stages of construction, learn about the inspiration, and hear the story behind each and every member of the local craft beer community.

So, hoist a pint as we help guide you through the region’s craft breweries and best brews, from inky stouts to pale pilsners and everything in between.

Innocente Brewing Company

Innocente BeerWhat happens when you combine a PhD in Molecular Biology and a Post-Doctoral Fellowship studying yeast with a brew-making obsession for hopped up beer? You get Steve Innocente, the mad-about-hops scientist who turns beer making into an art form.  In 2004, Innocente moved with his family to Scotland where he did his post-doc at the University of Edinburgh, studying Saccharomyces cerevisiae (brewing yeast) as a model system.

Try a pint of…The Innocente Bystander, brewed with Australian Galaxy hops and German malts, for a big hop flavour of citrus and passion fruit, and a sweet malt undertone.  All the crafty beer names are wittily spun from the brewery name, including the Innocente Fling golden ale and the Innocente Conscience bitter.

Abe Erb Brew CO.

Abe Erb BeerAbe Erb Brew is the newest member of the local brewer’s guild, named after Waterloo’s founding father.  Located in the heart of Uptown Waterloo just doors down from the public square, the restaurant and brewery feature innovations like a beer bridge that holds the tanks for the artisanal ales that are poured out of the taps at the bar below.  Abe Erb Brew is known for its locally sourced food, premium craft ales and live entertainment.

Try a pint of…Buggywhip, an American style I.P.A with a floral citrus aroma, clean with a hoppy bitterness.

Grand River Brewing

Grand River Brewing BeerGrand River Brewing is located in an old historic building in Galt, Cambridge close to the river and Dunfield Theatre Cambridge. The brewery has a lovely tap room open for sampling and by the glass. After enjoying the local walking trails or theatre, visitors are invited to stop in for a pint. The brewery makes award winning seasonal beers – Highballer Pumpkin Ale, Mill Race Mild and Curmudgeon IPA.

Try a pint of…Plowman’s Ale, the brewery’s signature brew is a big, bold beer loaded with five types of hops and backed up with a hearty grain that establishes balance and body.  This deep copper-coloured beer is spicy with a slight citrus hops note right from the start and a rounded malt finish to accompany the hop bitterness.

Block Three Brewing Co.

Block Three BeerBlock Three Brewing started out as four guys getting together every month to enjoy some beer. Dues to cover dinner and beverages made the beer club official. After much sampling, discussion and more sampling, they decided to turn their passion into a micro-brewery in the picturesque village of St. Jacobs.

Try a pint of…King Street Saison, a Belgian Saison with notes of citrus, coriander, peppercorn and bubble-gum.

Waterloo Brewing Co.

Waterloo Dark BeerFormally founded in 1984 it is considered to be Ontario’s original craft brewery. In its first year, Brick Brewing’s eight employees produced and shipped 35,000 cases of beer. Today it produces over 3.6 millions cases of product. The craft brewing division rewards beer drinkers with a selection of IPA, Pilsner, Dark and Amber small-batch brews, along with an impressive assortment of seasonal specialties.

Try a pint of…Internationally award-winning Waterloo Dark – a surprising light, highly session-able, dark lager brewed with specialty Canadian 2-row malt and Hallertau hops. It delivers a lightly roasted nose and an extremely smooth finish.

Descendants Beer & Beverage

Descendants BeerThe Brewmaster was born in Dublin Ireland, immigrating to Canada as a child. Descendants sold their first keg on Valentine’s Day 2014 and won their first award at the Ontario Brewing Awards on April 3rd of the same year. The Harbinger APA will be in the LCBO in the spring, with all of their beers available to sample at many local licensees.

Harbinger APA is the signature beer. Its malty sweetness is subtle, but carries through the entire swallow, from start to finish.  Back by popular demand is their Reynard the Fox Rye Ale, which was re-launched this spring.

Since you can’t live on beer alone (believe me, I have tried), take your research one step farther with a visit to one of the many fine dining establishments in the region that offer local craft beer.  Visit Imbibe located in THEMUSEUM, The Boathouse, recently renovated in Victoria Park, The Bent Elbow, Beertown and Kingpin Bowlounge, and ask for beer pairing suggestions.  Hopheads can also celebrate beer at the Ribfest & Craft Beerfest, July 17-19, 2015, or at Craftoberfest in October, a German inspired beer festival.

Waterloo’s craft beer industry evokes images of unique products, with attention to quality rather than quantity.  A lot of skill and dedication is poured into creating various splendid and flavourful brews.  Yes, beer is celebrated here, so come tour and taste some of the wonderful offerings from Waterloo’s brew masters!


GrowlerGrowlers are glass jugs used to transport beer. It is usually dark amber in colour to reduce the presence of UV light that can cause beer spoilage, and we all don’t want that to happen. When unopened it can last up to three months, but once opened gather your friends and…bottoms up! The breweries in Waterloo Region are a part of a great community where they all support each other. Bring a growler from any other brewery and it will get filled up no matter where you go.