Brewing in #HamOnt: New & Upcoming Breweries – Hamilton, Ontario

This year seems like it’s going to be the year of the Hamilton brewery scene. There will be several new breweries adding to the robustness of the Hamilton beer scene, so here’s a sneak peek at what will be opening over the next few months.

Grain & Grit

PLANNED OPENING: September 2017

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Joe and Lindsey Mrav, a craft beer loving couple (sound familiar?) bought an old auto place at 11 Ewen Rd, and they’re in the midst of gutting it to turn it into the Grain & Grit brewery. It’s out with the old and in with the new, from newly poured concrete to a shiny set of new brewing equipment.

The couple met their head brewer Alex Sporn, a recent arrival from Germany, via a touch of serendipity, and hit it off. Both Joe, an avid homebrewer and Alex, also a homebrewer with a wine-making background as well, will be brewing for Grain & Grit.

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They’re in the midst of testing flavours with friends, family, contest winners, and the odd lucky beer blogging couple that gets invited by (e.g. us). The team plans to continously put out new beer and one-offs, not necessarily sticking to a list of standards. The starting lineup may change come September but here’s a sampling of what was around when we visited:

  • Pieschen Prohibition Pale Ale – one you’ll probably see, part of a “prohibition” series that references the fact that it does not actually contain the strongest flavoured ingredient – in this one, it tastes strongly of peaches but has no peach in it (it uses Galaxy hops instead); we also tried a Melon Prohibition version, same idea but honeydew!
  • Pineapple Rye PA – A juicy pale ale brewed with pineapple, bold flavour and light on the bitternes
  • SMASH Sour that avoided the overwhelming hoppiness of many SMASHs we’ve tried (that’s Single Malt And Single Hop), instead with a biscuity, licorice-y vibe with the Columbus hops, plus the sour, of course
  • Bob’s Brown Ale and Bob’s Little Sister – part of an interesting series of entirely different can conditioned beers
  • ESB – malty yet well-balanced

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Grain & Grit won’t have an on-site kitchen, but they’ve got a decent-sized parking area where they plan to invite food trucks by.  This little industrial corner of West Hamilton is soon to become a beer destination, with Fairweather Brewing (see bottom of this post) opening soon right around the corner.

MERIT Brewing

OPENING: May 11, 2017 at 5pm

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With MERIT Brewing‘s clean lines and room of communal tables, this brewpub will fit right into the James North scene. The industrial chic style, Instagram-friendly light bulb logo, exposed brick wall, and the gleam of the brewery equipment just behind the glass will jive with the Art Crawl crowds. The lure of ultra-locally made beer will bring in more.

The brewery is a project of Tej Sandhu (who beer-industry folks may know from Run TO Beer), head brewery Aaron Spinney (who previously brewed with Sawdust City), and chef Jesse Vallins (from Toronto’s Maple Leaf Tavern).

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There is a brewpub area and a bottle shop area, which includes a premium growler filling station. The two standards, both in the bottle shop and at the bar, will be:

  • Chanan – Dry Hopped Saison with Orange Peel and Indian Coriander – slightly spicy with the coriander and quite dry, almost pale-ale-esque
  • Young Rival – IPA named after a Hamilton band you might recognize, not heavy on the hoppy bitterness, but with some light fruity flavours

We were able to attend for a pre-grand-opening, and some of the other beer they had on tap at the time were:

  • S’il vous plait (SVP) – French table beer with saison yeast pulling in at a very low 3.0ABV (hence the “table” part) – pretty unique in what we’ve seen in Ontario craft
  • Between Us – Gose – even for a gose this is very light. Softly tangy, lightly fruity, not much of a sourness, and just a hint of the characteristic gose-saltiness at the end
  • Tomorrows – Earl Grey Tripel –  Dry tripel with the citrus-y taste of an Earl Grey.
  • Real Real – American Sour Saison, collaboration with Jen Nad from Dieu du Ciel – as the American versions of anything go – this goes to an extreme – in this case, a real sour. Mouth puckeringly sour, but with a red fruit tang. If you’re an ultra-sour lover, try this one
  • My Only – our top winner of the night, a Brett Hibiscus saison – the perfect dessert beer; fruity, tangy, and refreshing

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Beyond beer, Merit is a proper brewpub, with the food that goes along with that. Matching the German beer hall style tables gone upper-scale, the menu is sausage heavy but gastropub gourmet. Such as a “butter chicken” sausage with mango & apple chutney and black pepper-lime yogurt in a naan, or pork sausage with fennel, chili, tomato jam, garlic aioli, and fresh oregano. Add this to the pork rinds, baked beans, pickles, and those crispy fries, and you have yourself some pretty sweet beer grub.

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See the post on Merit from Hamilton Small Fries if you want a deeper dive into the food side.

Rust City Brewery

OPEN NOW as a beer bar/coffee shop; PROJECTED TO SERVE THEIR OWN BEER: August/September 2017

Located at 27 King William Street, Rust City Brewery got snarled up in some City zoning and bylaws and decided that instead of waiting until they could brew on-site, they’d open up as a beer bar and coffee shop right away. Currently that’s where they stand, but good news is on the horizon with the next couple weeks looking like the zoning issues may be solved. They expect to be serving their own brews around late August or early September, 2017.

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Currently, there’s a solid tap and bottle list, where you’ll often see the Hamilton contract brewers (THB, Clifford) and some harder-to-find locally beers on tap (e.g. Napanee Brewing) and the popular Toronto bottles (e.g. Bellwoods, Halo, Burdock) in stock.

When they are able to do their own batches, it’ll be focused on British and Belgian styles. With a very small batch system, they’ll focus on flipping it a lot, with lots of experimentation, and a special love for sours and barrel aging. Plus, they plan for regular casks.

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The space is simple, with an order-at-the-bar set-up that includes a pretzel list, and coffee shop dining (soups, sandwiches, salads, and baked goods), all created with a focus on organic food and local producers.

Brie & Apple Pretzel Sandwich
Brie & Apple Pretzel Sandwich

It’s also a tipping-free bar – the tips are built in to prices, staff are paid a living wage with benefits and profit sharing. It makes those pints a little pricier, but it’s not out of the realm of craft beer pricing – and we think it’s worth it.

Fairweather Brewing

PLANNED OPENING: Late May, 2017

Fairweather Brewing has moved in to a big space at 5 Ofield Rd in West Hamilton (right around the corner from the upcoming Grain & Grit from the top of this post – Hamilton’s “brewery district”?). It will end up with a pretty large scale brewing operation for a start-up, and has a great bar area.

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The brewery is owned by business partners Brent, Ram, and Dan, with a lot of beer experience between the three of them, including homebrewing, the Niagara College Brewing program, working at Lakeport, and participating in brewing and brewpubs in the BC craft beer scene.

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They’re hard at work brewing up a storm, and already working to bring a lot of styles to fruition. While we were there, we were able to try

  • Dry hopped saison – a bright and refreshing version of the style, with a slightly floral hop note and quite low noticeable bitterness
  • Grisette – this rustic Belgian style is a sessionable one at under 4.0% ABV, and slightly sweet on the mouth through the use of roasted oats

We explored their vats and talked beer plans, and they have a lot on the go. When they open, you might see an IPA, an APA, kettle sours, a roasty/malty porter, and a saison aged in cherries in oak. The team wants to be able to explore and play around with styles, so you can expect this will be a brewery consistently producing new and different varieties.

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The space is clean and and crisp,  with brick, bare bulbs, wood, and greenery setting off the look in a sort of West coast industrial chic vibe. With the gleaming wood tables and white-washed picnic tables in the long tasting room, it looks like ti will be a great place to hang out.

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Honourable Mention: West Avenue Cider at Somerset Orchards

Opening: June 3, 2017

West Avenue is one of our favourite cideries, and they move into their orchards at 84 Concession 8 E out in Freelton (which, yes, is part of Hamilton!), as of June 3. We can’t wait to get the chance to pop by their tasting room.

 

All-American April: Resurgence & Hamburg Breweries, Western New York

While the Ontario craft beer scene has just started to really pick up, the US craft scene has been alive and kicking for a good while. We can’t resist checking out the local beer wherever we happen to travel, so we decided this month we’d do an “All-American April” to feature some of the US places we’ve been.

Though we’re only about an hour from the Buffalo border, we don’t get across as often as we’d like to check out the American breweries (blame the currency exchange). That said, here’s a couple of the breweries we’ve been lucky to check out so far within a relatively brief drive from Southern Ontario, with a lot more still remaining on our wishlist.

Hamburg Brewing

In the town of Hamburg, NY, about 20 minutes outside of Buffalo, is Hamburg Brewing, a rural brewery with a huge property. The building housing the brew-works and bar is also very large, though the bar area still feels cozy, with stone and wood giving it the feel of a rustic ski chalet.

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Out back there’s a gorgeous patio with tables clustered around a pond filled with fat koi. Since we were lucky enough to have dropped by on a sunny summer’s day, we took full advantage of their beautiful outdoor patio.

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The beer list was long, with about 12 taps dedicated to their own creations. It was also more creative that we might sometimes expect from a more “local” brewery. Some of our highlights were:

  • House Dressing – an American Amber, currently vaulted (but not fully retired), this was an interesting red that certainly had high hops, but also a high maltiness that balanced it very well and gave it an overall caramel tone
  • IPA – an IPA even Jessica (a non-bitter-flavour-lover) enjoyed, with both pine and floral hops in the taste, and enough malt to even it all out
  • Irish Red – a proper Irish red, smoky and roasty with a malty smoothness despite the smoke.
  • Sweet Tang – A very light, sweet, citrus fruit beer brewed with grapefruit and Lemondrop hops, verging very closely into Radler-territory. Certainly refreshing for a hot summer day like we had.

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Resurgence Brewing

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Resurgence Brewing is in an industrial area of Buffalo, and this warehouse brewery was hopping when we were there. The large bar area, with long wooden benches, beer hall style, was packed with groups of friends and families mingling in the casual and comfortable atmosphere, playing bar games or enjoying a couple flights. The great patio out back had a bit of a thinner crowd due to the intense heat the day we were there.

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The bar menu had some great snack items on it – exactly what you’d want for beer (like nachoes, pretzels, and pizza – we went for pizza).

The beer list itself was very creative, with a pretty heavy focus on additions to your usual styles with everything from all sorts of fruit to hot peppers to sponge toffee.

Unfortunately, the Sponge Toffee Stout had just ran out when we arrived
Unfortunately, the Sponge Toffee Stout had just ran out when we arrived

Some of our favourites were:

  • Smokey the Beer – A Scottish-export style with the smoke dialed right up. As we’re both smoke lovers (see the Irish Red from Hamburg Brewing above as further proof), this was our overall winner at Resurgence
  • Mangose – As you might guess by the name, it’s a mango gose. It was heavier on the mango than either the salt or the sour, but a refreshing fruity taste regardless
  • Loganberry Wit – Neither of us are familiar enough with loganberry to recognize the taste right away, but this wit had a red berry taste with a bitter berry flavour more akin to a cranberry than a strawberry or raspberry. It was a good match to the coriander of the Wit.
  • Chipotle Cinnamon Stout – Burning but interesting. The cinnamon taste came out as the dominant flavour. We were glad we’d tried it, but and this is great as a small taster – but certainly not a particularly sessionable choice.

What’s Next?

The Western and upstate New York craft brewing scene is very hot, so we have a ton of breweries left to visit. Such as:

  • Big Ditch Brewing
  • Flying Bison Brewing
  • Woodcock Brothers Brewing
  • 12 Gates Brewing

. . .  and more.

 

Visit date: June 24, 2016

All-American April: Craft Beer in Las Vegas

While the Ontario craft beer scene has just started to really pick up, the US craft scene has been alive and kicking for a good while. We can’t resist checking out the local beer wherever we happen to travel, so we decided this month we’d do an “All-American April” to feature some of the US places we’ve been.

It’s true: you can get craft beer in Las Vegas. Here’s our take on what breweries and beer bars were easy enough to visit from a casino/hotel on the Strip.

Sin City Brewing

Sin City Brewing

With four locations serving up their own beer list on The Strip, we’d venture to say that Sin City Brewing is the easiest Vegas brewery to locate. We visited the location inside the Grand Canal Shops, a stone’s throw away from the canals, gondoliers and palazzos of “Venice”. To our Canadian eyes, the walk-up bar within a mall (with to-go beers as well) was both peculiar and should absolutely be a thing here.

Sin City Brewing

Sin City serves up five beers + a rotating seasonal. We found that they were all pretty basic or traditional styles – but done quite well. We were even surprised by their Light Lager, which we tried with some serious hesitation, as light lagers are not a style either of us is generally a fan of. But we found it quenching, and much more malty than your average light lager, and both of us enjoyed even that.

Ellis Island Brewery & Casino

Ellis Island Casino & Brewery

One long block off the Strip, on Koval Lane at E. Flamingo Dr, Ellis Island Casino & Brewery is what’s often described as a “neighbourhood casino” – meaning it’s not on the glitzy Las Vegas Strip, and their clientele is primarily the locals. The slots were low value (heavy on nickels and pennies), and it had a more casual atmosphere than the rest. It’s also a brewery, with a window you can peek into on-premises to the see the inner workings.

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The beer was also dirt cheap, for Vegas or anywhere. A $7 flight, which included 6 beers and a root beer, was a great deal. Like Sin City, they focus on 5 key styles that are relatively traditional and common-place, and a rotating seasonal. The standards were decent, but our major winner was the seasonal – at the time, it was a Winter Spiced Ale which had the taste of cinnamon and mulled cranberries.

Banger Brewing

Banger Brewing

If you decide to take the Deuce from the Strip and head up to see the Fremont Street Experience, find this neon among all the rest and don’t miss Banger Brewing, located right on Fremont Street.

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Banger went into fully inventive craft territory, with a long list of their own beers and some local guest taps. Josh loved the Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout Dark Angel, and we both found the Morning Joe, a kolsch with hazelnut and caramel coffee, really tasty. And that’s saying something, considering Jessica doesn’t drink coffee – it was more like a beer version of a Coffee Crisp than a cup of coffee.

The vibe was that kind of industrial-hipster aesthetic that you see in a lot of breweries back home. We were into it. Felt like a good hang-out place, appropriate for locals and tourists.

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BEER BARS

Public House

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Inside the Venetian’s Grand Canal Shops, not far off the casino floor is this gem of a gastropub. Prohibition-themed with a look that’s kind of industrial meats swanky, Public House’s menu looked good (we were between meals), and the beer and liqour lists were fabulous.

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We were delighted in trying US craft from all over, with a special focus on Vegas and the surrounding area. Since we were between meals, we sidled up to the bar, conveniently located near their interior entrance, and chatted with the bartenders on beer, beer regulations and politics.

Yard House

Advertised as having the world’s largest selection of draft beer, even though Yard House is a chain, we couldn’t resist heading over to the Vegas Strip location, which is in the row of outdoor shops at The LINQ. After all, we don’t have any of them near here! The food was pretty good, and seemed to have a sort of Mexicali focus (we enjoyed the fish tacos), and the staff was particularly friendly.

A bartender hams it up for the camera
A bartender hams it up for the camera

And yes, the beer list is pretty amazing. Multi-page and organized by stylistic tendencies, it also featured a lot of the US craft beers we’d hear about but would never be able to try. Too bad that the closest installment of this restaurant from our house is all the way in Ohio.
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MISSED THIS TIME

There’s a few more breweries in Vegas, but we found them a bit further afield and trickier to access as a non-car-having traveller staying on The Strip (e.g., Tenaya Creek Brewery, Hop Nuts Brewery, and Big Dog Brewing Co)

We know there’s some good beer bars in Vegas, but again some were further out and we just couldn’t see everything! Two on our wishlist included: Aces & Ales and Atomic Liqours. And then there’s Hofbrauhaus, a classic German beer hall like it’s namesake in Munich . .  but as we’ll be at the original in May, we decided we could leave it off.

Visit date: February 2017

All-American April: Courtyard Brewery & Uptown New Orleans Beer

While the Ontario craft beer scene has just started to really pick up, the US craft scene has been alive and kicking for a good while. We can’t resist checking out the local beer wherever we happen to travel, so we decided this month we’d do an “All-American April” to feature some of the US places we’ve been.

New Orleans is known for cocktails, bourbon, food, music, revelry. . . but craft beer? Not particularly. That said, NOLA and surrounding areas have some amazing breweries. When Jessica went with her friends for Jazz Fest 2016, they were able to pop by a couple neat places on their limited schedule. From Jessica:

Even without Josh, I can’t stop myself from searching out the craft beer wherever I end up. There’s so much to see in New Orleans that I couldn’t also visit all the breweries, so along with my travel-partners, we focused somewhat on Uptown (though you can bet we were in the French Quarter as well!).

Hop on the green St Charles streetcar line from Canal Street (yes, it will be filled with tourists, but the photo opportunities will be worth it), and head over to the Garden District and Lower Garden District for these craft beer stops.

Courtyard Brewery

IMG_20160425_173057849_HDRDown a quiet industrial street in the Lower Garden District, is the lovely little Courtyard Brewing. It’s full of colour, quirk, and (to my Canadian eyes) a very tropical flair – it must be the palm trees. Generally, it’s the sort of brewery you want to hang out in. And it seemed like many people were doing exactly that.

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The beer itself is a mix of local craft and their own creative styles. Last April, the list reflected the sours and juicy beers that are only really picking up here in Ontario now, as the US tends to be ahead of the craft beer trends.

The food is supplied by food trucks that rotate based on the day of the week. All in all, a place all of us wished we lived closer to so we could hang out more often.

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The Bulldog

If you’re browsing antique shops and other independent stores down Magazine Street in the Garden District, a great place to pop in for a little refresher is The Bulldog Uptown.

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A proper old-fashioned English style pub with a long beer list focused on semi-local craft, and a beautiful tree and hanging lamp-lined patio, it was another perfect place to hang out.

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The patio also had a pretty unique fountain, with all the old tap heads as spouts.

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NOLA Brewing

The Bulldog is not a far walk from NOLA Brewing, on the banks of the Mississippi. You won’t see the River because of the walls, but you can’t miss the big red brewery.

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Unfortunately for us, the day we happened to walk on down they were having a ticketed Jazz & Crawfish event. That would have been amazing if we weren’t already occupied in seeing the city all day. Luckily we’d been able to try some of their beer at The Bulldog.

What Did We Miss?

I didn’t see enough of the New Orleans craft beer scene. If I had more time, I would have checked out:

So these are all on the list for the next time!

Visit Date: April 2016

All-American April: Drinking (Beer) Around the World at EPCOT, Orlando, Florida

While the Ontario craft beer scene has just started to really pick up, the US craft scene has been alive and kicking for a good while. We can’t resist checking out the local beer wherever we happen to travel, so we decided this month we’d do an “All-American April” to feature some of the US places we’ve been.

Disney World may seem like an odd choice for two adults, but once we heard about “drinking around the world” at EPCOT’s World Showcase, when we happened to be in Orlando, we knew we had to try it. Here’s our best bets for craft-beer-lovers in EPCOT.

To start, the World Showcase is a ring of eleven “countries” surrounding a lagoon. In true Disney fashion, the attention to detail in each one is exquisite (from food to architecture to the staff that come to work there, everything fits the regional themes), but there’s a bit of generalization in most of the pavilions. E.g. Canada consists solely BC and Quebec. You can start the ring at either Canada or Mexico, but we opted for the familiar first.

Canada

Totem poles, mountains, Butchart Gardens. And a couple of beer choices: you could go with Moosehead, Moosehead Light, or… a Unibroue! Try La Fin du Monde from the little cart out front, or from the cozy steakhouse, for the certainly superior choice.

The UK

It’s a charming little village with a mishmash of UK shops, restaurants, and staff. Based on a recommendation, we popped into the Rose and Crown Pub for some excellent, hearty pub grub – we heard the fish and chips stand out front is also very good – and went for pub blends as our beer. The whole beer-blending thing was relatively new to us but the Black Velvets were delicious. There was also a decent UK beer list available in the pub.

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France

The real country isn’t exactly the biggest beer country and the Disney version wasn’t much different. The only beer option was Kronenbourg. We opted out of beer on this leg of the trip, and instead went for boozy slushies made with Grand Marnier and Grey Goose – delicious, and extravagant. And try the ice cream, it’s delicious (you can also meet Belle from Beauty and the Beast here if that’s what floats your boat). Josh particularly liked the salted caramel ice cream.

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Morocco

Morocco was probably the prettiest “country” with its colourful tile-work and shops tucked away in corners. We sat on a ledge at the edge of the country with an overly familiar squirrel and split a sangria and a Turkish beer – Efes Dark from Anadolu Efes (unfortunately, there were no Moroccan beers available). It was a thin-bodied yet malty, nutty, and roasted offering, good for hot weather.

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Japan

The bulk of Japan is a store, but each section of it has a different theme and exuberant Japanese staff that seem to really enjoy what they’re doing. We’d done our research and knew that we had to make our way to the very back of the store to the sake bar, where in addition to trying sake, we could try Ginga Kogen, a Japanese Hefeweizen. Certainly one of the more unique beers to us at the showcase.

American Pavilion

Like a 19th Century small town city hall, flags and all, the American Pavilion is appealing American. The Block and Hans booth right front and centre has everything a craft beer lover would want, with a nice little selection of rotating US craft beers, all of which we’re unable to get at home.

Italy

An interesting amalgam of various Italian town squares, we spotted references to several famous cities. You might not expect Italy to be a beer country, but the Moretti La Rossa that you can get from Via Napoli is definitely worth a try.  A malty doppelbock, much different from the more common Moretti lager you see regularly.

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Germany

Not a surprise, Germany was a beer drinking destination. It was also overwhelmingly Bavarian in theme, with cuckoo clocks and steins everywhere. The beer list is solid at every food vendor, but we went for an Altenmunster Oktoberfest, which he had yet to see in Canada. Nicely balanced between light and rich.

Soon enough, we'll be in the real Bavaria!
Soon enough, we’ll be in the real Bavaria!

African Outpost

Not an actual “country” in the World Showcase (and really not a country at all – why not choose a country instead of a continent?). We chose not to include it as an official stop on our drinking around the world, as the beer selection also wasn’t very exciting!

China

Apparently you can also get a draft Tsing Tao (which we only ever see in bottles at home), but we were entranced by the idea of trying plum wine. It was so good, we decided to take a bottle home with us.

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Norway

Norway seems to stand in for a generic Scandinavian/Nordic country, with one section of the “country” being replaced with a Frozen ride while we were there (it might be ready by now). The drinks stall out front had the beer that would become our winner at the park entirely: Einstok White Ale, a crisp, clear, fresh and fruity Icelandic beer. You could also have a Carlsberg, but you may find it for a lower price outside the showcase.

Mexico

We chose to go with a non-beer offering again. Modelo was a decent option to try, but we’d had it before, and had heard the margaritas at La Cava del Tequila, inside the Maya pyramid, where not-to-be-missed. We agreed! We had an amazingly juicy mango margarita rimmed with cayenne pepper.

When the trip was over, we surprised ourselves by agreeing that we’d come back some day! Maybe ten years down the road. We’d recommend it to adults travelling to Orlando who want a trip around the world without leaving Disney.

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As a bonus, Orlando Brewing

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We also had time for one local craft brewery on our trip, and opted for Orlando Brewing. Totally worth the cab out to the brewery, it has a nice tropical feel to it, both inside and out, and a long beer list. Some winners for us were the Eminent Domain Scottish Ale and Blackwater Dry Porter.

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 Visit date: February 2016