Tips on Dealing with Women in the Craft Beer World

As I see more news of women carving out spaces for themselves within the beer world (cases in point: the Society of Beer Drinking LadiesBarley’s Angels, International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day, and the soon-to-start Iron Beer Maidens), I can’t help thinking about why this is necessary. As a woman involved in the beer industry, my view is that despite forward strides, beer – and yes, even craft beer – still has a lot of the “boys club” mentality. Here are some of my personal tips to help challenge assumptions about women and beer.

#1: Don’t Assume That Women Don’t Drink Beer

Some women drink beer.  Some drink wine. Some don’t drink at all. And it’s all good, because: people are different! Overly simplistic, maybe, but not everyone seems to get that first part in particular.

Real Life Example: I’m buying a special beer package that I’m excited about and then I’m asked – by another woman, in fact –  who would be the lucky recipient: could it be my husband, my boyfriend, or perhaps my father? My response: tight smile, vague guilt, as I admit that actually, it’s for me.

Oops; I forgot that women drink wine and men are the ones that drink beer! I always get that one confused. It must be my personal failing that I can’t seem to properly enjoy a rosé. You know, despite the fact that for thousands of years, women not only drank the beer but, as brewing was a household task, they brewed it. I’m not even going to get into the fact that men also definitely enjoy wine too.

The marketing noise from the macro breweries with the subtle-as-a-sledgehammer hints that “their beer will get you all the sexy ladies” seems to have died off a bit, but that doesn’t mean that breweries are getting it all right.  It may not be disrespect, but it’s not quite understanding the full consumer base.  Maybe a boob joke isn’t really that funny to a large portion of potential customers? (Kudos to Ben Johnson for calling out a bunch of brands for sexist marketing – some of whom have since changed their names and labels).

International Women Collaboration Brew Day at Folly Brewpub, March 2017

#2 Don’t Assume Women Only Like Certain Types of Beer

Real Life Example: I’m at a beer festival when a fellow imbiber – male, this time – tells me that “Women like darker beer while men like hoppier beer.” My reaction: gentle puzzlement and a poor attempt to refute it as I enjoy my delightfully malty, dark beverage. 

The dominant message in mainstream marketing may be that women like light and fruity (or need a specific beer for women, which thankfully got destroyed on social media). But apparently some otherwise open-minded folks seem to enforce gendered drinking differences.

What differences may actually exist? Well apparently, scientifically speaking, there may actually be some tasting differences between men and women. Given the same training, a woman might be able to detect a taste or smell earlier. It won’t necessarily pan out to a stout vs. IPA preference.

My lesson here: women all have different tastes! In fact, you might even see them as a diverse pool of unique individuals.

Dark or light or anything in between – all appropriate for women

#3 Don’t Assume Women Don’t Know Details About Beer

Real Life Example: I’m at a brewery, and I ask about a certain beer they have on tap. They tell me it’s “bitter” and “hoppy”. A couple minutes later I hear Josh ask about the same beer . But he doesn’t get vague generalities, he gets the details. Something like “It’s 45 IBUs and made with Citra and Mosaic hops*. . . ” 

This gets me feeling frustrated and powerless. It’s one thing when a bartender starts from scratch because they don’t know what level of understanding you have about beer. It’s another thing when a bartender treats a woman and a man differently when they’re asking the exact same question.

Again, it’s the same as the last two points. Don’t treat a customer or fellow beer drinker differently just because they happen to be female. You never know how much of a beer buff they are.

Working as a Beer Coordinator at an I Heart Beer Festival, with Heather from Hamilton Small Fries as Food Coordinator

#4 Don’t Assume Women are Comfortable in that “Boys Club” Environment

When something ends up dominated by one gender for so long, sometimes even the most well-meaning people can forget about how little things like the use of language can be exclusionary to others.

Real Life Example: A common acronym for wife/girlfriend/female partner in homebrewing forums and mailing lists (and apparently other male-dominated internet domains, like yachting forums) is SWMBO. She Who Must Be Obeyed. I get it, it’s a joke. But it feels very much 50’s sitcom gender roles style, like “I’ve got to deal with this controlling nag of a wife and if I don’t do what she says, it’s the dog house for me”.  For a female trying to participate, it makes you feel excluded. 

Then of course there’s the very important point that beyond discomfort, there can sometimes even be a fear for safety. Sometimes, in groups where there are too many tipsy dudes, women just might not feel safe. That is almost definitely a part of the allure of the all-ladies events springing up lately.

Though this article includes some stories of frustrating scenarios, it by no means includes my whole experience in craft beer. I’ve met so many amazing people – men and women – and for the most part everyone tries their best to be inclusive, kind, and open.

~Jessica Gaber

Hoppily Ever After’s Best Beer “Stuff” 2017

We’ve done the beer itself, but craft beer tends to be such a movement that there’s so many other things going on. Here’s a few of our favourites from 2017.

Best Beer Experience Overall

Organizing a Beer Festival For the First Time.  We got recruited to be the “Beer Coordinators” for the first I Heart Beer Festival in Hamilton, February 2017. We took all of our beer and Ontario brewery knowledge and ran with it, learning a lot along the way. We also did Beer Coordination for the April 2017 festival in Guelph.  Unfortunately we then had to step back from our role as I Heart Beer was growing more than we could participate in with day jobs. Congrats to the team on expanding throughout Southern Ontario though – we were proud to attend the Hamilton I Heart Beer Christmas fest as guests rather than hosts, and see how much it had grown.

Hamilton I Heart Beer Festival

Honourable mention: Prud’homme’s Level 1 course. Yes, we’re now certified Beer Enthusiasts (as opposed to before when were were un-certified beer enthusiasts). This course was great and we’d recommend it to both a novice to beer and those with a bit more experience such as the two of us. Our hope is to be able to attend one of the Level 2 courses in 2018 en route to becoming full Beer Sommeliers.

Best Beer Fest

(Not counting the ones we coordinated, of course). 

Because Beer, Hamilton. We’ve been going since the 2014 inaugural year (see our post on it here), and it never fails to impress. It has a great brewery selection dedicated to Ontario craft, a lovely location by the water, and smooth timing and logistics. As a non-niche festival it works for a general audience – including us. The beautiful weather this year made it even better.

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Honourable mention: Funkfest, Sawdust City Brewery, Gravenhurst. One of the niche festivals, this one is entirely dedicated to funky, sour, farmhouse, and barrel-aged beers.  Totally up our alley. It’s a really fun festival – for brewers as well it seems – and is worth the trek to Gravenhurst.

Best Beer-Related Paraphernalia

Pretty Pennie Jewellery Hop Necklace. After lusting after it all year, the solid brass hop necklace was Jessica’s Christmas present from Josh. A local artisan out of Cambridge, you’ll often see Pretty Pennie Jewellery at all sorts of local craft and/or beer shows. They’re gorgeous in person too!

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Honourable Mention: Brewcrafters GameFun game play and maybe frustratingly realistic about how little money you have left at the end of the “year” – yikes! Very chit-heavy in the set-up though, but once we got things organized the most logical way in their baggies, it was a bit better.

Best Brewery- Visiting Experience

Valentino’s Restaurant, Hamilton. Some Hamiltonians might be surprised to see this old standard Italian restaurant on our brewery list, but it’s our favourite place for pasta AND a pint. The Westdale location brews for the restaurant, and both locations will generally have their flagship Bohemian Ale along with a seasonal. Most recently it was a Lemon Stout and we’ve also seen beers like a Cream Ale, Boreal Brown Winter Ale, and more.

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Honourable mention: Neustadt Springs Brewery, Neustadt. In an old brewery building from 1859 inside a really charming village, Neustadt Springs feels like a bit of a holdover from an older age of beer. They don’t have any food or a license to serve pints, but you can sample their beer. We spent a bit of time and chatted with the proprietors – some of the few remaining founding members of the Ontario Craft Brewers Association. Their 10w30 Brown Ale has always been a favourite but a visit exposed us to others like their very tasty Sour Kraut Lager, a raspberry sour.

Best Beer News

The Expansion of Beer in Hamilton. We love travelling Ontario – and beyond – to tour breweries, but it’s really exciting for us to finally have a good selection of breweries right at home. Collective Arts has become the oldest Hamilton brewery with a physical location, and Shawn & Ed has been trucking along Dundas for a little while, but 2017 saw Merit, Grain & Grit, and Fairweather Brewing all open in Hamilton. Great news for local beer lovers! We’ve heard that Rust City Brewery is getting close to actually being able to brew, and Clifford Brewing has a place which is so close to opening. We predict 2018 will be another great year for local beer nerds.

Crowds at Grain & Grit
Crowds at Grain & Grit

Honourable mention: Online Ordering from Breweries. This is a great piece of beer news we haven’t yet taken advantage of, but our new year is going to be filled with beautiful deliveries from far-flung breweries. We’ve been drooling over Instagram pics of other people’s orders from breweries like Dominion City and Half Hours on Earth.

Did we miss any amazing 2017 beer experiences?

 

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Hoppily Ever After’s Top Beers of 2017

We carefully combed through our Untappd reviews and logs to see what beers stood out in 2017 for the two of us. Though we didn’t always completely agree – or, in fact, always have the same beers – we found a good list of winners. They tended to be quite complex beers, which we guess should be no surprise for people who drink a good deal of beer.

In no particular order, here’s our top 7* beers of 2017:

*Why 7? It just seemed to work with our “best-of-the-best” ratings approach.

Barnstormer Brewing – Smokin’ Skywriter Peat-Smoked Scotch Ale

Malty, smoky, and sweet. This beer was Barnstormer’s January seasonal, and we were happy to get it in the beer-of-the-month club we had throughout last year (which was from AmazingClubs.ca – thanks to Josh’s mom!). As fans of smoky beers, this peat-smoked offering won us both over with a slightly smokiness and a good dose of sweetness.

The Exchange Brewery – & Oud Bruin

One of the most complex beers on our list, this sour, malty, red wine-barrel-aged classic Belgian style (also known as a Flanders Brown) is beautiful. There’s a lot going on but it evens out very well, and has a sort of dried cherry taste overall. Their “& Flanders Red”, also complex and sour, deserves an honourable mention as well. We did a post about The Exchange and it’s now one of our favourite Ontario breweries.

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Nickel Brook Brewing – Cafe del Bastardo

Josh’s sole 5/5-star beer of the year, while Jess didn’t try it (as she doesn’t like coffee). This was one of the next level versions of Nickel Brook’s Bolshevik Bastard Imperial Stout, this time barrel-aged and on coffee beans. It was a dream for Josh, as it took everything he loved about the Bastard family, and added coffee.

Bellwoods Brewery – Plum Jelly King

Jess’s sole 5/5-star beer of the year, while Josh didn’t try it (as he missed it!). Of all the Jelly Kings, this one stood a head above the rest from Jessica’s perspective, with the fruity, sour, and dry tastes all perfectly lining up to match strength-for-strength.

Side Launch Brewing – Festbier

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A Festbier is one of the styles we call Oktoberfestbier (the other being Marzen), and though we’ve had a decent number of these, Side Launch’s version is comparatively great. It’s got a cracker-ish malt taste and a warm caramel smell which follows up with a lightly spiced robust body with the slight sharpness that reminds you it’s a lager at the end. Though it’s probably the least complex on this list, it’s got a lot of flavour and still manages to be easy-drinking.

Great Lakes Brewery – Grimace’s Tears Milkshake IPA

Another Jess-only one on this list, and a strange one at that since IPAs are not usually her style. However, Grimace’s Tears is basically the dream come true of what a “milkshake IPA” could be. Quite transparent, but very creamy tasting with vanilla and orange tones; Creamsicle-esque.

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Great Lakes Brewery – 30th Anniversary Bourbon Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout

With two entries on our list, it’s evident that Great Lakes had some real winners this year. This was our favourite sample while at Indie Ale House’s 2017 Stout Night . It blends flavours of coffee, bourbon, cocoa, and vanilla for this smooth and strong taste that even non-coffee lovers can really get behind.

Our Very Beer-filled Oktoberfest Wedding

What happens when two craft beer bloggers get married? Apparently, an Oktoberfest wedding!

Prost!
Prost! We’ve got mugs of Brock Street Brewing’s Traditional Irish Red Ale.

We didn’t just choose Oktoberfest because it’s an excuse for an amazing party with comfort food, rollicking music, and good beer (though those things definitely contributed), but also because the very first Oktoberfest was a royal wedding. In 1810, Crown Prince Ludwig I of Bavaria married Princess Therese von Saxe Hildburghausen, with massive celebrations and horse races in Munich. The people enjoyed it so much, they kept it up year after year. We tried to imitate a classy Bavarian wedding vibe, but left out the horse races.

Princess Therese & Prince Ludwig - we certainly wouldn't want to imitate their marriage though, just the wedding
Princess Therese & Prince Ludwig – we tried to imitate their wedding, but want to avoid imitating their marriage. Older royal marriages were apparently not often happy ones.

One of the ways we incorporated our love for local craft beer was by using growlers as our centrepieces. Along with German table numbers and votive candles, we just ordered loose seasonal flowers and filled the growlers. All 19 tables had different breweries that we had visited.

Do you know the breweries on display at these two tables?

Our Oktoberfest theme showed up in a lot of places from the delicious schnitzel and spaetzle served a a main course, the apple strudel standing in for wedding cake, the live band in lederhosen and dirndls, the late night pretzels, and German phrases slipped here and there.

Lebkuchenherzen favours, which are gingerbread hearts that sweethearts traditionally give each other. "Schatzi" means "little treasure"
Our favours were Lebkuchenherzen, which are gingerbread hearts that sweethearts in Germany give each other during festivals. “Schatzi” translates roughly to “little treasure”

The bridesmaids wore “dirndls”, which is the traditional Bavarian outfits. These were custom-made for us.

Dirndls & bride

The ceremony also had a taste of beer and Oktoberfest – literally. We did a modified version of the loving cup, or quaich (“quake”) ritual. An ancient friendship and love tradition with roots in multiple cultures, it became a common wedding ritual when King James VI of Scotland presented it to Anne of Denmark on their 1589 wedding day – another royal wedding! A quaich is actually a wide, two-handled mug, but we substituted a German stein we had bought in Germany. The ritual was three small sips each: to our love in the past, in the present, and in the future.

Hofbrau = "Royal brew". We visited Hofbrauhaus in May
Hofbrau translates to “royal brew”. Yes, more European royalty. We visited Munich’s Hofbrauhaus together in May, so this was particularly meaningful.

And of course, there was the beer! We did our own bar set-up so we could do our own beer choices. We figured out we wanted to work between Ontario craft and German classics, and aim for four varieties: a lager, a wheat, a darker, and a “quirkier”. After much debate, here’s what we ended up with:

  • Side Launch Mountain Lager – We got about half lager, and that worked, as there was none to take home the next day! We would have only gotten MORE beer, and less wine for a wedding like this
  • Erdinger Weissbier – It was more popular than we assumed, and our amounts were gone by the end of cocktail hour.
  • Brock Street Brewing Traditional Irish Red Ale – We actually won a keg from them, so we had some family make the trek to Whitby to pick it up, since we’re big fans of this dark and smoky red. The bar wasn’t as used to keg pouring, but got the hang of it after a while.
  • Collective Arts Sour Harvest Saison – Our choice of something a little different to bring basic beer drinkers out of their shells. We got our wish and quite a few people tried it, but we still had a decent amount to take home (not that we’re complaining)
We also got to use the big Lowenbrau lions as decor. Sehr gut!
We also got to use the big Lowenbrau lions as decor/drinking buddies. Sehr gut!

 

Wondering where we got something? Here’s our vendor list: 

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.