The Ontario Craft Beer Guide

Heads-up, friends: Father’s Day is this weekend (in Canada, at least). And while I try to eschew cheap stereotypes, a lot of dads I know do enjoy a good beer. I’m a dad, and I’m pretty fond of the stuff. So what is a father-loving person to do? Well, buy the old man a beer, or 12.

Dads love beer.

If you have childhood pictures like this, you’re probably reading the right article. And no, he didn’t actually drink any of that beer. Just chewed on the rim of the glass.

But as the old saying goes: give a dad a beer (or 12) and he’ll drink for a day (or a few), but teach him where to buy excellent beer, and you’ll never get handed another industrial North American lager at a family BBQ again.

Enter The Ontario Craft Beer Guide.

The Ontario Craft Beer Guide — R. LeBlanc & J. St. John

The Ontario Craft Beer Guide — R. LeBlanc & J. St. John

Now if you’ve been reading here long enough, you’ll remember I even entertained making an Ontario Craft Beer Guide myself. Life and a variety of lesser factors conspired for me to shelf the project, but two friends of mine have done what I didn’t. Robin LeBlanc and Jordan St John have recently released the first edition of the guide, and the timing couldn’t be better.

The bulk of the guide is an alphabetical listing of every craft brewery (open as of November 15th 2015) in Ontario, with a biographical entry, basic contact/location information, and a rating of a selection of their beers. With over 180 breweries listed, and upwards of 750 beers rated, to call it an exhaustive listing would be something of an understatement. And I was going to say that “I heard from a little bird that….” except that sounds like I’m referencing Robin, when in fact it was Jordan who told me, but they’re tracking breweries as they open for future editions, and the rate of growth looks like it will exceed the one-brewery-per-week rate they mention in the guide.

In addition to the excellent listing of breweries, the guide also includes a regional listing of great craft beer bars, information on the history of brewing in the province (Jordan literally wrote the book on that) as well as the current situation, and a glossary of terms. It also demonstrates that if you live in southern Ontario (and more than a few places north of, say, Parry Sound) you live within a reasonable drive of a craft brewery or great beer spot.

No matter what section of the book you find yourself in, the information is clear, incredibly well-researched (no mean feat, believe me) and presented with enough character/voice to be interesting, without becoming a blog post 😉 Interestingly enough, when your dad opens his gift, flip to page 17. Now remember that the manuscript was submitted at the end of November 2015. By the ratings in the guide, Side Launch Brewery came out as the top brewery in the province. Fast forward to a few weeks ago, and Side Launch was recognized as Canadian Brewery of the Year. The accuracy and attention to detail is incredible.

So, now you know what you need to get, the question is, where to get it? I’m all for supporting local booksellers, if you still have one, but if not, a number of breweries have it available (with the added bonus that you can get beer while you’re there), and I know I’ve seen it at Brewnorth home brew supply shop. But if you’re like me, and prefer to do things from the comfort of your PJs, it is also available at (and that link actually scores me a few cents per sale, as do all the book links on this site, so you’re still sort of supporting a little guy!). If you order it there, consider getting Jordan’s excellent history “The Lost Breweries of Toronto“, or either of Nick Pashley’s books, Notes on a Beermat: Drinking and why it’s necessary or Cheers: A History of Beer in Canada, all of which your dad will equally enjoy.

Huge congratulations and respect to Robin and Jordan for completing a truly enormous undertaking. The guide is fantastic, and has joined the company of some serious heavy-hitters in my arms-reach stack of references.

Handy beer references

I actually use these books more than you probably would imagine.

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