Guided self-tours shine spotlight on local craft breweries
Discover fresh foods while enjoying Ontario’s protected Greenbelt
Driving through Ontario’s protected Greenbelt, it’s not uncommon to see roadside signage for one local micro brewery after another. It is clear the rural craft beer boom is having an impact beyond the beer shelf.
As Brewery Discovery Routes Project Manager Frances Pairaudeau notes, rural breweries are emerging as community hubs stimulating economic activity in Ontario’s rural countryside.
“There’s a groundswell of goodwill for the locals at a community and provincial level, with craft breweries supporting other businesses in their communities and being supported by the community in return,” says Pairaudeau. “From using local companies for labelling, canning and bottling, to encouraging new restaurants and food trucks to service their visitors and even arts and yoga classes — rural breweries have become a kind of community centre, driving economic development.”
With demand for fresh, local craft beer growing in the Greenbelt and beyond, Pairaudeau had the idea to showcase the connection between Ontario’s craft breweries and local experiences like restaurants featuring locally sourced ingredients, farmers’ markets and natural beauty to create a bigger picture of the bounty and the beauty of Ontario. With three routes in the Greenbelt and nine in total, Brewery Discovery Routes’ preplanned itineraries are now in year four and more popular than ever.
“In the craft beer industry there was much interest in developing a Provincewide map, but individual brewers didn’t have the time or resources to put a map together,” explains Pairaudeau. “The map highlights breweries, but it’s more than that. It’s about all the local experiences people can enjoy from Feast On restaurants, featuring Ontario food, to farmers’ markets and conservation areas in our spectacular countryside.”
Brewery Discovery Routes serve as a guide for food and drink enthusiasts to plan a day trip with stops not only for beer and cider, but also at the farms that grow the necessary hops and apples, conservation areas, or Feast On restaurants that feature local prominently on their menus. Hosted at www.brewerydiscoveryroutes.ca there are nine best-of itineraries, with hundreds of stops at breweries, cideries, distillers, conservation areas, farmers’ markets, and restaurants.
“Brewery Discovery Routes are more than just beer tours,” says Ed McDonnell, CEO of the Greenbelt Foundation, a lead partner in the development of the map. “The itineraries connect seeing and visiting protected farmland and green spaces in the Greenbelt with enjoying local food at a farmers’ market or Feast On restaurants and local beers or ciders made from Ontario ingredients. The result is that people will have the taste-of-place experience that only comes from choosing local.”
The free guide has been a success as far as participating brewers are concerned. Curtis Schmalz, co-founder of MacLean’s Ales in Hanover notes, “MacLean’s Ales is off the beaten path, so us being placed on Brewery Discovery Routes has helped a great deal. We have seen people from Windsor to Ottawa and many towns and cities in between visit our brewery.”
The presence of breweries like MacLeans in rural communities brings in visitors and supports a whole range of other businesses. Along with farmers growing local hops, brewers are big business for labelling, bottling, canning, and a host of ancillary businesses. By showcasing breweries alongside nearby attractions, Brewery Discovery Routes are amplifying the economic impact of craft beer tourism by bringing more visitors out not only to enjoy breweries but all that rural Ontario has to offer.
To get started on trip planning, visit brewery discovery routes. ca. Participants can enter a contest to win a $500 culinary tourism experience by sharing photos from their trips with the hashtag #BrewRoutesON.
To get started on trip planning, visit brewerydiscoveryroutes. ca. Participants can enter a contest to win a $500 culinary tourism experience by sharing photos from their trips with the hashtag #BrewRoutesON.