From the historic town of Uxbridge to the lakeside parks of Port Perry and the shore of Whitby, one can discover a veritable beerdom in the heart of Durham Region. The rural routes that roll through Oak Ridges Moraine’s natural beauty are magnets for cyclists and hikers with the refreshing kick of a flourishing craft brewery scene.
It started as a hobby. Four friends and one home brew system. Now, 13 different size fermenters enable the wide variety of brews at 5 Paddles Brewing Co. that have beer lovers driving up from Toronto for a case. Experimenting with ingredients like habanero peppers, raspberry puree, hibiscus leaves and curry, a flight here launches the taste buds into orbit. Home Sweet Home is infused with honey malt and in-house made vanilla extract. It’s a little tart, hoppy and available at the LCBO. Home Away From Home is creamy coconut wheat ale reminiscent of a day at the beach.
Six Paddles, a cherry bourbon vanilla stout, is the luscious result of a beer brewed at 5 Paddles by Erin Broadfoot of Little Beasts Brewing Company. Distinguished by artful designs and Belgian saisons, Little Beasts’ La Petit Duchesse has a touch of spice and refreshing light fruit. Really Good Friends is their fundraising beer for Pflag. It’s a celebration of inclusivity. Easy going, very smooth and fruity on the nose, it has a complex hop flavour. Nearby Town Brewery’s motto is “better beer, stronger community.” They source local ingredients and host social events. In concert with local apiary, Buzz Kill, Town’s Land of Milk and Honey is a barrel-aged imperial honey-and-milk stout with a soft and silky mouthfeel.
Creating the juiciest fried chicken sandwich imaginable at kb Food, Chef Kevin Brown recommends Town’s Square Wheels IPA. Complex and citrus- forward with undertones of stone fruit, it’s the perfect pairing. This is a kitchen where the bread and the pasta are made from scratch, and ingredients are sourced from its own farm. Bistro 67 boasts local ingredients with panache. Each innovative dish is an edible garden of fresh bold flavours.
The best alternative to beer is cider. The apple is Ontario’s quintessential fruit. Archibald’s Orchard & Winery offers an unparalleled range of ciders from blends of Macintosh and Ida Red with aromatics that evoke baked apples in autumn. Hard Ginger Cider is crisp with a ginger kiss. Bottles of Spiced Winter Apple Wine and Canadian Maple Wine are a mellifluous balance of sweet and tart that will have you at “Hello.” Not-to-be-missed are the pies, crumbles and an ambrosial apple caramel dumpling of scored-apple wrapped in pastry, steeped in caramel sauce and dusted with cinnamon. What could be sweeter? Honey. Time to head to The Hive Bee and Bee.
“The Hive” is a double entendre. It’s a repurposed heritage church conducive to spiritual quiet and, literally, a co-habitat for bees. That low frequency hum from the bedroom wall is from bees on the other side of it, and it is actually quite calming. Morning meditation is followed by a forest-walk to a nearby stream. It’s a place to feel centred, at peace, and reinvigorated. We’ve found our perfect refuge from city-stress.
Crossing the train tracks off the Trans-Canada Trail, we reach the Uxbridge Farmers Market brimming with local produce, charcoal oven pizza and non- alcoholic mojitos. Inside the adjacent The Second Wedge Brewing Co. local art is on display and flights of beer are paired with cheese and charcuterie. In the beer garden we sample a light and refreshing High Grass Saison of fresh lemongrass, ginger and bitter orange peel with a low hop. 3 Rocks IPA is bright, and a versatile pairing with a balance of floral and citric hops and a depth of malt flavour. The local Passionate Cook’s Essentials bakes a Passionate Porter Pie of beef, garlic, spices and a Second Wedge Porter for wholesome savoury goodness. At local favourite farm-to-table restaurant, Urban Pantry, the crunch of tempura cauliflower pairs with spicy maple and charred leeks; local Thunder Ridge Bison Co. carpaccio mingles with hazelnut crumble and a verde hollandaise; and a rich chocolate brownie is made with Second Wedge Stout.
A pillar of the beer community is Old Flame Brewing Co. known for clean and refreshing lagers from Dirty Blonde, to Red, to Brunette. A local farmer feeds his lamb and sheep the spent grain from the brewery. Herrington’s Butcher then pairs that meat with Old Flame lager for a lamb and lager pie. Hank’s Pastries also uses the spent grain for his bread. A flight of beer comes with gooey sticky-sweet beer butter tarts. On the sidewalk patio of Marwan’s Global Bistro we ladle a sharp and velvety Old Flame Blonde Helles Style Lager and cheddar soup. Marwan’s menu reflects his full passport of travels, but all trails seem to lead back here, to Durham Region, where so many inspiring pockets of people and activities show the ingenuity and pride of all their local flavours, spirit and ales. Cheers!
For More Info Go To: yorkdurhamheadwaters.ca
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Adam Waxman is an award winning travel journalist focusing on food, wine and well being. As well as an actor in film, television and formerly, the Stratford Festival, he is the Associate Publisher and Executive Editor of DINE and Destinations magazine.