Our first stop along the Tap and Cork Route, is Pakenham’s Cartwright Springs Brewery, where proprietor André Rieux welcomes us. “Our patio spaces are open now! We have a lot of space so our tables are also quite far from each other.”
He quips, “There is no problems offering social distancing when you have over 70 acres of licensed space to enjoy!”
Rieux adds there’ll very soon be the food truck parked on site, to offer smoked goodies. “Right now we can serve up British pasties,” he adds. The Cornish Pasty is a real British tradition, where baked, turnover-shaped golden pastry containing delicious ground meats and vegetables are an iconic food that’s a natural match to a pint o’ his popular Pakenham Bitter.
The rough-hewn picnic tables are sturdily carved by chainsaw, by Rieux himself, who says, “It was my first time trying my hand at chainsaw art :). I picked something simple to make: my logo and a pint glass!”
For latest details check out csbeer.ca
Next we’ll visit Arnprior’s Farmgate Cider, where we’ll discover fresh flavours of regional apples transformed to this refreshing beverage. Jim Davies is the proprietor, where his family’s heritage stone farmhouse creates a traditional Ottawa Valley setting for our visit.
Just sayin’: Wild Child Craft Cider sounds perfect for me. Described as being the “funky and unfiltered cousin to Farmgate’s 3 Bros cider,” its blend of Empire, Spartan, Cortland plus three other varieties creates an earthy flavour.
Davies told me, “People are welcome to just drive into Farmgate and buy cider. – There’s no need to knock! Our farm dog will announce their arrival!” And like last year, Farmgate hopes to join local farmers’ markets in the autumn.
For latest details check out farmgatecider.ca
Head further northwest now, to find Whitewater Brewing Company’s Lakeside (in Cobden) and Riverside (Forester’s Falls) both welcome us at their newly opened patios. They strongly recommend reservations, and because of social distancing, the maximum group size here is 8.
Sit quaffing your favourite brew and sample their Legion Lager that boasts a new and improved recipe. With a crisp refreshing taste, it sounds like the perfect pairing for a hot summer’s day, where 5% of Legion Lager sales go to Legion programs in support of Canada’s veterans.
Sounds super to visit, catch some rays – and at Riverside, sit and take in the rural and rustic scenery, a cool one in-hand. After your meal, take a short walk and overlook the mighty Ottawa River.
Says Tristan Weedmark, Marketing Manager of Whitewater Brewing Co., “Our Bottle Shops are also open; we ask that you follow the appropriate signage to ensure everyone a safe and pleasant experience. Our Beer and Food Drive-Through will remain open at Lakeside Brew Pub, too!”
For latest details, check out whitewaterbeer.ca.
Perhaps after hiking down to greet the Ottawa River at Whitewater Brewing Company’s Riverside location, we can venture still further northwest to Pembroke. Here we’ll visit three producers before scooting across the Ottawa River to visit five Tap & Cork Quebec-based businesses.
O’Kenny Craft Spirits is open for walk-in tastings from 11am to 6pm daily. However, owner Andrew Kenny has another, custom tasting opportunity awaiting us. Want to get a gang of maximum six friends together? Here’s what Kenny suggests for a very special sort of experience:
“We offer hour-long, custom tastings to an individual for $25 or we will do a group for $35. The group max is 6. We schedule an extra staff member so that custom tasting is not interrupted. We ask people for questions ahead of time so we can customize their tasting to their interests.”
That sounds awesome: a tasty learning experience. Moreover, with the distillery currently developing brand-new product with a still-secret, internationally renowned Canadian company, Kenny knows how to spin intrigue. Tantalizing new tastes coming to our glasses soon include a Cranberry and a Lemon Vodka, Coffee liqueur – and apple-pie moonshine.
Along with these soon-to-be newcomers at O’Kenny, we’ll discover the distillery’s winning team of Vodka, Rye Whisky – and what Kenny dubs “the new sacrilegious blend of rum and whisky called Rhisky.”
What a treat of a destination – particularly because we can shop, too, for a taste of the Valley. Kenny proudly claims, “We are the #1 shop in the Valley for unique and one of a kind gifts. We have over 40 small local producers creating products for us. O'Kenny chocolates, butter tarts, cocktail soaps and more.”
For latest details check out: O’Kenny Craft Spirits: okenny.ca
President Marc Bru of Square Timber Brewing Company welcomes us, too. “We do have a small outdoor beer garden space. No food or facilities are available though. We aren’t offering any samples or any draft yet but customers are invited to purchase our cans of beer and enjoy them in our beer garden.”
So why not check out the new beer, 1881 Lager. Why that date? Bru’s can spins the tale, “The first recorded brewer in the Town of Pembroke was Mr. Carl Haentschel in the Canada Census 1881, making his brewery the first in the Ottawa Valley.”
What I like, is the claim, “A year-round beer for year-round thirsts.”
That sounds refreshing, and so I might just pick up some 1881s with their other brand-new brew: Bunny Hug IPA, featuring “layers of tropical fruit and citrus that will warm your taste buds on those cool summer nights.”
Why “Bunny Hug”, you wonder? Well, in a nod to their Saskatchewan roots, “Some call it a hoodie, but in SK we call it a bunny hug.” So these cans of Bunny Hug are available in four different colours of cans – where you can purchase a matching-coloured hoodie.
For latest details check out squaretimber.com
Two Hawks Brewing Company is next on our tour, is a stop in Petawawa, where co-owner Thomas Wong says that although they don’t have a patio, they welcome us to pop in and make our purchases. Says Wong, “Although we are still doing a lot of online sales, in-store purchases are picking up really well, now that the good weather’s here.”
As the owners have close ties to the military, it’s no surprise to find their brews take the names The Defense, their version of a classic Czech pilsner; Warhawk, a dark porter; and D.D. an amber ale where the initials represent a variety of interpretations… I rather like “Distraction Device” – and at 6% alcohol, we can all understand that translation.
For latest details check out twohawksbrewingco.ca/beer/
Ready to explore Quebec? Yes? Thought so…
Let’s cross over to Highway 148 on L’Isle-aux-Allumettes, on the Quebec side. This is the spectacularly beautiful Pontiac region of the Outaouais, where five Tap and Cork Route producers await us.
First, visit Mike Chaput’s fabulous L’Ancienne Banque in the historic village of Chapeau, located on-island. Here we can order a tasty meal (take-out is available), and sample one of his excellent beers while sitting en plein air at the patio.
Although the hamburger is scrumptious, the breaded haddock and chips is the house specialty that’s selling well during summer’s Happy Family Fish Fridays. I can tell you from experience both meals pair beautifully with Chaput’s Hypothèque Ale or SS Pontiac Session IPA. Not that I drank two bottles of beer with my meal: my husband Eric and I shared tastes of these super brews.
For latest details check out tourisme-pontiac.com/listing/lancienne-banque/
Our next stop is Todd Hoffman’s microbrewery, Brauwerk Hoffman, in Campbell’s Bay, where the tantalizing thought of cold beer and fresh food will draw us to his table on Fridays and Saturdays.
Hoffman explains, “Yes! We are open for both retail purchase and restaurant on those two days, from noon until 8PM. We are following the Government recommendations for restaurants, of course, and we also have a patio. Everyone is welcome to celebrate summer!”
Sounds so good to be able to eat in or out – so good, in fact, that Hoffman encourages us to reserve a place at the table.
What sort of foods? The charcuterie platter is perfect for me during summertime, where you share sausages, strawberries and grapes, a homemade pretzel, cheeses – and a host of other deliciousness. Pair this with your brew of choice. I like the crisp hoppy-citrus taste of the 1989 IPA: just perfect for a hot, humid summer’s day.
However, Hoffman has just produced a brand new English Style Pale Ale, called Royal Hunting Party. These two are the exceptions to his other German beers – a nod to the different taste preferences of the multinational Pontiac region in which he lives.
For latest details check out brauwerk-hoffman.ca
Clarendon’s Little Red Wagon Winery is our next stop. Don’t let the fact of the winery still remaining closed deter you. Simply contact the proprietor, Jennifer Judd, by e-mail or online ordering via Facebook in advance, and place an order which you can pick up at the door.
We all hope that before long, restaurants and tastings can re-open. And here at “Little Red”, many of us are longing for the return of their great live music concerts, hithero featuring such musicians as Lynne Hanson, Blair Michael Hogan, Brock Zeman, and many others.
Until that time, keep up-to-date with events, the restaurant, and tasting area re-opening by visiting their website: littleredwagonwinery.com
The Pontiac boasts a cider house too! In Bristol, discover Cidrerie Coronation Hall Cider Mills where Garry, Norma and their son Greg Graham operate this family business. Along with scrumptious pies, cookies and other apple-icious fare, during summertime Greg says their Apple Cider Freezies are popular.
And no wonder: they’re a perfect pairing with a tasty Bristol Light (hard) cider, or soft cider during summer’s heat and humidity.
“We do have picnic tables outside,” confirms Greg. Be sure to take your camera when visiting because the family has worked hard on creating a picturesque cider hall – which is adjacent to a turn-of-the-previous-century dance hall. The family owns it, too, and hopefully before long the plays and other musical events can re-open here.
Until then, enjoy an apple-centred picnic and cider!
For up-to-date details, check coronationhall.com
Our next visit finds us near Quyon. Now, avid roadtrippers know this village is where the Quyon Ferry plies the Ottawa River, connecting Quebec and Ontario. It’s a very useful link for our Tap and Cork tour. Immediately west of the village itself, find Domaine de Pontiac Village Winery.
Now although our hosts, proprietors Pavel Kohl and Maude-Emmanuelle Lambert don’t have a patio per se, they have a vast acreage which, says Lambert, “We do have picnic tables and parasols in the vineyard for a bucolic experience. We just ask you to please give us a call or email ahead of time so we can prepare the picnic area. Everyone is most welcome bring their own food, glasses and purchase a bottle of their choice in our store.:
She adds that we can stroll the vineyards, too, which at this time of year are showing a promising set of grapes.
Don’t be shy to ask Kohl or Lambert about growing grapes for wine, here in the Pontiac. They enjoy explaining the varieties of grapes which goes into their red, which is a blend of Frontenac Noir, Sainte-Croix, and Sabrevois – all of which grow on their land. They also will be producing a dry white and a rosé from their 2019 harvest.
Lambert is a historian, so don’t be shy to ask her about First Nations, explorer, and settler stories of the Pontiac. The couple have books for sale on site, including histories of the region.
For up-do-date details, check domainepontiac.com
Voilà! So there we have it! A full-circuit tour of all Tap & Cork producers might be a bit challenging for a day trip. However, for anyone with an RV or camper van, it’s a perfect way to travel and stay safe during this “COVID summer”.
And do remember: all the producers encourage safe driving, of course. If you do a several-day tour, why not get a group of friends together so you can take turns at being the designated driver?