I was stoked to head west again to Windsor as it has been a couple of years and the beer scene has grown there again as it seems to continue to do across Ontario. Thanks to Tourism Windsor Essex and the revamp of Barrels, Bottles and Brews Trail exploring Windsor-Essex has never been easier or better tasting. This BBB Trail is a “go-at-your-own-pace” type of experience, which is fantastic for anyone who doesn’t like to be on a tight schedule or wants to take their time exploring other stores, restaurants and activities along the way... trust me there's plenty!
From tours and tastings to the cool history of the area the BBB Trail covers all of that and is a great reason to explore this area year round. I had a fun packed three days winding through all the stops on the BBB Trail, collecting my passport stamps and again realizing the great community built through tourism and beer.
Enjoy the following blog post as I take you through a great way to spend three days exploring the Windsor-Essex area. You can also revisit my Instagram story of this trip as a highlight on my IG titled Windsor Trip!
With ten breweries on the Trail and two distilleries, there is no shortage of styles to drink, learning and interesting conversation. Both the breweries & distilleries were all so welcoming, community-driven and encouraging you to ask questions and stoked to chat about what’s going on and how it got into your glass!
I hit up Wolfhead Distillery, Banded Goose, The Grove and the soon to be the site of the Kingsville Brewery my first day.
Wolfhead Distillery greeted us with rows and rows of barrels displayed outside as it doubles as the storage for Hiram Walker's barrels. They are able to store close to 80,000 barrels outdoors as they each are filled with just enough water to keep them hydrated. Sorry to all of you that may have thought this all was filled with whisky and had dreams of tapping them from the patio. We had a sampling of their craft Vodkas
and Whisky's and a bite of their just as tasty menu. The taproom overlooks the distillery so I highly suggest sipping a cocktail from their list with the beautiful view. Made with all natural flavours I highly suggest trying their Grapefruit Vodka, Banana Caramel Flavoured Vodka and the Coffee Whiskey Liqueur. Each time I visit a distillery I have an increasing knowledge for the way the products are made and tend to add them to the shelves of my kitchen next to the beer fridge.
Banded Goose was next and has since opened up brewing ‘wing’ of its parent company, Jack’s GastroPub, the brewery includes tasty food and a place to spend the night and relax after all your exploring directly upstairs called INN 15, Brewery Lofts. They open in the morning as bean15 so you can grab your coffee to recover from the fun night and get refueled for the day.
With unique, flavourful beer and good stories to tell about their history, town and life it was the perfect place to spend some time and chat. It was cool to see the shift from their closet-sized brewery at Jack's (which was just as impressive to know beer came from there) to a nice and still modest system at the new space. Now with the option for more variety of beer as well since they have a bit more control over temperature etc that was a bit restricting before. My favs were the Black IPA and Ginger Brown Ale!
A couple of doors down Kingsville Brewery is hammering away at the opening day as they are almost finished building their new space in an old bank. We met on location with Mark just a few doors down from Banded Goose and it was cool to see the vision in progress and share a beer where their bar will be located, the centerpiece of the brewery at 25ft it is a great place to gather for a beer.
Though the brewery is not yet open beers have been being brewed and are out and about to be tasted, including over the border and at some Beer Stores. Their Whiskey Stout is a beautiful slow sipper and their Czech Style Lager is as nice to look at, amber in colour, as it is to drink. They are also in construction off-site with a large brewing facility so lots of action going on with Kingsville and I can't wait to come back and see all the wheels in motion.
Part of the beauty of Kingsville is the walkability as everything is close. We crossed the street to check out The Grove Brew House for dinner and more beers and also had a peek next door at their big brother The historic Grove Hotel! They both embrace a funky atmosphere and are great places to grab some cool photos for your IG account ;) Again they are armed with a large tasty menu and when sitting in the taproom you are surrounded by fermenters and the brewery. Their beer ranges from regular brews in the Brewmaster Series, seasonal “One Hit Wonders”, or “One & Done” weekly brews. I loved the Clubhouse Stout and Oatmeal Stout that is pitch black in colour and full of body with caramel and coffee flavours.
The boutique Hotel that is next to the brewery has 19 uniquely themed rooms to choose from ranging from Rustic Canadiana and Sophisticated Traveller to Zen and Las Vegas Glam. Of course, my favourite was the Brew Master Suite complete with a growler bottle wall and a view that overlooks the 10 barrel craft brewery.
After grabbing a pre-bed snack back at Banded Goose a "hop dog" we headed up a flight of stairs and slept like babies in our brewery loft room with full-length windows and sky-high ceilings it was a great place to rest our heads. Distinctive Inns has partnered with Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island to operate Kingsville Concierge welcome center and is the place to check into your room and learn all about things to do in Kingsville, Canada's most southern town.
The morning arrived and we grabbed a coffee at bean15 and a fantastic pastry (trust me to get one) we hit the road to Ocean Bottom Soap Co in Tecumseh as it is always nice to explore something a little different when on a trip and well they create soap with local beers, whiskey and wines so there was a crossover for sure! There is a lot more going on here than soap; it's about wellness, community and 100% all natural ingredients. Charmaine has been in business 30 years now and has created quite a place. With a large variety of scents, products and knowing everything is made in house means they can even customize something just for you. As we saw the production space in the back there were racks curing of soap for various breweries in Windsor as they make soap with their beer which is a whole new meaning to shower beer! Did you know the vitamins in beer reduce acne breakouts, and can add to the natural glow of your skin? Well, now you do so be sure to stop in and grab some Canadian Beer Eh! or Lemongrass and Beer bars and keep your eye out at local breweries for Ocean Bottom Soap!
We then crossed over to Franks Brewing Co. receiving a warm welcome for lunch and a flight. I love their "Straight Up Beer" approach because in a world of so many experiments, new styles and haze it is refreshing to go back to what beer was built on and enjoy a well done Pilsner or Brown Ale. I highly suggest the Sasquatch Kolsch,
made with Sasquatch Hops a new hop that is patented by BC company Hops Connect and the nation’s first patented hops. Brewer, Brad Wright, wanted to do something a bit different so he dry hopped a Kölsch with a Canadian hop and it turned out great!
I also recommend grabbing Pizza there as their food was fresh and delicious and for those of us Canadians craving patios they have a great one. Grab a tour if you can as they have made great use of the building and the brewhouse is located in an old ambulance station. Remember to grab some beer to go and they have some great shirts too! We loved the pub vibe that was going on here and the service was so fun, friendly and knew a thing or two about beer!
From here we moved on to what was my most surprising discovery of the trip... the town of Sandwich! Why this town has yet to hit the map is beyond me. As we drove under the 'Historic Sandwich Town' arch we were greeted by a town with both history and stories to tell. This certainly continued into Sandwich Brewing Co as it is a stunning building that has been recreated and renovated to accommodate the brewery mainly by the owners. Their blood, sweat and beers are scattered throughout including in the tables and bar that was made out of the old flooring torn up to create space for the brewhouse.