The Best Craft Beer in the County

This was a fun list to make.

Gillingham Brewing Company

What can we say, we’ve fallen in love with this place over the pandemic. Lovely people, solid, professional beer! They have a beer garden area complete with a fire pit and heated areas for the off-season, overlooking their family winery.

They always seem to have a good range from lagers to porters, so there’s something for everyone. They have fun tall stubbies bottles, and are always changing things up, including seasonals (it was the only place to get a pumpkin ale last year), as well as a Yuletide ale for the holidays.

Combined with a location right in wine country and it’s a great pit stop for a small group outing. Just up the street from Carson’s Garden Centre, one of the worst-kept secrets of the county, which also happily is the current home of delicious Flossie’s Sandwiches—even more of a badly-kept secret. You can even order from Flossies and eat at Gillingham!

Brendan’s Gillingham picks: the J Elliott IPA is creamy and super balanced, one of my favourite IPAs in the County. Their Porter is also outstanding.

Melanie’s Gillingham pick: Their Apres Ale, a delicious soft brown, has become one of our house beers at home. Can’t go wrong with their flagship Dave’s ESB either.

Parsons Brewing Company

A few minutes outside Picton to the northeast you’ll find Parsons, who made a splash pretty much right off the bat when they chose to build…well, more like move and rebuild…two heritage buildings on an open site. The result is cool, with room to grow; Parsons has plenty of outdoor space and there always seems to be some kind of event happening.

They make a good selection of delicious beers, with some of the most serious stouts in the County. The kitchen cranks out Mexican and southern comfort food, so you can easily come and hang out by the bonfire here for a few hours.

Brendan’s Parsons picks: Mousetrap Rye Pale Ale, any of the barrel-aged stouts
Melanie’s Parsons pick: Hefeweizen

555 Brewing Co

From the (now former) owers of the County Canteen pub up the street sprang 555 Brewing, and they certainly have location sorted out–right in the middle of Picton and just down the street from the Canteen. 555 has their own wood-fired pizza oven and their patio in the centre of town means you can watch Picton walk by while you enjoy a pint. The name of the brewery and beers are a nod to a legendary County murder in the 1800s.

Note that though pretty much all the outdoor spaces on this list are dog-friendly, this is the most urban and so notable for being so. Bring the pups.

555’s Footprint IPA took Best Beer of the Festival at the 2017 Golden Tap awards.

Brendan’s 555 Brewing pick: The Jury Pale Ale all day long
Melanie’s 555 Brewing pick: The Judge Lager. ‘Cause she’s judgy.

Prince Eddy’s Brewing Company

Another Picton brewery Prince Eddy’s brewers seem to be heavy-handed on the hops…which suits me perfectly as a hop-head (Melanie not so much). Their IPAs and variations on are all solid, I had trouble picking a favourite.

The location is more working brewery than local hangout, as they are in Picton’s industrial park (You’re thinking, “Picton has an industrial park?!”) north of the core, but there’s certainly room to expand, and the grassy front yard with picnic tables is a fun place to share a tasting flight or two. Expect a surfer theme and attitude; keep an eye open as you drive around the county for their signature branded vintage 1950’s Suburban. In summer they usually make sure a food truck is there so there is always grub.

Brendan’s Prince Eddy’s pick: White IPA
Melanie’s Prince Eddy’s pick: Chin Dropper Blonde Ale

Lake on the Mountain Brewing Company

The oldest brewery people don’t know about, this is about as local as it gets. Lake on the Mountain Brewing Company started by brewing for their own Lake on the Mountain Resort, and that’s pretty much how they’ve kept it for over 10 years. Lake on the Mountain comes from the Barley Days school of brewing — i.e. no huge marketing campaigns or branded vintage hipster vehicles, just people who love beer and wanted to make their own. In fact, until only very recently the only place you could drink their beer was where they make it.

A separate brewery, tap room and retail bottle shop has now expanded capacity, and the “beer garden” with picnic tables and a bonfire beside a pond is a chilled-out wooded oasis. Super Canadian.

Brendan’s Lake on the Mountain pick: Model A Amber, the creamy nitro Oatmeal Stout is excellent too
Melanie’s Lake on the Mountain pick: Long Point Lager

Midtown Brewing Company

Midtown at first was just a pub preparing to be a brewpub, as at the beginning they hadn’t started serving their own beer. Midtown is a fun, funky space that is quickly becoming one of the central hangouts for the Wellington crowd, and is probably the best spot in west PEC to sample all the other great brewers on this list in one place. Oysters are a staple. Be sure to have the fries too. Trust me.

Brendan’s Midtown pick: Dry Irish Stout
Melanie’s Midtown pick: ESB

Strange Brew

Strange Brewing was the equivalent of a brewing startup when we first made this list, with a single flagship beer and no location yet. I’m happy to report that Dave has been busy since then, and now has a small bottle shop and tasting room (371 Chase Road), and he continues to explore the beer landscape. Look for more fun stuff from here! Probably the most experimental beer in the county. He takes risks so keep an open mind!

Only pick always available at the moment: Horntrip Juniper Pale Ale

Matron Fine Beer

Brand spanking new when we made this list, Matron was making beer for the local market for a while, but without a completed space. The wait ended in 2019, and their fancy new brewing facility in Bloomfield is likely to become a regular stop on beer tours (well, mine at least!) You’ll see their beers on tap at many PEC restaurants. Expect lots of new stuff now that they are finally up and running.

Brendan’s pick: Janky IPA
Melanie’s pick: Yeasayer Lager

Slake Brewing

The newest addition to the PEC brewery scene, Slake—up on a hill outside Picton and up a steep winding dirt road built for winter weather death—isn’t what you are expecting when you arrive. It’s an impressive modern building with a spectacular view, and they have been slowly getting up to speed since they opened a couple of years ago. It seems to be popular mostly with painfully hip out-of-towners (at least that’s who I see every time I’m there!)

Brendan’s pick: TBD – Most of their early beers have been crowd-pleasing lagers but not as interesting…I’m waiting to try some of their barrel-aged stuff (which have been…well, aging) before I make any pronouncements!
Melanie’s pick: TBD

Honourable Mentions

Signal Brewing

Signal Brewing is actually north of the 401 in Corbyville, about a 5 minute drive from Belleville. The real draw here is the incredible location–in a converted distilling building with super tall ceilings, and a huge patio area stretching along the Moira River. The large space draws crowds from Belleville for special events (think 80’s video dance party).

Sadly Signal ended up involved in the ani-vax debate during the pandemic, something that came out due to an outbreak at the brewery, when it was discovered they were not checking vaccine passports or following protocols as some in management were COVID/vaccine skeptics. Tragically the ower of Signal…ended up dying of COVID at the end of 2021. Nuff said.

As of writing they are still operating; hopefully they will continue to.

Mackinnon Brothers

Another honorary PEC brewery, Mackinnon Brothers Brewing is actually located in Bath Ontario: take the Glenora ferry to the other side, and drive halfway to Kingston. These brothers have a great farm brewery theme going, and their beers are stellar.

Brendan’s Mackinnon Brothers pick: 8 Man English Pale Ale
Melanie’s Mackinnon Brothers pick: Red Fox Summer Ale

Barley Days

The PEC craft brewery that started it all has fallen out of favour with some these days, including this writer. Sadly, not for beer reasons, but beer politics.

Without getting into it too much, Barley Days aligned themselves with the failed Doug Ford “buck-a-beer” publicity stunt (which was even announced at the brewery), one that was universally loathed by the craft beer community…since (especially with taxes) it is literally impossible to retail beer for $1. Much less the quality, local, small-batch beer everyone on this list champions. Needless to say, it was a stupid decision on the part of Barley Days. And no, (ironically) they DON’T sell a single one of their beers for buck. Skip it.

 

Also nearby:

Wild Card Brewing Company in Trenton

Church-Key Brewing Company in Campbellford

Napanee Brewing Co.

Comments

  1. Calling all regional Micro Breweries! Be a part of the Memorial Market Place in Belleville…we are looking for anchor tenants for this unique development opportunity. Open house September 24th from 10am -2pm. Book your meeting with the development team to select your ground floor space. Check out the web site and contact me to schedule a tour.

    • We love Gillingham! I see they have it advertised now as a seasonal release — that’s new as of our comments above. Maybe they were reading? 🙂

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published.