What’s better than a cold, sudsy beer at the end of a long hard day? The tall, cool drink sits in front of you, frothing, dripping and just waiting to take all of your weekday worries away.
What if you could spend an entire day tasting different local brews and savouring flavours such as chocolate, coffee and grapefruit as they explode out of a delicious, fizzy, golden nectar? Well if you come to Ottawa… You can!
Ottawa-based brewery tour company Brew Donkey is celebrating its one-year anniversary this fall after being so well-received by Ottawa visitors and residents alike. Offering full-day tours on weekends aboard a magical beer bus, this young company focuses on bringing beer fans of every kind to small craft brewers in Ottawa and its surrounding areas.
In the last year, Brew Donkey’s beer tour guide count has grown from one (the local owner Brad Campeau) to about five to seven guides who work on a part-time basis. “When I first started, it was just me doing everything,” Campeau said in an interview.
The company offers four standard tours that visit popular craft breweries around Ottawa’s downtown core, in the city’s east end, the west end as well as in Ottawa’s French-speaking communities. Brew Donkey also offers a “Charity Tour” series, where proceeds go to benefit a local Ottawa charity. “Our Charity Tour series is for me a highlight, because we get to raise money for non-profit groups in the local Ottawa area,” Campeau said.
When guests embark on a Brew Donkey tour, they are picked up by bus and taken to about three to four local craft breweries over the course of the day. At each stop, local brewers such as Beyond the Pale, Broadhead Brewing Company and Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company among many others are present to talk about their brewing processes and to provide samples of their delicious brews. And as Brew Donkey tour participants, guests often get to sample special limited edition beers that aren’t available to the general public!
Campeau says the birth of Brew Donkey came from his realization that there are so many great craft brewers in Ottawa’s outlying areas but due to their location, it’s hard for visitors to get to them without renting a car or finding some kind of mode of transportation. For example, Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company is located in the town of Vankleek Hill, Ontario, about an hour drive from Ottawa’s downtown core.
“I had a vehicle and could get around to local craft breweries, but I was privileged in that sense,” Campeau said. “So I needed a way to get craft beer to people or people to craft beer.”
Campeau says that if he could describe a Brew Donkey tour in one word it would be “immersive,” as the experience completely immerses guests into the city’s local craft beer scene.
Whether you’re a craft beer beginner or an experienced aficionado, you’re sure to discover something new while on a tour.
Even while being driven from one craft brewery to the other, Campeau provides his guests with a learning experience on the bus. A Brew Master or a craft beer expert is on each tour and while on the bus, he explains the craft beer brewing process. Samples of basic beer-making ingredients like hops and yeast are also handed out to passengers who can look at them, smell them and even taste them if they wish.
But Campeau insists that the craft breweries are really what make the Brew Donkey tours unique. At each stop, Brew Donkey tour guests are greeted by friendly craft brewers who can’t wait to share their delicious products and their passion for Ottawa’s craft beer scene. “We bring people to such amazing destinations,” Campeau said. “Without those destinations, we aren’t really anything.”
Campeau added that whether you’re with a rowdy group of friends – Brew Donkey bachelor and bachelorette parties are popular – or flying solo, you’re guaranteed to have a good time on a tour.
He noted that each tour breeds a sense of comradery that sees complete strangers becoming friends quickly. “I like how people become friends with each other on the tour,” Campeau said. “These are people who have never met each other before. You see new friendships developing and a new passion for local craft beer.”
Brew Donkey’s tours run on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the year, with all of them including free beer samples and certain tours including lunch or snacks. Brew Donkey also launched a series of downtown walking tours this May. Go on the Bytown Brewers Tour to visit Brothers Beer Bistro, Waller St. Brewing, Lowertown Brewery and the Clocktower Brew Pub on foot.
Whether you’re just getting into the tastes of craft beer, you’re a seasoned home brewer or a craft beer expert, Brew Donkey is your gateway to Ottawa and the surrounding region’s craft beer scene. Head out to discover craft classics or be adventurous and opt to try something new!