The latestcraft beer, cider and wine scene? Find it on Ontario’s West Coast

Huron County’s large sandy beaches and opportunities for outdoorsy fun have long been a tourist draw. But in recent years, the area nicknamed Ontario’s West Coast has also become an increasingly popular food and drink destination: The county now has more than a dozen wineries, cideries and breweries, speckling farmlands along the Lake Huron coastline.

One buzzy upstart, East Street Cider Co., is known for its creative yet approachable drinks, made with 100 per cent Ontario apples. Past seasonal flavours have included watermelon mint and sugar plum spice. “We try to release a new cider every few months, utilizing interesting, new flavours, blends and botanicals we think everyone can enjoy, even if you’re not a ‘cider drinker,’” says co-founder David Aylward. The company has a bottle shop in downtown Goderich and plans to open a tasting room this summer.

As small business owners, Aylward and co-founder Ellen McManus are deeply enthusiastic about the county’s many beer and wine attractions, old and new. Aylward moved to Goderich in 2017, but McManus grew up and has deep roots here — in fact, the historic Runciman Foundry building that houses their cidery has been owned by her family since the 1950s.

Here are the duo’s top picks for visitors looking to sample the local scene. (All are shoppable online, too, while travel restrictions are in place.)

Huron County's cold climate and clay loam soils shape Maelstrom Winery's reds and whites.

The wine-and-cheese experience: Maelström Winery (78925 Sanctuary Line, Seaforth)

This established family-owned winery between Seaforth and Clinton has a beautiful, new tasting room and offers great cheese platters featuring local products, says McManus. “They’ve got a pretty good mix of wines I think most people could enjoy,” says Aylward, who recommends the Petite Pearl and Cabernet Franc reds.

With its sprawling 120-acre property, Cowbell Brewing Co. is the region's destination brewery.

The destination brewery: Cowbell Brewing (40035 Blyth Rd., Blyth)

Considered the region’s destination brewery, Cowbell is the one best-known to many visitors. At the spectacular 120-acre property, there’s a retail store and a restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating, and visitors can do an interactive, self-guided brewery tour. Insider tip: Try Cowbell’s small-batch Renegade series, which is harder to find elsewhere. “They have these more exclusive, one-off, limited-release beers they often only showcase at the brewery,” explains Aylward.

River Road Brewing & Hops grows its own hops on an orchard-turned-farm.

The under-the-radar pick: River Road Brewing & Hops (35449 Bayfield River Rd., Bayfield)

At this sustainably minded, small-batch brewery, visitors can explore the grounds of this one-time orchard and see the animals, with a malty blond ale (the flagship beer) in hand. “It’s a really cool farm where they grow their own hops,” says McManus. “They have Highland cattle, sheep and donkeys. It’s almost like a petting zoo.” Time your trip right, and there may even be live music or a visiting food truck.

The local innovator: Half Hours on Earth (151 Main St. S., Seaforth)

Half Hours on Earth describes itself as the first brewery in Huron County and the first certified carbon-neutral brewery in Canada. “They’re probably one of the best, most eclectic breweries in Ontario,” says Aylward. “They’re always coming out with new beers, sours and barrel-aged stuff.” Retail pickup is on temporary pause, but Ontario-wide delivery is available.

The Star understands the restrictions on travel during the coronavirus pandemic. But like you, we dream of travelling again, and we’re publishing this story with future trips in mind.



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