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Tasting is Believing
Brewery Lane in Port Hope has a story too tell. Photo by Justen Soule

Kawarthas Northumberland has a proud heritage of family-owned and operated craft breweries, distilleries, cider mills, and vineyards. Each has its own heritage & stories. Each is uniquely connected to its locale. Even if some of these award-winning craft brews are available at the L.C.B.O., you need to be here to experience their full range of unique flavours.

Scroll down to enjoy a sample flight of some stories that’ll wet your whistle. Plan your trip – each of our local breweries, cider mills, vineyards, and distilleries has its own story waiting for you to discover.

The Calcutt Family

James Calcutt was born in Ireland in 1792 and he began brewing at the ripe old age of 14 in his home country. (Don’t believe us? Read the history here.) In 1832, James arrived in Cobourg, Ontario, where he became beloved as “one of the town’s architects and directors.” He built a brewery, a distillery, malt houses and kilns, workshops, and a steam flour mill.

Henry Calcutt was born in 1837, James’s fifth son and his first child to be born in Canada. At 18, Henry moved to Peterborough & began buying breweries and building his own breweries. He bought the original Olde Stone Brewing Co., one of the first breweries in Peterborough. Henry invented and patented a cooling device that is still, in principle, used by breweries to create lagers today.

Heritage Tasting Notes:

– Most of the breweries and other buildings built by James Calcutt do not survive. But his own mansion still stands today as Cobourg’s oldest surviving brick residence. Now known as “Lakehurst,” you can drink in this & other historical notes on the Cobourg Architectural Conservancy of Ontario Walking Tour – click here. 

“Henry’s Irish Ale” by the Publican House Brewery is named in honour of Henry Calcutt and has won multiple Ontario Brewing Awards.

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Red Fife Wheat. Photo by Justen Soule

Red Fife Wheat is known as Canada’s oldest strain of wheat and it was first developed in Peterborough by farmer David Fife in the 1840s. Since then, this hardy, flavourful wheat has made its way across Canada and is the genetic basis for many of the most popular varieties of wheat used today. How exactly did Red Fife wheat find its way to Peterborough & from there across Canada? Read the story of chance, hilarity, and heritage in this Insider’s Blog: “A man named David, a ship in Glasgow, a dropped hat and an ox.”

Where to Taste It?

Stop by Black’s Distillery on Hunter Street East in Peterborough. They use Red Fife to give their Heritage Vodka a buttery smooth character, and they also use it in their multi-award-winning Gin. (Tasting Tip: you can get Black’s Distillery Heritage Vodka  and Gin at some L.C.B.O. locations.)


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C.L. Baker Historic Building in Lindsay, home to the Pie Eyed Monk Brewery. Photo by Justen Soule

Breweries throughout Kawarthas Northumberland not only invite you to experience the heritage of local brewing but also welcome you to explore some unique, heritage buildings. Here are some of the most unique brewing locations you can pair with a pint.

Pie Eyed Monk Brewery – Lindsay, Kawartha Lakes

History is alive & on tap at this brewery. Located inside the 150-year-old C.L. Bakery Building, the Pie Eyed Monk Brewery is also right across the street from the iconic Lindsay Fire Hall which was built in 1902. (If you want to hear more, you can take the “Lengends & Lore” self-guided audio walking tour of downtown Lindsay by clicking here.) Pie Eyed Monk Brewery is home to a 7-barrel brew house and they are the first restaurant in Lindsay to boast an authentic Italian wood-fired pizza oven.

Church-Key Brewing – Campbellford, Northumberland County

Have you been to church lately? Founded in 2000 by brewmaster John Graham, Church-Key was the first microbrewery in Northumberland. John has been an influential figure in the craft brew scene in Ontario. After working at Amsterdam Brewing Co. in Toronto, John purchased a 1878 Methodist Church on the outskirts of Campbellford.

A church may seem like an unusual home for an award-winning microbrewery, but John has an innovative, guilt-free experience waiting for you. The church was abandoned & in dire need of some T.L.C. when John bought it. He had the building beautifully restored, protecting the original architecture and stained glass windows, and incorporating the existing structure into how the brewery is designed. John’s also created a brewing process that is energy-efficient and draws on solar energy while also re-using as much heat as possible.

Church-Key is well-known for its aptly-named “Holy Smoke,” an award-winning peat-smoked Scotch Ale.  John brews a few staple and award-winning ales, ranging from the flagship deep golden-amber Northumberland Ale to his deep ruby red Irish Ale. He also brews heavy-weights and seasonals in small batches – follow John’s Facebook for updates and check out this video documenting his epic #Canada150 Cross-Canada pilgrimage to unique Canadian breweries.

John’s also found good use for a beautiful 1930s stone building in downtown Campbellford: The Church-Key Pub and Grindhouse offers the brewmaster’s selection of Ontario’s best craft brews, organic coffee, delicious food, and live music.

Publican House Brewery & Pub – Downtown Peterborough

While the family-owned brewery itself has been around since 2008 (and won several awards), in 2017 they moved into the 170-year-old Peterborough Arms building at 294 Charlotte Street. Check out our blog here to learn all about the local history (and huge patio) of this building and the delicious food they serve.

Bobcaygeon Brewing Company – Bobcaygeon, Kawartha Lakes

This story is happening right now! Bobcaygeon Brewing is currently renovating the old post office at 17 Bolton Street, right at the heart of Bobcaygeon beside Lock 32 of the Trent-Severn Waterway. When the renovations are complete, you’ll have a complete production facility, retail shop and tap room in this historic building in downtown Bobcaygeon. Stay tuned to our social media channels for details about their opening date!


Local Ontario Wines, Spirits and Ciders

Do you prefer apples to hops? Does your palate prefer wine or whisky instead of wheat beers? Whatever your typical favourites might be, expanding your horizons can be fun and rewarding. The local wines, beers, and spirits scene in Kawarthas Northumberland has some stunning taste experiences to offer beyond craft beer.

Cider Breweries

The area around Brighton, Presqu’ile Provincial Park, and Colborne is known for its great apple orchards. If you’ve ever driven that stretch of the 401 Highway just west of Prince Edward County, you’ll remember seeing the Big Apple. The world’s largest apple is home to more than just pies, treats and family fun. The 401 Cider Brewery is also housed there. Brainchild of Amy Baldwin, a local wine producer for Waupoos Estate Winery and Clafield Cider House, 401 Cider Brewery offers a dazzling variety of both classic and experimental craft ciders, including Apple Pie, Oh Honey, and Almond. Friendly staff can help you pair a flight of cider with a bite to eat that’ll increase your appreciation for each local flavour profile.

Empire Cider Co. is another great producer of cider in this beautiful corner of Northumberland County. This small operation grew from a hobby to a business after rave reviews from family and friends. They specialize in extra-dry, traditional hard cider made from Ontario apples.



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Black's Distillery in Kawarthas Northumberland - Photo by Justen Soule

For a different kind of grain-to-glass tasting experience, check out these two craft distilleries in Peterborough.

Inspired by his own heritage and the strong traditions of craft distilleries in Scotland, Robert Black created Black’s Distillery with the goal of crafting distinctly local spirits made from the most naturally pure ingredients available. Red Fife Wheat, a local heritage grain first developed in Peterborough in the early 19th century, gives a buttery smooth character to their Gin and Heritage Vodka. They also have a White Rye and White Barley, and they work with seasonally available local ingredients in small batches – their Black Currant Liqueur (using black currants from Popham Lane Farms) is downright delicious.

In the south-west end of Peterborough (close to Highway 115 & Highway 7), Persian Empire Spirits is North America’s largest manufacturer of yogurt soda (made with Ontario milk!) and they also produce a wide variety of delicious spirits, ranging from a triple distilled vodka, Feni, Arak Saggi, and Brandy, as well as a craft coffee liquor and a pomegranate liqueur.

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Rolling Grape Vineyard - Photo by Justen Soule

Family-owned and operated, the vineyards in Kawarthas Northumberland bring you a taste-of-place experience you can’t get anywhere else.

The 100-acre Villa Conti Oak Heights Estate Winery commands a beautiful view of the rolling hills of Northumberland County, just outside the village of Warkworth (a local foodie destination in itself). Tommaso and Bambina were both born in Italy and they love welcoming guests to enjoy the tastes and sights of their rustic Italian roots. Please call in advance to confirm availability.

Jon Drew and Katie Dickson are the second generation to be working their family farm on the hills overlooking Rice Lake. They decided to start Rolling Grape Winery to introduce a fresh taste-of-place to the Kawarthas. Visitors are welcome to soak up the view on their patio – the sunsets can be amazing, as the photo above shows. While you visit, you can sample some of their local wines, including a signature Marquette and Frontenac, and their dry and tannic Amplified Orange. Bottles are available for purchase so you can take a taste of the Kawarthas home with you.

Kawartha Country Wines is about an hour’s drive north of Rice Lake, up near the southern edge of Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park. This winery specializes in fruit wines, ciders, and jams and jellies. Since they began in 2004, they’ve won 7 awards at the All Canadian Wine Championships. They are typically open 7 days a week year-round from 10am to 5pm.

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