Back in the city, you can take your time exploring Montreal's three must-visit brewpubs: Cheval Blanc, L'amère à boire and Dieu du Ciel! The first, housed in an updated tavern, was the pioneer among the city's brew pubs and is still one of the best (try its light and quenching, coriander-spiced Blanche), while its around-the-corner neighbour, L'amère à boire, pours a lovely Czech-style pilsner in an atmosphere completely at ease on the St-Denis nightlife strip.
For Quebec's -- and arguably Canada's -- most inventive brew pub, however, you must climb boulevard St-Laurent to avenue Laurier and install yourself at Dieu du Ciel!, where brewer Jean-Francois Gravel concocts such offbeat seasonal delights as stout flavoured with vanilla and cocoa, and dark ale spiced with peppercorns.
Southern and Central Ontario
The recently formed Ontario Craft Brewers have made planning an Ontario beer tour easy, with routes mapped out in Toronto, from York Region to Muskoka, across Southwestern Ontario, around the Golden Horseshoe and through the Ottawa region. For the best results, a two-day beer odyssey should dip into a couple of regions and end with a step off the OCB trail.
It's a three-hour drive from Toronto to Neustadt, the Grey County hamlet that is home to the Neustadt Springs Brewery, which allows enough time in a beer tourist's day for a stop en route in Guelph, home to three brewing companies. It's a Goldilocks-esque choice, but perhaps the industrial Sleeman Brewing is just a little too big and the more modest F&M Brewery simply a bit small. Ontario's second oldest operating craft brewery, Wellington Brewery, seems just right for a visit. Tours of the 20-year-old brewery always end at the rustic Iron Duke House, where a sip of the substantial, chocolatey Iron Duke Strong Ale will brighten anyone's day.
Finishing the drive to Neustadt, you should arrive just in time for a tour through the nooks and crannies of the century-old stone building at the side of brewer and co-owner Andy Stimpson. An affable and engaging Brit, Andy will keep you occupied well past the time when you should have checked into your room at The Victorian Manor up the road in Hanover, so keep an eye on your watch as you sample Neustadt's quirkily named, richly malty 10w30 Ale.
An early start the next day should put you back in Toronto in time for a noon tour of the Mill Street Brewery in the historic Distillery District, followed by a quick sampling of their Organic Lager and bitter, quenching Tankhouse Ale, before settling at one of the nearby restaurants for lunch. Complete your explorations down Front Street with a pint or two at the landmark pub C'est What?, Toronto's oldest and most fervent supporter of the local brewing arts.
The West's finest beer touring is found on Vancouver Island, where you can not only stay overnight at a brewery but actually have a choice of two: Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub and Guest Houses or Swans Hotel. Which you choose will depend on whether you prefer the artistic, all-suites sophistication of Swans or the cozy, luxurious B&B style of Spinnakers.
From either, your first stop of the day should be Lighthouse Brewing, where the tours normally begin with a beer -- perhaps the lightly sweet and malty Race Rocks Ale -- and include one of the rarest sights in craft brewing: a canning line.
The trip between Lighthouse and the Vancouver Island Brewery can be broken up with a lunch of impressive gastro pub fare at Spinnakers, accompanied perhaps by a half-pint of their Spinnakers Twenty, a perfectly balanced pale ale created in 2004 to honour the pub's 20th anniversary.
Later, at the Vancouver Island Brewery, the island's original craft brewing company, enjoy a tour that's led on occasion by brewery president Barry Fisher. Sample one of Canada's longest surviving amber-hued lagers, the crisp, lightly earthy Hermann's Dark Lager.