Windsor Brewery Beerstravaganza
I once lived in Windsor... sort of. Since you’re reading this, I have to assume you’ve got a bit of time on your hands. Allow me to tell you a story of my former life: I was once a professional poker player. I started playing poker at 19 as soon I could legally gamble in Ontario casinos. Lucky for me, I was able to gain a few years of experience before the huge poker boom hit. Do you remember how popular Texas Hold’em poker became in the early to mid aughts? When it seemed like everyone was pushing in their chips and announcing all in while trying to bluff their sweet Aunt Bernadette at family Christmas. She ain't laying down that two pair.
After college I decided to continue my ‘studies’ at the University of Windsor. After my seasonal gig in London, I found myself in need of a part time job. I could make $9 an hour folding fitted Ts at Hollister or I could try making a paycheck playing poker. Without a mortgage or a child to feed I could afford take a shot at it, and I did. Apparently you also have a lot more hair without a mortgage and kids.
In addition to completing my degree and studying poker, I was also learning gambling strategies for earning comps at Casinos. Comps are complimentary items the casino offers gamblers in return for play. Comps could be food, hotel rooms, concert tickets or cash. When the player has an advantage over the casino, or when the value of your comps exceeds your gambling losses, they call this an advantage play.
I piled my class schedule into two days a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays starting at 8am and finishing late. I would often have a 4 hour mid-day break that should've been spent studying. Instead I'd hit the tables at the casino to earn those comps. Later after evening classes I would go back to the casino when the poker games were good and work to grind out a profit. Soon after I started getting weekly free hotel rooms and meal comps. I’d drive to Windsor on Tuesday morning for classes, get a free room for two nights and return home on early Friday morning after a late night poker session. I did this for nearly two years until Caesars Windsor tightened their comp policy and the free room offers dried up. I remember reading text books at the poker table and cramming for exams in my hotel room. What does all this have to do with craft beer? Nothing really. But reminiscing about these times made me excited to spend my birthday exploring Windsor breweries and doing some gambling at my old stomping ground, Caesars Windsor.
Barrels, Bottles and Brews
Tourism Windsor Essex offers a unique program to promote local breweries and distilleries on their “Barrels, Bottles and Brews” Trail. Through their website barrelsbottlesbrews.ca you can purchase a ‘flight log’ and redeem for a flight of beer or spirit tasting at each one of the 12 craft breweries and 2 distilleries in Windsor Essex. There are three flight log options; a one day passport will cost you $25, 7 day passport $40 and a one year passport is $75. I bought the one year passport because I planned explore each stop on the trail over the next year. Redeeming is easy, tell your bartender or server you’d like to redeem the Barrels, Bottles and Brews Log for your flight. Open the mobile passport via your email, find the location listed and click redeem. The average price for a flight at each location is $10, so with 14 locations there is a good value here! Go all in on the one day pass and visit 14 trail stops in 24 hours, just get someone to drive and let me come with you!
Sandwich Brewing Co.
3232 Sandwich St., Windsor, ON
The first stop on our Birthday Beerstravaganza was Sandwich Brewing Co. located in the shadow of the Ambassador bridge in Old Sandwich Town. The brewery was established in 2017 following a massive renovation to the 19th century building. We were shown pictures of a rundown apartment building and couldn’t believe the transformation into this beautiful space. Don’t let the modern glass façade fool you, the interior is rustic and warm with exposed brick, wood beams and polished tin ceilings. The second level features community tables, a small balcony and a view into the brewery below. It’s a really stunning space. Sandwich brewing also serves a menu of, you guessed it, sandwiches. We enjoyed a roast beef sandwich and fries alongside a flight of their brews. Today they had five beers on tap and we were able to try all of them. All were fresh, flavourful and very well made, with personal standouts being their Ruby Sue dark mild and the Get Kraken West Coast IPA. Their White Bronco Juicy IPA is excellent and available at many LCBOs. A visit to Sandwich Brewing Co. is a must when in the area and we look forward to visiting again. Check out the picture gallery below.
Craft Heads Brewing Co.
89 University Ave W, Windsor, ON
We parked the old Vista Cruiser at the Casino and hoofed our way to Downtown’s Craft Heads Brewing. Located down a few steps at the corner of University Ave and Pelissier St. As we walked down the stairs into the brewery, I told my wife this was the brewery I was most excited to visit. With 30 taps and a motto of “beer for the adventurous” I was excited to try some of their unique flavour combinations. As we poured over the taplist, we knew it was going to be hard to narrow down to a flight of 4. With the car parked for the night we could take our time and taste through the tap list. I think in total we shared 4 flights, tasting 16 different brews.
With 30 beers on tap, it’s a tall order to maintain quality across so many styles, but Craft Heads does. If a beer promises blueberry, salted caramel or even marshmallow flavors… they deliver that flavour and it’s delicious. The stouts were deep and well developed in flavour. The sours were tart yet well balanced with sweetness to make them highly drinkable. Their Pumpin’ Pumpkin ale was easily my favourite pumpkin beer this season.
The brewery is not fancy, you’ll be sitting amongst bottle boxes and malt bags but it’s a comfortable low key place to hang out. We found ourselves sitting in a row of old movie theatre seats with a great view of the taproom. I had the opportunity to chat with some of the brewing team about ongoing yeast projects and their study of how certain hop strains effect mood, much like its close cousin cannabis. If you are like me and really enjoy trying new styles and flavour combinations, you will absolutely love Craft Heads.
525 Argyle Rd, Windsor, ON
Walkerville Brewing is Windsor’s largest and most established craft brewery. The brewery and taproom is neighbour to the gigantic Hiram Walker distillery in historic Walkerville. Their large taproom features high ceilings, loads of seating and an eclectic mix of local history and antiques. At the time of our visit only their patio was open and it was a getting a bit chilly in the early evening, or we would have stayed for a few more. Luckily they have recently reopened the awesome taproom. Their taps pour a large variety of styles and many seasonal offerings like their Chocolate mint stout and craft ciders. Whichever beer you decide to order, you are guaranteed to get an incredibly well made representation of that style. Walkerville earns many brewing awards for their true to style brews, you cannot go wrong here. Their Russian Imperial Stout is legendary. I visited Walkerville Brewing a few years back with a group of friends and I still remember how welcomed the staff made our group feel. Today we were treated to the same warm welcome, even if it was a bit chilly outside. They even had an awesome birthday present for me! If you can only visit one brewery in Windsor, Walkerville Brewing should be at the top of your list. Look for the little black arrow below to see more of the brewery.
Chapter Two Brewing Co.
2345 Edna St, Windsor, ON
After getting lost in our stroll from Walkerville Brewing to Chapter 2 Brewing (4 flights at Craft Heads didn't help) we finally made it to our last stop of the night. Despite the 15 minute detour through beautiful residential Walkerville, I was feeling pretty good by the time we walked through the doors. We immediately hit it off with the awesome staff and were provided excellent service and conversation. We took our seat in a comfy corner booth, ordered up a couple flights and watched the taproom quickly fill up. Of course I had to try every brew on offer, with favourites being the Ford City cream ale, Danger Bird West Coast IPA and their excellent Three on a Leash Pub Ale.
The interior is comfortable and cozy and with exposed brick walls, booth seating and an archway behind the bar giving view to mysterious colourful back room. Chapter Two offers a full menu of pub fare with daily specials. We had dinner plans later that evening, but we will back to have a bite and sneak into that mysterious colorful back room. Click through the gallery below...
Windsor’s craft beer scene is aces, rolled up Kings over Queens, quads with the kicker.... it's really good!. We thoroughly enjoyed our day exploring and were pleasantly surprised by the welcoming hospitality and quality of beer. Windsor and surrounding local breweries offer great value in their beer prices, both draught and packaged. This value coupled with the Barrels, Bottles and Brews flight log make for an even better value. I’d call that an advantage play! If only I could get free hotels again.
Want to make a weekend of it and visit even more area breweries? Of course you do! Check out Kingsville Ontario’s three breweries Banded Goose, Grove Brewing and Kingsville Brewing located all within a block of each other. Wait there’s more! How about Amherstburg’s GL Heritage Brewing and Lot 10 Brewing. That should be enough to keep you out of trouble, or get you into it.
Think positive and drink good beer