Looking for unique gift ideas? From birthday gifts to “thank you’s” and why not treat yourself too! Turn a shopping trip into a craft day out where you can Sip, Shop, Stroll and grab a bite with your besties. Grab your shopping buddies and a driver, head to Niagara for a fab day out. On this trip we experienced seven different craft breweries along the Niagara Ale Trail, in and around St. Catharines, and the Niagara Benchlands. The weather was perfect to add in some walking and instagram sharing.
Sip & Shop Stop 1: Merchant Ale House
Begin your tour in Downtown St. Catharines at the Merchant Ale House, where Niagara’s thriving craft beer scene has been brewing for more than 20 years. In addition to a wide selection of craft beer, you can pick up fun “merch” like branded hats and shirts and beer-scented soy candles.
Ready for a snack? Craft brewery touring is an endurance sport. Fuel up for the afternoon ahead with some of the Merch’s fan-favourite mac and cheese.
Sip & Shop Stop 2: Cold Break Brewing
Just a quick drive down St. Paul Street West across the Burgoyne Bridge you’ll find Cold Break Brewing. Pick up a six-pack of their Lakeside Spruce Beer Seltzer. Flavoured with the essence of Canadian spruce trees, this is the quintessential sipper for trimming the tree!
Ready for a snack? The Righteous Platter is the charcuterie board of your dreams, filled with local artisan meats, cheese dips, olives, hummus, and pickles.
Sip & Shop Stop 3: Decew Falls Brewing Company
Just a stone’s throw from your previous stop, you’ll find a tasty selection of beers at Decew Falls Brewing Company, each with a different story rooted in Niagara’s history. The 32K IPA, for example, pays homage to Laura Secord, who walked alone for 32 km through the wilds of the Niagara Escarpment to warn the British of an impending American attack during the war of 1812.
Ready for a snack? Try the Copper Beech Cheese Dip, made with the brewery’s red ale and smoked cheddar.
Sip & Shop Stop 4: Dragan Brewing & Wine
St. Catharines’ newest kid on the craft beer block is hopping! Dragan Brewing & Wine’s beautifully designed cans will make a delightful addition to any beer lover’s collection, especially the award-winning Garnet Azacca Citra Pale Ale.
Ready for something different? The beer slushie of the day, made with fresh fruit, is well worth a try!
Sip & Shop Stop 5: Lock St. Brewery
Make your way to Port Dalhousie, where Lock St. Brewery’s flagship Portside Pilsner is perfect for any craft beer purist on your list. It’s one of the few Canadian all-natural pilsners crafted in accordance with the Bavarian Purity Law.
Ready for a snack? The Truffle Tater Tots here are a must-try!
Sip & Shop Stop 6: Bench Brewing Company
If your trip with your designated driver so far has involved more sipping than shopping, Bench Brewing Company is the perfect second-last stop on your Ale Trail tour. Their branded Bench Cooler Bags, filled with a hand-picked selection of cans and bottles, make an ideal gift. An Entrenched In Bench Beer Club subscription, which ships seasonally curated boxes to the lucky recipient, is another gift any craft beer lover will be thrilled to receive.
Ready for a snack? The Overnight Short Rib Sandwich is incredible.
Sip & Shop Stop 7: Newark Brewing Company
Wrap up a successful day of sipping and shopping at Beamsville’s Newark Brewing Co. Lincoln’s newest craft brewer produces a delicious selection of German- and Belgian-inspired beers that pair perfectly with the tasty dishes from the house kitchen. A few cans of Turf Monster, the new official beer of The Toronto Rock, will make a perfect gift for the lacrosse fan on your list.
Ready for a snack? German favourites like hand-breaded pork schnitzel and house-made Bratwurst are a must-try.
Not feeling ready for seven stops in one day? Break up the day into 2 with an overnight and build up your Sip & Shop stamina. Enjoy a more relaxed pace by adding in an overnight stay. Excellent local hotel options that are nice and close to your Ale Trail stops include Holiday Inn and Suites Parkway Conference Centre, Comfort Inn St. Catharines, Hampton Inn St. Catharines, Canada’s Best Value Inn St. Catharines, The Juniper Inn, Inn on the Twenty, and Jordan House Tavern.
More ideas for winter fun can be found here in St. Catharines and the Niagara Benchlands. Don’t forget to add in a few other craft stops along the way as many of the wineries also produce amazing craft cider and the distilleries are creating Niagara infused cocktail kits which fly off the shelves!