Different ‘brews’ for the holidays

Best holiday brews for under the tree.

Badlands Brewing

Badlands Brewing makes great beer and it ranks as one of the top brews of 2023. 

Like last year's Sonnen Hill brewery, they’re based in Caledon north of Toronto. Their range of beers limits itself more to a hoppy and hazy style of beer known as New England IPA. But as owner and founder Troy Baxter told me, “Honestly we don’t even call it NEIPA or hazy IPA. We simply refer to it as IPA.”

Troy and business partner Mike both grew up in Ottawa but when he met his future wife Grace, the move to Caledon was cemented. Grace’s family has lived on this farm since the 1800s and it now boasts one helluva craft brewery.

As with many brewers, Troy decided to make the kind of beer he wanted to drink but had trouble finding in the market. He said that when they first opened in 2017, “hazy IPA was not popular in Ontario and selling it was difficult. We honestly didn’t do very well with it until 2019 when it seemed to really find an audience.”

Indeed, it’s now one of the most popular styles throughout the province and I suspect that’s largely because of its quaffability and freshness. Troy does recommend refrigerating the beer once you receive it and then drinking it within the next eight weeks.

Badlands is open on Fridays and Saturdays from 12-5 pm when you can pick up the latest brews and enjoy their food truck.  

Currently they make approximately 120 different beers a year with 90 percent being IPA. They have no core brands which for beer fans means an ever-evolving range of experiences. I was pleased to try their Select Series which highlights a single hop in each can. Clever and delicious.

You can also order online for delivery the same week or join their beer club to keep the surprises coming. 

If you want to enjoy Badlands locally, you can find them on tap at The Cheshire Cat Pub, occasionally at Bar Lupulus in Westboro or from time to time at the beer shop at Dominion City Brewing.

Cha Yi Tea

Cha Yi’s Daniel Tremblay. Ralf Joneikies/Ottawa Lookout

Cha Yi’s Daniel Tremblay. Ralf Joneikies/Ottawa Lookout

I was first introduced to owner Daniel Tremblay in 2018 and I immediately understood that I was in the presence of a kindred spirit with a deeply refined palate. 

He and his life/business partner Véronique Caron-Bossé, closed their store in Old Hull last year but continue to operate their thriving Cha Yi tea business complete with in person workshops delivered to small groups.

Wherever I’ve lived I’ve had access to good tea shops but it’s when I first learned of Cha Yi, did I feel that I’d arrived at a place that was my final tea stop. Try his Earl Grey and you might agree with me that you’ve never had a finer example. In fact I now drink it exclusively. Or sample his versions of Chai and you’ll be enjoying these blends for years to come.

Tremblay’s palate is second to none and he has spent years cultivating relationships with tea growers across the globe to ensure that he’s buying only the finest, most sustainable and pesticide-free teas available. 

For those in your life that love tea, you’ll be doing them a favour with an introduction to Cha Yi this Christmas.

Look for my full interview with Daniel in the new year.