Craft Beer in Durham

Story By Katie Ryalen | Photos by Kirsten McGoey

To say that craft beer is popular right now would be an understatement. Craft beer is on-trend in a big way, with no signs of slowing down. Here in Durham we’ve seen a number of microbreweries emerge to meet this surging demand, and our brewers showcase the talent, quality and passion they bring to the industry. Whether your beer of choice is a lager, an IPA, a thick, dark stout—or even if you don’t quite know what you prefer—our local brewers invite you to come and discover your next favourite.

Town Brewery

Although it has only been open three months, founder and general manager Jeff Talmey admits that it has been a crazy ride so far. With five thousand square feet in Port Whitby, Town Brewery has produced no less than 18 different beers.

“Our slogan is ‘Better Beer, Stronger Community,’” he says. “We didn’t want to open a brewery that was just a brewery for the sake of being one, and we didn’t want to take advantage of the fact that craft beer is popular right now. We wanted to help further craft beer, to add to it rather than to take from it.” Currently, Town Brewery is collaborating with Stillsane Clothing and the Buzz Kill Honey Company, which donate a portion of their profits to charities and conservation initiatives, to brew a honey beer.

Town Brewery’s predominant styles are hop-forward American pale ales and IPAs, and one of its most popular is a Belgian-style saison called Lavon Saison. Saison is a pale ale that is highly carbonated, fruity, spicy, and often bottle conditioned. Historically brewed with low alcohol levels, modern productions of the style have moderate to high levels of alcohol. “It’s got a nice, traditional saison flavour to it,” Jeff says. “A little bit of pepper, a little bit of banana, a little bit of funk. But it’s smooth, and almost crisp.” Also popular is Superfluous, which is a dry-hopped kettle sour. Jeff adds, “Those bottles sold out faster than any other beer we’ve released.”

The brewery sells beer by the bottle and by the glass in its warm and trendy 2000 square foot tasting area. Town Brewery can also be found in several pubs and restaurants in Whitby and Oshawa, and soon the company is hoping to move to an online ordering system.

1632 Charles St., Whitby, (905) 666-3838,   

The Second Wedge

In Uxbridge, The Second Wedge Brewing Company is not just about making great craft beer, it’s about enriching the community by bringing to it the collaborative and creative influence of the craft beer culture. “Obviously beer is a wonderful drink,” says co-owner Joanne Richter. “You’ve got the creativity that people put into the actual beer itself, and then being able to infuse your space and your brand with your own personality.”

Being the designated Trail Capital of Canada, Uxbridge sees a high number of visitors each year that are hiking and cycling around the town. Joanne says, “Uxbridge has some incredible natural features, but people tend to come and use the trails and leave. We’re hoping to create a buzz around the amazing trails we have, and link that back into our downtown.”

Named after one of Uxbridge’s most well-known trails, 3 Rocks IPA is Second Wedge’s most popular year-round best-seller. “It’s a light, balanced IPA with an intense hop aroma and flavour, with notes of pine and grapefruit,” Joanne explains. “In the summer for the last few years, we’ve had a hugely popular seasonal called High Grass, which is a lemongrass ginger saison. We have a really nice beer garden in the warm weather just off the side of our building. It’s quite a lovely area to sit and enjoy the summer, and it just seems to pair well with that beer.”

Second Wedge has also collaborated on limited release beers with other businesses and organizations such as 5 Paddles Brewing Company (Portage on Main heather oat ale), The Society of Beer Drinking Ladies (Sweater Weather dark saison), and DesBarres Chocolate (Bean to Beer chocolate stout). “We’ve had a lot of fun with the one-offs,” Joanne states, but adds, “Our mainstays are important for us, too, because people get attached to their favourites.”

14 Victoria St., Uxbridge, (905) 852-3232,

Sir Monty’s

Stirring local interest in Courtice is Sir Monty’s Brewing Company. Owner Adam Perrin has been a craft beer lover for years before he opened Sir Monty’s as both a brewery and a full pub, in partnership with Stuttering John’s Smokehouse which operates out of the same building.

“When we first started out, we didn’t know what kind of market we had, so we started with five simple beers,” he says. “The styles were very sessionable, very approachable for most people. But when we realized our market was slightly more mature than that, I got to go into my bag of tricks and start pulling out some other beers. That’s the fun part: developing recipes, testing recipes, having regulars that I can give samples to, get their feedback, and then create better beer.”

By far, Sir Monty’s best seller is its blonde ale. “It’s the one that’s comparable to a lot of commercial beers,” Adam explains. “So when people come in here and they’re not craft beer people, our blonde ale is the most popular.” Interestingly, the staff at Sir Monty’s refers to its blonde as their “gateway beer,” because from there, newcomers to the craft beer movement tend to become more adventurous in trying different styles. Adam says, “We have three other beers that are popular. Our amber marzen started off as an Oktoberfest beer, but it was so popular we couldn’t keep it on the menu. We also have a milk stout which has been well received by the industry.” And in keeping with the tradition of innovation, Sir Monty’s offers a smoky, maple bacon stout. “That’s the one that, when we announce it, people line up out the door for,” he adds.

1540 Durham Regional Highway 2, (905) 438-8652,

Falcon Brewing Company

While craft beer lovers have been able to enjoy Falcon Brewing Company beer from retail locations in Ontario for the past three years, the brewery’s first public location, complete with tasting room and food menu, was founded in Ajax less than a year ago.

“We have sixteen different recipes that we brew, and there are ten of those available at any one time, on draft by the glass at the brewery,” says company president Jim Williamson. Of those, one of Falcon’s two most popular beers is its original Red Falcon Ale, which is available both at the brewery and in external retail locations. Its second most popular beer, however, is available only at the Ajax location, and is called the Munition IPA. Interestingly this and Falcon’s Bomb Girls Blonde Ale are named in honour of the history of Ajax, which was the largest munitions manufacturing town in Canada during the Second World War.

Falcon’s Ajax location also hosts a variety of events, from the traditional (such as live music nights) to the extraordinary (such as beer yoga… yes, beer yoga!). This past summer, the staff at Falcon successfully hosted the Falcon Fondo, a community bike ride followed by beer and barbecue, and plans on doing the same again this season.

Despite its far reach into Ontario’s retail markets, the Ajax brewery remains, at its heart, a community business. “Local people respond to the fact that we’re local,” Jim says, “and they also respond to the fact that we buy local. As much as we can, we source from local suppliers. We get such great support from the citizens of Ajax, so we try to return that.”

30 Barr Rd., Ajax, (905) 686-6686,

Brock Street Brewing Company

Since April of 2015, Brock Street Brewing Company has been serving craft beer to the residents of Whitby. This spring it plans to expand its operation, with the opening of a 17,000 square foot production facility and tasting room in the heart of Whitby’s historic downtown. Currently, the brewery’s Lagered Blonde light beer and Irish Red dark ale can be found at retail locations and local restaurants.

Driving Brock Street’s success is the simple, honest notion of contributing to the community. “Since the beginning, what the owners [Chris Vanclief, Mark Woitzik, Victor Leone and Scott Pepin] wanted to do was make the brewery a staple for the town of Whitby,” says operations and sales manager Dominic Suppa. “They are all from the area and love the town so much, they just wanted to give back.”

In recent years, Brock Street staff have seen a number of new craft breweries open and become successful. “We love it,” Dominic says. “Those teams are making some fantastic beers. We’ve had the chance to taste what they’re making, and they’ve taken some of our beers on tap at their location, because that’s what the craft beer industry is all about. The community is very small and tight. We know we’re always going to come after the big manufacturers, so we try to stay together.”

This year, Brock Street’s Premium Bohemian Pilsner took home bronze in the Bohemian Pilsner category of the 2017 Ontario Brewing Awards. It is swiftly moving forward as a favourite amongst customers, along with Brock’s West Coast IPA. But seasonal favourites also return every now and again. “With social media, our guests let us know what they want next,” Dominic says. “They’re pretty vocal, so that’s great.”

1501 Hopkins St., Unit 3, Whitby, (905) 668-5347,

Laid Back Comfort at Laura’s Casual Kitchen

Story by Deborah A. Rankine  | Photos by Kirsten McGoey

I first came to know chef-owner Laura Reybroek by way of her food truck events and the truck’s presence outside Uxbridge’s Second Wedge Brewing Company. Her eats were so popular that diehard fans insisted she open a brick ’n mortar place so they could get their fix anytime they needed it. And so it goes that Laura’s Casual Kitchen opened for business in the heart of Uxbridge, Ontario, this past October.

Says Chef Laura, “Our menu is inspired by the things I love to eat. If I see a Cubano on a menu anywhere in the world I have to order it.” Laura’s take on this classic sandwich comes in the form of a panini, layered with smoked ham, slow roasted pork, Swiss cheese, deli mustard and dill pickle, grilled to perfection and sided by house made kettle chips so crunchy noshing sounds ricochet from wall to wall and from floor to ceiling. Other panini offerings include the Aloha (smoked chicken and ham, pineapple, mozz, hot peppers, Auntie Joyce’s sweet chili sauce aioli) and the Margherita (basil, tomato, mozz, Parm, Olive oil).

Laura’s Smash Burger (7-ounce fresh Angus ground beef, lettuce, dill pickle, tomato, grainy mustard, red onion, cheese, sweet chili aioli) and ’Bello Burger (just swap out the beef patty for an earthy marinated portobello; same fixings) are a thing of beauty. Same holds true for southern fried chicken, another must-have in Chef’s book, though she’s ditched the waffles and created a whimsical rib-sticking sandwich instead. Laura smiles proudly, fills me in on the details: “We use boneless, skinless chicken breast meat that we butterfly to an even thickness and marinate in our herb and rosemary infused buttermilk brine overnight and dredge in seasoned flour and fry to order.” This double-fisted offering comes topped with Chef’s sweet-tart honey-Dijon slaw, dill pickle and a mound of kettle chips.

Who doesn’t love a homemade meatball sandwich (pork and beef meatballs, marinara, parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, fresh basil) or a house smoked brisket or chicken sandwich (barbecue or South Carolina Gold sauce, honey-Dijon slaw)? Especially when they are served on Ace Bakery artisanal breads and sided by the resto’s much-loved kettle chips? Come on, people, you know you want this!

Laura’s creative riff on Italian arancini—their Mac ’n Cheese Balls—are not to be missed, either. A velvety homemade cheese sauce envelops al dente macaroni that’s hand formed into balls, panko breaded and deep fried to perfection. The jewel in the crown is the restaurant’s signature dipping sauce that’s equal parts marinara and heavy cream which Laura says “… gives a better dipping experience.”

I ask about Laura’s Casual Kitchen’s roster of poutines. Chef smiles knowingly and says, “Honestly, when I decided to open this place up, it was my fantasy restaurant: I’m a poutine purest. And when I’ve ordered it at other places it’s been so disappointing. Our Redneck Poutine, for instance, is a traditional poutine of hand cut Yukon gold fries topped with either smoked chicken or brisket, our own honey dijon slaw for crunch and texture, and a drizzle of our Kansas City sauce (brisket) or Carolina Gold sauce (chicken). Our Tater Tot poutine is so decadent. We dust the tots with our house made barbecue seasoning that’s so flavourful; it adds another element to the dish. On Saturday and Sunday mornings we offer our Rise ’n Shine Poutine made with house smoked baked beans, brisket ends and Kansas City Sauce, topped with crispy smoked bacon and a fried egg. Our poutines are always made with real cheese curds and from-scratch gravy.”

Laura’s salads: the South West (romaine, sweet corn niblets charred in a cast iron skillet, black beans, tomato, red onion, jalapeno, cilantro, tortilla crisps, cheddar, choice of housemade buttermilk ranch or cilantro-lime vinaigrette) and the Little Italy (greens, tomato, roasted red peppers, pepperoncini, homemade croutons, parmesan, Italian herb vinaigrette) eat like a meal. For robust appetites, add your choice of protein for a few bucks more.

Features past, present and future will include pastured bison that Laura says tastes beefier than beef, from local rancher Thunder Ridge, which will find its way onto the plate as a blue cheese-studded burger or a hardy burrito or whatever Chef’s creative whimsy dreams up. By the time you read this “Gator Bites” will be on offer to entice your culinary muse. Says Laura, “We try to make our features a weekly event but oftentimes we’ll run out when customers read about them on our social media platforms.” When your mandate is for everything on your menu to be made fresh daily, it’s a balancing act, to be sure. Funny enough, Laura tells me, her customers don’t get upset when a feature gets sold out. They’re more upset with themselves for not acting faster.

Laura’s Jerk Chicken Roti is stellar. A trajectory of succulent pulled chicken suffused in housemade jerk seasoning, nestled into warm flaky roti bread with the house’s cooling cilantro-lime slaw, this wrap will take your taste buds to new flavour heights. Want all the flavour but none of the heat? Try Laura’s Smoked Chicken Wrap, a tasty nod to Tex-Mex (smoked chicken, hand chopped pico de gallo, cilantro-lime slaw, grilled corn kernels, black beans, cheese, buttermilk ranch).

For those who dial their ‘Heat-O-Meter’ halfway, Chef’s imaginative tacos prove a sure-fire hit. Your choice of protein (smoked brisket or chicken, Sriracha shrimp or beer battered fish) sits atop pico de gallo and cilantro-lime slaw cradled in a soft taco shell, a drizzle of sour cream, a flourish of sprouts and cilantro leaves and a sprinkling of cheese for good measure and, voila, these tacos have it all going on.

What I’ve discovered most about Laura’s Casual Kitchen is when it comes to the restaurant’s food philosophy, the Devil is in the details. Chef adds, “Things like the way we garnish our plates or the little hot pepper that tops our burgers. I know when I go to a restaurant and see a plate come out, I don’t care if it’s French fries or filet mignon, if I see it beautifully put together, with integrity, it makes me happy.”

As the Region’s growing season comes into its own, Chef will incorporate a cornucopia of finds sourced from local farms and roadside market stands into her menus.

As my time with Chef ends, I ask what she most wants EAST readers to know, and she says, “Come in your work boots. Come in your PJs. We’re that casual. Just place your order at the counter, take a seat if you’re dining in, and we’ll take care of the rest.”

For a value-added experience, create new friendships at Laura’s Casual Kitchen’s communal table and celebrate honest comfort food with an excellent pint of Second Wedge brew.

Laura’s Casual Kitchen
1 Main Street South, Uxbridge

Sriracha Shrimp Tacos (serves 4)

Compliments of Chef Laura Reybroek

Make the Sriracha Marinade, Pico de Gallo, and Cilantro-Lime Slaw in advance so everything comes together when you’re ready to assemble your tacos.

8 small soft taco shells
2 pounds peeled and deveined large shrimp, tails removed
2 cups Sriracha marinade (recipe follows)
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 cup Cilantro-Lime Slaw (recipe follows)
1 cup Pico de Gallo Salsa (recipe follows)
1 cup shredded aged cheddar or Queso Fresco
½ cup sour cream
4 green onions, sliced thinly on the diagonal
Fresh cilantro leaves and sprouts for garnish
2 limes, cut into wedges

• In a large zipper food storage bag, add shrimp and Sriracha marinade, seal and refrigerate for 1 hour.
• Remove shrimp from marinade and pat dry with paper towel (reserve a few tablespoons of marinade).
• In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add oil and heat to shimmering, then add shrimp and sauté for 5 minutes or until shrimp are thoroughly cooked, turning once. Transfer to a rimmed plate and set aside.
• Add reserved marinade to skillet and cook until it starts to bubble, return shrimp to pan and toss gently to coat in sauce.
• To assemble, place 2 warmed taco shells on each of 4 warmed plate, add shrimp, pico de gallo, cilantro lime slaw, cheese and a drizzle of sour cream, garnish each with green onion, cilantro leaves and sprouts and serve immediately with fresh lime wedges.

Sriracha Shrimp Marinade

•    1 cup soy sauce
•    ½ cup sriracha sauce
•    1 cup honey
•    ¼ cup water
•    2 cloves minced garlic
•    1 tbsp. fresh ginger

Whisk together all ingredients. Place in an airtight container, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Pico de Gallo

•    5 tomatoes, seeded and finely diced
•    ¾ cup chopped cilantro
•    ¾ cup finely chopped white or red onion
•    2 small fresh jalapeños stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
•    Juice of one lime (approximately; to taste)
•    Salt, to taste

Stir together tomato, cilantro, onion and jalapeno to combine, season to taste with lime juice and salt, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Cilantro Lime Slaw

•    ½ cup Lime juice
•    2 tablespoons honey
•    ¼ cup seasoned rice vinegar
•    ¼ cup canola oil
•    ¼ cup of finely chopped cilantro
•    2 cups finely shredded cabbage mixed with ½ cup shredded carrot
•    salt and pepper to taste

Stir together lime juice, honey, vinegar, oil, cilantro and cabbage mixture to combine, season to taste with salt and pepper, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.