Ottawa’s newest brewery evokes Old-Ottawa charm – talking beer with Dominion City Brewing Co.

It was arguably the most perfect day to visit a brewery.

The brewery in question!
The brewery in question!

The sun was beating hot and heavy, my car windows were rolled all the way down, and I was hollering along to some catchy new Arkells song on my car stereo. I was excited. And thirsty.

It was the August long weekend, which meant I had driven back to Ottawa to visit some old friends and my younger brother. One of my favourite things about visiting the Capital after a long time away (since September!!) is scoping out all the interesting new businesses that have thrown open their doors. In fact, I almost fell off my bike looking at all of them.

But the one I was most anxious to visit was Dominion City Brewing Co., the brain and beer-child of friends Josh McJannett, Alex Monk, and Andrew Kent.

You see, back in March I got an inconspicuous email. It was from my friend Jessey, and it was about a new brewery her friends were involved with opening. Skip forward a few months, and you have me, driving probably a little too fast in search of an afternoon chat about craft beer.

Josh McJannett, one of the three founders of Dominion City Brewing Co.
Josh McJannett, one of the three founders of Dominion City Brewing Co.

I pull up to Dominion City Brewing soon after. It’s less than a week to opening date, and half a dozen-or-so friends are helping clean growlers, bottle beer, and keep spirits high. Josh steps out of the walk-in freezer in shorts down to his knees and black rubber boots that go just as high. Casual Sunday wear when you’re hanging out in the brewery.

Beer has been an important part of the three men’s lives. Josh smiles as he tells the story of how he and Andrew found their passion for pints. Around 2003, they, like many other university students, were spending a fair amount of time drinking beer. But for the two friends it was different – they spent their time and money at Vineyards Wine Bar Bistro in the ByWard Market. Sure they were drinking a lot of different types of beer, but they noticed one thing: the local options were limited. It was import-city. The brainstorming and daydreaming began, and two years ago, the friends (with Alex on board) started aggressively planning to open a brewery. After home brewing for years, they’re finally at a point where they have a commercial space to call their own.

Of course the beer scene has changed a bit since 2003.

For those who don’t know Ottawa, or for those who live under a rock in Ottawa, it’s no secret that the craft beer market is exploding in the city. Beau’s, Kichesippi, Beyond the Pale…all are relatively new ventures in the sipping scene. And they’re all awesome. I can say that because I drank at least one of each of their brews during my short time in Ottawa.

So I wanted to ask Josh what he thought was different about Dominion City. Perhaps that’s a null question, because maybe it’s enough that you’re making delicious beer. But still, I thought I’d toss out the question.

Fun fact! The inspiration for the three-leaf brewery emblem was inspired by former Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson's choice design for the Canadian flag.
Fun fact! The inspiration for the three-leaf brewery emblem was inspired by former Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson’s choice design for the Canadian flag.

Turns out it’s the link between country and city, urban and rural that Dominion City is hoping to evoke. That idea of place. And check it out – the brewery is in the middle of an industrial park in east Ottawa, about as “city” as it gets. But step inside, and your perspective shifts. You see a bar made of 100-year-old pine logs dredged and dragged from the bottom of the Ottawa River. There’s a wall constructed of dark, up-cycled wood planks salvaged from a barn in Almonte. A black-and-white street-scape of old Gatineau graces the edge of the bottle room.

The bottle room still in progress, but see those planks. They're (at least) a century old! How cool is that?
The bottle room still in progress, but see those planks. They’re (at least) a century old! How cool is that?

Appearance alone does not a brewery make. The beer itself carries the same city-country dichotomy. The local mentality is strong, with spent grains going to hungry piggies at nearby Castor River Farms, and most of their organic Red Fife wheat grown and milled in the Ottawa Valley. It’s local, from design to draft to drink.

And while I’m ogling over the prettiness of the bottle house area, Josh is the first to emphasize that this is a working brewery, the real deal. People can see back to the 15-gallon system, the tall metal vats where beer chemistry magic happens. It’s a warehouse. There’s no pretending here, but it’s honest and open and clean.

And, oh right, you probably want to know about the beers themselves, huh? Dominion City is launching with three main brews (descriptions condensed from the brewery’s website):

  • Two Flags IPA: An assertively hoppy by well-balanced and highly drinkable India Pale Ale. Flavours include burnt sugar, grapefruit, and a lingering hop bitterness. 7%
  • Town & Country Blonde Ale: An easy-drinking beer with a kick. Soft, malty sweetness and biscuit notes are combined with a mildly spicy and citrusy hop crispness. 5.5%
  • Earl Grey Marmalade Saison: Brewed with freshly-zested oranges and Bridgehead organic Earl Grey tea, this brew has contrasting fruity, spicy, and tart notes, with a dry and moderately bitter finish.
The branding for Dominion City Brewing Co. was designed by Chris Mantil, an Ottawa-based graphic designer. Click on the photo to go to his website.
The branding for Dominion City Brewing Co. was designed by Chris Mantil, an Ottawa-based graphic designer. Click on the photo to go to his website.

Josh says the brewery hopes to bring in seasonal brews, but is keeping its focus on these three for the time being. The beer can be bought in 1.89L growlers or 750ml grumblers.

Community-built beer
You might have first heard of Dominion City Brewing Co. through Kickstarter.

The crowd-funding website was alight with support for the new brewery, with money being raised to fund the aforementioned bottling room and tasting bar. They surpassed their goal of $15,000, and, in the end, 273 backers contributed just over $19,600. Josh and I agreed – humbling was the word to describe the whole process.

Still, the support has gone far beyond the crowd-funding campaign. Dozens of friends have stepped up to help Josh & Co. do everything from washing to bottling to social media work. It’s been a team effort from start until doors open.


Speaking of that, it’s happening awfully soon. Tomorrow, in fact. The inaugural public drafts were poured at a party this past Tuesday, with the bottle shop opening its doors this Saturday, August 9. There’s going to be a food truck on hand, and lots of beer to sample. I won’t be in town, but it sounds like a hell of a way to spend a weekend afternoon, right? In the meantime, I’ll enjoy sipping my Town & Country here at home in Sudbury. Cheers to you, Ottawa!


Kegs and beer chemistry do-dads (technical name...)
Kegs and beer chemistry do-dads (technical name…)
Directions on how to get to Dominion City Brewing Co.
Directions on how to get to Dominion City Brewing Co.

For more before and after photos of the brewery space, and shots of the awesome people involved, visit the Dominion City Brewing Co. Facebook page


Finding Sudbury’s past in Ottawa’s present

A pleasant surprise awaited me at the Ottawa Antique Show last weekend. I was back in town for a long-overdue visit with some good friends, one of whom (Christine) accompanied me to the antique show that was being held in the Fieldhouse at my beloved, former university, Carleton.

Entering the show, there were tonnes of great, one-of-a-kind (at least in 2013) finds, including ceramic busts of Mounties and daschunds, beautifully-beaded cardigans and blazers, and depression glass in a multitude of jelly bean colours.

Just one of my purchases from the day. You know I'm a sucker for all things paper craft-related
Just one of my purchases from the day. You know I’m a sucker for all things paper craft-related

Christine, always an expert on all things fashionable, vintage, and cool, strolled alongside, giving a fascinating history lesson at each table. I learned about how Vera Neumann, finding herself short of linen during World War Two, re-fashioned surplus parachute silk into her renowned, boldly-printed scarves. Christine also told me about her other favourite scarf brand: Echo, which was founded by Theresa and Edgar C. Hyman on their pre-depression era wedding day. Their site actually has a pretty cool historical walk-through, if you’re interested. I ended up buying an oblong Vera scarf, with a brightly coloured blue and grey pattern criss-crossing the silk. It reminded me of another scarf I already owned. Despite my new breadth of scarf knowledge, however, I still plan on wilfully committing the ultimate sacrilegious act. I wear not the scarves on my neck, but rather tie them around my waist, wrist and luggage in order to serve as belts, bracelets or identifiers in this otherwise far too monochromatic world. What kind of lady am I?

April 13, 2013-14

BUT right, I was supposed to be discussing how I got a little glimpse into Sudbury’s past while visiting an indoor recreation facility in Canada’s Capital. I do get sidetracked sometimes. When browsing the booths at the antique sale, I came across two whole tables of the most meticulously organized postcards. By meticulously organized, I mean they were sorted by each county in Ontario, by each province in the country, and by each country of the world (not to mention further categories classifying boy scout images, girl scout images, transportation (public), transportation (private), ETC). The images on each spanned decades, and every card was carefully contained in a thin plastic casing, as to not be destroyed by our modern, greasy little fingers. I awaited a spot at the  postcard drawers and, when it was my turn, darted towards the Sudbury section. Oh vey! Discovery abounds. Since moving back to town nearly a year ago, I’ve become fascinated with the history of this fine northern community, particularly its downtown core, which, in the most bleak of historical moves, has been reduced to a shade of its former glory. We were a mining boom town. The main stretch used to be alit with neon lights, people could stroll from department store to department store, perhaps stopping at one of the fabulous-looking hotels that are now a dental office and Shopper’s Drug Mart (the Balmoral Hotel which then became a Zellers, and the Nickel Range Hotel where King George VI and Queen Elizabeth stayed, respectively).

Durham Street at Christmas, courtesy of a posting on the Sudbury's Fine 'Past & Future' Let's Reminisce Facebook page
Durham Street at Christmas, courtesy of a posting on the Sudbury’s Fine ‘Past & Future’ Let’s Reminisce Facebook page

Threads of inspiration and historical yearning were again tugged upon when I discovered the Facebook page, “Sudbury’s Fine ‘Past & Future’ Let’s Reminisce.” So great were the photos on that page that I tracked down the founder, Noella Church-Beaudoin, to interview for our morning show. Yes, I fully appreciate the irony of taking stock of a city’s past from the perch of one’s computer chair. (Coming back to this blog post now after spending an hour browsing the Sudbury library’s archives. Check it out! I particularly like the corner of Durham and Larch streets where I had never before appreciated that the SRO/Old Rock has maintained the magic of the former Eaton’s Department Store).

The Eaton's Building, circa 1930's. Courtesy of the City of Greater Sudbury Heritage Museums Collection
The Eaton building, circa 1930’s. Courtesy of the City of Greater Sudbury Heritage Museums Collection
CBC!!!!! The building still looks identical. Courtesy of the Main Branch of the Sudbury Library
CBC!!!!! Taken over a decade ago (1999), but the building still looks identical. Courtesy of the Main Branch of the Sudbury Library

SO, as I flipped through the yellowed images that sat in this antique show drawer in Ottawa (yes, we’re back to 2013 again), I was excited to find a few shots of downtown Sudbury, as well as of Bell Park (a central green spot near Ramsey Lake by my parent’s house). I even picked up a few shots of Creighton Mine and the Copper Cliff smelters because, what would a Sudbury postcard collection be without a few shots of smoke billowing out of concrete cigars?

My postcards (featuring a date stamp from 1936!). Click to see a bigger version.
My postcards (featuring a date stamp from 1936!). Click to see a bigger version.

I ended up buying seven of the cards, and would have bought them all, should they have not cost about $5 a piece. I am currently in the midst of framing them so that I can carry a portion of one of my hometowns around wherever I should go.

PS: I know this blog post will have only minimal significance to a select number of people. But come on, I can’t be the only one that has been fascinated by how development has eaten away at the history of a place. Right?

By the way, the rest of my weekend in Ottawa was just the absolute best.

A new (to me) Russian nesting dolls mural in the Glebe
A new (to me) Russian nesting dolls mural in the Glebe
Finally got to restock my coloured paper supply at the irreplaceable store, The Papery (this is now the background on my iPhone)
Finally got to restock my coloured paper supply at the irreplaceable store, The Papery (this is now the background on my iPhone)

As well as antique-ing and afternoon beer-ing with Christine, the two days brought about a fancy dinner with Ella at Play Food and Wine in the Market (beef tartar, tuna tataki, spicy lentil fritters, tender pork belly, WINE), brunch, gelato, canal walks and elbow balloon-popping (don’t ask) with my old roommate Freya, and a surprise, last-minute pho dinner and bunny play date with Iman. So much fun.

Freya and I in the Byward Market, halfway through beautiful spring walk
Freya and I in the Byward Market, halfway through a beautiful spring walk
Fred! One of Iman's darling bunnies, who doesn't love me half as much as he loves the yogurt drops I'm about to give him
Fred! One of Iman’s darling bunnies, who doesn’t love me half as much as he loves the yogurt drops I’m about to give him

The Ottawa Cupcake Challenge

Dear world:

A few weeks ago I was asked by Jessey to be a guest blogger for Local Tourist Ottawa, a cool blog that her and her friend Amy started a while back.  The idea behind the blog is great: it’s all about people sharing what they love about Ottawa and encouraging others to discover more about the city they live in (what fun is a city to live in if you can’t explore it, after all?).  When I saw that Jes wanted me to be a guest blog, I was out-of-my-mind excited.  Maybe this is a good time to say this: I have absolutely NO idea how/why people are still reading my blog or how I am suddenly a legit blogger.  People I don’t know comment on my posts, link to me off of their blogs, and everything!  Anyways, it’s mind boggling, and I’m so honoured and happy that people seem to like what I do.  So everyone, thank you so much for giving me even more validation to do what I love.  It’s really just so lovely.

Buuuuuut back to me guest blogging.  I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to write about at first, until one day it hit me:

I am going to find Ottawa’s perfect cupcake.

With that thought firmly planted in my mind, and I pitched the idea to Jes who (thank heavens) loved it.

So here is a shameless plug.  Please, please, please read my posts on Local Tourist Ottawa, as I sacrifice my dental health and well being for a delicious mission.  Here’s the link to the intro post I’ve already written, outlining the technicalities of my adventure.  I plan on trying/blogging about at least one cupcake a week, so please keep checking back for updates.  I’ve already got a list of more than a dozen bakeries/cupcakes to try (so many people commented on my intro post/tweeted at me suggesting places!), so I’ve got my work cut out for me.

A notepad appropriate of such a mission. Thanks mom!

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Filling and a Brown Sugar Icing (whew!)

Congratulations to you all if you managed to get through the name of my cupcakes in one breath.  It’s a mouthful, I know (just like my cupcakes), but I unfortunately had no other way to describe my entry into the 2010 Capital Cupcake Camp.


As you have all seen from my previous blog post, the cupcakes at the competition were absolutely amazing.  At the end of this post I’ll do a blog round-up of all the posts I’ve seen from the event, so you can get a better idea of the cupcake calibre!

Anyways, my cupcakes:

Rather than going out downtown like all normal university students would on a Saturday night, I stayed in with my roommate Britt and made brown sugar icing from sunset until deep into the night.  The icing was the most difficult thing I have ever encountered, due to the fact that university students are rarely in possession of stand-up mixers.

But lets go back to the beginning of this icing tale, shall we?

As soon as she found out I was entering a cupcake competition, Brittany exclaimed eagerly that I had to include this brown sugar icing that she had made in the summer.  While describing it, I’m quite sure she said the words “orgasm” and “heaven” all in one sentence.  I knew it must be good.

The icing recipe turned out to be an adaptation from the one used on the blogAnnie’s Eats.  Everything was going well up until we had to actually beat the liquid-like syrup into some sort of frosting.  There was cream of tartar AND eggs in said liquid, so you it would beat, right?  Wrong.  Britt and I stood in our kitchen for one whole hour, taking turns holding our $15 hand mixer.  I think we can blame the lack of standup mixer for the almost-failure.

To fix this little disaster, we ended up adding about 1 1/2 cups (approx) of icing sugar to Annie’s original recipe, finally creating that state-of-heaven which Britt had described earlier.  Once I tasted it, there were no regrets.  It was like a butterscotch dream!

After this ordeal was complete, we spent the rest of the night “piping” frosting onto the cupcakes with a squirt bottle I bought for $5.  Britt can 100 per cent attest to the fact that I am the most miserably messy icing attempter that has ever walked this earth.  It worked though, and into the fridge the cupcakes went (they somehow fit after rearrangement of food for six girls) in preparation for the morning’s events.

The rest of the cupcake was easy peasy.  I used my mom’s pumpkin muffin recipe and just beat some cream cheese with sugar and eggs until I had a smooth consistency.  Cutting the middle out of the cupcakes, I added a dollop of cream cheese to them, re-hatted them with the cut out cupcake and, as you already have read, iced my heart out!

The result: delicious.  I am proud to say that my cupcakes were some of the first to disappear out of more than 100 bakers.  I got to try some amazing cupcakes as well, including a spicy “Chili Chocolate” cupcake by Kelly and an amazingly decorated and equally tasty “Death by Chocolate” cupcake by Jenny at Geek Sweets.

Overall the afternoon was an amazing success.  More than $6,000 was raised for Women Alive and the Youth Services Bureau in Ottawa.  EVERYONE should go to this event next year.  No excuse!

Other blog posts about Capital Cupcake Camp (I know there must be more, sorry if you’re not here!):
Heartful Mouthful: A sweet success: cupcake camp 2.0
Vanilla Bean Baker: Back from camp
The Twisted Chef: No more cupcakes
Apt 613: No crumb left behind, Cupcake Camp 2.0 wrap-up
Blurasis: Capital Cupcake Camp 2010
The Village Cake Lady: Capital Cupcake Camp
The WildWorks Station: The return of the ever yummy cupcakes in the capital

Gorgeous Flickr photos (again, sorry!  I know I missed so many of you!):

Recipe: Pumpkin cupcakes with a cream cheese filling and a brown sugar icing

Pumpkin Cupcakes
Mix together:
-2 1/2 cups sugar
– 1 cup vegetable oil
– 4 eggs
– 2 cups pumpkin, or 14 oz. canned pumpkin

Add dry ingredients:
–  3 1/2 cups flour
– 2 tsp. baking soda
-1 tsp. cinnamon
– 1 tsp. nutmeg

Carefully stir in 2/3 cups of milk.  Blend until just mixed.  You can make cupcakes, muffins or loaves.  Recipe will make about 3-4 doz. muffins or about 2-3 loaves.

Cream cheese filling
– 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
– 1 cup icing sugar
– 1 teaspoon vanilla

On medium speed, beat cream cheese with icing sugar until smooth.  Add in vanilla and mix until combined.  To fill cupcakes, use a small knife to cut out the centre of the cupcake (my cupcake holes were about an inch in diametre).  Fill hole with a blob of cream cheese filling and put the cut piece of the cupcake back on top.

Brown sugar icing (via Annie’s Eats)

NOTE: This is the original recipe from Annie’s blog.  In her recipe, she calls for you to use a stand mixer.  Since we don’t have a stand mixer (just a crummy $15 one from Zellers) in my student kitchen, I had to add an extra 1 1/2 cups of icing sugar to give my icing the right consistency.  You might have to play around a bit with this one!

– 2 cups tightly packed brown sugar
– 1 cup heavy cream
– 2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 8 – 1 oz. pieces
– ¼ tsp. cream of tartar

To make the icing, heat the brown sugar, heavy cream, 2 – 1 oz. pieces of butter, and cream of tartar in a 2-3 quart saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, while bringing the mixture to a boil.  Allow the mixture to continue boiling while stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.  Transfer the bubbling hot mixture to a stainless steel bowl and allow to stand at room temperature for 1 hour before proceeding.  Place the cooled mixture in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat on low speed for 30 seconds. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes, adding the 6 remaining pieces of butter one at a time, until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Increase the speed to high and beat for an additional 2 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat on high for an additional 1 minute until light and fluffy.

Capital Cupcake Camp 2010!

Just a few pictures from the second annual Cupcake Camp that happened today in Ottawa…

A picture of my cupcakes…pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese filling and a brown sugar icing.  Super decadent!  More pictures and an accompanying blog post to come in the next few days!

Other cupcakes by super talented bakers: