Whitewater Brewing Company

Part of what I love about being retired and living in Lanark County is the tradition we’ve instigated of motoring about the immediate area. It is of necessity primarily a rural absorption, long quiet roads in the country, waterways, trees, fields and Arcadian scenes generally. Our destination is seldom one of an urban character, rather quaint and secluded places frequently featuring a diverting geographic aspect peculiar to the Canadian Shield and Great Lakes Basin. The landscape is invariably reminiscent of the County’s Scottish namesake with regular outcroppings of granite, marble and limestone plains moderately disguised by a variety of tills, sands and clays left from the melting of the glaciers in the last ice age. If there is any commercial instinct involved in our meanderings it tends to a more specialized nature like galleries or locally produced products (everything from apple cider to coffee to leather goods). The furthest west we go is Kingston; our southern limit is bounded by Gananoque on the St. Lawrence River; to the east by Dunrobin; and north by what normally was not beyond White Lake.  Yesterday we extended our northern frontier by venturing to Cobden. There we checked out the Whitewater Brewing Company, a place recommended by our hygienist Katrina at Dr. Naji Louis’ dental office.

Whitewater Brewing Company was founded by three good friends in 2011 on the banks of the Mighty Ottawa River. The three of us have had many adventures that have taken us from the incredible rivers of Ontario & Quebec to the mountain-fed creeks of British Columbia, from the deep canyons of the Colorado River, to the Great Barrier Reef of Australia. One constant that has remained strong throughout this journey is our return to the heart of the Ottawa Valley to share our great adventures with great friends.

Our epiphany came on a rafting trip: The Ottawa Valley was already home to some of the best natural ingredients involved in creating true hand-crafted beer, as well as great people deserving of a local beer to share with friends. Whitewater Brewing Company was conceived. The next three and a half years took a lot of hard work, learning and living out of vehicles to get to where we are today.

BREW PUB: +1 (613) 646-0101

To get to the Pub we deliberately chose as we customarily do the “back roads”, avoiding for example the 401 or 417. From Almonte we drove through Pakenham along Waba Road to White Lake then through Burnstown (where Neat Café has re-opened) to Renfrew, following the road to Haley Station then joined Hwy 17 to Cobden. The scenery never disappoints, distinctly Ontario hinterland, rolling fields, spectacular panoramic views, many rustic outbuildings, impervious and arresting tranquillity.

Embracing as we do our personal comforts and incontestable appetites, most of the places we visit have a casual atmosphere and a reputation for good food. The Whitewater Brewing Company in Cobden is remarkable for both – in addition naturally to its notoriety for traditionally made beer which we teetotalers replaced with a Virgin Caesar (made with Walter All-natural Craft Caesar Mix) and Lemonade – both excellent as well! Access to the venue from the highway is a breeze and the parking lot is spacious, something I always appreciate. The pub is similarly roomy with high ceilings to accommodate the adjoining stainless steel brewery which can be viewed through large plexiglass partitions. The seating is airy, not compressed. The dining tables are rudimentary – sturdy planks assembled on what I believe are pine bases with matching picnic style benches. At one end of the dining room is a bar with high stools. The bar with its implied invitation for elbowing and camaraderie is oddly provocative perhaps nostalgic of my younger days in less distinguished taverns. A beer tasting centre is located at the other end.  Though the weather was unfavourable on the day of our visit, I noted there was as well a patio for outdoor dining and drinking. Like all good homes, the Brewery has a piano. One of the patrons brought along a pile of scores and played for about an hour. The piano sounds honky-tonk; for a moment I imagined myself in a place that Sam McGee might have frequented.

As you might expect the majority of men and women working in the Pub are young. The clientele was a mix of people of different ages and gender, though midday the crowd was mostly older and male. There were clearly dedicated beer cognoscenti. Wooden tray holders of small sample glasses of beer were constantly being transported from one end of the Pub to the other. After lunch I spoke with the Cicerone who of course invited me to taste some of the beer products. He was young, affable and recognizably proud of his association with the larger “family” of brewmasters. He told me he hailed from Renfrew (about 15 kilometres away) and I remarked that it was encouraging to see local people being employed in local business, a credential which increasingly permeates entrepreneurial activity from production to delivery.