By Bryan Dearsley
When it first opened its doors in the spring of 2018, the Huntsville Brewhouse found itself filling something of a void in Huntsville’s dining options.
While the downtown core of this popular cottage country vacation destination is home to some of the best restaurants in Muskoka (check out our list of the top Huntsville restaurants here), as well as some great bars and pubs, it was lacking the kind of gastro-pub experience that could be enjoyed in places like Bracebridge (the Griffin Pub) and Gravenhurst (The Oar).
Now in its second year of operation, the turn-out of hungry (and thirsty) diners on the mid-summer weeknight I visited was certainly proof that the Huntsville Brewhouse team has found their niche. Owned and operated by the excellent Lake of Bays Brewing company out of Baysville, the restaurant’s entrance is certainly deceptively small. Located at the bottom end of Huntsville’s Main Street East just steps from the river and pretty River Mill Park, you’ll find yourself descending a few steps before entering the cavernous 4,000 sq ft facility, home not just to the Brewhouse, but also a retail outlet. On your immediate left is the heart of the operation, the tanks where some of the unique small-batch beers sold here are brewed (yes, on-site!).
The 105-seat taproom and eatery stretches from the small patio at the front (just six guests can dine al fresco here, so book ahead) all the way – and it’s a long way – to the partially open-kitchen at the back. On one side is another great highlight, the lovely wood-finished bar, serving the same great beers the brewery has become famous for across Canada.
Huntsville Brewhouse is a Superb Casual Dining Experience
After being seated, spend some time reviewing the very extensive beverages menu, focussing, of course, in the beer. And don’t be shy to ask your server for help. Our party’s many beer (and food) related questions were handled deftly by our server Carson, as well as by manager Nick McEntee, both happy to assist us as we embarked on what turned out to be a first-rate culinary experience.
While I didn’t hesitate to order the ‘Dark Spark’ beer cocktail – a delightful, silky smooth mix of the brewery’s Dark Side stout and the popular Spark House ale that boasted hints of chocolate and coffee (and so good, I had two!) – my wife and son decided to sample as many of the different brews available as possible. Of the 15 Lake of Bays’ beers on tap, they chose four 5oz samplers each for their beer flights. My wife’s consisted of the Double IPA, Lift Lock Light Lager, Sunseeker, and Starboard; my son’s included the Switchback, Peach Paradise, Red Sky, and the Dark Side stout.
For good measure – and at Nick’s (spot-on) recommendation – we also tried an in-house speciality drink made using the one non-Lake of Bays libation on tap, Thornbury Cider; it was a delightful, fruity, summery drink that went down a treat with the warm weather we’d been blessed with and is perfect for those on a gluten-free diet. A good selection of wines, traditional cocktails, and non-alcoholic beverages are also available.
Food, Glorious Beer-infused Food!
As you’d expect from a place that makes its own brews, a variety of beer infused dishes are available, including a daily beer inspired soup of the day. Much of the inspiration in fact comes from the ‘spent grain’ that’s left after the brewing process, used by the restaurant to make their pastas and croutons, as well as in baked items such as the burger buns, created especially for them by the nearby Whimsical Bakery.
First… the starters. Although designed for two, the three of us managed to share the biggest (and definitely the tastiest) serving of Nachos we’d ever experienced… so come hungry, and bring an appetite. Featuring layer-upon-layer of a three cheese blend together with crunchy chips, olives, jalapeño, tomatoes, sweet peppers, and – for good measure, a heaping of Spark House BBQ pulled pork – there was more than the three of us could manage, though heaven knows we tried. A meal in itself, every crunchy bite of this superb sharing starter made you dive in for more nacho goodness. And best of all, it was perfectly complimented by the beer.
For our main courses, we all tried something different. Our son went for the in-house made burger, served on the local bakery’s spent grain Kaiser, topped with lettuce, tomato, and their own house-made condiments. The burger was very tender, flavourful and juicy, handsomely served, and with a good-sized portion of chunky fries to really fill him up.
My wife opted for the Georgian Bay Blackened Rainbow Trout, a must-try that was heartily endorsed by our server Carson. And boy, was he right. Her two fish tacos came with lots of fresh local ingredients, from crunchy baby greens to a tasty Asian slaw, with every mouthful bursting with flavour and freshness. It also actually looked good, too, boasting an abundance of colourful ingredients all wrapped up in a warm taco shell. Again, the portions are big, so she was wise to have declined the offer to add a third taco.
The Huntsville Brewhouse is a Must-dine Experience
I opted for the Oven Baked Mac’n’Cheese. Comprised of four delicious cheeses – Monterey Jack, Pecorino, three-year old cheddar, and Gruyère – melted into a delicious creamy white sauce, it was given a flavourful nudge with the addition of a dash of Lake of Bays’ Oxtongue India Pale Ale and topped with a herbed spent grain crumble and Parmesan. Added to this was tasty (and generous) smoked beef brisket.
Although stuffed, we did manage to squeeze in a desert… which we shared. The delightful Muskoka Maple Crème Brulee was a veritable hit. Not too sweet, it possessed subtle hints of vanilla and maple, and was a great way to end a hearty meal (even if my shorts did feel a little bit tighter by the time we’d finished).
The verdict? It was unanimous: the Huntsville Brewhouse is a winner. This is a great spot to come hang out with friends or partners, or to take the family as there’s something for everyone. Add to the mix of delicious fresh food and superb drinks a great atmosphere, and it’s easy to see why the place is always hopping. The quality is as good as anything you’ll find in places like Toronto… and the fact it’s right here in our neck of the woods in fact means it’s better.
Another great restaurant has landed in Huntsville, setting yet another benchmark in Muskoka for amazingly fresh, tasty pub fare.
For further details and reservations – as well as for news of upcoming beer and food pairing experiences – visit the Huntsville Brewhouse website at https://huntsvillebrewhouse.ca.
Bryan Dearsley is Editor-in-chief of LuxuryHuntsville.com.