Backyard Brewtripping: The Thirsty Cactus

Is there anything better than a neighbourhood pub?

We really don’t think so. The food, the drinks, the people, the atmosphere. Everything comes together to make enjoying a craft beer even more enjoyable.

A few years ago we were living in Dundas, Ontario. As we mentioned in our very first post, it’s a formerly independent town that was brought into Hamilton as part of amalgamation. Just don’t say that to too many locals. It’s Dundas, not Hamilton, to them.

There are a couple restaurants and pubs in Dundas, and while all great spots, we always ended up at the Thirsty Cactus. I call it a pub, but it’s maybe better described as a pub that married a southern grill.

There’s a decidedly Texas feel to the décor and menu, which just adds to the Cactus’ charm for us.

The familiarity of a neighbourhood pub is another big benefit. There are regular customers who have regular orders. You can walk in and know what you’ll get. Sometimes the server has written it down before you say it.

When we need that feeling, we head back to Dundas and get the always delicious Chili Lime Cactus Dip from the Thirsty Cactus. Seriously, you need to try it. I just drooled on the keyboard from thinking about that dip.

The Cactus also has a respectable beer menu for a place its size. There is some rotation, but you’ll definitely find Beau’s, Steamwhistle and Great Lakes Brewery on tap. They also have a Cactus brand beer, which we found out is brewed by Great Lakes. Cactus Lager and Cactus Red are their regular offerings. On this day, they also had a Great Lakes Pumpkin Ale with a cinnamon rim.

We definitely recommend that you ask where a beer is brewed when a restaurant has a line of beer with their name attached. It always seems to lead to a deeper conversation about beer.

It seems like we’re back at the Cactus on a quarterly basis, and this time it was different! They had changed their menu. Like I said, familiarity is a big part of going back, so we were hesitant.

Thankfully, the changes were very positive. The most noticeable addition was a line of Mac and Cheeses, ranging from pulled pork to Mexi (essentially taco). They aren’t the typical mac and cheese look – look more like a pasta dish with cheese sauce – but are really good!

The southern comfort options have remained on the menu, thankfully. Unfortunately the flatbreads, which were added the last time they updated the menu, have been removed. We actually loved those flatbreads, so that was a little disappointing.

The service at the Cactus is typically great, and there are several servers who are downright spectacular at their job. We had one of them this time, which made everything even better!

And what of the beer!?

Well, I was the only one drinking this time and decided to do the Pumpkin Ale. I even did the cinnamon rim which I may get chastised for by beer purists. On a cold, rainy day, the cinnamon was actually a really nice addition. It’s a good ale and thankfully isn’t overloaded with spice. It ended up pairing really well with the pulled pork mac and cheese, so that’s all that mattered to me!

Definitely check out the Thirsty Cactus the next time you’re near Dundas.

While you’re there, take a walk through the historic downtown. The Dundas Driving Park is also walking distance from downtown and is a great spot to find a bench to relax. Dundas sits down in a valley, which makes for beautiful surroundings, especially as the leaves turn colour.

And before long, Dundas will have its very own craft brewery. Shawn & Ed Brewing Co. is close to opening and will be the perfect addition to Dundas. Watch their website and follow on Twitter to find out when they open their doors!

Jenn’s edit

One of my favourite things about Dundas is the number of small stores that line the main streets. Big-name and chain stores often have the same mass-produced plastic, so finding unique items in local shops is a real treat! Dundas has small clothing boutiques (both of the expensive and thrift variety), jewellery stores, and shoe shops, as well as cute gift shops like Strawberry Fields, the Kitchen Witch, and Comfortzonz. I could spend all day looking at stores like Discount Emporium, the Keeping Room (love kitchen stores, and this one has a cat!), and King’s Cross. And Beanermunky! Some of the best chocolate I’ve ever tried. Dundas is really a place to spend an entire day, and with Christmas just around the corner, now’s the time to make the trip!