Toronto Craft Beer

Fellow brew enthusiasts,

As some of you may know, I periodically contribute to a website called TransitHub. This morning, they published one of my articles (click to see). However, I felt that the article would be equally at home in Beers For Breakfast. Thus, here is a shameless repost:

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Toronto is, without the slightest doubt, a world-renown city. It draws its fame from its astoundingly high CN tower and the surprisingly low costs of its lunchtime meals; from having both the shortest ferry ride and the longest street in the world*; from having the most academically-inclined strippers and one of the worst commuting times in the world. But in a world of superlatives, where the most useless of attributes are enough to bring a city fame, Toronto stands out in a completely different way.

In its heart, Toronto is a city that cares less about being the most of anything, and more about doing things with skill, passion, care, and personality… and nothing proves its mantra better than a weekend spent exploring a vastly underappreciated aspect of Toronto: its craft beer scene.

As an Ontarian, the world of beer has me worried. If you take a look at the top-selling brands, it’s clear that the majority of beer purchases in Ontario are drawing money out of the province, or even the country. More importantly (and this even applies to Ontario breweries), they are drawing culture out of the province. A brewery should be an institution that brings people together; one that provides jobs for its cities; one that respects the area in which it’s located; one that gets to know its neighbours and facilitates community. In the past, this is how breweries were; in modern times, a small handful of breweries are growing to colossal proportions. The way in which brewing happens today (out of town, industrially) makes it hard to imagine a time when the town brewery was an important social institution, not just an economic one. But even amid the difficulties of today’s world, craft breweries do exist… and they may just be our city’s greatest assets.

In fact, last Friday, I spent the day walking around Toronto with an out-of-town friend of of mine. In one day, we managed to visit three craft breweries… and we did it all on foot! Here is a brief overview of three fantastic craft breweries that are definitely worth visiting.

1) Amsterdam Beer: Purity. Passion. Revelry. — 21 Bathurst Street, Toronto
Despite its name, the Amsterdam brewery is as local as it gets! I mean, they even have a beer called (416)! Their wide range of beers includes crowd-pleasers such as their Natural Blonde Lager, Big Wheel Deluxe Amber, and their Nut Brown Ale, as well as exciting seasonals like their Oranje-Weisse Premium White and Wee Heavy Scotch Ale. Make sure to stop by on Saturdays between 1 and 6 pm for a “tasting and product knowledge session” and pick up some of their delicious brews!

 

2) Steam Whistle: Do one thing really, really well. — 255 Bremner Boulevard, Toronto
Walking into the Steam Whistle brewery feels like arriving at exactly the right time to a party exclusively for awesome people. The decoration is lively, the people are chatting up a storm, and the staff is nothing short of hilarious! Load up on some merch, buy a generously-priced six-pack, drink a complimentary sample, and most fantastic of all: take the brewery tour! You’ll learn about everything from how they organize their events to why they chose their iconically thick-glassed, green bottle. You’ll even get a little something to take home! Come check out the free art gallery, attend their many events, or enjoy their expertly-crafted pilsner, straight from the source.

 

3) Mill St.: Great beer lives here. — 55 Mill Street, Toronto
The Distillery District is known for its cobblestone roads and its high-end art. It is a very flavourful and fancy part of Toronto. But among the art galleries and theatres lies another of Toronto’s hidden gems: The Mill St. Brewpub. With delicious dishes such as their Sausage Skillet or their Sweet Potato Fries, you’re guaranteed a tasty experience… and what better way to enjoy it than with a hearty winter beer, such as their Vanilla Porter, their Coffee Porter, or their Cobblestone Stout? All in good company, of course!

 

To me, the Toronto craft beer scene seems to embody the Toronto spirit; these breweries are not looking to become the leading brand of beer in the world; they see more value in giving you the opportunity to enjoy a delicious beer brewed right down the street from your house than in attempting to lay claim on a trivial world record. Torontonians didn’t seem discouraged by the construction of the Burj Khalifa in 2007, despite the fact that it exceeds the CN Tower by almost 300 metres. We know that it’s not about being the biggest; it’s about doing things with well.

And besides, the CN tower is beautiful! Especially after visiting these three breweries in a row. 😉

Cheers,
— Ionatan Waisgluss

For more musings about craft beer, home brewing, and having a good time, be sure to check out Beers For Breakfast, a collaborative effort started up by some friends of mine!
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* Yonge Street is not techinically the longest street in the world, as it is not synonymous with Highway 11. If it was, it would achieve this fabled status.

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7 Responses

  1. Nice work man.

  2. Excellent. Nice way to publicize B4B too. Perhaps now we will get some views on this website that are not just the people that are writing the articles.

  3. Good stuff Ioni. I completely agree about the drawing culture and money out of the province. Its very obvious in the States that craft breweries are taking an increasingly larger share of the market. Large breweries are suffering greatly – even a loss of 1% is a big deal to the Budweiser’s of the world. But Ontario is a strange place, we have 24 craft breweries that by most standards would be considered large breweries. Many of them are controlled by some of the larger companies… Ontario has made it very difficult for new breweries to start up, and those that do start up have to be a fair/large operation with major financial backing behind them. So while Ontario takes their large cut on liquor sales and has the chains around the necks of the breweries, you will see a large number of imported products making their way to your fridge.. I wish there was a petition for the creation of more small craft breweries in Ontario.

  4. Be the change you want to see, man… more small craft breweries would be incredible for small communities which are suffering thanks to large companies that are removing capital from their locality.

    I would sign your petition. We should start our own brewery at some point, that would be hella cool, yo.

  5. Small breweries are the way of the future. I have been purchasing significantly less imported beer as of late… except for the occasional Trappist or some other fancy stuff I come across.

    The creation of a petition of that nature is inevitable. Buying local is becoming more popular (though the change is much slower than it should be) and it’s just a matter of time before imported products will begin to demand even more of a premium price, which will cause interest in local alternatives to grow even more. Go local or don’t go.

    BTW, that also applies to other goods and not just beer…

  6. Go local or don’t go. Perfectly said.

  7. The AGCO has made it very difficult for small breweries and brew pubs to get started. Heavily taxed and heavily regulated. If you are a brew pub you have certain hours of operation, have to make a certain quota, cannot make anything about 6.5%, and can only sell within the pub itself. If you are a brewery you cannot serve people within the brewery and can only really sell to one source, the LCBO. If they don’t accept you, then you are out of business. What a crum deal. Not to mention the fact that you need major capital to get started. Starting a brewery or a brew pub would be a dream, but its one of the harder things to do in this part of the world.

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