Toronto's Beer Scene

Toronto's Beer Scene

It’s not uncommon in Toronto to overhear brew-masters throwing around words like terroir. They have a blast honing their craft—and it shows. About a half dozen microbreweries located in Canada’s largest city offer tours, food-pairing lessons and tastings, which makes the city a perfect place for beer aficionados to visit.

A suggested itinerary with only a few days to spend in the city might start with dropping by Steam Whistle Brewing‘s tasting room before a Toronto Blue Jays home game—the stadium is a quick walk away. Inside a former Canadian Pacific Railroad roundhouse are likely fans taking advantage of free beer samples of Steam Whistle Pilsner (the only beer made here). Tours at this brewery, which was established in 1998 by three friends, cost between $10 and $26 and include variations of a souvenir pint glass or beer packs. Amsterdam Brewing Company, while a small operation that’s been humming along since 1986, hosts a no-cost casual and insightful tour often led by Jamie Minstry, the brew-master himself. From grain to glass, he discusses the brewing and malting processes. Short on time? Then pick up a 25-pack of beer for $29 in the brewery’s gift shop.  There are several restaurants that focus on pairing beers with foods. One of Toronto’s most chic entertainment districts is The Distillery Historical District, dating back to 1832, but unveiled in 2006 with shops and restaurants that include Mill Street Brew Pub. Behind glass walls is one of the brewery’s operations (another much larger location is elsewhere in Toronto). Pub-style fare mingles with beers brewed on-site, such as braised with Coffee Porter or mussels steamed in Belgian Wit Biere. About a dozen or so beers are on tap (such as Ontario’s first organic lager) or opt for a sampler of four beers. Balzac’s Coffee Porter is Ontario’s only coffee-flavored beer and folds in coffee from a local roaster. You can also buy a 6-pack to savor back at the hotel room.

The Belgium-themed Bier Markt has two locations: a block from St. Lawrence Market (foodie mecca with fishmongers, cheese producers, fruits and vegetables) and on King Street West. Both locations flaunt its beer list in a 33-page spiral-bound menu that features beers from 24 countries. Its Brasserie Brunch allows you pick from seven dishes, like banana and almond French toast or 8-ounce striploin with frites and organic eggs; pair that with a biermosa. Make dinner reservations at Beer Bistro on King Street East in downtown Toronto near the theatre district. Every dish contains beer including pulled pork slowly smoked with coffee porter and Pilsner maki roll, even seven beer ice-creams. Design your own flight of beers from the beer list, which features some Canadian selections among the 160 bottles and draughts from 17 countries in its 68-page beer menu, for the best tour. And as the day winds down, there is no shortage of bars with a spectacular line-up of draft beers. C’est What/Vin Pub Restaurant is a sub-level, cozy bar on busy Front Street, its many rooms warmed by fireplaces and, on occasion, the sound of live music. With 35 craft beers on tap, ethnic eats like Moroccan stew and Cajun ragout, what’s not to like?

With a little more time, you can also check out these two small-batch breweries, which have a restaurant: Duggan’s on Victoria Street serves fresh oysters that are flown in daily; pair with seven of its rotating beers on tap. Granite Brewery & Restaurant has given its beers quirky names (Hopping Mad, with 6% alcohol content; and Peculiar, a dark ale) and its vast menu includes heavy (10-ounce rib-eye steak topped with mushroom brandy sauce) and light (spinach salad topped with mandarin oranges) entrees.

Published on September 28, 2010