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Where to Drink Beer in Toronto

One of the highlights of TBEX in Toronto this year was getting to meet a group of craft beer-loving travel bloggers that I have talked to on Twitter but had never met in person. Because a few of these guys live in Toronto, we looked to them for advice on the best bars and most exciting breweries in the city.  Because Kevin and I couldn’t go everywhere, I asked each of these friends to recommend one of the best places they found to drink beer in Toronto.

Check out this list of our favorite craft beer bars and breweries in Toronto. (Most of these guys are Canadian, so excuse the unnecessary u’s they put in words like “favorite”.)

Bellwoods Brewery

124 Ossington Ave., Toronto, ON

Tucked away along the trendy hip Ossington strip of Toronto, Ontario lies an old automotive shop converted into one of the world’s hottest craft breweries. Bellwoods Brewery was named the 3rd best New Brewery in the World for 2012 by RateBeer.com and is becoming quite the hit with locals for more than just its fantastic assortments of beers. Keeping some of the automotive luster, the white picket fenced patio is extremely popular amongst locals from around Toronto and will become even more so with the addition of a new awning for nights of stormy weather.

Reading reviews on Yelp, there isn’t a bad beer mentioned amongst locals. While I was there, I sampled everything on tap and never found one bad beer. My personal favourites include the delicious Farmhouse Classic, a smooth summer tasting saison, and the Wizard Wolf pale ale. Two deliciously interesting beers that caught the attention of my taste buds included the Twin Peach pale ale and Hoppy Hefeweizen, an IPA Hefeweizen. For fruity beers, I found the Twin Peach to be the best beer of 2013 thus far in my mind, while the Hoppy Hefeweizen was one of the best mixes of traditional seasonal beers I’ve ever had. I’m not a big IPA fan and I could drink this all night long.

– Jason Baker, The Imperfect Traveller
Twitter: @jason_baker |  Untappd: jason_baker

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The Farmhouse saison at Bellwoods Brewery

Mill Street Brewery

55 Mill St., Toronto, ON

Opened 10 years ago in Toronto’s Distillery District (a National Historic Site), Mill Street quickly became my favourite local brand, putting out Ontario’s first certified organic lager and a handful of other great beers to begin with, and adding numerous seasonals and “one-off” beers. Joel Manning, Mill Street’s brewmaster, travels to Europe regularly to learn about traditional brewing styles and techniques which he then uses to brew Mill Street’s next big thing. I’m all for the traditional styles, but where I think Mill Street excels is in putting a twist on the usual. Two of their most popular beers are the Lemon Tea (a wheat beer with earl grey, orange pekoe teas and a squeeze of real lemon) and the Vanilla Porter (which uses cold-pressed vanilla with more flavour than you’ll find in any supermarket vanilla extract).

Demand was so high for the Lemon Tea beer that Mill Street had a hard time keeping up. It was the fastest-ever selling beer in our government liquor stores and when I found some I resorted to hoarding cans of it in my fridge so I would not be without when I got thirsty. The Vanilla Porter, brewed for winter enjoyment, is a beer that makes beer geeks whine and moan when the year’s batch runs out. Joel Manning actually receives hate mail over it’s scarcity come spring. It’s a beer I look forward to enjoying each year when the days get shorter and the mercury drops below freezing. I understand they will be canning it this year, and I’m making room in my fridge now to start hoarding cans again.

When it came time to develop our “Beer Makes History Better” tour for Toronto Urban Adventures, it was a no-brainer that the tour would end at Mill Street. The unique ambiance of the old Victorian whiskey factory, combined with the quality of the brews make Mill Street one of the highlights of the tour and the brew pub is an excellent place to grab a meal afterwards. We offer this tour Tuesdays – Saturdays at 3pm (until the end of November), and we ask people to book online at least 24 hrs in advance. Many have said our tour is the best thing they did in Toronto and it’s one of the reasons we’re currently ranked the #1 “thing to do” in Toronto on TripAdvisor.com!

– Jason Kucherawy, Tour Guys – Toronto
Twitter: @toronto_tourguy

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Jason (in red) leading beer fans on a tour of Mill Street Brewery

C’est What

67 Front St E, Toronto, ON C'est What? on Urbanspoon

C’est What? That’s exactly what I thought when I saw the beer list.

Erin and I stumbled upon C’est What looking for a quick, casual dinner, and wound up stumbling back in (and out) a few more times before the weekend was done. I was thrilled with their lineup containing a mix of their own brews and other local craft offerings. And since we both have different beer tastes, the range of styles made it easy for us to both find something we liked each time.

– Brett Domue, Our Tasty Travels
Twitter: @ourtastytravels | Untappd: metsbwd

Beerbistro

18 King St. East, Toronto, ON

When it comes to the best beer and food combinations in Toronto, nobody comes close to Beerbistro. The kobe beef tacos are always a treat, but the Brussels mussels are my mainstay, and their Belgian frites are the best in the city. I’ve never had a bad meal at Beerbistro, nor have I ever had a bad beer. If that isn’t enticing enough, everything on the menu here – even the ice cream – is cooked / made with beer.

The bottled beer selection at Beerbistro, and the level of knowledge of their bartenders and servers, is unparalleled in the city. Their tap list is decently balanced with a mix of locals brews, Canadian beers and imports. While I tend to visit other bars when I am particularly craving some local craft beers, if I want something different or unique – Beerbistro wins. On more than one occasion I’ve had the bar staff here treat me to free samples, including some great Cantillon beer from Belgium. It’s a bit pricier than most places, but also a bit nicer. Usually packed with suits after work during the week, don’t let that intimidate you if you just want some good beers, as it’s always a friendly place. If you want something special, ask for their beer cellar menu – a list of vintage and rare finds, often found nowhere else in Toronto. A night at Beerbistro may put a dent in your wallet, but at least your taste buds will have a good time.

– Red Hunt, Red Hunt Travel
Twitter: @redhunttravel | Untappd: redhunttravel

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The Brussels Mussels at Beerbistro | Photo: Red Hunt

Indie Alehouse

2876 Dundas St West, Toronto, ON

Away from the grasp of the average tourist lies Indie Alehouse, a brewery/restaurant that adds life to the once alcohol-dry Junction neighbourhood. Although this establishment looks a bit upscale, the vibe is relaxed and unpretentious, and it is usually filled with regulars – this shouldn’t surprise anyone given the fact that Torontonians tend to like sticking around to their neighbourhoods.

Since I should be discussing my favourite beer in Toronto, I must mention that this award goes to Farmhouse Saison produced by Bellwoods, but since Jason already wrote about that brewery (see above), I had to go with my second favorite: the Instigator IPA by Indie Alehouse.

I prefer beers that aren’t extra hoppy, hence the Instigator fits right in. It has a lovely bitterness infused perfectly with citrus, and the tropical aroma makes it excellent to drink during Spring and Summer. And since the warm months are mostly when I’m drinking beer, it seems like we are destined to be lovers.

– Lorenzo Gonzalez, Belize Adventure
Twitter: @belizeadventure

barVolo

587 Yonge St., Toronto, ON

For me, barVolo was by far the best of the six places I visited. Great selection of 30 Canadian craft taps, plus a large bottle selection, including some beers that are hard-to-get in the US, like Cantillon. Add in knowledgeable and passionate owners and friendly staff, you really can’t ask for more. I could have visited there every night.

– Erik Smith, On My Feet or In My Mind
Twitter: @eriksmithdotcom | Untappd: eriksmithdotcom

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The taps at Bar Volo | Photo: Erik Smith

Bar Hop

391 King Street West, Toronto, ON

We met our friend Red (see above) at this bar one night. It’s a small, but inviting place centrally located in walking distance to downtown and the convention center. It’s also right at the intersection of two of the major street car lines, King Street and Spadina  (Kevin and I were staying north on the Spadina line, and Red lives off of the King Street line so it was perfect for us both).  More importantly, they had a large selection of beers from Ontario and neighboring Quebec. In total, 36 craft beers on tap, 100+ available by the bottle. While we didn’t try the food, I saw they have some inviting shellfish specials. Mussel Mondays 2lbs of mussels and a basket of frites (french fries) for $9.95 + Buck a Shuck Tuesdays, $1 per shuck on selected oysters.

– Cassie (that’s me!)
Twitter: @caskifer | Untappd: everintransit

Do you prefer wine? Check out my friend Tracey’s article, Where to Drink Wine in TorontoAnd yes, I ripped off her title.

Find them on Urbanspoon: Bellwoods Brewery:Bellwoods Brewery on Urbanspoon Mill Street Brewery: Mill Street Brewery on Urbanspoon C’Est What: C'est What? on Urbanspoon Beer Bistro: Beer Bistro on Urbanspoon Indie Alehouse: Indie Ale House Brewing Co. on Urbanspoon BarVolo: Bar Volo on Urbanspoon Bar Hop: Bar Hop on Urbanspoon


So, what did we miss? Do you have any tips for where to drink beer in Toronto?

Comments

  1. Now I can go back and hit the ones I missed!!! Thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts!
    Erik recently posted..Moeder Lambic, Brussels- Beers & Bars of the Europe 2013 TripMy Profile

    • Cassie Kifer says:

      Thank you, Erik! Glad to finally meet you and I appreciate you sharing a place I missed! Hope to see you out here for some West Coast beer tasting one day soon!

  2. Solid list of great beer destinations here Cassie (and other contributors)! So hard choosing a favourite…
    Red Hunt recently posted..Springtime Moose in Algonquin ParkMy Profile

    • Cassie Kifer says:

      Thanks for inspiring this, Red! You brought us all together and showed us around the best spots.

      And you had to throw in “favourite…” :)

  3. I went to Toronto for the first time in about 6 years last weekend to see a NY RedBulls match with my friend for this birthday, wow do they have a lot of tall buildings now! Anyway, I wrote down all the breweries and figured out which ones were near the stadium. We stopped a group of folks (across the street from a place called Rapier Wit, Sword Fighting for Stage & Screen) and they recommended we go to Bellwoods and provided us directions. It was fantastic, great atmosphere, great beers and I had the meat board all to myself. The only downside was they were out of the saisons I had promised my friends; we’ll have to go back!

    • Cassie Kifer says:

      Yay! Glad you found this useful and went by to check out Bellwoods, it was one of my favorites! Yeah, Lorenzo who posted here said on Facebook a few weeks ago they’ve stopped brewing the Farmhouse Saison and replaced it with a fruit beer! I was pretty disappointed, when I heard that, that was my favorite, too.

      And yes, the development is crazy there! All the high rise residential towers going up. I asked some folks whether they were going to go bust and wind up empty but I was told they have a rule that they won’t start construction until they are 80% sold? Not sure if that is just a deposit or what, but it’s interesting. It really is a huge city!

      Now tell me about this sword fighting studio… :)

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