There is nothing better after a long, summer's day than stopping at a pub to grab a beer. Toronto has a number of excellent micro-pubs to choose from, and here are some of the best...
Great Lakes Brewery
Family owned and operated since 1991, Great Lakes is the oldest independent brewer in the city. When they first started, Great Lakes offered only two beers: Golden Horseshoe Lager and Unicorn Ale. In 2006 they added Devil’s Pale Ale and continued expanding their menu with seasonal Brews such as Pumpkin Ale and Winter Ale.
They are constantly testing new brews, and those that frequent the place are not surprised that for the second year in a row, Great Lakes Brewery has been named Canadian Brewery of the Year. But don’t think that they are letting their success stop the creative process; Great Lakes continues to craft new brews and has recently revamped the equipment to increase efficiency.
Sometimes a passion takes you places you never expected, and that may be why this brewery, which started out in a former garage, has so quickly become one of the top spots in Toronto.
Owners Luke Pesti and Michael Clark first learned their brewing craft in Amsterdam, and then went on to open Bellwoods in 2012. They’ve kept the somewhat industrial feel of the auto-shop, creating a modern and lively space for their brew-pub and restaurant, which only seats a cozy 40 guests. The tables don’t quite match and flowers are arranged in mason jars, which adds to the feeling that you’re at a friend’s house having a great meal with excellent beer.
Bellwoods is taking advantage of their newbie status and crafting innovative brews in small batches. They prefer the hoppy styles with hints of citrus and pine, but they also use the trappist style beer from Belgium as an influence. Beers are available in the pub or next door at their retail outlet. They do not produce large quantities of everything and offer the following advice to those who enjoy their beverages: Act swiftly, drink with purpose.
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Another of Toronto’s original breweries, Amsterdam is actively growing with the times, having recently moved into a larger location and adding a second brew-pub on the waterfront. Amsterdam has more than doubled its brewing capacity in anticipation of the growing interest for excellent craft beer. The brewing facility has a selection of beers for sampling, as well as a retail outlet and an event space, while the Amsterdam BrewHouse on the Lake offers indoor and outdoor seating for enjoying some fine food and great beer.
The BrewHouse has a small brewing facility and it’s possible that you’ll get a pint there that isn’t available anywhere else. Each crafted brew is available until the keg is dry and may not be produced again for many months. Fortunately they try to put some in bottles and you can take your favorite styles home to savour later. They also have a selection of core favourites that are always available in the BrewHouse, retail store and in many restaurants around the city.
Black Oak Brewing Company
Flickr/Alison and Fil
Black Oak doesn’t have a flashy advertising campaign, so those who discover the brewery feel that they have somehow stumbled upon a delightful secret that only the fortunate few know about.
Luckily, beer as fantastic as this couldn’t be kept hidden for long and Black Oak beer is fast becoming a staple among Toronto craft beer fans. The facility in Etobicoke produces small-batch beers using primarily Canadian ingredients while ensuring that their facilities are as environmentally friendly as possible.
One of the great things about Black Oak is the number of bars that serve their brew, either on tap or bottled. The tasting room is great, but knowing that you can find Black Oak beers all over Ontario is even better. Many of the brews they offer come with a long list of awards and can be found at bars, the retail outlet and LCBO stores. If you are new to the secret of Black Oak, head to the brewery on Saturday and take a tour before settling down in the tasting room to become acquainted with your new favourite beers.
Indie Ale House
This is the first brew-pub in the once-dry Junction area and it is a welcome addition to the ever-changing neighbourhood. The unpretentious and rustic décor is perfectly suited to the Junction's working crowd, which is looking for a good, neighbourhood bar rather than a sleek, hipster spot. The simple yet delicious food that falls somewhere between upscale and comfort food - and takes full advantage of the in-house smoker.
The brewers at Indie like the idea of pairing flavours and try to create small-batch beers that go well with the menu offerings. Inkeeping with the indie spirit, they don’t offer lager or pilsners – you can get those anywhere – instead craft specialty ales such as Belgian Sour and English Porter are on the menu. The small-batch facilities let them offer a wide variety of brews, but sometimes in limited supply. If you find a favourite, let them know, or they may never brew it again.
Mill Street Beer Pub and Beer Hall
Mill St is in the heart of the historic Distillery District and is east Toronto’s first commercial micro-brewery. The Beer Hall is a more upscale version of the pub, but it still features the exposed brick and bright, copper beer lines that make the pub so distinctive. Both places offer the full line-up of brews from Mill St Brewery, but the food at the hall is a bit more restaurant style.
The brewery is housed in an 1870s, Victorian Industrial building with a distinctive architecture and it's well worth a visit. The brewery also delivers everything from six-packs to kegs, with the driver leaving once an hour, every hour. Despite the large, commercial feel of Mill St, the beers produced are exceptional and clearly deserving of the many awards that the brewery has won.
For those still unconvinced there is one word: Bierschnapps. This traditional German spirit is new to most Canadians - and only distilled at the Mill St. Brewery.
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