Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Guest Post: Toronto's Craft Beer Scene

TransitHub is pleased that guest blogger Ionatan Waisgluss has contributed today's blog post. Enjoy Ionatan's #TransitHubbing adventure about Toronto's Craft Beer Scene as he travels to #BathurstFortYork, #ReesBremner and #TrinityMill. You might feel thirsty by the end of it!
- Neil Jain

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 under appreciated 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 LagerBig 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. ;)

-- 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!

* Yonge Street is not technically the longest street in the world, as it is not synonymous with Highway 11. If it was, it would achieve this fabled status.

Ionatan Waisgluss is an upper-year botany student at the University of Toronto. His interests include all things environmental, with an emphasis on the interplay of nature and culture. Since coming here from Argentina at an early age, he has become increasingly fascinated with Toronto, spending a great deal of time discovering, exploring, photographing and otherwise documenting its little-known nooks and crannies. His other blog posts, videos, art, and musings can be found at kaleidoscopeflux.blogspot.com.

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