By: Carine Paratian
New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Vancouver and metropolitan cities of the like have always been known for their epic culinary scene, and without a doubt, Toronto has quickly become an equal contender. As the spotlight shines brighter on Toronto with the vast trendy, experimental, hole-in-the-wall restaurants quickly popping up all over the place, the number of specialty beer watering holes has equally grown. The beauty of this movement is that it’s led to the revitalization of many Toronto neighbourhoods and is attracting a younger, trendy crowd to older, less gentrified neighbourhoods.
With the summer in full swing, it’s not unusual to find neighbourhood bars and pubs swarming with activity. However, throw in a great vibe, palatable snacks and an irresistible beer list, and you’re in for a whole other experience.
To many, drinking beer was always associated with corporate brands like Budweiser, Molson, Coors, Heineken, Corona, etc., who all made a name for themselves via the young party scene. Whether you’re simply drinking for a good time, sharing some laughs and cold beers with some buddies on a hot summer day by the barbecue, or you’re trying to impress a crush with your beer pong skills, you can always count on a cheap and cheerful “two-four” to do the trick.
As the bar and restaurant scene evolved in Toronto towards the notion of experimental, authentic and local, there has been a noticeable surge in craft breweries and bottle shops; smaller guys experimenting with ingredients and flavours to create enjoyable local brews. These beers have quickly gone from being little known locals to respected beers, where they’ve built large followings who anxiously wait for the next experimental batch. Rest assured that no matter which neighbourhood these local breweries set up shop in, it won’t take long before they cultivate a healthy following. Some prominent local breweries who have made quite a name for themselves around town include Bellwoods Brewery, Amsterdam BrewHouse, Burdock, Duggan’s, Blood Brothers Brewing, Left Field Brewery, Mill Street Beer Hall, The Three Brewers, Big Rock Brewery, Mascot Brewery, and Bandit Brewery, to name a few.
While Brewpub’s have made a significant impact within the beer marketplace, there is also a new breed of hops-inspired venues that have succeeded in winning hearts, minds and bellies. In addition to offering local and mass-produced beers and an exceptional menu, these establishments offer a plethora of worldly beers. With some listing 30+ beers on their ever-changing draught lines that speak to both local and specialty offerings, most times the real gems are found in their fridges, where hard-to-find imports stemming from breweries all over the world, including Belgian, French, English, and Irish brews, amongst others, reside. In addition to their oddity, these beers are appreciated for their unique aromas, notes and complexities that aren’t necessarily found in local brews. With some bottles ranging from a hefty $25-$50 to an inconceivable $150, Torontonians have become more adventurous with experimenting and educating themselves with beer, and are now ready and willing to pay the price for great taste. Connoisseur beer has become the Millennials’ new wine. Don’t fret at the sight of these prices though. A majority of these specialty beers have a higher ABV (alcohol by volume), possibly ranging from 8% to a whopping 55% and counting.
Some notable local bars that pour these distinguished beers include Bar Volo, Bar Hop Brew Co., Beerbistro, Wvrst, and the Bier Market. Similar to wine pairings, these beer establishments are recognizing the complexities of certain brews and are pairing them with well-rounded dishes, leaving guests with a gratifying food and drink experience that is worth talking about.
With Toronto embracing the beer culture and all it has to offer, it’s evident that food and beverage establishments are trying to leverage the trend with Toronto’s ever-expanding brewery scene. Pairing a great culinary experience with a distinguished beer menu is not an uncommon thing you’ll find these days — it’s almost an expectation, with bars stepping up their game to stay ahead of the competition. With an endless list of outstanding breweries that keep popping up in boundless neighbourhoods, Toronto’s your oyster. With good food, great drinks, knowledgeable staff, and epic patios, expect the Toronto beer scene to continue soaring to great heights.
Image courtesy of Bar Volo.