Thousands of Canadian beer buffs who travel to Europe visit Munich, Koln, Brussels, or to the west coast of the U S A, (Seattle, and San Francisco) make a point of visiting breweries, to see how they operate and sample their products.
These cities, famous for deep brewing traditions, offer a wide range of beer styles, and proudly promote them.
Now, Toronto’s craft brewers brew as fine and flavourful beer as any in Europe or Seattle, or San Francisco.
In 1890’s the city of Toronto was an industrial center and home to hundreds of thousands of Irish, Scottish, and English, including many continental Europeans with long brewing histories.
Toronto’s beer industry thrived ,catering to the thirsty workers, and was able to be recognized worldwide by winning awards in Chicago and elsewhere in North America.
Dominion Brewing beat Bass and Guinness beers in competitions.
Temperance, Prohibition and the Great Depression played havoc with small breweries financially, and many went out of business. A few consolidated, of which O’Keefe was the best known. But even O’Keefe disappeared in 1970’s.
Labatt and Molson both from out-of-town, came in, and in short order started to dominate the market.
Both advertised heavily, and marketed to expand their market share for a long time.
By 1980’s, educated and well-travelled high-disposable-income young consumers realized that “mainstream” beer had little to offer taste wise. Most were, and still are watery, sweetish, full of preservatives and lack any discernible malt flavours.
In the meantime, thousands of young people started brewing at home, and discovered the true taste of well-brewed beer. Entrepreneurs and these people started catering to a small but steadily growing group of beer enthusiasts.
This movement opened the way for savvy beer enthusiasts to start craft brewing first with Upper Canada Brewing Company on Atlantic Avenue, now part of Sleeman, which ironically is now owned by a Japanese brewer. Molson merged with Coor’s in Colorado, U S A ,and InBrew of Belgium owns Labatt.
Luckily, for Torontonians, Steam Whistle Brewery located at the foot of the CN Tower, started producing a fine lager in 2000, and since then has been increasing in popularity. The brewery remains focused on one brand and markets vigorously to beer enthusiasts and restaurants.
Amsterdam Brewery on King Steet west brews several beers in different styles including a Belgian style raspberry flavoured ale.
Their nut brown ale deserves the attention of all serious drinkers.
Better yet, just drop in the pub adjacent to the brewery and order a few of their beers on tap.
You can also buy the freshest of their beers in the brewery store.
All craft breweries maintain stores on premises and their bottles are the freshest and most flavorful, and most are unfiltered offering the best possible flavour.
Beer is a delicate beverage and ought to be refrigerated immediately after bottling, and craft breweries can adhere to this principle better than large breweries.
Connoisseurs maintain the quality of the water to be crucial for taste, as 90 – 92 per cent of the liquid is water.
Now, advanced technology allows city breweries to “strip” the water and add gypsum in required quantities to meet at least partially their taste objectives for their brands.
In 2010 the Ontario government legislated less restrictive brewing regulations and allocated a few million dollars to help promote craft brewing. Since then several breweries in Toronto (up to 64 now) have come on stream, and most produce very fine beers. Almost every month a new craft brewery comes on stream in Ontario.
If you are looking for flavourful, properly brewed malty beers, visit any of the craft breweries below and experience it for yourself.
Most of their beers are not available at the Beer Store but in a few selected locations you can find a few brands. The Beer Store requires very high shelving fees and small craft brewers can simply not afford such up-front expenditures .
L C B O’s Summerhill store created a corner for craft brews and offers a reasonably large selection of Ontario craft beers, but the best way to buy them is to visit their store.
Here is the list
Junction Craft Brewing
Left Field Brewery
Great Lakes Brewery
Muddy York Brewing Company
Indie Ale House
Steam Whistle Brewing.