In the past couple of months, new breweries and bars have opened across the city, heralding a new wave of excitement for craft beer in Toronto, just in time for the colder months. So, we consulted David Ort, Toronto-based food writer and author of the Canadian Craft Beer Cookbook, to learn the best places for beer lovers to whet their whistle in the city.
The newly opened Birreria Volo in Toronto’s Little Italy neighborhood is like a world all its own. “You feel like you’re in Barcelona or Berlin,” describes Ort. “They offer a rotating selection of the hardest craft beers they can find, from the U.S. [to] Belgium. Their unique access to high-quality beer really challenges the customer to think about beer differently.”
The European-inspired modern beer hall is a nice, hidden away refuge, if you’re in the King West neighborhood at night and looking for a drink that doesn’t include vodka. Two things are paramount here: artisanal sausages and an incredible craft-beer-and-cider list. (The duck fat fries aren’t anything to frown about either.) “[WVRST] could have been any other restaurant on King West, but they’ve decided to take beer seriously,” says Ort. This passion cascades down to the bartenders, who are extremely educated and helpful when it comes to their beers on tap.
The 12th annual Cask Days festival takes place October 21 to 23 at Evergreen Brickworks, an award-winning urban eco-space. Cask Days is “now the best-regarded and, possibly, largest cask festival outside of England,” says Ort. The three-day event is a beer-lover’s dream: more than 400 beers from over 200 brewers, poured straight from the cask for sampling. The festival, run by the same team behind Birreria Volo, is certainly going to be a highlight this fall.
Just west of the downtown core on the ever-so-hip Ossington Ave., Bellwoods Brewery is a city favorite when it comes to craft brew. The beer, made in the microbrewery on site, is served in the brewpub and offers a selection from light, hoppy ales to imperial stouts and aged porters.
On the menu, bar bites like duck meatballs, Miami ribs and chicken liver mousse make the perfect accompaniment to the liquid fare. Next door, the bottle shop sells brews for locals and visitors to take home (or, as many do, to nearby Trinity Bellwoods Park).
There are two convenient Bar Hop locations in Toronto: the cozy elbow-to-elbow original bar on King St. West and the new three-story spot around the corner on Peter St. Both offer excellent selections of craft pours and pub fare in the Entertainment District. With 36 beers available on tap, the rotation is heavy with Ontario (Muskoka, Beau’s, Indie Ale House) and Quebec (Dieu du Ciel) brewers, along with some Belgians, too. Get clever pub grub like spiced lamb corn dogs, savory garlic doughnuts or bone marrow poutine.