The second annual week devoted to that delicious combination of hops, barley, water, and magic includes dozens of events across the city. Here are some of the best ones.
Between Ontario Craft Beer Week, the Toronto Festival of Beer, the Golden Tap Awards, CASK! Socials every couple of months, and myriad new bars, brewers, brewery markets, and sausage halls popping up every time you try to take a break to dry out, Toronto’s craft beer scene has come a long way since that first thirsty lad stepped into a bar several years ago only to wonder why some of the taps had strange new labels.
And while there’s never been a better time for fans of good suds in the city, some people might be tempted to wonder if Toronto really needs yet another event dedicated to beer. For everyone else, the second annual Toronto Beer Week is a fun celebration of local and international craft brews, organized by local pub owners, beer bloggers, and enthusiasts for a constantly expanding audience. A full list of the week’s events can be found on the official website, but we’ve compiled some of the best ones, just for you.
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The Dominion on Queen is running several events throughout the week that delve into Toronto’s beer history, but as interesting as they sound, the bar’s Monday night Cask Jam has several crucial ingredients that make it extra special: free food, free live music, and free pints of cask ale by such brewers as County Durham and Great Lakes Brewing for anyone who registers ahead of time. A great opportunity for neophytes to try out this increasingly popular beer style without wasting their hard-earned dollars if they discover flat beer just ain’t their thing.
Monday, September 19, 8 p.m.
Dominion on Queen (500 Queen Street East)
Thirsty east-enders that have got a clue flock to Castro’s Lounge, and it’s pretty obvious why, with its tiny walls covered in photos of the eponymous Cuban leader, among others, a fridge stocked with great beers from around the world, and music just about every night of the week. On Tuesday night,
there will also be Tom Waits songs performed live and Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co.’s Night Märzen Oktoberfest beer on draught, which is as good a reason as any to head to the Beach. [Update: The Tom Waits Appreciation Congregation has cancelled, but in their place Castro's is holding its "Quiet Revolutions" open-jam night. The Night Märzen Oktoberfest Lager will still flow, we've been told.]
Tuesday, September 20, 8–11 p.m.
Castro’s Lounge (2116 Queen Street East)
Some new brews by new Toronto brewers will be previewed at the Burger Bar throughout the week. The Junction’s not-yet-opened Indie Alehouse will get a preview on Wednesday, as the bar will be serving two of the alehouse’s beers: Breakfast Porter and Signature IPA. And, after releasing the very stellar Augusta Ale earlier this year, the Kensington Brewing Company will serve up its newest brew, FISHEYE PA, created with Great Lakes Brewery and Amsterdam Brewing Co., on Friday.
Wednesday, September 21 and Friday, September 23, times TBA
The Burger Bar (319 Augusta Avenue)
The cavernous C’est What? plays host to this more-than-two-decades-old event celebrating craft beer from across the country. A new beer will be introduced every hour for 24 hours, making for approximately 35 beers in total available for sample. If that math doesn’t quite add up, it’s probably because the event is being held over two days, and because you’ve been partaking in the festivities a little too much.
Friday, September 23 and Saturday, September 24, 12 p.m.–12 a.m.
C’est What? (67 Front Street East)
It’s worth braving the somewhat complicated directions to join the afternoon drinking festivities on Great Lakes Brewery’s front lawn, with seasonal beers and one-off cask ales, a barbecue, farmer’s market, tasty baked goods, scenic views of the Gardiner Expressway, and, if last year is anything to go on, little kids wrestling in a pseudo–pumpkin patch.
Saturday, September 24, 12–4 p.m.
Great Lakes Brewery (30 Queen Elizabeth Boulevard)
Hop and barley fans can explore good beer pubs in either the east or west ends of the city under the guidance of some Toronto Beer Week organizers (and Bartowel readers can guess who those might be). While guided pub crawls are nothing new, these crawls hit some of the more out-of-the-way locations and promise prizes at each stop.
End the week with a reminder of why Quebec is still light-years ahead of us in the beer world, as Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel!, arguably Canada’s best microbrewery, invades barVolo for a third time. The event gives us Anglophones the chance to try draught versions of some of the company’s beers that made it to the LCBO last year, such as the excellent Péché Mortel and Corne du Diable, as well as a whole whack of creations that probably won’t come to Ontario otherwise.
Saturday, September 24, 7 p.m.–4 a.m.
barVolo (587 Yonge Street)