May brought some new breweries along with the flowers, and Toronto beer drinkers couldn't be happier.
There may be a wealth of breweries popping up across Ontario—with 87 new ones (that we know about) opening by the start of 2017—but we’re all not as blasé as you’d think about yet another cropping up. In fact, we’re more than enthusiastic.
Opening week—hell, opening month—for a new brewery in Toronto is always exciting: the space is filled with people, the beers are pouring freely, and the bottle shop, if it’s ready, is sold out quicker than the owners could have anticipated.
To be fair, opening a brewery takes a lot of time. Nowhere is this more true than in a city like Toronto, where, thanks to our various zoning laws and constant red tape, many people hear about an upcoming brewery several months or even years before it’s set to open—and the anticipation in that time is almost unbearable.
The Junction Triangle has recently become a hot spot for new breweries. This month alone has seen three open up shop in the district after long periods of setting up. We’ve been looking forward to trying their beer—and they’ve been looking forward to pouring us a pint. Here’s to our city’s newest residents!
247 Wallace Avenue.
Tuesday to Friday: 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday to Sunday: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
As accomplished self-taught homebrewers with previous experience in the tech industry, Eric Portelance and head brewer Callum Hay of newly opened Halo Brewery, Canada’s first “open source brewery”, decided to share all of the recipes for their beers for free on their website. It might seem outlandish, but the pair support the open-source ethos, working to bring about a sense of community and have others experiment with their source material. It also allows Portelance and Hay to give back to the Toronto homebrewing family that has supported the two throughout the years.
Located directly across the street from the Ubisoft Toronto on Wallace Avenue (watch out for folks in green motion-capture suits), Halo’s small but beautiful space is a welcome addition to the residential area.
While the beers available are likely to be refined here and there, Halo came out of the gate strong. Be prepared to pull a couple of nerd muscles over some of their beer names. Currently, there are five beers on tap, with bottles rapidly selling out. Ion Cannon, a gose with strawberry and kiwi, is a notable beer that hits all the right spots in the warmer weather. A jab of tartness is balanced out by the salt usually found in the style, with a slight hint of pineapple and strawberry sweetness. Their early bestseller, Magic Missile, is a dry-hopped pale ale that stands a chance against the Darkness, with a whole whack of pine notes brought together by a slight malty sweetness and a bitter finish. And keep an eye out for Day Star, a fairly tart saison with beautiful notes of apricot and lemon that is sure to help bust this heat.
2125 Dundas Street West
Monday to Thursday: 5 p.m. to 12 a.m., Friday: 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., Saturday: 12 p.m. to 1 a.m., Sunday: 12 p.m. to 12 p.m.
After what felt like forever, the much-anticipated Bandit Brewery on Roncesvalles is out of its renovation phase and open for business. Co-founders Stephane Dubois and Shehzad Hamza have done a remarkable job with the space, transforming the old auto shop into a brewery with a hip, German beer-hall vibe. Consulting Chef Harrison Hennick of Furlough and Origin North fame has created a menu that pairs well with the communal ambiance of the space, with shareable dishes like pretzels, chicken tails, beer-battered cheese curds, and charcuterie. The biggest draw of the space, however, is the patio, which will no doubt be packed in the summer.
Earlier this year, beer-lovers anticipated that Bandit would focus on experimental brews such as sours and barrel-aged varieties. While they do have a Berliner Weisse on one of their eight (soon to be 15) taps, the beer offerings by Niagara College Brewing Program grad Ben Morris are, for now at least, mostly variations on some classic and fairly accessible styles. Of note, there’s Smoke on the Porter, a 5% ABV porter made with just the right amount of peated malt to create a subtle character of smoke and leather, finishing on a lovely pepper note. The Bandit’s APA is a refreshing take on the style, somewhat copper in colour and dry-hopped with three different varieties. Another highlight perfect for summer sipping is the Farmed & Dangerous, a wheat beer made with farmhouse yeast, resulting in a refreshing beverage with hints of citrus and coriander in a dry, grainy finish.
Henderson Brewing Co.
128A Sterling Road
Monday to Sunday: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Henderson Brewing is the project of general manager Steve Himel and brewmaster Mark Benzaquen and is named after one of Toronto’s earliest brewers, Robert Henderson. Of the three breweries listed here, this is the only one that’s in a more industrial setting, but those familiar with the area will note that it’s in one of the more up-and-coming areas of the city, very near the lofts of local artisans and the soon-to-be new home of MOCCA. Henderson’s space is impressively large, making for a good event venue. The retail space and taproom is spacious and open concept, with the brewing gear directly beside it, and snacks such as cookies available alongside selected merchandise.
Although Henderson is still in the “soft launch” phase and will be more officially open with a wider selection next Saturday, the beers currently available are limited to the Henderson’s Best; the brewery’s award-winning Amber/ESB hybrid that features some deep malt character with a caramel swirl ending in a dry finish; and the Fig ‘n Best, a cask version of the Henderson’s Best with a fig reduction added to it that makes it a whole different beer. Stay tuned for more with them, though, including a house-made root beer.
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