Food & Drink

The Breweries Leading the Craft Beer Boom in Toronto

Published On 06/23/2016 Published On 06/23/2016
Bandit Brewery lineup
Courtesy of Bandit Brewery

Bandit Brewery

Roncesvalles

Wildlife in TO may be scarce, but if there’s an iconic animal in this city, it’s this Roncesvalles brewery’s namesake critter: the raccoon. This brewpub champions the social aspect of beer drinking with a plant-filled, California-cool open-concept space featuring a mix of tables and plastic picnic benches. Bandit launched with eight signature brews, most notably the polarizing Smoke on the Porter with a rich, peaty finish. It's currently awaiting licensing for the patio on Dundas West, and planning on growing hops in the front garden. Head down before the line up gets out of control, as Bandit doesn’t currently have a bottle shop where you can pick up for at-home consumption (but it's also in the works). In the meantime, grab a flight and do not miss the beer-battered cheese curds -- maybe the best fried cheese in Toronto.

Flickr/Lucas Richarz

Bellwoods Brewery

Trinity Bellwoods

Arguably the most popular brewery on this list, quality food and small-batch beer have been Bellwood’s mission since opening in 2012. The "Bellwoods Worker Elves" curate your experience through a candle-lit bar setting and patio adorned with fairy lights befitting its bustling Ossington location, as well as a host of custom-designed beer labels and swag. The wait may be long, but your patience will be rewarded with the rotating tap selections and reserve bottles offered exclusively in the brewpub -- a select portion of bottles reserved from previous special batches, available while quantities last. Good news for the impatient beer drinker: Bellwoods will be opening two new locations soon at 950 Dupont Ave and 20 Hafis Rd.

Indie Ale House

The Junction

Indie Ale House does not mess around when it comes to craft beer and pub food. Owner Jason Fisher’s mission is to bring craft beer to the people, championing the idea that you don’t have to spend a fortune to drink a really good beer. This popular Junction spot is known for complex flagship beers and rotating taps in off-the-beaten-track styles. Favourites include the Broken Hipster Belgian Wit, the Dead Spadina Monkey sour ale, and the Instigator IPA (the brewmaster’s personal favourite). If for some strange reason you aren’t sold on the beer, you will be on the food -- think truffled mac & cheese, a sashimi-grade yellowfin tuna taco, and a selection of no-nonsense burgers seared on the flat top for extra caramelization.

Junction Craft Brewing

Junction Craft Brewing

The Junction

Found in an industrial area known for its auto-repair shops, Junction Craft Brewing is as unassuming as its beer selection is impressive. This train-themed brewery opened in 2011, and has expanded from its classic Conductor’s Craft Ale, a “hopbacked” hybrid ale, to a rotating variety of more than 10, three of which (including Conductor's) are available at your local LCBO. The tap room at Junction Craft Brewing is a simple, train-themed space with utilitarian pricing at $2.25 per 5oz. While this is the one of the largest breweries on here, president Tom Paterson and brewmaster Doug Pengelly are adamant that it isn’t size that constitutes a craft brewery, it’s commitment to a tradition of unique flavour and technique. Pull up a chair, grab a sample, and get ready to talk beer with the laid-back and accommodating tap-room staff.

Blood Brothers Brewing

Davenport

Blood Brothers Brewing is the pot of gold at the end of the craft beer hunter’s rainbow. It appears elusively at bars like Get Well and Tequila Bookworm in small batches and select bottles. Using clues such as the brewery’s crafty Instagram account, word of mouth, and an arrow indicating "beer" scrawled on a warehouse wall, the persistent beer seeker can find brothers Dustin and Brayden Jones’ hidden Davenport brewery. Resisting categorization and uniformity, Blood Brothers aims to stock an innovative assortment of beers. The bottle shop has just a few styles available for purchase, including the much-coveted Paradise Lost series, a juicy sour finished with anything from fruit to wild yeast, and the Inner IPA, a citrusy, hop-light variety of the West Coast-style IPA. While a Blood Brothers taproom won’t be open for a couple months, get your Sherlock Holmes on and hit up the bottle shop or visit one of the stockists -- it'll be worth the sleuthing effort.

Courtesy of Left Field Brewery

Left Field Brewery

Leslieville

Blue Jays fans rejoice: this Leslieville brewery is not only adorably baseball-themed, it also shows every Jays game in the taproom with audio! The husband-and-wife founders brew beer with a single philosophy in mind: distinct, flavourful beer that stands on taste alone. Left Field’s starting lineup includes MVPs such as the Eephus brown ale, a rich, nutty ale named for the rare, low-speed junk pitch, and the Maris pale ale, an Earth session beer designed for easy ballpark drinking. Growler owners be forewarned: the tap room unfortunately only sells cans and bottles, and isn’t able to fill your growler. The brewery organizes an annual Buffalo Bisons road trip for baseball and beer junkies, and will team up with their esteemed neighbour Pilot Coffee Roasters for Saturday sessions of #beermeetscoffee throughout the summer.

Henderson Brewing Co.

The Junction

Henderson Brewing Co. is the newest kid on the block with its official opening on June 4th, but the namesake derives from Toronto’s 200-year-old brewing history. GM Steve Himel wanted to tell the story of Robert Henderson, Toronto’s first brewer circa 1800. Robert Henderson’s original beer was served to British soldiers, who received a whopping ration of six pints per day. The brewery’s flagship, Henderson’s Best, is a reimagined, modern-day best bitter of this historic original. In addition to Henderson’s Best, UPA (Union Pearson IPA), Food Truck Beer (a light session ale), and an "Ides" (a limited-edition beer released monthly) will regularly be available on tap. Also unique is the Henderson’s Best topped with Station Cold Brew -- bringing the best of coffee and beer together in one delicious pint. Snacks and local food trucks (cue the highly drinkable Food Truck session ale) are around too, and even non-beer drinkers have options: Henderson brews its own all-natural root beer.  

Mascot Brewery

Halo Brewery

Wallace Emerson

Founded by two homebrewers turned brewmasters, Halo’s tagline is from "basement to brewery." Callum Hay and Eric Portelance, like many of today’s Toronto craft-beer pioneers, decided to quit their day jobs and take the plunge to start a brewery. Halo is committed to transparency -- you can follow Halo’s story from inception to opening, and all recipes including detailed ingredient lists are available online for home brewers. Halo has stayed true to its basement origins, continuing to brew the "sweet delicious beer unicorn" -- or, beer that isn’t readily or easily available in Ontario. The taproom may be small, but its sleek, modern design and unique beer selections make up for its size. Current favourites are the Ion Cannon, a German-style gose with strawberry, kiwi, and coriander, and the Magic Missile dry-hopped pale ale.

Rainhard Brewing Co.

Mascot Brewery

Entertainment District

Mascot has a killer rooftop beer garden and scores extra points because of its convenience for the Downtown-dweller. The perfect post-Jays game haunt, Mascot is a balance of hipster and bro -- ideal for summer drinks complete with communal picnic tables and umbrellas. It currently features an eclectic selection of local craft beers on tap, in addition to its own Mascot pilsner, hefeweizen, and coffee porter. The in-house beers are brewed off-site at Duggan’s for the time being, but it plans to have tanks set up in the Eatery by the end of summer. The Eatery is headed by Rory McGouran, whose credentials include 416 Snack Bar and the Drake, boasting a menu of sophisticated tapas-style dishes inspired by classic pub favourites.

Rainhard Brewing

Stockyards District

Jordan Rainhard is primarily a one-man show as the owner and brewmaster of Rainhard Brewery, winner of the 2015 Golden Tap "Best Newcomer to the Beer Scene." The brewery is somewhat hidden in Toronto’s former meatpacking district -- an area of the city where alcohol was banned from 1904 until 1998. (Ouch.) But with a little help from Google Maps, you can easily find the spacious Rainhard taproom and the beautiful wooden bar, handmade and manned by Jordan himself. Rainhard Brewing focuses on hoppy beer with a clean, balanced palate using fresh, local ingredients, and a strict small-batch process. The Kapow! IPA is a signature mix of citrus hops and floral notes, and the True Grit saison/farmhouse ale has been known to trick even the most seasoned beer drinker into believing it’s a bonafide Belgian.

Duggan's Brewery

Duggan's

Parkdale

Duggan’s has been called the only establishment in Parkdale with no aesthetic. But who needs string lights and palm tree wallpaper when you’re serving solid beer and providing an outlet for Parkdale-dwellers who are over the one- to two-hour wait at every other bar in the area? Brewmaster Mike Duggan is an award-winning brewing veteran, having co-founded Mill St. and has advised breweries across Ontario on recipe creation. Standard pub fare is up for grabs at this no-frills brewpub, leaving the spotlight on Duggan’s beers, all brewed in the basement. With Duggan’s experience and knowledge, beers are typically classic and stand-out examples of their respective styles. Hit up the happy hour and grab a flight of the 100 Mile lager, 100 Mile ale, No. 5 Sorachi, and No. 9 IPA.

Burdock

Bloordale Village

Burdock’s isn’t just a brewery. It’s a brewpub, bar, restaurant, music venue, and champion of local ingredients -- basically everything you want from a night out in Toronto rolled into one. Burdock began brewing its own beer in July 2015, and since then, it's more than proved its brewing chops. Some Burdock highlights include the popular West Coast Pilsner, both west coast in malt from Armstrong, BC, and in nose with hints of pine, and the award-winning Brett Lime, featuring hints of Florida key lime juice. Beyond the beer, Burdock makes sourdough and rye bread in-house, as well as a brussel sprout poutine, so drenched in gravy and cheese curds it’s basically not a vegetable anymore. Added bonuses include the patio and a bottle shop that’s open till 11pm.

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1. Bandit Brewery 2125 Dundas St W, Toronto, M6R 1X1

This Roncesvalles brewpub champions the social aspect of beer drinking with a plant-filled, California-cool open concept space featuring a mix of tables and plastic picnic benches. Bandit launched their tap room in early 2016 with eight signature brews and plans to create at least that many more. With 20 beers on tap, they can showcase the best of Toronto's craft beer scene along with their own selection of Belgian-inspired ales and lagers. The food at Bandit is mostly finger foods designed for comfort and ease of drinking, including a small plate of beer-battered cheese curds that rank among the best in Toronto.

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2. Bellwoods Brewery 124 Ossington Ave, Toronto, M6J 2Z5

Small-batch beer and quality food have been Bellwood’s mission since opening in 2012. This craft brewery has a rotating list of taps highlighting their own creations as well as those of other local brewers which changes seasonally or according to demand. Reserve bottles, kept back from popular batches or brewed specially, are available for a higher (but worthwhile) price. The candle-lit bar setting and patio adorned with fairy lights befit its hip Ossington location, as does its long wait at peak times, but the food and the drinks are stunning. Small plates and snackable bar food keep the focus where it should be—on the beer.

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3. Junction Craft Brewery 90 Cawthra Ave, Toronto, M6N 3C2 (Junction Triangle)

Junction Craft Brewing has a seriously impressive beer selection and tap room, even if their Cawthra Ave neighborhood is less than hip. The train-themed Junctionbrewery opened in 2011, and has since expanded to producing a rotating variety of more than 10 distinct beers. The tap room at Junction Craft Brewing is a simple, train-themed space with utilitarian pricing at $2.25 per five ounces of beer, available to drink there or to take home in growlers and tallboy cans. There's no food served at this tap room, but that keeps the focus on the beer itself—which the friendly and knowledgable staff is only too happy to talk about.

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4. Blood Brothers Brewing 344 Westmoreland Ave. N., Toronto, M6H 3A7

This Davenport brewery is somewhat hidden, but just look for the arrow pointing toward "beer" on the side of a warehouse wall. The brewery was created as a way for owners and brothers Dustin and Brayden Jones to try out innovative beers among their friends. Now, Blood Brothers can be found in bars all around Toronto. Before you leave the brewery, stop by the bottle shop to grab the highly popular Paradise Lost Series

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5. Left Field Brewery 36 Wagstaff Drive, Toronto, M4L 3W9

This Leslieville brewery adorably baseball-themed, from the wall art to the beer labels to broadcasting Toronto Blue Jays games in the bar. The husband and wife founders brew beer with a single philosophy in mind: distinct, flavourful beer that stands on taste alone and can be easily drunk at a ballgame. Left Field’s signature beer is the Eephus Brown Ale, a rich, nutty ale named for the rare, low-speed junk pitch and always available at their Wagstaff Drive tap room. Growler owners be forewarned: the tap room unfortunately only sells cans and bottles, and isn’t able to fill your growler.

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6. Henderson Brewing 128A Sterling Rd, Toronto, M6R 2B7

Named after Robert Henderson, Toronto’s first brewer, the Henderson Brewing Co is bringing back historical beers to modern Toronto. Their flagship beer, Henderson’s Best, is a reimagined bitter taking after Henderson's historic original ale. Rotating their small selection of original beers with highlights from the Toronto beer scene, Henderson's tap room curates the best of traditional beermaking. The taproom doesn't serve food, but some of Toronto's best food trucks hang out outside for your convenience. Even non-beer drinkers have options here: Henderson brews its own all-natural root beer for teetotalers and/or the underage.

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7. Halo Brewery 247 Wallace Ave, Toronto, M6H 1V5

Founded by two home brewers turned brewmasters, Halo is committed to transparency—all recipes (including detailed ingredient lists) are available online for home brewers. Halo has stayed true to its scrappy origins, brewing odd beers that the owners feel aren't readily available in Ontario. The taproom may be small, but it’s sleek, modern design and unique beer selections make up for its size. Utilizing strange ingredients to enliven their otherwise American-style beers, Halo plays with new flavors with every batch—and you can take some home with you, in either beer or growler form.

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8. Mascot Brewery 31 Mercer Street, Toronto, M5V 1H2

Mascot Brewery boasts a killer rooftop beer garden at its Entertainment district location, perfect for post-Jays game beer or cocktail. Mascot's ambiance is a balance of hipster and bro—bearded dudes of all stripes congregate over summer drinks at communal picnic tables outside on the astroturf. Mascot serves an eclectic selection of local craft beers on tap in addition to their own creations. Balancing out the beer garden is The Eatery, the restaurant interior of the brewpub run by Chef Rory McGouran, serving a menu of sophisticated tapas-style dishes inspired by classic pub favorites (think sliders and fried chicken).

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9. Rainhard Brewing 100 Symes Rd, Toronto, M6N 3T1

The owner and brewmaster of Rainhard Brewery, Jordan Rainhard, is a one-man maelstrom of brewing. His award-winning brewery is somewhat hidden in Toronto’s former meatpacking district, but with a little help from Google Maps, you can easily find the spacious taproom. A beautiful, handmade wooden bar awaits inside, built and manned by Jordan himself. His brewery focuses on hoppy beer with a clean, balanced palate using fresh, local ingredients and a strict small-batch process. Small batches means the beers are constantly rotating, so visit often to try everything this beer savant has to offer.

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10. Duggan's 1346 Queen St W, Toronto,

Duggan's in Parkdale doesn't have your typical string lights or plush chairs to set the mood, but that's because it focuses all of its attention onto its beer. Brewmaster Mike Duggan advises breweries all over Ontario, and his namesake beers show his expertise. The best way to sample as many of his brews as possible is to visit during happy hour to try a flight.

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11. Burdock 1184 Bloor St W, , M1C 5B5

Although Burdock bills itself as a brewery, it's also a restaurant, music venue and bar all rolled into one. The Bloordale Village destination started brewing its own beer in 2015, and in addition to beer, Burdock makes its own sourdough and rye beard in-house. The patio gives off a friendly vibe, while the bottle shop will definitely have you wanting to take a few pilsners home.

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12. Indie Alehouse 2876 Dundas St W, Toronto, M6P 1Y9

Indie Ale House does not mess around when it comes to craft beer and pub food. Making the lion's share of the beers they sell themselves, they're a full-service brewery dedicated to the idea that you don’t have to spend a fortune to drink a really good beer. This popular Junction spot is known for complex beers and rotating taps as well as for their food: seriously decadent takes on pub food classics. Their huge burgers are the most popular item, but the signature dish is a truffled mac and cheese so creamy you'll need another beer to wash it down. The brewpub does not take reservations, so get there early to make sure you get a seat.

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