This summer saw Canada ring in its 150th birthday, and the auspicious occasion was celebrated with fireworks, flags, and (of course) the consumption of lots of craft beer. But while Canada might be reaching a ripe old age, the craft beer movement within its borders is still quite young.
The United States has been the driving force behind the worldwide revolution, brewing and distributing hundreds of different beers, pushing the artistic boundaries beyond what was even conceivable 20 years ago. Canada has been caught up in the craft beer hype, but until recently has lagged behind in both selection and quality. That is all starting to change.
If you ask someone what the best beer city in Canada is, you’ll either hear Toronto, or a lie. Toronto is the beating heart of beer in Canada with breweries that make damn decent beer popping up in every neighbourhood. In fact, they’ve gone so far as to designate an entire week to beer in Toronto, featuring some of the most iconic breweries and best beer.
Now in its eighth year, Toronto Beer Week (TPB) is a celebration of “The Best Beer City in Canada” as they refer to Toronto. From five course dinners, to meet-and-greets with local brewers, well over 100 events will be put on for TBW, starting September 15th and running until September 23rd. Here’s what you can expect:
Imagine a city where craft beer venues outnumber purveyors of crappy domestic lagers — sounds like paradise right? Well that’s exactly the kind of utopia Toronto Beer Week is trying to create.
“We want to see a city where a craft beer is easily available to all, and we believe that the best way to do that is by introducing a broader audience to craft,” Rob Symes, Director of Marketing and member of TBW since day one said in an email. “We’re also about supporting the brewers. These people are passionate about their work, and the end result is often spectacular. They deserve fans and we want to encourage people to experience what they have to offer.”
Since 2010 TBW has grown exponentially with the craft beer movement in Canada. Symes explains that in its first year, TPB had a mere 35 venues participating. This year, there are over 70 already, and that number will continue to grow.
That kind of growth and participation is exactly why TBW is comfortable referring to Toronto as the best beer city in Canada, despite some potential contestation from other major beer hubs.
“Toronto has turned into such a vibrant scene in the past few years that we think it’s finally made it on the map,” Symes added. “There are some great beer drinking cities in the States, and for the longest time we played the role of the poor relative – our bars and breweries were few, styles were limited, and there was only a smattering of events.”
“Folks from Montreal or Vancouver might not agree that Toronto is the best city in Canada to drink beer, and they’re certainly entitled to that opinion. We want to encourage debate about what makes a city great for beer, and play off some of the intra-city rivalry that we’re so used to from sports.”
It’s clear that if the goal of TBW is to foster a greater community of craft beer drinkers, brewers and bars in Toronto — it’s working.
Every year, the specific nature of TBW events changes. But there’s one thing you can count on annually — more venues, more breweries and more excuses to sit down and drink a good craft beer.
“That’s actually the biggest appeal of the week – one night you can be at a festival, the next you can be at a dinner hosted by a brewmaster, and then you could follow that up with something oddball and totally random,” Symes said. “My personal favourite kind of event is the tap takeover – the ability to sample a whole bunch of beers from one brewery really gives you a feel for what they are about.”
This year, there are dozens of events spread out over seven days. You can check out the full list here. Notable ones include:
Arguably the oldest festival devoted to Canadian craft beer, this festival rings in the first day of TBW, right downtown at the legendary C’est What? Bar.
A collaborative event put on by Left Field and Great Lakes Brewery, The Danforth Pub Crawl is the highlight of day two. Costumed crawlers will hit up eight famous bars along the Danforth in a night of supervised debauchery.
With one location on the Eastside and one on the West, Learn2Brew is put on by Common Good and Rainhard breweries respectively. Ever wondered how your beer gets made? Now’s your chance to find out!
The Golden Tap Awards celebrate the best in the Ontario craft beer community. Not just for established breweries, the awards celebrate newcomers, excellence in certain styles and even notable beer writers.
What goes better with a cold pint than some hot pork? Great Lakes Brewery is hosting its third annual pig roast at the brewery in Etobicoke. Wanna drink some beer and eat some pig? Tickets are a mere $5.
While every partner involved in TBW are worth checking out, there’s a few you just don’t want to miss. Here are a few to keep your eyes on:
GLB is one of the driving forces behind TBW, participating in or hosting an event nearly every day of the event. This year, GLB celebrated its 30th anniversary, cementing its status as one of Canada’s founders of craft beer. Most importantly, their beer is excellent, making any event GLB is a part of worth attending.
A small up and comer that launched in 2015, Blood Brother’s has nonetheless been making waves on the westside. In fact, they’re one of my very favourite spots, brewing some of the best sour in the city. Make sure if you make the trip to sample their latest “Paradise Lost,” a series of sours Blood Brothers produces, swapping up ingredients like Guava and Sauvignon Blanc.
The true eastside champion of Toronto craft beer, Left Field has moved quickly since its inception in 2013 to become one of the most respected breweries in the city. Even if the Blue Jays are currently breaking your heart, you can get your baseball fix with Left Fields baseball themed brews.
A staple in the Toronto brew scene for decades Amsterdam represents one of the downtown hotspots for TBW. Offering special chicken wing/pint deals for the duration of TBW, Amsterdam is a must go to for those looking to sip a good brew by the lakeshore.
If you know Toronto beer, you’re probably a worshipper of Bellwoods. They raised the bar for what Canadian craft can be considered, and continue to push the boundaries of innovation. They’re not a frequent participant in local beer events, making their partnership in TBW extra special. To taste the best in Toronto craft beer, make sure to swing by Bellwoods.
There’s a lot to celebrate after 150 years of Canadian history. One of the most recent is the explosion in amazing beer being produced.
While several cities can claim to be the best beer city in Canada, few have the acumen of Toronto. Toronto Beer Week is proof of this, with amazing breweries getting together and making great beer more accessible than ever.