WHERE TO DRINK BEER IN TORONTO RIGHT NOW
ALLEN'S 143 Danforth, at Broadview, 416463-3086, allens.to
Discerning tipplers seeking scotch, VQA wines and beer have known about Allen’s on the Danforth for decades. Once you subtract the four imports, the remaining 11 black-handled taps behind the long dark bar all pour Ontario craft brews. But it’s the bottles that really ensure Allen’s reputation as a Toronto beer mecca – 160 labels in all, including 22 Belgians, a good selection from la belle province and a particular focus on hard-to-find Canadian strong beers like the vintage dated Eisbock from now-defunct Niagara Falls Brewing Company.
THE FEATHERS 962 Kingston, at Scarborough, 416-694-0443, thefeatherspub.ca
Is there anything more depressingly predictable than going into some English-style bar called the Duke of Earl or the Badger’s Moustache and the first thing you see is a lineup of corporate beer? Not gonna happen at this pubbiest of Toronto pubs, also renowned for its vast selection of single malts. Twenty-one taps split evenly between local craft brews and imports keep Upper Beaches punters happy. And like any pub worth its weight in bar towels, it’s got a pump for cask beer.
CIRO'S HOUSE OF IMPORTED BIER 1316 Bloor West, at Lansdowne, 416-533-4914
Its list of 150 bottled beers has always made Ciro’s a bit of an oddity among the district’s stripper bars. International labels get the spotlight at this low-key watering hole, with choices like German Doppel-Hirsch, Dutch La Trappe Quadrupel and Japanese Hatichino Nest. Taps are less of an attraction. The’ hood’s a changin’, so get there while it’s still edgy.
BIER MARKT 600 King West, at Portland, 416-862-1175, thebiermarkt.com
While it can be a bit of a meat markt and its corporate ownership sometimes shows through, you can’t disregard the Markt’s serious list. Fortytwo taps balance out between imports and locals, and over 100 different labels are sourced form 30 countries, with an emphasis on the northern European brewing nations. Point of pride is five out of six Belgian Trappist breweries: Achel, Orval, Rochefort, Chimay and Westmalle.
BURGER BAR 319 Augusta, at College, 416-922-7423, theburgerbar.ca
Man, things have changed since this used to be Rice Bar. Now there are eight beer taps featuring six rotating locals, one rotating cask, shelves of old bottles, retired tap handles poking out all over the place and Randal the Enamel Animal, an odd hop-infusing beer bong device that was obtained from the highly lauded Dogfish Head brewery. Beyond that, Brock Shepherd is now selling his own beer, the nicely balanced Augusta Ale made by Paul Dickey, who brews at Black Oak. This guy’s got more beer stuff going on than a Milwaukee Octoberfest tailgate party.
CASTRO'S LOUNGE 2116 Queen East, at Hammersmith, 416-699-8272
BMW-driving Beachers are lured less by any notions of Caribbean socialism than by this small but lively bar’s well judged selection of brews both bottled and on draft. Nine local taps keep things on a micro tip, augmented by German faves like Warsteiner and Hacker-Pschorr Hefe Weisse. The bottle choices include Oregon’s Rogue and Quebec’s Dieu du Ciel! Or try the Warsteiner non-alcoholic beer. No problem with the Beemer after a few of those.
223 Augusta, at Baldwin, 416-591-1132
If you want to drink your beer to the sound of music recorded in the 21st century in the company of people who’ve never dialed a number, then make the scene on Augusta. Embassy’s local-centric eight taps will soon expand to 10, and in a move I think we can all endorse, they’re trading some food fridges for beer fridges. Bottles include three different Unibroues, Pilsner Urquell and Früli.
THE MONK'S TABLE 1276 Yonge, at Woodlawn, 416-920-9074
Even if you can’t afford a regular economy flight to Europe, at the Monk’s Table you can travel first-glass to the great beer nations of the Old World. If it’s Weihenstephan Hefe Weissbier it must be Germany. If it’s Old Speckeled Hen it must be England. If it’s Gouden Carolus it must be Belgium. You get the picture. Seventeen taps and 17 bottles will keep you imbibing at this well-tended two-floor hostelry.
C'EST WHAT 67 Front East, at Church, 416-867-9499, cestwhat.com
If you wanted to major in Ontario craft beer drinking, C’est What’s cozy cellar rooms would be your centre for continuing studies. Ontario dominates the 35 allCanadian taps. These include Toronto’s best five hand pumps for local casks and regular appearances of specials and one-offs. C’est What also has a lineup of its own house beers made by County Durham Brewing, including Al’s Cask Ale, Home Grown Hemp Ale and Big Butt Smoked Dark Ale. Your onestop craft beer shop.
CLOAK AND DAGGER 394 College, at Borden, 416-9218308, cloakanddaggerpub.com
The Cloak is a Toronto rarity in that it manages to maintain a bit of grit while still taking its beer selection seriously. It’s not inconceivable that you’ll endure some music played above conversation level while considering whether the Fuggles hops you’re nosing are bittering or aromatic. Of the 26 taps that bristle behind the little bar, 18 are craft brews, and there’s usually a County Durham cask on the pump. Bottle selection says it all: Keith’s, 50, Stock, Corona and Heineken.
SARAH'S CAFE AND BAR 1426 Danforth, at Monarch Park, 416406-3121, partywithus.ca
You could easily pass this innocuous place on an east end corner by, but demanding quaffers do so at their peril. Sarah’s 13 taps are almost all local craft beers, excepting the likes of Warsteiner and Quebec’s Maudite by Unibroue. Bottles are Sarah’s strong suit, with approximately 60 labels focusing on imports. It’s currently one of the very few places in town where you can obtain the rare and sought-after (like $35-a-bottle rare and sought-after) Belgian Trappist Westvleteren ales.
Chelsea Larocque and Lucas Poirier get ready for their brews at Ciro’s. John Kadai pours at the suds at
Ciro’s House of Imported Bier.
Ian Innes’s pub, the Feathers, boasts 21
taps and a pump for cask beer.
Kristina Heese makes a toast at Rebel House.