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Eat & Drink

Bellwoods Brewery unveils their beer

Posted by Ben Johnson / April 2, 2012

Bellwoods BreweryBellwoods Brewery co-founders Luke Pestl and Michael Clark have been working tirelessly toward their goal of opening their laid-back, 40-seat, cafe-style brewpub at 124 Ossington before patio season arrives. Since they leased the space (formerly Rolly's Garage and, more recently, Meta Gallery), they've been doing double duty completely renovating the space and brewing their beer - all while fielding inquiries from curious beer fans, bloggers, and major media outlets.

When I dropped by this past Thursday evening, I managed to get the guys to put down the power tools and mash paddles long enough to chat about the process and (lucky for me) sample some of their beer.

Both Clark and Pestl come from science backgrounds (Pestl has a degree in biochemical engineering and Clark studied biochemistry and was on the waiting list for medical school) but both had changes of heart and found their passion in brewing beer.

"We're brewers," Clark says. "There's nothing I'd rather be doing," agrees Pestl.

And while, thankfully for Toronto beer fans, the duo traded in textbooks for yeast and barley, they still seem to take a very scientific and methodical approach to brewing their beer - part of the reason it was so important to them to brew in-house at their own brewpub as opposed to contract brew. "We actually want to make beer and we want to have it right here," he says.

And based on the fantastic beer I sampled, the hands-on approach seems to be working well. The brewpub isn't set to open until sometime in the next week or two, but the guys allowed me to preview some of the beer they've already settled on featuring on tap when they do open.

  • Bellwoods Common: Pale Ale - A pale straw colour with a mild aroma and good head retention, Bellwoods Pale ale is the mildest of their offerings but still has a plenty of flavour and is a fresh, easy drinking beer with an ABV of about 5%. This will likely be the duo's staple beer, thus the moniker "common" but don't let the name mislead you, it's far from average.
  • Bellwoods Farmhouse Ale: Saison - For the uninitiated, a saison is a beer that was traditionally brewed in the winter in Belgian farm houses for consumption during the harvest season. It's a style that is typically fairly complex and Bellwoods' offering is no exception. Theirs is a cloudy gold with good lacing, a floral aroma and multi-layered flavour. With an ABV of 6%, the Farmhouse ale manages to be remarkably dry without being bitter or hoppy. It has some subtle fruit notes and an excellent spicy finish, too. There's a lot going on in this beer.
  • Toil and Trouble: Trappist-Style Belgian Dubbel - A deep mahogany beer with a nice, light brown, foamy head, this beer's got a malty, dark fruit aroma and all kinds of flavour. I noted an almost black licorice taste right off the top and it's got a sort of mildly spicy finish. The alcohol taste profile is decidedly low, despite weighing in at a considerably potent 8.7% ABV.

Bellwoods Brewery

  • Witchshark: Double IPA - Witchshark is Bellwoods' resident "hop bomb." Simply put, this beer is awesome. It pours with a serious creamy head and has tons of floral, citrusy aroma. The taste is, as you'd expect from a double IPA; extremely robust and hoppy; but it manages to stay remarkably well-balanced thanks to a good caramel malt backbone. At 9% ABV, this beer can get you into some trouble and has already developed its own verb: Getting witchsharked. As in, "Man, I got Witchsharked last night." (Witchshark is the only Bellwoods beer you can actually try before they open--if you're willing to brave the wait times down the road at Grand Electric).
  • Cuvee de Grandma's Boy: Belgian Specialty Ale/Belgian Chimera - Likely to be available only at the brewpub, "Grandma's Boy" is the result of some beer experimentation. Why's it called Grandma's boy? "Because we both love our grandmas!" It's a hybrid of two different yeasts combining the Bellwoods saison with a Belgian triple. As for its flavour, I'm not going to lie to you. This is the last beer I sampled on Thursday and my tasting notes are scant. I seem to have noted "Interesting taste!" I guess you'll just have to find out about Grandma's Boy on your own. Sorry, but please see above re: the ABVs of all previous beers and "getting Witchsharked."

Mike and Luke plan to continue experimenting with all their beer and will continue to work their pilot system, which they've brought to the brewpub, to try new things. A baltic porter was in the works while I was there and they haven't ruled out someday trying to brew a one-off 100 Mile Ale from their much-publicized City Hops Project.

For the time being, the duo plan to concentrate their efforts on brewing beer for consumption at the brew pub, however, they've also acquired the space next store with the goal of renovating it too for use as a retail space where their beer will be available in a variety of bottle sizes, including growlers.

Photos by Traven Benner



egbert / April 2, 2012 at 02:21 pm
This reads like the Duggan's Press release. Let's hope they don't have the same fate.

1 replying to a comment from egbert / April 2, 2012 at 02:46 pm
I don't know. This place is right on the Ossington strip. Feel like it's got a good shot at being popular there as opposed to Duggans which was kind of just an afterwork crowd
Richard / April 2, 2012 at 02:49 pm
Yesssss. Can't wait. Beers sound awesome!
Ingel replying to a comment from 1 / April 2, 2012 at 03:20 pm
Duggan's didn't go under because of the lack of business. It did because of disagreements between Mike and his landlord.
Spartacus / April 2, 2012 at 03:50 pm
I sampled the Bellwoods Common Pale Ale at the Te Aro event last Saturday and found it very pleasant, looking forward to trying out their other brews
Chris P. / April 2, 2012 at 03:59 pm
Sounds and looks great! Can't wait to try the saison.
runt / April 2, 2012 at 04:09 pm
I LOVE PARKDALE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
curious beer drinker / April 2, 2012 at 04:14 pm
Whats the deal with Duggans? I heard it went under but you can still buy it all over the city?
Words that Start With "H" / April 2, 2012 at 04:25 pm
Joe Scratch replying to a comment from runt / April 2, 2012 at 04:32 pm
This isn't Parkdale, the city ward is Trinity-Spadina, although I get your sentiment.
Gary replying to a comment from curious beer drinker / April 2, 2012 at 04:34 pm
The Duggan's restaurant/brewpub closed, but Mike Duggan still uses other facilities to brew a subset of his beers (including No. 9) which you can buy for sale at other bars and stores. Duggan's No. 9 actually predates the brewpub.
dan / April 2, 2012 at 05:45 pm
they brew no.9 at the cool brewery in etobicoke, you can purchase bottles and kegs there!
BIG BRAINS / April 2, 2012 at 09:31 pm
The CardiffGIANT / April 2, 2012 at 09:56 pm
Had a chance to sample the brews Sunday afternoon. I was overwhelmed with the quality of they are outputting. The Pale and the Saison was outstanding. Lots of flavor and very well balanced. Can't wait for the official opening.
Evan / April 2, 2012 at 10:00 pm
I will be there many many times this summer. Perfect storm of awesome.
Clay / April 3, 2012 at 12:23 am
Nothing but awesome shit comes out of Rolly's!
Robin replying to a comment from Clay / April 3, 2012 at 09:41 am

I'm so excited for Bellwoods Brewery and the VERY good people behind it.

Rolly has already declared that he's only drinking Bellwoods beer from now on... he even tried to "apply" to be their delivery driver. That's how much we love the people of Bellwoods Brewery!
Teena / April 3, 2012 at 11:13 am
We were at a tasters event on Sunday ... it's a great addition to the 'hood.
kay replying to a comment from egbert / April 4, 2012 at 06:42 pm
Duggan's didn't have any type of line-up like this. Can't wait until they're open!
Hibby / April 4, 2012 at 09:51 pm
We have been waiting and waiting and waiting!!!! So exciting. I live on Bellwoods so love the name and location. Looking forward to more awesomeness in the 'hood.
lol / April 15, 2012 at 09:22 pm
9 dollars a glass?? really?
Goldie / May 2, 2012 at 12:28 pm
Spent an afternoon here last weekend. The beer is good, and the room and atmosphere was great too. The food however, is another story. Some of the most inedible bites I have ever come across.

The "Sticks" are horrible. The Sun chokes covered in an anchovy mayo with horseradish were about as bad as first world food can get.

The "coriander" peanuts tasted like planters, and there were about 25 of them for $5, which is insane. The pork rinds were bland and they paired them with a red wine vinegar which disentigrated them immediately.

I will definitely be back for drinks, but will steer clear of the eats.
Eds / May 8, 2012 at 10:18 am
Went there with a few friends on Sunday. Ridiculously good. Awesome beer (Witchshark - wow!), and food. Loved the crispy pork dish. Staff was super friendly. Can't wait to go back.
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