New Toronto patios for 2012: Bellwoods Brewery
Bellwoods Brewery opened to much anticipation on Lower Ossington just a few months ago, and the patio is a newer addition still. The restaurant-slash-bar-slash-microbrewery brews its own beers out of immense, stainless steel fermenting tanks in the back. You'll find a quaint patio that gives way to the open front of what was formerly a gallery and auto shop, complex craft beers, and an eclectic menu that pairs beautifully with the beer.
It's a gorgeous little patio, offering you an unfettered glimpse of Ossington over the peaked points of the white picket fence as you enjoy your beer around a picnic bench. In truth, if the patio is too bustling, you can take a seat at the bar and enjoy essentially the same experience--the bar sits in a repurposed auto shop, with an open front.
One word: creative. The lamb tongue with ground walnuts and golden raisins is unexpectedly filling for $4, while the pulled crispy pork on a bun with daikon and carrot salad ($15) is an elevated take on the lowly burger. You'll also find dishes such as grilled oysters ($4 each or 6 for $18), spice-rubbed chicken thighs with radish onion salad ($15). The menu is remarkably affordable given the complexity, and the dishes arrive appropriately small in due consideration of the large quantities of heavy beer you'll no doubt consume. Oh, and there's duck heart ($4) with charred jalapeno oil--just sayin'.
The beers at Bellwoods are about as delicious and complicated as that shy poet girl (or boy) you secretly crushed on (hard) in high school. I both love and am frustrated by them, and you might be, too, so I'd recommend taste-testing the draught menu, one small glass at a time ($3 each). Stand-outs are the Berliner Weisse (3.7% and $7.50), a soured, yeasty beer that somehow pulls off bright, citrus notes, while ye olde standby is undoubtedly the Farmhouse Saison ($7.50)--it's refreshing, it's 6%, and it doesn't work too hard to overwhelm your palate. Unlike, say, the Toil & Trouble Dubbbel (8.7% and $8) which delivers the promised hints of caramel and spice, along with a wallop of dates.
And of course, there's the Witchshark (9% and $8.50), which I'm told is often ordered blindly based on the name alone, and the whimsical sketch of a Witchshark (body of a witch, head of a shark, riding a broom, obviously) hanging above the bar. It's hoppy--it might, in fact, be all hop, no substance.
They also have bottles such as the Rochefort 10 ($15) and Tripel Karmeliet ($12), and a modest selection of wines available by the glass or bottle.
Bellwoods Brewery is still quite young, and the much-touted arrival of the Farmhouse IPA--for which they'll be installing taps in the next few weeks--will add another title to an already unique and diverse list. Also expect several summer beers, which the bartender cheekily informs me that she's tasted and loved.
Bellwoods Brewery's patio, like the rest of its two-floor spread, doesn't accept reservations. They're planning to build a retractable awning in the coming months as it's currently open, but the neighbouring buildings offer some shade in the early evening. Also, due to the alcohol content of some of these beers, pitchers would almost invite rowdiness, and besides, these are craft beers--best savored in small sips.
BY THE NUMBERS
Capacity: 40 on the patio, 40 inside
Pulled crispy pork on bun will set you back: $15.00
Weekday patio hours: 5 p.m. - 12 a.m.
Weekend patio hours: 5 p.m. - 1 a.m.
Photos by Jesse Milns