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Eat & Drink

New Toronto patios for 2012: Bellwoods Brewery

Posted by Alexandra Grigorescu / June 8, 2012

bellwoods brewery patioBellwoods 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.

The Scene
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.

The Eats
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'.

bellwoods brewery torontoThe Drinks
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.

Key features
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.

Other Details
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.

beer patio ossingtonBY 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.

A big thanks to Shock Top for sponsoring our patio adventures.

Photos by Jesse Milns



JoeParez / June 8, 2012 at 10:13 am
Oh my goodness, I think I just wet myself. This place is the best and now has a patio to boot!
Matt / June 8, 2012 at 10:52 am
I don't understand how Toronto food and booze emporiums come up with their business hours. For example, there is a frozen yogurt place on Roncy called Gurts. I have a terrible weakness for self-serve frozen yogurt shops, and since I live in the neighbourhood this should be my go-to place, but they close at 7 pm. There's like, 2 whole hours of sunshine left! I don't even get home from work until 6 pm!

And this Bellwoods Brewery... why wait until 5 to open? You've got probably the coolest, most Montreal-esque patio going in Toronto, yet you wait until it starts to cool off before letting people in? I don't get it. Saturday afternoon in the summer is like, you know, the time to drink outside.
John Coates / June 8, 2012 at 10:55 am
I have to disagree with the review of the Witchshark Double IPA. It is easily one of the best beers in Ontario and totally has substance for it's style. Ratebeer reviews:

Either way, I love Bellwoods. It's a great addition to Toronto. And the patio just makes it that much better.
Ashok / June 8, 2012 at 11:18 am
"it might, in fact, be all hop, no substance" is nonsense.

All tastes are subjective, but for me it's one of the best and most balanced double IPAs in the province, without hiding behind the booziness to mask some lack of character.
Jessica / June 8, 2012 at 11:33 am
I love this place: the service, food, beer, and atmosphere are wonderful.

How long do you think cute little places like this will survive if Reserve Properties' 109OZ 86 unit, effectively 8-story (75 feet high) condo proposal gets approved and goes up across the street from Bellwoods? If that precedent gets set, developers are going to be salivating to buy up Ossington's small-scale spaces for a song and replace them with massively profitable big-box condos.

Save your local brewery: join (also on Facebook), and come to the Community Consultation meeting on Monday, June 25, 6:30-8:30pm, at Trinity Bellwoods Recreation Centre, 155 Crawford Street.
m replying to a comment from Matt / June 8, 2012 at 12:47 pm
i agree - if there is one thing that is holding toronto back from being interesting, it's the non-sensical hours most establishments hold - clothing stores, butchers, restaurants. it exposes a deep amateurism when it comes to the service industry.
danielle replying to a comment from Matt / June 8, 2012 at 01:52 pm
Completely in agreement. Like a growing number of people, my husband and I are self-employed. As a way of enjoying a little adult time, we like to sneak out for an afternoon of food and drink most Fridays before picking up our kid from daycare. However it's frustrating how difficult it can be to find places that serve interesting food and brews and open before 5pm. Such a missed opportunity, as different people like to play at different times of the day.

As for Bellwoods Brewery, on a recent child-free weekend we were able to spend a couple of hours at the bar on a beautiful Saturday evening. Great service, great beer, great food. These guys have really nailed it.

Jessica: That's troubling news. Thanks for the heads-up.
Jay replying to a comment from Matt / June 8, 2012 at 03:23 pm
They're starting to open on some afternoons next week.
Bruce Mandrake / June 8, 2012 at 03:42 pm
You people are dumb. It's all your fault. People don't get involved in municipal politics. People call me all the time and tell me that they want condos.

People want condos. CONDOS CONDOS CONDOS.

And plastic bags. BAGS BAGS BAGS.
Matt replying to a comment from Jay / June 8, 2012 at 04:04 pm
That's good news that they'll be opening in the afternoons. I wish there were more street-side patios where one could sit in public, enjoy a brew and people watch. That's, like, my favorite part of life and it's what makes Montreal so damn special in the summer.
bobby replying to a comment from Jessica / June 8, 2012 at 04:29 pm
We are downtown.

Downtown requires density.

I would be fine with a 5 or 6 storey max height on Ossington.
Jessica replying to a comment from bobby / June 8, 2012 at 05:55 pm
I (and Smart Growth for Ossington) am all for more density---see the FAQ at More density will hopefully bring things like an urban grocery store to the hood. We just want smart growth, like the new building housing the Born gallery that just went up on Ossington north of Argyle, or the condo going up on the NW corner of Queen and Ossington. Such projects show that increased density is compatible with sensitivity to neighborhood character and existing built form.

BTW, 109OZ advertises itself as a 6-story, but with its close to 2-story lobby and 11.5 foot "mechanical penthouse", it's 25 meters high (where the by-law maximum is 14 meters high)---really the height of an 8 story building in an area of 1-3 story buildings. The proposed building is also long and deep: 9 storefronts wide by 41 meters deep. Compared to existing buildings on the strip and surrounding areas it's enormous---we're going to post a visual on SGO soon (of course the marketing visuals try to play this down, even unto being factually incorrect). It's simply too big for the existing surround.

This isn't just about visuals; it's also about how a pass on this profit-heavy proposal will produce a land rush on all those small-scale buildings on Ossington that (a) give the strip and its businesses its charm, and (b) as existing construction have comparatively reasonable rents. Goodbye, Ossington? We hope not... compatible with increased density.
lol / June 8, 2012 at 06:18 pm
Would it kill them to sell an affordable beer this is getting insane... only in Toronto shit like this flies, and Vancouver maybe
Lioness / June 8, 2012 at 09:06 pm
The patio looks great but as a non-smoker, what I need in a patio review is an indication if the said patio is full of smoke and smokers.
Chris on Brant St replying to a comment from lol / June 8, 2012 at 11:38 pm
Agreed. As I posted on another review of Bellwoods, a recent visit to San Diego introduced me to the fact that local brews can be had for $3-4 a pint in other major cities.
Tony / June 9, 2012 at 02:55 pm
The beer? INCREDIBLE. Have had every beer on the menu and they are all great. The food? embarrassingly bad. Have given the food 3 tries and everytime it has been extremely under par. Good thing there are plenty of incredible places to eat in the West end. Won't be eating here again, but will absolutely support the brewery.
Claire replying to a comment from Lioness / June 12, 2012 at 08:27 pm
I asked and they are smoke-free. No smokers or ash trays in sight. Hope that helps...
Ben replying to a comment from Chris on Brant St / June 18, 2012 at 07:28 am
It's all well and good to say that craft beer in the US is so much cheaper and that Toronto beer fans are getting "screwed," but the truth isn't so simple. American brewers aren't hamstrung by archaic legislation that makes it difficult to make profits selling their beer.

In Ontario, brewers can only sell their beers at the LCBO, the beer store, or their retail location. That's it. In the US, craft beer is far less regulated so they're free to offer their beer for lower prices and the increased availability creates competition that drives prices down.

So you're right that we're getting screwed, but not by the brewers. These guys are making a craft beer made on-site that is really, really good. And yes, it costs a little more. But it's well worth it.
RC replying to a comment from Ben / June 18, 2012 at 12:11 pm
Ben - actually, they can sell to other licensees directly.
Ben replying to a comment from RC / June 18, 2012 at 01:32 pm
Yes, naturally. My bad. Of course they can sell to bars, too.

I should have been clearer that I was talking about retail sales in Ontario.
Cal / June 19, 2012 at 12:38 pm
I disagree about the beer prices at Bellwoods.
I paid $7.50 for a bottle of beer at the Dog and Bear on Queen W last week, and I paid $6.50 last night for a pint of Bellwood's Common Ale, which was a far better beer. Also, if you're getting an 8 or 9 % alcohol craft beer, you SHOULD be paying a premium on it.

if you want cheap beer, go to the LCBO and pick up a can of PBR. If you want fantastic beer at a fair price, support your local brewers at Bellwoods.
Taylor / June 25, 2012 at 10:19 pm
I really look forward to trying this place! Patio is so quaint but has great energy at night! Stopped by and asked the hostess a few questions and she was really kind and helpful. See you soon, Bellwoods Brewery!
TG / July 2, 2012 at 07:17 pm
Really wanted to like this place. Service was great but the food wasn't very good at all. The cheese tray was put together in such a sloppy manner(thrown on a cheap plate/no accompaniments) , and served with thick bread that overpowered the cheese. Lambs tounge skewer was good but the duck hearts tasted only of the oil they put on the outside, and very one dimensional. The beer (bière de garde) was also really heavy for patio drinking and couldn't be consumed at the same time as the food. Also take note that their pints are 16oz not the standard Canadian 20oz.

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