Toronto beer

10 bars & pubs where Toronto beer experts go to drink

While we've covered the spots with the best beer selection in Toronto, that doesn't necessarily mean those are the best places in which to drink a beer. Indeed, the right spot for enjoying a pint depends on a combination of things, from the beer selection to the ambiance, to the wait staff, to the food.

So where do the Torontonians who spend their time writing about, brewing, and pouring beer like to drink? I polled a handful of experts from the city's beer scene to find out their favourite spots to head to when they just need to relax with a pint.

Bar Hop
"If I'm on my own or with a few friends, I go to Bar Hop on King/Spadina. Aside from its close proximity to my day job (which is very convenient), they have a wonderful, insanely huge, and ever-changing selection of beers. I can always rely on trying something I've never had before at Bar Hop. It's also fun to chat with the staff as they really know their stuff."
Robin LeBlanc, beer blogger, The Thirsty Wench

Bar Volo
"Volo is the obvious choice for beer selection, so much so that I feel uncool for mentioning it as my favourite spot. It can be a little packed at times, which is why I love to go soon after they open on a Sunday. It's a quieter, more relaxed experience - a great time to talk to whoever is behind the bar or do some light reading while enjoying the best that Ontario breweries have to offer."
Mike Warner, beer blogger, A Year of Beer!

"Favourite spot for a pint is Volo's patio on a Friday afternoon. Always a fresh cask on and at least one or two new beers to try."
Iain MacOustra, Head Brewer, Amsterdam Brewing Company

Bryden's
"Bryden's is my bar for a few reasons. First, geography: it's about halfway between Great Lakes and home, and only a 15 minute walk. That makes it pretty difficult not to stop in and see what's on tap most days. Second, comfort: Bryden's is small enough to remain intimate and the service has always been good and friendly.

When it opened 15 years ago, many bars in the West end were lazy with their food menu; a lot of chicken fingers and tater tots. Bryden's tried a little harder. For me, even if I'm not eating, I enjoy my beer more if a know a bar works hard on their food. Last but certainly not least, there is a solid beer list which has continued to improve and evolve over the years."
Mike Lackey, Experimental Brewer at Great Lakes Brewing Company

Castro's Lounge
"I know everybody there, there's four casks, awesome bottles, and vegetarian food. Plus it's about a 5 minute walk from my front door, so Castro's feels like an extension of my home."
Chris Shryer, beer blogger at TorontoBeerBlog.com

"If none of the casks or taps is tempting you, go up and peruse the beer fridges for hidden gems. Lots of Communist-related imagery on the walls, and loads of wooden furniture that looks like it was rescued from the curb. A hidden gem out in the Beaches."
Mike Warner, beer blogger, A Year of Beer!

C'est What
"If I'm with a large group, I tend to lean towards C'est What on Church/Front, as the venue is not cramped and the sound is at a reasonable volume, which is ideal when I don't feel like getting lost in a crowd or have to strain to hear the person on the other end of the table. Aside from that, the selection is pretty decent and the food is wonderful. The experience is best if your group can score the couches by the fireplace."
Robin LeBlanc, beer blogger, The Thirsty Wench

"if I had to pick just one place to grab a pint in Toronto, I'd head to C'est What. As soon as you walk down the steps I feel warm and comfortable. It has great lighting, a variety of seating arrangements, two awesome bars with an extensive selection of Ontario beer, but most importantly, it has the fireplace. Love that fireplace; You can kind of sit there content forever with a beer in your hand and your feet up."
Chris Burek, Managing Editor, Mom 'n Hops

Toronto beer

Kensington Market
"When I'm in the Market, Cold Tea and Thirsty & Miserable are my go-to places. I usually start with Cold Tea for a couple of bourbon sours and Labatt 50s, then I try to make it for last call at Thirsty and Miserable for a Peche Mortel [from Dieu du Ciel! in Quebec and imported here via the Morana family-owned Keep6 Imports]. That is the usual combo if the night ends at the market. During the day however, it's Embassy or Ronnie's Local where I'll typically drink Black Oak Pale Ale, Great Lakes' Devil's Pale Ale, or Delirium."
Julian Morana, Operations Manager for barVolo

Le Select Bistro
"My favourite remains Le Select Bistro. My wife and I are pretty much regulars there, which means they'll usually find us a table and welcome us with a smile, no matter how busy it might be. Plus, since my wife can't drink beer, it helps that they have a great wine program and good cocktails to complement a decent assortment of taps and bottles. And the food, it goes without saying, is superlative."
Stephen Beaumont, beer and spirits writer and blogger, co-author of The World Atlas of Beer

Monarch Tavern
"A spot down the street from where I live. Not a lot of people know it, but they actually have the best selection in Little Italy for craft beer. You can find Great Lakes one-offs, Bellwoods, and they even have a cask engine! I usually go there when it's a low-key night with some Volo staff. It's hidden and they have darts and Seinfeld Trivia."
Julian Morana, Operations Manager for barVolo

The Only Cafe
"In the past few years Fabian Skidmore has really honed in the focus of the bar on craft beer and The Only is now a destination for craft beer. They've got 24 rotating taps and a cask engine. They are also one of the few places in the city who offer flights of beer--five for a tenner.

They don't have a kitchen so you are welcome to bring in your own food; my personal favourite is chicken souvlaki on a bun (hold the onions) from Square Boy just across the street, and it's not uncommon to see folks walking in with boxes of pizza.

Plus, the staff in the place keep it real. They all possess the two required characteristics for the job: being friendly and surly. It's bar-service only so grab your cash and wait patiently. It'll be worth it."
Chris Grimley, webmaster for the beer blog Beer With Me TO

Tequila Bookworm
"I've been starting to go to Tequila Bookworm more lately. Most of the times I've gone in there it's been quiet, not too busy and dimly lit, which is perfect if I want to get some writing done or have a contemplative pint. The beer selection is impressive, and I love that they have a decent selection of wines and ciders so I don't feel like I'm choosing a lesser option if I feel like something different."
Robin LeBlanc, beer blogger, The Thirsty Wench

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