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Eat & Drink

Inside the new Mill Street Beer Hall

Posted by Ben Johnson / April 8, 2013

Mill Street BreweryA few weeks ago Mill Street Brewery announced an extension to the Mill Street Brew Pub with the launch of a second location, dubbed The Beer Hall. The new location aims to take a sophisticated approach to the classic Bavarian beer hall and boasts not only an elaborate system that delivers beer directly from the nearby brewery but also an impressive still that will be used to distill biershnaps, a dry spirit that's not available anywhere else in Canada, meaning that for the first time in 70 years, spirits will again be distilled in the Distillery District.

I spoke recently via e-mail with Mill Street's brewmaster-cum-distiller, Joel Manning and Chef Elizabeth Rivasplata, who will be helming the new location's kitchen, about what Torontonians can expect at The Beer Hall and what exactly biershnaps is all about.

Can you tell me a little bit about biershnaps? Not only is no one in Toronto making it, I'm pretty sure you can't even buy it anywhere in the city (or maybe even the country?). What exactly is it and what does it taste like?

Joel: "Bierschnaps is not available in Canada — certainly not on a regular basis as far as we know anyways — and we are the only Bierschnaps distillery here. It's a spirit that is classically made in Germany by distilling beer into a clear, colourless spirit and adding a small amount of cane sugar. It is different from American schnapps which is a liqueur and very sweet — our Bierschnaps is quite dry and designed to show off the quality of the spirit, not mask it with sugar. It's made through a double distillation process that involves a beer still and a copper spirit still with a rectifying column that produces a very smooth, pure spirit. The distinctive malt and hop character of our beers are distilled with the alcohol and make our Bierschnaps a perfect accompaniment for a pint of your favourite Mill Street beer.

We'll have biershnaps brewed using a few of our beers and each will have unique characteristics. Our Tankhouse Bierschnaps will embody the bold flavours and smoothness of this beer, with Cascade hops on the nose and finish but with our signature five malts used in this beer providing a smooth maltiness reminiscent of an unaged single malt whisky. This biershnaps is 45% ABV.

Mill Street Beer HallWhere did that gorgeous still come from?

Joel: "The still was built by Kothe Distilling Technologies in Germany. It is a pair of stills actually — the stainless steel beer still and then the copper spirit still that does the second distillation along with the copper rectifying column."

Who will serve as your master distiller? Are you doing double duty as brewmaster?

Joel: "I'll oversee the operation of the still and development of the Schnaps and other products that we develop, but the day to day operation of the still will be done by Kaitlin Vandenbosch. Kaitlin has an MSc in Brewing and Distilling from Heriott-Watt University in Edinburgh."

Will we eventually see biershnaps for sale in the bottle, or is this something that will be exclusive to The Beer Hall? Can we anticipate an eventual LCBO release?

Joel: "The Bierschnaps will be exclusive to the Beer Hall and our retail store at the Brewpub in the Distillery District. You will be able to order it at our bars to drink in the pub alongside your favourite Mill Street beer or buy bottles of it in our retail store to take home. We will likely release it to the LCBO at some point in the near future but we don't have a date for that yet."

Mill Street Beer HallAny plans to broaden distilling operations? I know that you need to age whisky three years before you can sell it in Canada. Any chance there's a secret cellar at The Beer Hall with something awesome aging in barrels? Or is there Mill Street vodka or gin on the horizon?

Joel: "We will only make Bierschnaps to begin with — we are brewers first and foremost and we are making the Schnaps because it is a directly derivative product of our beer and it is delicious. There are a lot of vodkas and gins out there and we're not interested in getting into that game, but we will make malt whisky in the near future and squirrel some barrels away to bring out when it is ready in several years.

We have been working on recipes for it and we are very confident that we can make extraordinary whisky on this still — the double distillation technique that we are using is classically what is used to make whisky. Being at the Distillery District where millions of gallons of whisky were made over the years, I think that the ghosts of distillers past would be angry with us if we didn't.

We'll are also getting into some oak aging with our Schnaps products and will be coming out with a "Hopfenschnaps" which is a stronger (55% ABV) version of our Bierschnaps but loaded up with a ton of varietal hops. It is the hoppiest thing you have ever tasted in your life but it has no bitterness at all since the bittering acids don't come forward when you distill hops."

Can you tell me a little bit about the draught delivery system? Is beer actually piped directly from the brewery to these taps and to the still?

Joel: "Yes! The draught lines run through copper pipes overhead from the brewery directly to the bars in the Beer Hall so the customers can see exactly where their beer is coming from. Four of these copper pipes bring beer from the brewery to the two bars in the Beer Hall and the fifth pipe brings beer from the brewery to the Bierschnaps distillery. Our beer is the raw material for the Bierschnaps."

Will the Beer Hall feature a different beer lineup than the brew pub? Or can we expect beer exclusive to the new location?

Joel: "There are three new beers being made for the opening of the Beer Hall that will be available permanently. They are:

1. Minimus Dubbel (8.5% ABV). This is a classical dark brown Belgian abbey-style beer made with a variety of malts and traditional Belgian candy sugar. It has a soured mash in order to give it a slight acidity to offset the sweetness of the malt and the sugar and has aged hops used in it which is traditional for this style of beer. The Minimus also has French oak infusion spirals in it to give it an oaky softness that is also typical of these beers. It is served unfiltered. The name is from the latin expression "minima maxima sunt" (The smallest things are most important — Ben)

2. Distillery Ale (6% ABV) This is a copper coloured English-style Old Ale made with English floor malted maris-otter pale malt and caramel and chocolate malt and a whole pile of English Fuggles and Goldings hops. Old Ales are similar to Barley Wines only smaller. This is a style of English Ale that would have been around back in the old days of the Distillery District and the founders would have been very familiar with.

3. Ampel Weiss (3.8% ABV) This is a Berliner-style Weissbier made with a lactic fermentation and a blend of wheat and barley malts. Pale straw coloured, this is a very dry beer with a profound sour tartness that makes it extremely refreshing. We will serve this in the traditional way giving drinkers the choice of drinking it straight or with a "Schuss" (a shot) of raspberry syrup or woodruff syrup (imported from Germany). The beer is pale amber, the raspberry syrup is crimson red and the woodruff syrup is bright green which creates a "traffic light" (Ampel in German) effect when you try a flight of all three versions together at the Beer Hall."

Mill Street Beer HallWhat about the food? Can we expect fancier fare, or will this be strictly bar food?

Elizabeth: "The menu is a sharing-style menu: seasonal, fun, and unpretentious. We'll be playing with some bar classics too and giving them our own twist."

I see that beer-infused items will be featured on the menu. Can you tell me what sort of food that will include? Will there be a variety of Mill Street beers incorporated?

Elizabeth: "We are trying to incorporate beer in most of the dishes from savoury to desserts. I would say 80% to 90% of the menu contains beer. We'll use Mill Street Organic to make flatbread dough fresh daily, we'll have Green Thai Curry mussels made with Mill Street Lemon Tea, braised short ribs with house-brewed beer glaze, Charcuterie boards with house-made cured meats like Tankhouse Ale bratwurst, and wild boar bratwurst. Additionally, all the menu items will feature a suggested beer pairing from Joel."

The Mill Street Beer Hall will officially open on Thursday, April 18th and the space's covered, 100-foot courtyard patio will likely open in mid-May in time for their grand opening party on Thursday May 23rd.

Ben Johnson also writes about beer over on Ben's Beer Blog.



Ling Gu / April 8, 2013 at 03:21 pm
I really look forward to checking this out.
James / April 8, 2013 at 03:34 pm
Organic, Stock Ale, Tankhouse. All yum. And I love the idea of Bierschnaps. That said the whole upscale approach to a beer hall is grotesque. Hipster douchebag overdrive.
Susan replying to a comment from James / April 8, 2013 at 03:39 pm
Really? I think this looks great. The draft lines in particular are wicked. Incidentally, I disagree with you re: Organic. Not so yum. Their other beers are killer though.
Beer Guy / April 8, 2013 at 03:40 pm
I fail to see how this is "hipster douchebag overdrive". If anything, it's a little too slick for my liking. Quite the opposite of Parkdale grnge.
Beer Guy replying to a comment from Susan / April 8, 2013 at 03:48 pm
I have to agree. I love, love, love Mill St. beers. But anytime a whole bunch of Mill St product in a cooler, the very last ones to be snagged will inevitably be the Organic. Stock a close second. But this is splitting hairs because they really do have awesome product. We're lucky to have a brewery of this calbibre to call our own. Recently visited Brooklyn Brewery and thought "really tasty stuck, but I'll stick with my hometown Mill St., thanks". Again, not to dump on BB, it's just that Mill sets the bar pretty high. My only complaint is they aren't getting more new styles out the door in bottle/can-form. You can always taste their new stuff at the depot, but it would be nice to always know I could hit my local LCBO too.
Beer Guy 2 / April 8, 2013 at 03:59 pm
Oops...I just threw in the name Beer Guy without realzing that the guy before me posted with that name too. I am not him, Beer Guy, but a fellow beer lovin' Torontonian. Wth bad eyes, apparently. :)

And I agree with his comment too...this isn't at all hipstery. In fact, the Distillery District is kinda anti-hipster. Yuppie douchbag, maybe. But not hipster.
Confused / April 8, 2013 at 04:32 pm
It looks like a sushi restaurant.
Stankhaus / April 8, 2013 at 04:35 pm
Totally yuppie douche bag!
Odd / April 8, 2013 at 05:16 pm
Very impersonal looking.

Not what a Bier Hall is all about.
E. Toby Coke replying to a comment from Confused / April 8, 2013 at 05:24 pm
"It looks like a sushi restaurant."

My thoughts exactly. It's a really nice-looking place, but I prefer my beer halls to be somewhat barbaric.

AA / April 8, 2013 at 05:39 pm
And when the quality could not be commented on, they cried about aesthetics.
seanm / April 8, 2013 at 06:21 pm
Tankhouse Ale, one of my favourite all-around beers. That said, regarding Brooklyn Brewery, no one in Ontario brews a lager as good as theirs. Most local lager offerings are bland (excluding speciality versions like keller and bocks of course), and aren't much better than the macros.
J / April 8, 2013 at 06:44 pm
Though Mill Street is far from my favourite beer, I'm glad they're doing well - and even happier to hear they're going to be doing whisky in the nearish future. Though hopefully they'll hire a different designer on the next place - this is looking like a suburban home crashing into a sushi restaurant, with a small sprinkling of parkdale on top. We have some of the best interior designers in the world in this city - call one of 'em up next time!
piero replying to a comment from Confused / April 8, 2013 at 07:01 pm
I also think it looks like a sushi restaurant. Not quite my idea of a beer hall, not even a sophisticated one. Are they confused or is this really a restaurant leveraging their beer brand? If so stick with what you know which isn't food.
Sean / April 8, 2013 at 07:58 pm
I quite agree, it does look more like a sushi bar.

The wood-panel walls should have been brick for a warmer feel of the area and the booth... yuck - Ikea furniture!

The "sharing-style menu" won't work with many people.

Not too late for a restaurant makeover to rid the sushi 'feel' of the place. HURRY!!!
Bruce Mandrake / April 8, 2013 at 08:00 pm
I hope Pabst is a guest tap! #blueribbontrueoriginal
Beer Guy / April 8, 2013 at 08:53 pm
I agree with Beer Guy.
Tony / April 8, 2013 at 09:55 pm
Love Mill Street...and especially taste. This place though is as if the design and product/name are opposing forces..however, maybe that will work...can wait to get in there and see/sample for myself.
Tony / April 8, 2013 at 09:56 pm
Love Mill Street...and especially taste. This place though is as if the design and product/name are opposing forces..however, maybe that will work...can't wait to get in there and see/sample for myself.
John / April 8, 2013 at 10:17 pm
Am I blind or is there no mention of where this new location is?
Ben / April 8, 2013 at 10:26 pm
The Beer Hall is attached to the brew pub, thus the line piping in the draught beer. Sorry if that wasn't clear.
the lemur replying to a comment from John / April 8, 2013 at 10:34 pm
I don't see it either. I looked online and it appears to be connected to the existing brewpub in the Distillery District. Guess that seemed too obvious for blogTO to mention.
Toronto Tour Guy / April 8, 2013 at 11:21 pm
I've been inside a few times already with their staff, and the photos (though nice) don't do it justice. You'll have to wait for it to open to see how awesome it is. And if you think this place isn't for you, it looks like a sushi restaurant, or you don't want to sit at communal tables with "douchebags" of any kind, then please don't come. There will be shorter lines for the rest of us who do want to get in.
Firefox / April 8, 2013 at 11:24 pm
So Mill Street announces a bunch of new beers, bierschnapps, Mill Street whisky (potentially), and most of the comments are related to... Interior design?
TRG / April 9, 2013 at 08:44 am
"The menu is a sharing-style menu: seasonal, fun, and unpretentious."

...I don't share well.
o.o.k. / April 9, 2013 at 09:01 am
Mill Street Organic is swill. Anybody with a decent palette can't stomach the stuff. Never understood how it sells so well.. all hype and marketing from the Mill St wizards. Tank house is a good beer, looking forward to visiting place out. Cheers.
Sham / April 9, 2013 at 09:39 am
I drank too much Tankhouse last nightband I blacked out. My bum hurts.
Martin replying to a comment from Firefox / April 9, 2013 at 10:52 am
This article is about the venue, not the beer. A great hall has everything to do with creating a large, open and inviting social space to swill beer, be it down your throat or on the floor. The jury is still out on this place, but judging by the photos what we have here is not really a bier hall but a yuppie malted bevarge emporium.
Rodney replying to a comment from Martin / April 9, 2013 at 11:01 am
The TITLE of the article is about the venue, the actual text is about biershnaps, new beers, potential Mill Street whisky, and food. It looks like most commenters have merely read the title and glanced at the photos...but I'm sure that's not the case...
Martin replying to a comment from Rodney / April 9, 2013 at 01:27 pm
The article is about a new bier hall and what's offered on its menu, which is entirely irrelevant because they've fucked up the concept of a bier hall.
Kidcarpenter / April 9, 2013 at 07:23 pm
All spaces look a little cold until you breathe human life into them.... The product will speak for itself, the staff will continue to deliver great service and we can all give thanks for one more great location to consume wonderful beverages produced in Canada by Canadians..... And so, the problem is what?
Rico replying to a comment from seanm / April 10, 2013 at 09:43 am
Sean, you obviously don't know much about beer. One of the beers you mentioned is a major brewer. Also, check out some other beers in Ontario.

What's also entertaining about the comments is that people think this is yuppified? Hipster? Beer and its associated places are much older than hipsters, and sushi. This place, filled with people will do just fine. Hofbrauhauses are not run down taverns, nor do they approach that silly student location The Brunswick where they re-pour pitchers of piss.

I don't like Organic. THAT is a hipster pleaser. Ironic, isn't it? Stock Ale is a go-to.
Hazel / April 10, 2013 at 11:24 pm
I wonder what their menu is offering? IMO, it looks great!! A great place for me and the girls to hang out! Slight upscale pub style that pours our favorite beer, it's definately better than the brew pub which we avoid coz its so crowded. Can't wait!! The interior work is awesome, love the wood walls!!
Hazel / April 10, 2013 at 11:26 pm
Just noticed, but, does that beer tap box float or what? Cool.
Steak frites / April 11, 2013 at 07:48 pm
Felt walls and a floating copper beer line! So cool. Great job Mill St
best comment ever! replying to a comment from Sham / April 11, 2013 at 11:02 pm
randall / April 15, 2013 at 06:54 pm
had a personal input to the new brew lines! i think they look great!
anon / April 18, 2013 at 09:58 am
Way to take the soul right out of "beer hall."
hjli / April 18, 2013 at 01:54 pm
How come you guys never list the address?
JonasOfToronto / May 11, 2013 at 06:25 pm
To me MS aren't the most innovative or amazing a brewery any more; they now seem to be more into 'packaging' (case in point - this glitzy beer hall) but the food at the original 'businessman-friendly' Brew Pub is OK these days.

I think Mill Street like to cater to the big corporate lunch accounts, so that - plus big draught accounts - must be where their buck lies these days. For hardcore Craft beer lovers in the GTA we have got new choices. Bellwoods Brewery, Indie AleHouse and others are bright stars in this ever-evolving and fast-growing Toronto & Ontario beer landscape. Can it be the original scene that was founded partly BY Tankhouse has kind of pushed it aside?
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