The Best Microbrewery in Toronto
The best microbreweries in Toronto used to comprise a pretty short list. In fact, the last time we did one of these lists, we were compelled to pad it with some great-in-their-own-right neighbouring brewers like Wellington Brewery in Guelph, County Durham Brewing Company in Pickering, Cameron's Brewing in Oakville, and Flying Monkeys in Barrie. These days, however, it's a testament to city's thriving craft beer scene that we not only easily populated a list with brewers from Toronto proper, but that there were so very many places making great beer in the city.
Here, with reader input, is a list of the best microbreweries in Toronto.
See also: The Best Beer Selection in Toronto
Things have moved pretty quickly for Bellwoods Brewery from their humble beginnings as an upstart brewpub in a former garage to one of the hottest spots on Ossington. And while the decor, clientele, and location lend much to the brewery's cachet, make no mistake; Bellwoods has earned its spot at the top of the list for one reason: their exceptional beer. Available at the brewpub, in bottles at their retail store, and in a handful of bars, the ever-changing lineup of experimental beer from Bellwoods Brewery is helping put this city on the map as a craft beer destination.
Great Lakes Brewery
The oldest independent brewer in the city doesn't show any signs of slowing down. With an eye toward experimentation that largely began with their first seasonal offerings back in 2006, Great Lakes Brewery has blossomed into a company with a well-earned reputation for brewing some of the most innovative and tasty beers in the country — and people have taken notice: Just this year, GLB took home top honours at the Canadian Brewing Awards by being named Canada's 2013 Brewery of the Year.
Mill Street Brewery
The city's biggest craft brewer, Mill Street's ability to grow as a company seems to be matched only by their ongoing desire to try new things. Sure, they've clearly got some rather "corporate" designs as evidenced by their expansion to Ottawa and Pearson airport, but they also continue to make excellent, boundary-pushing beer — not to mention biershnaps, the country's only booze distilled from beer.
One of the city's oldest craft brewers, Amsterdam has shown they're far from content to rest on their laurels. With a new brewery in Leaside and a massive waterfront brewpub in the works, Amsterdam has shown they understand the province's brewing scene well, and on top of all that, they've continued to brew innovative and interesting experimental beers in addition to their hugely popular core brands.
Indie Ale House
With their do-it-yourself sensibilities and a philosophical bent diametrically opposed to the way the big brewers conduct business, Indie Alehouse is a brewery ideally suited to the Junction's working class vibe. They brew a phenomenal line up of beer and, along with Junction Craft and a handful of supportive bars and restaurants, are at the heart of the booze-fuelled renaissance the neighbourhood is currently enjoying.
Junction Craft Brewing
With their love of experimentation, the constantly changing list of beers on offer at Junction Craft's former-loading-bay location is something like a beer nerd's dream. Probably best known for their flagship Conductor's Craft which is brewed at Wellington Brewery, their namesake location is used to produce a plethora of small batch goodies where those in the know queue up for tastings and bottle sales.
Black Oak Brewery
Thanks to their rather low-key approach to marketing and promotion, for a long time Black Oak brewery was something like a best kept secret among the city's beer drinkers. Fortunately for them — and for us — it's hard to keep a good thing a secret and seemingly by virtue of the quality of their great beer, Black Oak has found a home in the fridges and bellies of Toronto's beer drinkers.
With their iconic green bottle and the association that most Ontarians have with drinking their beer before a Jays game, Steam Whistle is a brand and a beer that's become uniquely linked to the city's craft beer scene. They're active in Toronto charities and sports, they support the arts in the city and, most importantly, they brew a great, refreshing and crisp European-style pilsner.
Kensington Brewing Company
Having just celebrated their second birthday, the Market's local brewery has fairly quickly found a place in the hearts of the city's beer drinkers. Their flagship beer, Augusta Ale has become ubiquitous in LCBOs and their two other Kensington-Market-themed offerings enjoy a cult following in their own right (and will soon join Augusta on LCBO shelves). And if it wasn't already clear to the city's beer drinkers, the news that they'll soon have an actual brewery in the market proves that KBCo isn't going anywhere any time soon.
Long known as a great beer bar, the family-owned business has been churning out excellent beer in a variety of styles under the unassuming moniker "House Ales," that demonstrate they've clearly been paying attention as they sling pints of some of the best beer offered in Toronto. The batches are small but impressive and are frequently brewed in collaboration with the city's best brewers — most of whom have been known to pop into Volo for a pint or two.
It says something about the city's beer drinkers and their loyalty to folks trying to do something innovative in the world of beer that Duggan's is still on this list. For a short time Duggan's had a home at a brewpub at 75 Victoria Street where beer fans embraced the new venture from Mill Street's co-founder; however, now that the brewpub has closed, Mike Duggan is contract brewing his great Number 9 IPA and his Number 5 Sorachi Lager and people continue to support it.
Denison's Brewing Company
While Michael Hancock's brewery has seen ups and downs — (also) once occupying the brewpub at 75 Victoria but (also) forced out by the high rent, Denison's is now brewed at Cool Brewery; however, one thing has been consistent since he started: Namely his absolutely world class beer. Denison's Weissbier, a German Hefeweissen that consistently ranks among some of the best versions of that style, was for a longtime found only on tap for a number of years. Now available in cans through the LCBO, Hancock's more humble status as a contract brewer has done nothing to diminish his exceptional beer.
Doing their thing just south of Eglinton for over 20 years, the family owned Granite Brewery might be the city's best value when it comes to craft beer. Their brewpub crafts an assortment of fantastic beers that are not only all-natural, but also available at exceedingly reasonable prices. Recent years have seem them add things like Hopping Mad to their lineup in line with current trends, but the Granite still specializes in English style ales and they do what they do well enough to have been recognized as the best brewpub in Ontario at last year's Golden Tap awards.
While this nanobrewery's location in a cool Dundas west bar with free arcade games might have helped it gain enough exposure to make this list, the small beer produced there is very much worthy of mention among the city's best. The lineup of beers offered changes often, but their Get Well Porter and Pinball Wizard are nothing short of fantastic (and are every bit as worth the visit as the free Operation Wolf).
Left Field Brewery
Toronto's new kid on the block, Left Field Brewery seems to have charmed their way into Toronto beer drinkers hearts not just with exceptional baseball-themed marketing, but also with fantastic beer. They've only officially unveiled two styles of beer thus far — a double IPA and an oatmeal stout — but both are outstanding. Contract brewing with an eye to opening their own location, it's a safe bet you'll be hearing a lot more from them in the future.
Spearhead Brewing Company
Contract brewed at Cool Brewery in Etobicoke, Spearhead boasts "Beer without Boundaries" and they live up to the promise. Their flagship beer, a Hawaiian pale ale, brings a twist to a style that's enjoying massive popularity in Ontario by adding a little taste of pineapple and passionfruit to their hoppy west coast style beer. They recently added a Moroccan Brown ale to their regular lineup and it too brings something unique to the city's beer scene.
Black Creek Historic Brewery
While you may think of Black Creek Pioneer Village as a boring place you got dragged to in elementary school — first, shame on you, you philistine, and second — you should know that they also brew some pretty good beer out there. They've got a regular lineup of four styles and even do some seasonal offerings and one-offs. On top of all that, the brewery makes that beer using techniques, tools, and recipes used by brewers in 1860s Ontario. Plus: Cosplay!
Actually something more like a conglomerate than a brewery proper, the folks from Hogtown Brewery are friends and rugby teammates who decided the city needed an easy-to-drink local beer so they contracted Cool Brewery to make one. The result is the remarkably inoffensive HogTown Ale, a Kolsch that's proven successful enough for the brewers that they opted to add a second beer, an IPA (naturally), to their lineup.