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Best of Toronto

The Best Microbrewery in Toronto

Posted by Ben Johnson / June 10, 2013

Microbrewery TorontoThe 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

Bellwoods Brewery
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 BreweryGreat 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.

Amsterdam Brewery
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 HouseIndie 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.

Steam WhistleSteam Whistle
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.

Bar Volo
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.

Kensington Brewing CompanyDuggan's Brewery
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.

Granite Brewery
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.

Left Field BrewingGet Well
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 BrewerySpearhead 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!

Hogtown Brewers
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.

Discussion

41 Comments

Bob / June 10, 2013 at 02:17 pm
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Mill St, really?

Bunch of Ex-NHL'ers and hang-ons brewing anything and everything under the sun in the hopes that SAB Miller will buy them.

FU and your shite beer!
Rick / June 10, 2013 at 02:31 pm
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Why is the title of this post singular, when there are something like 20 microbreweries listed here?

I am relieved though--when I saw the title and the picture I thought blogTO was naming Hogtown the city's best brewer and I nearly shit myself.
kinyobi / June 10, 2013 at 02:36 pm
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I recently went to Black Oak Brewery on a craft beer tour. The owner (Ken, I think) was amazing. The beer is simply amazing too. And even if it wasn't, I'd buy Black Oak beer for no other reason than the awesomeness of the people.
sammyk / June 10, 2013 at 03:06 pm
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Steam Whistle is pleasant enough, but hardly "the best microbrewery" in Toronto. Also, not so "micro."
Nolan / June 10, 2013 at 03:15 pm
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Amsterdam is the best - All you have to do is go on a free tour to find out why! Plus they always have unique brews coming out, so there is always something new to try. I highly recommend it
beer guy / June 10, 2013 at 03:17 pm
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Don't slag Mill St., they're still miles (km?) above anything put out by Labatt/Molson/etc. And when you're having non beer-nerds over still can't go wrong with a couple sixes of Mill St.
Bob = never tried beer before replying to a comment from Bob / June 10, 2013 at 03:29 pm
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Bob...when you're a big boy and you graduate from juice boxes and sippy cups, we'll introduce you to what MEN drink.
amsterdam = tasty but resting on its laurels a tad replying to a comment from Nolan / June 10, 2013 at 03:33 pm
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They were among the vanguard in this city, and we owe them a massive debt of gratitude for movnig the ball so very far down the field. But brewers like Mill, Black Oak, Bellwoods are all showing beer lovers how it's done now, and the 'Dam has to follow suit.

Good stuff gents, but it's time to up your game.
Frank D’Angelo replying to a comment from Bob / June 10, 2013 at 03:34 pm
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That's a really dumb call, Bob. Mill Street makes some great beer. Maybe you're thinking of Steelback?
Steam Whistle: fine or time for a change? replying to a comment from sammyk / June 10, 2013 at 03:35 pm
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I would love it if they introduced a new beer. Or even one new beer every five years. They could do "some things" instead of "one" thing right.
If/when Leon's ever leaves their home downtown... replying to a comment from sammyk / June 10, 2013 at 03:38 pm
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It would be amazing if two other (completely different) small brewers took up shop alongside Steamwhistle. God...a Wet Row. Mmmm!

Now THAT would be a tourist attraction.
Mike / June 10, 2013 at 03:52 pm
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Great selection there IMO Great Lakes, leads the charge, and Beer Academy is a new but underrated leader (probably due to not being hipster enough with it's downtown core location). Mill St and Amsterdam are disgusting though and don't fit in a classification of microbrews
evan / June 10, 2013 at 03:54 pm
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All I see here is extremely good fortune for me as a beer lover in Toronto. All of these beers have their place, they really do, and they are all a better investment than big corporate beers.
Jack Wagon / June 10, 2013 at 03:58 pm
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Quittin' time. I'm off to Indie Ale house. F*ck yeah.
Lucas replying to a comment from Mike / June 10, 2013 at 04:06 pm
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Beer Academy is owned by Molson. Hardly "microbrew," though they do their brewing onsite and try some interesting stuff.
Pacman / June 10, 2013 at 04:11 pm
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FYI: Left Field has an outstanding Oatmeal Brown Ale, not stout...
Pacman replying to a comment from Pacman / June 10, 2013 at 04:31 pm
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Oh, and Left Field also has 3 beers (Pale Ale being the third) not 2...but good article, really...
Mike replying to a comment from Lucas / June 10, 2013 at 04:32 pm
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Anything beer without preservatives pumped into it, using purely organic ingredients instead, can be classed as a microbrew. Nothing to do with how much money they have pumped into it.

So even if Heineken, or whatever the biggest brewery in the world is, wanted to stop producing their spew filth in exchange for making great tasting beer with a limited shelf life, then this would also be classed as a microbrew line.

Beer academy make some great tasting, fresh stuff, and anybody that doesn't recognise this is an irrational snob :)
Actually, no replying to a comment from Mike / June 10, 2013 at 04:35 pm
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"Anything beer without preservatives pumped into it, using purely organic ingredients instead, can be classed as a microbrew. Nothing to do with how much money they have pumped into it."

First line of wikipedia entry for "Microbrewery":

"A microbrewery is a brewery which produces a limited amount of beer."

There's no real definition of "microbrewery" but surely we can all agree it has everything to do with company size and nothing to do with being organic.
Ben replying to a comment from Pacman / June 10, 2013 at 04:48 pm
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Yes, oatmeal brown, not stout, that was a typo, thank you.

And it would seem I stand corrected on the amount of their beers available, too. I didn't know Maris* American Pale Ale was available yet. I've yet to try it.

As for your use of ellipses, I'm going to assume you don't mean them to imply sarcasm in your comments about the quality of the article and will just say thanks for the corrections!
Actually, it's about the beer replying to a comment from Actually, no / June 10, 2013 at 04:55 pm
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The only thing we should agree to, is the quality of the beer ;)

Beer quality is overwhelmingly made without preservatives, and that's why craft brews make high quality beer. Because their not producing high volume with a long shelf life. So yes, a lot of craft beer comes from independently owned breweries, but this isn't a absolute on quality.

Not that Wikipedia is God, but seeing as we're pulling the definition from there, it also states that any craft brew definition should be viewed with caution:

"The definition is not entirely consistent, but it typically applies to relatively small, independently-owned commercial breweries that employ traditional brewing methods and emphasize flavor and quality"

Now that's get back to the beer - because it's about that, no matter if it's made on a boat, in my backyard, or in fucking starship enterprise.
Matt / June 10, 2013 at 05:17 pm
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Just north of the city but King Brewery in King City is great, especially their Vienna Lager.
I hate to say it.... / June 10, 2013 at 05:49 pm
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...because we need to build up the industry, not tear it down. But I've never found a Great Lakes beer I've liked. I've tried every kind, just can't get into them. Do I need to try them on Cask, or keg??

Weren't they the ones that had that giant booth at Beer fest with the tons of different flavours to sample a few years back? Bleah.
shmamster / June 10, 2013 at 09:05 pm
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Amsterdam gets the lifetime achievement award for pioneering it all- I remember drinking at Amsterdam on John Street back in the early 90s - but man oh man do they have some atrocious packaging right now - the 416 Local Lager and the Natural Blonde bottles are awful. Sort it out, fellas.
Brian / June 10, 2013 at 09:07 pm
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Surprised you don't list C'est What here, given you list some contract brew only places here.
seanm / June 10, 2013 at 09:17 pm
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The Brewers Association defines a microbrewery as a brewery that produces less than 15,000 barrels of beer annually. Craft brewery is more open to definition, as it represents a broad genre of non macro-brewery guys (for instance, Sam Adams produces 2.5 million barrels a year, but are in no way a macro like SABMiller or Molson-Coors).

As far as the beer goes, a lot of micros/craft guys produce some swill, but most of Toronto's brewers produce at least 1 or 2 good beers. Boneshaker by Amsterdam, Tankhouse by Mill Street are great for instance, despite the fact that their big sellers are watery lagers. Toronto's craft scene has really improved over the past few years, and luckily Canada in general is finally catching up to the States' amazing scene.
Joe McPhee replying to a comment from amsterdam = tasty but resting on its laurels a tad / June 10, 2013 at 09:20 pm
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Are you kidding me? You might be looking at their flagship stuff, but if you think Amsterdam isn't innovating, you haven't been paying attention at all. They've got an authentic lactic fermented gose in the LCBO, they did a 30 line takeover at Volo in February, they are experimenting with barrel aging and spontaneous fermentation in a big way and are putting out one-offs like nobodies business. They are working with winemakers in Niagara to utilize Ontario wine barrels in their products. They collaborate widely with other Ontario brewers and have embraced the notion that a rising tide lifts all boats, rather than trying to guard their market share. Flagship beers pay the bills, but the variety and quality of their experimental stuff is incredible right now. They just moved to a brand new brewery and are opening a new lakeside location in a few weeks - to say that they're "resting on their laurels" just means you haven't been paying attention at all.
Bobette replying to a comment from Bob / June 10, 2013 at 09:25 pm
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and your little dog Toto too, Bob. Why so much hate? Why does everything have to be a fricking dick measuring contest? Why do people get so bent out of shape and all pissy just because they see a brewer on the list that they have "issues" with? Mill Street has done a LOT for brewing in this country, so I say stuff it where the sun don't shine, and pass me a pint of Stock!
Thom / June 10, 2013 at 09:29 pm
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Think about it!?! You gonna go out to get tanked you can do it for $20 or $60-$80. But at the end of the night none of it matters when it could be mill st., C'est what?, Kensington Brewery, Bellwoods Brewery, Miller Genuine Draft, Labatts Blue or Laker Ice!! Lets do this!!!
Recommendations? / June 10, 2013 at 11:25 pm
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Moved out of Toronto for a few years now, but coming back to visit family and friends. Can anyone recommend any of these places for a guy that likes a good dark ale or abbey? I'm going to stop by Cameron's on they way to Toronto, but I need something when I'm in town.
alex / June 11, 2013 at 09:40 am
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Seems like a lot of these are actually brewed at Cool Brewery...so props to Cool for being the best?

It would've been nice to include a map with this list of the best 18 microbreweries in Toronto.

Also, please stop describing things as "world class", it doesn't mean anything, especially when talking about a beer from a microbrewery.
Ben replying to a comment from alex / June 11, 2013 at 09:49 am
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world-class
adj.
1. Ranking among the foremost in the world; of an international standard of excellence; of the highest order.


A list of the best German Hefeweizens in the world, according to Rate Beer (Denisons ranks 3rd):

http://www.ratebeer.com/Ratings/TopBeersByStyle.asp?StyleID=7
Mike replying to a comment from Rick / June 11, 2013 at 10:21 am
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because this website is a POS. the people writing LOVE everything and hope to get a free meal or beer. This is the most BS article ever written. Who ISN'T on this list??? and why?
chris / June 11, 2013 at 12:30 pm
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Excellent list. Now do "Best Microbrewery in the vicinity of the GTA".
matt / June 12, 2013 at 03:44 am
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Left Field has Maris as well, I think its the one pictured in the article.

The double IPA is excellent.

http://www.leftfieldbrewery.ca/beers/maris
Pietro / June 13, 2013 at 10:05 am
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So, just about every microbrewery in Toronto is "the best"?

Some of these "breweries" are contract brewing at real breweries like Black Oak and Cool ... My top three:

1) GLB
2) Bellwoods
3) Junction Craft

RE: Steam Whistle: make something different for once, would ya?
Chantel / June 13, 2013 at 12:44 pm
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Why isn't The Three Brewers up here??? They're amazing and their beer is delectable ;)
Rosie replying to a comment from kinyobi / July 1, 2013 at 10:58 am
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Totally agree. We were just there and the staff took so much time with us explaining the different brews and serving samples. They are awesome and so is the beer.
Rosie replying to a comment from kinyobi / July 1, 2013 at 11:00 am
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Agree re: black oak brewery is what I meant to say!
http://tiny.pl / October 25, 2013 at 01:39 am
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Befolre you start fishing or as the color starts changing, put
that braid right there on the tip. Some people seek annulments for religious
reasons. Does someone have an agenda? It rewards me The air was fish 247 crisp and the
crowds had somewhat dissipated.
Rosie / November 25, 2013 at 12:16 pm
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Can anyone recommend a good location to go to for a brewery tour? I am trying to surprise my boyfriend and have no idea where to go or what to look for.

Please help!

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