toronto beer week

The top events at Toronto Beer Week by day of the week

Toronto Beer Week is back. Running September 12th-20th, the nine day tribute to everyone's favourite adult beverage is now in its fifth year and will feature beer from over 30 different craft breweries pouring beer at 69 venues in over a hundred different events.

With so many opportunities to indulge, it can be difficult to decide which events are worthy of your precious beer-drinking time so, with a view to making the most of your Toronto Beer Week, here are my picks for TBW, sorted by day of the week, with the reason I think they're worth your while. All you have to do now is iron your drinking pants.


The Beer Experience
Because you love trying new beer.

This event offers a promise most craft beer events usually don't: Every single beer being served will have been brewed exclusively for the event or has otherwise never been available anywhere else. With a list of participating brewers that includes Amsterdam Brewery, Junction Craft Brewery, Kensington Brewing Company, Mill Street Brewery, Black Oak Brewery, Great Lakes Brewery, The Beer Academy, and more, that's nothing to sneeze at. But in case that's enough for you, there will also be food from Berkeley Church's onsite kitchen and live music by local bands.
Where: Berkeley Church, 315 Queen Street East
How much: $25 in advance and $35 at the door, includes five drink tokens and additional tokens are $1 each. There also seems to be no shortage of contests happening right now to win free admission.


C'est What 26th Annual Festival Of Craft Breweries
5pm (festival also runs Saturday September 13 at 12pm)
Because variety is the spice of life.

C'est What's commitment to craft beer hasn't changed much in 26 years, and even though not much else about the venue has changed either, any festival with that kind of longevity is surely worth mentioning . As usual, there will be a plethora of beer available, this year with a focus on harvest ales and seasonal beers from four dozen (!) breweries.
Where: C'est What, 67 Front Street East
How much: Free admission, beer samples are $1.00.


The Sacred Oak: A Night of Barrel-Aged Beers
Session one 1pm-4pm, Session two 5pm-8pm
Because wood makes it good.

One of the first events in the city to highlight the rapidly expanding trend toward barrel-aging in this province, the evening will feature not just beers from Indie Alehouse but a few other Ontario brewers, too. Find out the awesome things that barrel-aging can do to porters, stouts, sours, and more.
Where: Indie Alehouse's "Barrel Room," 165 Geary Avenue
How much: $25 and ticket includes a custom glass and two drink tickets.

The Toronto Craft Brew Cruise
11am (3:30pm and 8pm cruises are sold out)
Because drinking on a boat.

Twelve Ontario breweries, including Beau's, Barnstormer, Left Field, and Oast House, will be participating in this jaunt around the harbour so you can sample craft beer while finally putting those deck shoes to their intended use. Given that this is a three hour tour, the only question is whether you'll reference Gilligan, head to the bow to do your best Kate Winslet impression, or go with a more subtle reference simply by wearing a nautical themed pashmina afghan. Ahoy, polloi.
Where: The River Gambler, boards at 33 Lake Shore Boulevard East
How much: $39.95, includes five sample tickets and a commemorative mug.


The Home Brew Tap Takeover
Because you'll see the brewing stars of tomorrow, today.

The second annual Home Brew Tap Takeover features 21 homebrewers whom the Indie Alehouse allowed to brew their own recipe on the brewpub's pilot system. Find out what beer can taste like before a fledgling brewer's dreams of being a successful brewmaster are crushed by the harsh realities of the economy, red tape, and our province's archaic liquor legislation. Yum!
Where: Indie Alehouse's "Barrel Room," 165 Geary Avenue
How much: $10, includes two drink tickets and a commemorative glass.

Drinkin' The Danforth...Dry!!
Because you always say you we should get to the Danforth more, honey.

Join a bunch of rowdy functioning alcoholics--er, I mean, brewers, sales and marketing staff, and owners of four terrific breweries--as they tear up the East end one pint at a time. Folks from Great Lakes Brewery, Sawdust City Brewery, Left Field Brewery, and Beau's All Natural Brewery will giving away prizes, sampling one-offs and, naturally, putting a few back at The Wren (2pm), Sauce (3pm), Morgans on the Danforth (4pm), The Only Cafe (5pm), Court Jester (6pm), Brass Taps (7pm), and The Auld Spot (8pm).
Where: See venues listed above...
How much: Free, but you'll pay for pints along the way.


Shock & Awe... A GLB Beer Dinner at Morgans on Danforth
Because for a beer dinner, this price is right.

A good beer dinner where attention is paid to food and beer pairing is sadly a pretty rare thing, and one that you can attend for $50 is even more rare. That's why on Monday you should probably head to the Danforth for a four course dinner with Canadian Brewery of the Year, Great Lakes Brewery, and Morgans. Among the beers being offered will be GLB's delicious 25th Anniversary Bourbon Barrel-Aged Robust Porter.
Where: Morgans on the Danforth, 1282 Danforth Avenue
How much: $49.99 Limited tickets. Call Morgans on the Danforth at 416-461-3020 to reserve your spot.


The Queen Street East Beer Hike
Because it almost sounds like exercise.

Beau's All Natural Brewing Co. and Left Field Brewery will lead an "urban beer hike" (don't call it a pub crawl!) along Queen Street East, to hit up some of the better venues for drinking in Riverside and Leslieville. There will be prizes, presumably a few pints along the way, and, when you're tired at work the next morning, you can tell people it's because you went for a hike.
Where: Starts at Hi-Lo Bar, 753 Queen Street East, then on to Brooklyn Tavern (7pm), Hitch (8pm), and CĂŠilĂ­ Cottage (9pm).
How much: Walkin' is free, man. Pints will cost you.


The Golden Tap Awards
Doors at 5pm, awards at 8pm
Because you look amazing today.

Celebrate all the beery goodness Ontario has to offer at the awards gala for the province's only voter-chosen beer awards. Have I, Ben Johnson, mentioned that this year you can even vote for your favourite beer writer? Ahem.
Along with announcing the winners in a handful of categories, the event will feature beer (and cider) from an all-Ontario lineup of brewers including Black Oak, Amsterdam, Great Lakes, Indie Alehouse, Steam Whistle, Junction Craft, Spearhead, Left Field, Kensington, Beer Academy, Bellwoods, and more. Cast your vote for your favourites by September 9th! And seriously though, have you lost weight?
Where: beerbistro, 18 King Street East
How much: Free admission, beer tickets available pre-awards, and full pints for sale after the winners are announced.


Great Lakes Brewery's "Hey We're Awesome" Party
Simply because they like to party.

As of the time I wrote this, there's no official name for this party, but Great Lakes Brewery tells me that they wanted to throw a shindig just because they are happy to be Canadian Brewery of The Year for the second year in a row (and they sure don't miss a chance to tell us that, do they?). Featuring food stations with grub from Food and Liquor, Pie Commission, and Ceili Cottage, the event will see GLB pouring a plethora of their award-winning beer including a station dedicated solely to their pale ales and--wait for it--the triumphant return of Thrust! An IPA, the gold medal winning IPA from the 2014 Canadian Brewing Awards--a beer that sold out so fast last time it was here that GLB has opted to brew twice as much as they ever have before.
Where: 918 Bathurst Street
How much: Price TBD.

Books & Brews
Because when's the last time you were in a library for a beer related event?

Take a break from your week of debauchery to engage your intellectual side--by talking about beer. Authors Stephen Beaumont ("The World Atlas of Beer"), David Ort ("The Canadian Craft Beer Cookbook") and Jordan St. John ("Ontario Beer") will lead a discussion about why craft beer matters, the history of beer in Toronto, pairing beer and food, and what the future may hold for craft beer in Ontario. There won't be any beer there (because it's a library) but surely the one hour you're dry and learning about beer will make that post-chat beer even better.
Where: Toronto Public Library - Sanderson Branch, 327 Bathurst Street
How much: Free, but they will charge you $0.40 for every minute that you're late.


A Night With Great Lakes & Amsterdam
Because holy shit look at that beer lineup!

My pick for the can't miss event of Toronto Beer Week, this tap takeover at Bar Hop looks like it will be one for the ages. Featuring beers selected by two beermakers brewing some of Canada's most interesting beer, GLB's Mike Lackey and Amsterdam's Iain MacOustra, there will be no shortage of unique one-offs plucked from each brewery's respective cellars, a slew of beers that these two Beer BFFs have collaborated on over the years and Life Sentence, a triple IPA the two brewers collaborated on to be debuted at this event. Do I need to say more?
Where: Bar Hop, 391 King Street West
How much: Free admission, pints will cost you.


Steam Whistle's Ultimate Oktoberfest Party
Because Lederhosen.

Arguably Toronto's best Oktoberfest party, Steam Whistle does this stein-hoisting, sausage-eating shindig just right, with traditional costumes and entertainment and, importantly, big honkin' steins of brewery-fresh pilsner that you can take home at the end of the night. End your Toronto Beer Week by preparing your liver for the Oktoberfest drinking you'll need to do to taper off.
Where: Steam Whistle Brewery, The Roundhouse, 255 Bremner Blvd
How much: $30


Toronto Beer Run
Because you really should get some exercise at this point.

After a week of hard drinking, there's nothing better than...running 11km? WTF? Oh, there's drinking involved. Phew! Tour four breweries along your run and suport a good cause. You'll start at Mill Street's Beer Hall, hit up Steamwhistle, the Amsterdam Brewhouse, and The 3 Brewers, then had back to Mill Street for an after party. That's my kind of running.
Where: Starts at Mill Street Beer Hall, 21 Tank House Lane
How much: $60, gets you a long-sleeved Toronto Beer Run shirt, a race bib, "Brewery Party Favors," Beer Run Finishers Medals that are also bottle openers, and most importantly some of the money goes toward Plan, a charity that supports social justice for children in developing countries.


  • Have an eye out for the official beer of Toronto Beer Week 2014, a Farmhouse style ale with Galaxy hops, brewed by Amsterdam Brewery.
  • And Speaking of Amsterdam, they'll be tapping a keg from their Brewer's Reserve at the Amsterdam BrewHouse every night for the entirety of Toronto Beer Week 2014.
  • You can tour Mill Street Brewery for free all week if you want to learn about that sweet nectar you so readily pour down your suckhole.
  • While I hesitate to name drop an American brewery in reference to Toronto Beer Week, if you're in the mood for lobster during TBW, you can check out the "Samuel Adams & Rock Lobster Experience" a $20 prix fix dinner and beer pairing available at both the Rock Lobster Queen or Ossington locations.
  • Lastly, please take the The STACK Challenge. Simply because I'm a big fan of gluttony and needless competition, I really think you should try to finish two Big Stack burgers (for the record, each weighing one pound), four servings of fries (yes four) and a pint of either either Great Lakes Canuck Pale Ale or Beau's LugTread Lagered Ale. Oh and you have to consume it all within 30 minutes. If you do, not only will you win widespread acclaim and renown, you'll also dine gratis. Do it for me, champ!

Ben Johnson also writes about beer over on Ben's Beer Blog. Follow him on twitter @Ben_T_Johnson.

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