The top 10 ways to learn about beer in Toronto
It's all well and good to say you're a knowledgeable craft beer fan, but in an era where every hophead with an Untappd account fancies themselves a connoisseur, it's going to take a little more to impress people when you want to wax philisophical over your pint glass.
Why not up your game with these local resources guaranteed to take your beer appreciation to the next level?
The Beerology Off-Flavour Beer Tasting
Hosted by Canada's first Master Cicerone, Mirella Amato, the Beerology Off-Flavour sessions help you identify what's going on when your beer tastes a little weird. Over three sessions Amato covers "Things that can go wrong at the pub," and "Things that can go wrong at the brewery" and, in a third session, tests what you've learned in a sensory evaluation test.
Beerworking helps you meet people with the aid of nature's greatest social lubricant: Beer. Hosted by Certified Cicerone Crystal Luxmore, each event showcases a brewer whose beers you learn about before being turned loose to meet strangers in a "speed networking" setting (Full disclosure: I once got paid to host one of these when Crystal was unavailable).
Learn to brew your own beer at Noble Hop
If you've always been interested in getting into homebrewing but find the idea of mashing in and lautering a little intimidating (or if you don't even know what those things mean), Toronto homebrewing supply shop, Noble Hop, hosts regular homebrew workshops. Moved indoors for the season, the workshops are free but space is limited so register for one in advance here.
Take a self-led tasting at a local beer bar
If you're looking for a low-key, DIY approach to learning about beer, why not visit one of the city's better beer bars and just try a bunch of beer? Tasting flights and samples are available at bars like Beerbistro, Bar Hop, and barVolo and, as you can imagine, the folks that pour beer at these places are generally pretty knowledgable. Visit on a quiet day, and talk up the bartender.
The Old Toronto Beer Tour
Hosted by Oliver Dawson, The Old Toronto Beer Tour is an all day beer tour that explores the surprisingly vast and lengthy culture and history of Toronto's brewing heritage. Starting at Steam Whistle, you'll learn about the beery history of Cork Town, the Canada Malting Silos, and Toronto's oldest tavern, and along the way you'll drink beer at Mill Street, Amsterdam, and the Granite Brew Pub.
Indie Alehouse tasting and tour
Starting February 3, Indie Alehouse will offer weekly tastings and tours every Tuesday at their brewpub. For $25 you you can chat with the brewers, sample a flight of five beers, enjoy a snack and take a peek at the brewery. Sessions start at 6:30pm and run for one hour. To book, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Toronto Distillery Company's Whiskey Grain Exploration Experience
Because you can't live on beer alone (believe me, I tried), why not take a course to learn more about spirits? The first step in discovering your favourite whisky is to try single-grain distillations of each of the staples. Without any additives or flavouring agents, a crash course in their organic, single-grain products will help you learn about the building blocks of whiskey.
George Brown Beer Appreciation Course
If you want to take your beer geekery to the next level, George Brown offers a six-week course in beer appreciation. Held on Monday nights, the introductory course taught by Troy Burtch, the Co-founder of Toronto Beer Week teaches you how to properly taste beer, how to pick out aromas and flavours, what glassware to use when serving beer and touches on the history of beer and Ontario brewing.
Guided Tastings at Bellwoods Brewery
Held from 5pm-6pm on Mondays from October-April, Bellwoods Brewery hosts small tastings (2-8 people) to let you chat with the brewer who actually created, brewed, and packaged the beer you'll be sampling. The cost is $30 and that includes four 4oz draught samples, one 5oz Reserve Bottle Sample, and a selection of seasonal cured meats, terrines, and salumis.
Visit The Beer Store
Realizing that the average consumer wanted more from their beer shopping experience, last year The Beer Store changed their mandate to become 'Champions of Beer Love Everyday'. Their new stores look different with a refreshed dĂŠcor and their employees, now required to attend 'Beer College,' show a renewed passion about beer and desire to engage with customers.
With space-age, interactive digital touch displays and knowledgeable employees, your local Beer Store is the place to go to learn everything you need to know about craft beer and isn't at all a stagnant and totally outdated retail model that's desperate to convince people its still relevant in an effort to hold on to it's crumbling monopoly.
Ben Johnson also writes about beer over on Ben's Beer Blog. He is Toronto's unofficial "reverse cicerone." To have him help shape your beer drinking, tweet him what you're drinking @Ben_T_Johnson and he'll tell you why it's a shitty choice and why you're not cool for choosing it.
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