oldest breweries toronto

The 10 oldest breweries in Toronto

The history of Toronto is actually closely tied to beer, and while, sadly, the rise of large-scale brewing in Canada saw Toronto's original breweries bought up and consolidated, one might say we're currently experiencing a renaissance in beer-making in the Big Smoke.

And so, with new breweries seemingly popping up every week, it's important to remember the pioneers of this renaissance. Here are the 10 oldest breweries in Toronto sill making beer.

Amsterdam Brewing Co. (est. 1986)
Founded as The Amsterdam Brasserie and Brewpub on John Street and joined by The Rotterdam on King Street West, a second brewpub with a larger capacity in 1988, Amsterdam eventually consolidated to one location on Bathurst, and now operates both a large brewery in Leaside and a massive waterfront brewpub.

Beers to try: Boneshaker Unfiltered IPA, anything from their ongoing Adventure Brews series.

Great Lakes Brewery (est. 1987)
Founded in 1987 and family run since 1990, Great Lakes Brewery in Etobicoke has evolved from its lager-hawking origins to become one of the country's best craft brewers. With an eye toward experimentation that largely began with their first seasonal offerings back in 2006, GLB is inarguably the master of all things hoppy and is helping lead Ontario's ongoing craft beer revolution.

Beers to try: Karma Citra IPA, Lake Effect IPA, Miami Weiss

Granite Brewery and Restaurant (est. 1991)
Specializing in hand-made, open-fermented beers, the family-run Granite Brewpub has never really been in a rush to be in line with trends. Recent years have seen them add things like Hopping Mad to their lineup, but they specialize in English style ales and even with added capacity in 2012, cans added to lineup, and an LCBO launch, they still take a pretty low-key approach.

Beers to try: Hopping Mad, Peculiar Strong Ale, Galactic Pale Ale

Black Oak Brewery (est. 1999)
Originally founded in Oakville, Black Oak settled into their current 20-hectolitre brew house in Etobicoke in 2008. For a long time known as something like a best kept secret for their consistently good beer but quiet marketing presence, Black Oak has upped their game a bit as of late, embracing social media and adding an experimental "Epiphany" series to their strong core lineup.

Beers to try: Triple Chocolate Cherry Stout, Nutcracker Porter, Ten Bitter Years

Steam Whistle Brewing (est. 2000)
Famously founded by three guys who got fired from the Upper Canada Brewing Company, Steam Whistle pilsner and its iconic green bottle have grown to become intrinsically associated with Toronto--and not just the beer scene. Active in Toronto charities and sports and supportive of the arts in the city, Steam Whistle does just make one beer, but as they like to tell folks, they do it really well.

Beers to try: In keeping with their "we do one thing" motto, you won't see it available very often, but if you get a chance, try the unfiltered version of Steam Whistle that their brewers may or may not prefer to take home in growlers.

Mill Street Brewery (est. 2002)
Now the city's biggest craft brewer, Mill Street handles their large scale production at a facility in Scarborough, but they've maintained a presence in the distillery district with their brew pub. They've added a Beer Hall next door, a second pub in Ottawa, and a bar at Pearson airport. Their knack for expansion is matched only by their ongoing desire to try new things.

Beers to try: Bob's Bearded Red, Coffee Porter, Cobblestone Stout

The Three Brewers (est. 2009)
Sadly, the Yonge Street installment of this franchise brew pub is technically one of the city's oldest breweries. Presumably kept afloat by hapless tourists and people who simply don't know any better, the establishment features middle of the road beer paired with profoundly bad food and indifferent service.

Beers to try: Another brewpub

Black Creek Historic Brewery (est. 2009)
Possibly Toronto's most overlooked brewery, the brewing facility at the city's pioneer village actually makes beer using techniques, tools, and recipes used by brewers in 1860s Ontario. They typically have four styles of beer to offer as well as a rotating cast of seasonals and one offs. All the fun of early Toronto without the typhoid.

Beers to try: The Rifleman's Ration, Dray Horse Ale

Duggan's (est. 2009)
Inaugurated as a brewpub at the now-clearly-cursed 75 Victoria Street location, Duggan's founder--who also co-founded Mill Street--went the contract brewing route when his landlord gave him the boot and kept a few of his brands alive in the interim. Now back in the brew pub game, Duggan's is enjoying something of a second life with a location in Parkdale.

Beers to try: The No. 13 Hefewizen, the No. 9 IPA, whatever experimental offering is currently on hand

House Ales (est. 2010)
Launched with a one-barrel pilot system in the kitchen of barVolo, five years ago, House Ales has since grown to become one of the city's better, albeit smaller, nano-brewing enterprises. Thanks to the street cred garnered through Volo's always exceptional beer lineup, the House Ales folks have been afforded opportunities to collaborate with some of the best brewers from Ontario and Quebec.

Beers to try: Fermium, Tu-hop, anything they make with Great Lakes or Amsterdam

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


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