Five Under-Appreciated Toronto Beer Bars

It’s Friday!  You will, no doubt, be having a beer this weekend (if you read this blog, anyway).  I’ll keep your reading light for this occasion.

With that in mind, I wanted to send you to some new places for your drinking pleasure for tonight, this weekend, or anytime.  These are bars that, despite having a good tap list, great food, a cool atmosphere (or all three), don’t get the love I feel they deserve.  In no particular order and by no means exhaustive:

Tequila Bookworm

I still need to know who does that cool writing on the menu board.

Located at the intersection of Queen & Portland, this nondescript little watering hole is probably my favourite in this area. The bartenders here are extremely knowledgeable about the product they’re pouring, and they’re always good to have at least one of each popular style (as opposed to a menu full of IPAs). With cocktails on tap, an affordable but delicious bar food menu, and great deep cuts of well-known artists always on, they’re a surefire friday post-work spot. Bonus points – they have an upstairs area that you can rent out privately that is extremely affordable, and a tiny patio (once the weather warms up).

Mascot Brewery

The Craft Beer DJ of Toronto, Mr.Grump. He’s actually incredibly friendly, and a great dude.

Ok, so you aren’t really a party person. We get it, you hate fun. However, if you call yourself a beer fan and haven’t yet tasted Siobhan McPherson’s beers in the time she’s been brewing here, you’re simply missing out. It’s the opinion of this writer that the Mascot Pilsner is the best example of the style in the province, and true to trend, they are pumping out tons of popular styles in the 14+ taps they have in house. Their fruited sour game is also on point with a passionfruit sour that is a real thirst-quencher. Awesome food and fun staff as well as a lively atmosphere means you should probably check it out. If you decide to turn your nose up at it due to not liking the musical stylings of Bubblegum Bikini or DJ Grump, that’s fine – more pilsner for the rest of us.

Nestled away at Bloor and Crawford (just east of Ossington) is Northwood. The vibes in this bar are straightforward; small, quiet, serious, high-quality. The cocktails carried here rival some of the best in the city on originality and straight-up enjoyability – the beer selection speaks to the same. With several rotating taps as well as a decently-sized bottle selection from both Ontario and Quebec, this bar constantly impresses me. Bartenders are knowledgeable and friendly and are always the first to crack a joke (and if you ask REALLY nicely they might play the kind of music you want to hear). Snacks are tasty. The only real point of contention here is the price point – this is upper echelon stuff here, be prepared to pay medium-high prices on everything. But still – go.

Another Bar
Adorned with 8-foot classic portraiture of Elvis, Freddie Mercury, and Johnny Cash (among others) is Another Bar. It’s a pretty nondescript spot, generally lacking in particular attention to detail with decor. They have the Leaf game on there, a functioning jukebox, and tables strewn about. Occasionally you’ll find a band there. However, Another Bar shines in the way that matters – they have a huge selection of Ontario craft beer. They’re the closest bar to me with the Muskoka Moonlight Kettle beers on tap, which rotate monthly. I’ve also found every new GLB release here, and the options rotate frequently. If you have a big group of people seeking a great place to have a few, this is the spot. Bloor, west of Ossington.

Laylow Bar

Laylow’s vibes are always chill, and it’s an awesome spot to hear hip-hop songs you haven’t heard in 20 years.

If you follow me on any of my social accounts, you’ve seen me comment on this spot before. Beers are made on the smallest system i have ever seen (I don’t even think it qualifies to be measured in hL) and change constantly – probably once every two weeks, if not more often. Dan and his squad have set up this spot as a church of hip-hop (which goes well with a Belgian ale, if you’re looking for pairing recos) and beer, with a great imported bottle selection as well as a rare guest tap, which is always a local offering. Head to College and Dufferin for this spot, and look for the bar full of people listening to KRS-One or the Killa Beez’s deepest cuts.

What’d I miss? Flip me a comment, tweet, or IG message @beermostly.


EXCLUSIVE: Rorschach Brewing Co. Opening Early 2017!


Are you ready for this?! ANOTHER brewpub is set to open in Toronto’s East end for early 2017! We are getting spoiled over here and I for one could not be happier.

Introducing Rorschach Brewing Company! Opening at 1001 Eastern Avenue. Rorschach Brewing Co. is the brainchild of four friends, three of whom met at the University of Toronto’s Engineering program. They have spent the last two years in the planning stages and now their dream is becoming a reality. Matthew Reiner, the brewmaster has been home brewing for the past eight years. His focus is on aggressively hopped IPAs and mixed fermentation Saisons. Mohan Pandit and Chris Ristevski are also engineers and Ben Ragan has a background in construction and wine.

rorschach2 rorschach1

As you probably know (or have assumed from the clever logo) Rorschach is the name of the infamous inkblot test, when asked how they decided on this name their answer was quite philosophical: just like the inkblot test, beer is a subjective experience. Every person’s palate is unique and they perceive flavours differently so they wanted their name and slogan “Life’s too short for ordinary beer” to reflect the ideology that beer is something to be experienced and experimented with! Their goal is to craft beers that are complex and flavourful but also highly drinkable. This is a philosophy that The Bottomless Pint can get behind! see Victoria’s previous post on the subjectivity of beer tasting.

I had the pleasure of chatting with Matthew, Mohan and Ben over a few samples of their brews. They showed me around the (mostly empty) space explaining their vision. There will be a ten bbl brewhouse with six fermenters and two bright tanks. They will be installing 14-16 taps but will probably launch with about five beers. The founders have all discovered their love for beer while travelling abroad where they also experienced many culinary styles. The inspiration for their menu comes from tapas style dining. They will not be serving your average pub food but rather snacks that are meant for sharing and most importantly complementing the beer. The main floor holds 70-80 guests while the massive second floor patio holds approximately 100. Ideally there will be a take away counter for bottles as well, all depending on licensing of course.


Now to the good stuff, the beer! I was lucky enough to try three of Matthew’s creations. A Saison, a West Coast IPA and a Coffee Oatmeal Stout. The Saison is currently in line to be the flagship beer: fruity, dry and medium bodied, this beer is definitely a crowd pleaser. The IPA is hopped with Citra, Mosaic and Simcoe, very juicy with the hop focused in the aroma and flavour and very little lingering bitterness. The Coffee Oatmeal Stout is beautifully roasty and smooth. Matthew roasted the coffee beans himself and they are currently trying to convince a family member with a coffee-roasting hobby, to create of a unique blend for this particular beer.

There is still a ton of work to be done and licensing to be acquired so an opening date cannot be accurately predicted at this time, but be sure to watch out for this one! The location is absolutely gorgeous, the building itself is an old house with a massive expansion added on the back but the front of the original house has been beautifully preserved. The parking lot next door is a huge bonus and it is literally just minutes from the lake (and the lakeshore bike path!).

Good luck guys! I can’t wait to see (and taste) the final results!

PRESS RELEASE: Ontario Self-Guided Brewery Discovery Routes Bigger and Better for 2016


More news fresh from the brain of ever-helpful and informative OBN – Ontario Tourism has announced their 2016 initiative celebrating food, beer, and other Ontario-made goodies in their Brewery Discover Routes platform!  Take a look at the homepage here.

Check out the full Press Release below!


Self-Guided Tours of Craft Beverages and Local Food Across Ontario and Its Protected Greenbelt Launched for Ontario Craft Beer Week 2016

TORONTO, ON–(Marketwired – June 09, 2016) – As Ontario Craft Beer Week celebrates local beer across Ontario, self-guided Brewery Discovery Routes provide five complete itineraries for folks looking to get out and explore breweries, cideries, Feast On restaurants, and local attractions. Along the way, participants can indulge in the flavours of artisanal cheeses, lovingly prepared culinary treats using fresh, local ingredients, premium craft beverages, farmers’ markets and scenic outlooks.

First launched in 2015, the 2016 expanded version includes nearly 150 independent craft beverage producers, over 100 Feast On restaurants and additional points of interest across Ontario and its protected Greenbelt. Some 250,000 maps will be distributed for free to residents throughout the province and all the routes are also available online at

“Brewery Discovery Routes are the full package, showcasing Ontario’s independent, craft beverage producers, restaurants, artisanal cheesemakers, shops and farmers’ markets. They are the backbone of the rural economy and tourism landscape,” said Greenbelt Fund CEO Burkhard Mausberg. “The experiences let you taste the difference local makes from drink to food.”

“There is a great story behind every brewery in Ontario,” says Cam Heaps, co-founder Steam Whistle Brewing and chair of Ontario Craft Brewers. “Ontario Craft Breweries are ideal places for visitors to learn about the local brewing process, tour historical buildings, sample premium, award-winning brands and meet the real people behind the real craft beer in Ontario.”

“In Ontario we’ve seen a major growth in brewery tourism with a new survey showing beer, burgers and gastropubs are the favourite destinations of 32% of food tourists,” said Beth Potter, President & CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario. “The Brewery Discovery Routes Map is a great new tourism product that builds regional connections to deliver an economic boost to the tourism sector in rural communities.”

While sampling is part of any brewery tour, participants are reminded to drink responsibly and establish a designated driver if touring the Discovery Routes by car. Most breweries, cideries and distilleries have bottle shops on site so visitors can take their favourite craft beverage home with them to enjoy.

The project was made possible with an investment from the Greenbelt Fund to support local food literacy and encourage Ontarians to enjoy local more often.

About Brewery Discovery Routes:

Brewery Discovery Routes is a partnership of fifteen Ontario organizations and tourism partners, including: the Greenbelt Fund, Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation, Greenbelt Fresh, Greenbelt Farmers’ Market Network, Dairy Farmers of Canada, Ontario Craft Brewers, Ontario Beverage Network, Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance, Ontario Craft Cider Association, Ontario Craft Distillers Association, Central Counties Tourism Durham, Grey Bruce Tourism, Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island, Ontario Hop Growers’ Association and the Centre for Environmental Sustainability in Healthcare

About the Greenbelt Fund:

The Greenbelt Fund changes the way we eat food in Ontario. Our innovative investments get more local food onto the plates of Ontarians. We work with businesses, institutions and NGOs to make Ontario’s farmers the first choice for consumers. The Fund’s work has generated a 13-fold return on our investments, permanently changed the food value chain, and improved local food awareness and education around the province. As a not-for-profit, the Greenbelt Fund is supported by public and private sources.

For more information, contact:

Christine Mulkins
Ontario Craft Brewers

Erica Woods
Greenbelt Fund
Communication Manager, Greenbelt Fund
416-960-0001 ext. 306

EXCLUSIVE: Sneak Peek at Toronto’s newest brewpub BANDIT BREWERY

The craft beer scene in Toronto is getting more vibrant every year and 2016 is no exception. There are great things on the horizon and one of them is happily nestled in Roncesvalles Village! Mike and I were lucky enough to be invited for a sneak peek at Toronto’s newest brewpub, Bandit Brewery.

Located at 2125 Dundas West in what used to be an automotive shop, it is easily accessible from Subway and Street Car routes. Opening date is TBA but by the looks of things it should be quite soon! Don’t worry, you will know as soon as we do! They plan to have around 15 beers on tap, with about half being staple brands and half rotating seasonals. There will be a wide variety of styles, so ignore any rumors you heard about a focus on sours. The Bandit team is made up of the two owners Stephane and Shehzad, head brewer Ben and media pro Juan. These guys are working tirelessly to create not just great beer but a great experience and atmosphere to go with it. There will be a small, simple menu of snacks to pair with your beer. Seating options will be front patio, biergarten style seating (long shared tables) on one side of the brew house and bar seating on the other. We got excited and curious at the sight of a row of barrels set up right at the front entrance, it turns out Ben doesn’t have any concrete plans for them yet. That’s okay we can wait 😉


The Experience:

Mike and I arrived to the brewery at 6pm on a Thursday evening. The front driveway soon-to-be-patio was ripped up just two days before and some lovely trees were planted. There was no clear path through the dirt to the door so we made our own and walked in on Ben mopping (the life of a brewer includes 10% brewing and 90% cleaning and mopping). The rest of the team welcomed us in and were generous enough to show us their 10BBL brew house and talk about their plans. You can see the restaurant and bar area taking shape. The bottle shop isn’t in the immediate future but you can bet that we will have tabs on this once it is! (just like we were at Folly only hours after their bottle shop first opened on Saturday). We sat, chatted and tasted for about an hour, this is a lot of time for busy people who are trying to build a brewery and restaurant so we thank them immensely for their time and generosity.


The Beer:

We had the pleasure of sampling four of Bandit’s flagship brands.

Smoke on the Porter ABV 5% IBU 40

Originally a home brew recipe by one of the owners Stephane, just slightly tweaked for the brewhouse and for availability of ingredients. They used peat smoked malts and pepper. This beer exemplifies the talent and potential to come out of the brewery. There is so much going on, the pepper lingers in a way that is not immediately recognizable, is it the snap of carbonation or lingering hop bitterness? No, pepper! So sneaky.

Cone Ranger IPA ABV 5.5% IBU 60

Despite it’s 60 IBUs this beer is very well balanced. The aroma and hop flavours intensify as you make your way through each sip, getting better and better as you go. There is just enough bitterness, as Ben says, to make you go in for another sip after about 30 seconds.

Bandit’s APA ABV 5.25% IBU 40

This APA comes out super juicy and dangerously easy to drink. To please his mother, Ben left out any Cascade hops, she hates those “grapefruit beers”. With the two owners having opposite tastes in beer, Ben sure has a lot of palates to please. You can count on a very wide variety of beers coming out of Bandit’s brewhouse (again, not just sours).

Farmed and Dangerous Saison ABV 5.25% IBU 22

This is a Belgian style farmhouse ale with orange peel and coriander, an interesting take on a wit beer. This is a great, mild tasting summer beer. The flavours are subtle enough to be very drinkable and perfect for patio sessions.


The Brand:


What’s the story behind the raccoon? Is it, an ode to Conrad the dead raccoon? Well no but it’s definitely fitting isn’t it? Before #DeadRaccoonTO, the owners had a hilarious run in with these little mischief-makers at a local restaurant where they were eating on the patio. A family of raccoons was circling around and a waiter had to came out to shoo them away with a broom. Some people were screaming and others were laughing and they realized how “Toronto” raccoons are, for better or worse. They pitched the idea to their graphic designer and eventually the simple and effective logo and branding was born. The branded glassware changes depending on the colour of your beer, with the Smoke on the Porter, it was just a pair of eyes looking at me, also not an unfamiliar sight on a summer night in the city!




On the heels of the craft beer explosion in Toronto comes the brewpub culture. We have tons of great breweries in the city doing amazing things, which you can seek out at specialty craft bars, LCBOs and bottle shops. But I am also so happy to have these small brewpubs opening up where the high quality beer is created and curated within, and specifically for, the space where it will be consumed. It is more about creating an experience and atmosphere which includes great beer, rather than the solely creating great beer (both very bold and admirable purposes and equally important in a city such as ours.)


Thanks for reading, I hope you are as excited as I am to sit on Bandit’s patio this summer. For more information check out the Bandit Brewery website and follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Royalty in Guelph: Brewery Profile, Royal City Brewing Company


I have a friend who works for a brewery in Guelph – not these guys – that likes to bring us stuff we can’t get from “the west side of the 400” as he calls it – one-off Wellington, Stone Hammer, and at last gathering, a couple of bottles of the Royal City Hibiscus Saison.  Having heard of but never drank them, we indulged – and loved it.  We found our first Brewery Profile project.

Royal City is located in Guelph, just 15 minutes or so north off the 401 on Highway 6 and into what one would call “downtown” Guelph.  (We’ve been invited to the brewery, so stay tuned for a little tour once we go when winter has released us from her cold and volatile grip).  They do tours, keg sales, have a great bottle shop, and moreover, are a tiny operation:

Seriously, look at how tiny their brewhouse is. PHOTO BY: Royal City Brewing Co.

I spoke with Royal City rep Avery Jennekens on our ongoing series, and as they are only now making inroads into the Toronto city area, she clamored to get us a range of their beers for us to go over and profile.

Royal City makes four core brands, a “rotating” selection (in their own words: Rotating Brews come off of our main system and are available in our tap room and at select bars and restaurants. They are available until we run out. We strive to have 2 – 3 rotating brews available at any point in time. The rotation is regularly updated with successful pilot batches.), as well as one seasonal beer per season, PLUS their pilot brews, which amount to 10 or so experimental beers, ranging from their Lacto-heavy Berliner Weisse to something called “Kombrewcha”.  With this variety, it’s hard to imagine that this small team is not working around the clock – if they aren’t now, wait until us Toronto folk get a taste of their product!  We’re seriously excited to see Royal City really make a splash in 2016 as they expand distribution and introduce thirsty people all around the GTA to their traditionally produced, small batch, high-quality beers.  Goddamn, I need a Suffolk St.

I know what you’re wondering: Where can I buy them?  As of this moment, only the (award winning) Smoked Honey Ale is available en masse at LCBOs; I’m told distribution is expanding to key LCBO locations this year (stay tuned to our social networks, we’ll be sure to keep you updated – or, just politely but firmly demand their beer from our girl Avery or Royal City yourself).

On tap, for those of you seeking a pint downtown, check out C’est What, Bar Hop, The Craft, Thoroughbred, or Drift Bar – they’ve got a handy dandy list on the interactive map on their site, too.

Let’s go over the beer selection we recieved:



Dry Hopped Pale Ale (5.2%): Know how most people have a “daily driver”, like your favourite jacket you wear every day, a hat you never remove, or that 1999 Tercel in your driveway that still doesn’t need replacing? This beer could be my daily drinker.  Finely balanced hop aroma is just cutting enough to make you perk up and have another sniff.  A well-balanced, even bodied beer with a hint of hop bitterness at the finish and the floral Chinook shining through in the after taste, this is an amazing introduction to their lineup.  Drink it when: you want something nice and easy to drink that has character.

Hibiscus Saison (4.3%): This combination made my eyes widen.  Frankly, I was just happy to have a bottle of this to myself.  Light and (surprise) floral in scent, but not lacking in flavour in any way.  An ever so slight piercing tartness brought on by the effervescence and the hibiscus follows through with a citrus and yeast ester profile quite unlike any other saison.  Absolutely fantastic, and easily the best of the lot.  Drink it when: the summer sun joins us again and you’d like to have a beer in the backyard with your best beer nerd friend Mike.

100 Steps Stout (5%): A stout.  I have nothing to say about this, except that it’s so faithful to the style that it is like a benchmark on which to judge other stouts.  Roasty, burnt, with an exceedingly high drinkability.  Drink it when: you need to man/woman up and get shit done, like a project, or after cleaning your eavestroughs and need to escape into something absolutely classic.

Suffolk St. Session Ale (4.2%):  For those that donlt know, this is an ESB, which was the first ever session ale before the term “session” was even invented.  With a depth of malt character pleasantly complemented by earthy and grassy hops.  It’s here that I determined that the team at Royal City was seriously about honoring styles of old with really faithful recreations brought back into the light for us all to enjoy.  Drink it when: Ye Olde workday sucked and there’s something warm and meaty for dinner, like a meat pie or stew.

Earl Grey Porter (Seasonal, 5%): I was hesitant to open this.  I like Earl Grey tea in limited supply. I don’t want to be punched in the face with Bergamot or smell like my grandmother’s house for 4 days after drinking a beer.  Surprisingly, there are simply complimentary notes of bergamot and bitterness from the tea they use to make this porter throughout.  It is as enjoyable as a cuppa, and holds body and a slight alcohol burn towards the end of the glass.  Drink it when: You need to drink something most people think is super duper weird OR if you’re so English, it hurts.

Exhibition Session IPA (4.5%): There’s that word again.  In case anyone doesn’t know what “Session” means, it’s what you do when you drink several beers in a sitting.  The Session title is usually attributed to beers of a lighter ABV that enable one to have several of them in a sitting without getting drunk.  With that in mind, this is the perfect Session IPA.  No tongue-crushing bitterness or soul-eating grass flavours here – fruity and floral and just bitter enough, Exhibition leaves you wanting more – which is great, because, you know, Session.  Drink it when: You want an IPA but you’d like to taste the curry you’re eating it with.

Smoked Honey Ale (5.5%):  If you want me to go BJCP on this, it’s technically closest to a Rauchbier, which is a style of German smoked lager.  Except, this fairly dry, fairly different English-inspired ale with a good touch of smoke is as close as you can get to campfire drinkin’.  I’d pair it with brisket, arugula, or just a plain ol’ burger – you’re looking to keep that smoky depth around (it actually intensifies ever so slightly on your way through the glass) but is absolutely never intimidating.  A great beer for any time of year when you’re thinking “I need something different.” Drink it when: You’re intimidated by smoke and honey in or around beer but your curiosity gets the best of you.

Curious about Royal City beers? Check out their website – book a tour, buy some bottles, and support your local brewers!

Until next time, friends.

– Mike

Brock St. Brewing Company – Durham’s Newest Brewery



“The most refreshing street in Canada.”

That is the tag line of Durham Region’s newest craft brewery. Brock St. Brewing Company, which had their soft opening back in April, is located at 1501 Hopkins St., Unit 3, in Whitby, Ontario. Yes that’s right, the name is Brock St. Brewery which is located on Hopkins, but I will get into that in a little bit. Brock St. Brewery was an idea that came from a night of 4 homebrewers enjoying a few beers a couple of years ago. The idea started to come to life in January 2014. The brewery was intended to be located in the old fire hall on Brock St.  Unfortunately the town was not ready for the sale of the building. That is not stopping the ownership group of the brewery from actively working with the Mayor, town staff, and council for the Town of Whitby to engage support to rebuild and establish a second location in Whitby’s downtown firehall.

IMG_8123The current brewery is run by brewmaster Eric Ross, who is a graduate of Niagara Brewing Collage, worked at Gananoque Brewery and Beaus before coming to Brock St. Eric, who developed all the recipes in conjunction with the ownership group, is brewing on a 30 hectalitre brewing system. The brewery also has four 60 hectalitre fermenters and 2 brite tanks. They have also introduced a new bottling line and in the summer they will be installing a grain silo which will gravity feed the mash tank inside the brewery. Currently the brewery offers a Blonde, American Brown and Traditional Red, with a Porter and a Pale Ale in the works. Brock St. Brewery is also working on a collaboration beer with 5 Paddles Brewing Co., located on the same street.

Currently, you can buy their beer in 1L and 2L growlers at the brewery, with bottles coming very shortly. If you are looking to try their beers at some local Durham restaurants you can find them at the following: Brock HouseBuster RhinosHot RocksChatterpaulsTetraVillage InnTap and TankardThree-Six Kitchen and Lounge and a few more in the area.IMG_8130

Mark Woitzik, one of the owners, said to me  “Brock St. Brewing would like to thank this amazing community for all the support we have received.”

Brock St. Brewery was the official beer of the Brooklin Spring Fair that took place June 4-6, 2015. Brock St. won 1st place at the Bowmanville Ribfest in the Light Beer Category for their Blonde. Brock St. will be participating in events over the summer including Craft Beer Saturday’s this Saturday June 13th at Victory Cigars inOshawa (sorry for the shameless plug of my event) Brock St. Brewing Company will be having their official grand opening, July 4th and 5th, 2015. There will be a few local radio stations that will be broadcasting live, as well as food and of course a ton of beer. If you want to try their beer soon, head over to the brewery or one of the local restaurants to grab yourself a pint or growler.

To see all the photos from the tour head over to my Tour & Events Gallery.

A Ride Along with Brew Donkey

Brad Campeau is on a mission to make craft beer accessible to everyone in Ottawa. He’s the owner and operator of Brew Donkey, a start-up that delivers craft beer and runs brewery tours around the city. This week, I got a chance to ride along with Brad and get a glimpse into a day in the life of the donkey.

Our morning begins in the Brew Donkey- a modest single room in Maker Space North, a collective office space in the 250 City Center complex. The room is packed with boxes full of stickers, posters of various beers in the area and a few jars full of hops. Inside sits the donkey himself.

“It’s not very glamorous,” he warns me as we walked out to the minivan that he uses for all of his deliveries. As we get into the vehicle, he pulls out a piece of paper covered in his own chicken scratch with a list of beers for the day- nine different orders to be picked up from ten breweries.

Brew Donkey started in 2013. Brad was in Vancouver and Victoria and saw the accessibility to craft breweries and beer, and realized that was something that Ottawa didn’t have.

“You could visit eight or nine breweries in about a 25 minute walk, so three or four breweries a day was an easy walk. Ottawa’s not like that,” he explains.

In addition, there was wide craft selection in private beer stores that Ontario couldn’t match. Brad saw an opportunity to bolster Ottawa’s craft beer scene, and so he put together Brew Donkey.

Our first stop- Big Rig Brewery in Kanata. As soon as Brad walks in the door, he’s greeted with familiarity by everyone in sight. The most jovial of these is Brewmaster Lon, who declares that Friday is Boot day, and pours us each a sample of a new cask that he’s opened. It’s a mandarina hefeweizen, a new experiment by Lon.

“I think experimentation is super important,” Lon tells me, “but I think quality is even more important than that. Even if people are experimenting, good sound procedures and getting a good sound beer is still important within that process. I’m happy to try experimental beers, but sometimes people don’t adhere to enough quality control measures when they’re going into those things.”

His mentality is clear in the beer, it goes down smooth with a pleasant citrus touch to it that leaves the drinker wanting more. Brad picks up his order- a growler of Big Rig’s Black IPA, and we’re off to our next destination.

In addition to the deliveries, Brew Donkey runs brewery tours each weekend.

“The brewery tours were something that I initially envisioned as something to help our current delivery customers get better educated on the beers that were available for delivery,” says Brad “but at this point more often than not people are just using the tours as a great time.”

The tours go to three breweries in a given area of town, where the tourists get to go to the back room, sample beers and learn about the companies. While we drive on from Big Rig to Covered Bridge, Brad explains that the brewery tours had taken off more than he could have possibly expected. Almost every weekend, the tours sell out, he tells me over the clanking of empties in the back of the van.

After a short drive south, we arrive at Stittsville’s Covered Bridge Brewing, where we’re greeted by a smiling John Van Dyke, co-owner of the company. Brad picks up a Black IPA for the delivery- apparently they’re a popular item this week. After the beer is bought, I get a chance to talk with John.

“We’re getting a lot of great beers out there, which I think is only a good thing for people around Ottawa and for brewers.” says John. “I think it’s probably the best way that we can encourage people to start drinking craft beer and drinking locally. If we can kind of convert some of those people that are normally drinking some of the big name brand stuff over to craft beer that’s great.”

With some covered bridge in hand, we’re off to Broadhead Brewing.

Brew Donkey, like any business, isn’t without its struggles. Due to Ontario’s strict liquor laws, Brad isn’t allowed to hold any inventory on the beer. If he keeps beer overnight, he technically becomes a distributor, not a delivery service. This means that all beer has to be picked up on the day of delivery.

Sometimes, people place orders for beers that are sold out by the time Brad does a delivery day. Others think they can order beer for instant delivery at any time.

Another challenge is expanding delivery limits. Brad uses area codes to determine his limits, but many of the communities surrounding Ottawa are on the edge of massive area codes. Promising delivery to rural communities can be difficult, especially considering most people will only order a few beers.

Today, Brad’s deliveries will start on the east end, but I can’t tag along that far. There’s only two more breweries to go before he drops me off.

The first of these is Broadhead, a bustling brewery with DIY equipment and a handful of people seemingly on their lunch break picking up some beers. Here, Brad hands in a couple boxes full of empties. If you order from Brew Donkey, he’ll bring your craft empties back to the breweries as well. After giving in $100 worth of empties, he grabs a growler and a can and we’re off to Nita Beer.

Nita is a new company off of Collonade drive. Brad tells me that they’re targeted at creating beer for the active sporting community. Upon arrival, it becomes clear what he means. Their beers are each labeled with skiing difficulty signs according to how heavy their flavour is .

Andy Nita is the owner of Nita Beer. When we arrive, he has just finished updating the new Brew Donkey online store with a trio of new stouts, Perfectum, Omne, and Trium.

“We released three stouts based on good things come in threes,” says Nita “The Trium one I like the best, it’s actually a spiced stout that has cloves and cinnamon in it. The cinnamon cloves was kind of like ‘well there to be a lot of those ingredients in Irish cooking, so let’s fire it in and see what happens’”

We pick up a growler of their OPA, an IPA and hit the road once more. After Brad drops me off, he’s going to swing by a pub to meet with an Ashton Brewing Company representative, and then off to the Clocktower before working his way to the East end.

Once all of the beers are picked up, Brad will begin his deliveries in the evening, and then do it all again on the next delivery day.

As promised, the day wasn’t particularly glamorous but it allowed me a sneak look inside of one of the most exciting aspects of Ottawa’s growing beer community. Brad says that Brew Donkey has been well received by the small population that know of it. The brewers themselves have nothing but praise for him.

“It’s really good for us,” says John from Covered Bridge, “People in the east end can try our stuff even if we’re not on tap there, and that just creates more demand for us, so yeah it’s a good thing.”

Big Rig’s Brewmaster Lon was even more enthusiastic.

“He is the Don Quixote of craft beer. He is Don Quixote on a donkey, driving beer to the windmill every day, it’s beautiful,” Lon smiles “He’s bringing beer to the people.”

Practically Irish Brings Craft Beer to Pickering

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There are a growing number of breweries opening up in the Durham Region, which is amazing if you live in the area. Practically Irish is one of the new additions to the growing list of craft brewers in the area.

Practically Irish officially started in June 2014. The idea came about like most great ideas, over a few beers with friends. In this case, it was between long time friends and homebrewers Brian James (President) and Dwayne Fernandes (Brewmaster). Their dream started back in 2012, after attending OCB Conference, which after creating a business plan and working out all the details, they took possession of an industrial unit in January 2014. As things started to take shape, Brian and Dwayne brought in Alex Bitterman, who is Vice President and Sales and Promotions. Not only are the 3 friends working hard to complete the brewery, they have hired a couple of assistants in addition to having had tons of help from friends and family.

Currently they are running on a 250L system, which with help from an overseas investor will allow them to double their production in February 2015. Practically Irish is already looking to expand with the addition of a bottling line, 8 new fermenters and a new Brite Tank. As of right now, they are brewing their Blonde Ale which can be found in bars and restaurants in Durham Region and 9 bars in Toronto. They are already expanding their selection with a Midnight Milk Stout, which I was lucky enough to sample and I must say it was amazing. Already there are plans for a Cream Ale and an ESB in the Spring. Practically Irish is also in talks about the possibility of opening a brewpub in Pickering at a later date.

The retail area of the brewery will be fully completed and licensed in early February 2015. They are located at 1033 Toy Ave, Unit 8, Pickering, ON. So give them a follow on twitter (@pracirishbeer) and check out their site at for all the information on their opening date.

The Northumberland Hill Brewery

During my trip to Cobourg, I decided to swing by the 9 week old Northumberland Hill Brewery. The brewery is located at 1024 Division St, in a small unit just off the main street. Upon arriving at the brewery, I was greeted by two gentlemen, one being Rick Bailey, the brewmaster and owner. Rick, who was very busy helping the flood of customers walking into the retail area of the brewery, was very friendly and was able to talk to me about the brewery and business inbetween helping others.

The brewery has a small footprint but utilizes the area very well. Upon entering, you will notice the bottle fridge, which was full with 5 beer selections. As the brewery is very new, things are slowly starting to come together. The retail area is being built, where they will offer flights, glassware, and apparel. The sampling area was a bar top infront of a large chalkboard which displayed all the brewery news, it also displayed beer that are coming soon and what they are currently sampling. During my time there, I sampled all their offerings, all of which were very different and unique.

When the brewery died down, Rick took me into the brewhouse. The brewhouse uses 300L tanks, which after the brewing process, ends up with about 250L of beer per batch. Though the brewery isn’t large, they have a wide range of beers that they are currently offering, and the list is always growing. Northumberland Hills Brewery (NHB) has truly been found by the locals. During my time there, the customers never stopped coming in, and Rick tells me the brewery was busy all weekend. Its great location combined with their well balanced beers, will surely make for a successful combination.

I wish I had a chance to spend more time there and speak to Rick longer, but my short time there has me wanting to go back. With their ever growing new beers being brewed, you’ll be sure to get something new everytime you head into the brewery. So be sure to head over to Northumberland Hill Brewery and pay the guys a visit, you won’t be disappointed.

William Street Beer Co.

I had a great opportunity to take a trip out to Cobourg, Ontario recently. While in town, I decided to pay William Street Beer Co a visit. William Street Brewery is located at 412 William Street, which is a prime location at the corner of William Street and University Ave. The brewery isn’t hard to miss as you can see the sign, which is high in the air, as you drive down William St. The brewery is located in a old automotive shop, which really suits the brewery well. During my time at William Street, I had the opportunity to be shown around and to speak with Sean Walpole, who is the brewmaster. Sean welcomed me with open arms. Sean was very knowledgeable about brewing, the beer industry and business. I left the brewery having learned a lot from him.

William Street Beer Co is a nice small local brewery. As you walk in the door to the right, you will see the stores two fridges, which house all the beer that the brewery is offering at the time. The fridges themselves have great graphics, which are some of the beer labels, displayed on the sides. The designs are very well done and with everything William Street does is very consistant. Just down the hall, you enter the tasting room, where you have the chance to sample selections of their beers. The tatsting room incudles a bar that runs the length of the room. A garage door, which in the summer, opens up to wlecome everyone into sample. As the tour continued, we ended up in the brewhouse, which is a 3BBL brewing system. The brewhouse is able to brew 300L batches of beer at a time. On the day of my visit, Sean was just releasing their pumpkin beer, Peculiar Pumpkin.

William Street has been open for about 8 months, and like most breweries going through their ups and downs. At first, the brewery was having troubles keeping up with demands for the beer. This forced them to close down for a few weeks to catch up and perfect the beers. Now, the brewery is fully stocked and very busy. While in the tasting room, I had the chance to try 3 of the breweries beers, Red Sky Amber, Cliff Top Pale Ale and Peculiar Pumpkin. All three of the beers were very good and unique. I will review a couple very soon. Sean was very helpful in telling me all about the beers and the process in which they were made. During my hour or so at the brewery, I could see how well William Street fits into Cobourg. There was a steady stream of customers coming in, not only for their new beer offering but for some of their staples, which are the Cliff Top and Red Sky. A lot of the customers that were coming in, Sean knew by name. Currently you can only pick up their beers at the brewery and your able to order a pint at a handful of local bars.

Sean’s main message to me was “We are committed to brewing simple, high quality and hand crafted ales for Cobourg and the surrounding communities. In addition, we make our beer with premium ingredients with preference always given to local, natural or homemade products over extracts, chemicals or shortcuts.” So, if you are ever in the Cobourg area be sure to check this place out and go and pay Sean a visit. You will get great beer and very friendly and knowledgeable service.