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 😉
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.
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.
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.