Or perhaps… making the GTA great again? Nah- I’d rather not go there…
For the past few years I’ve either been working or studying in Toronto while living in Ajax with my roommates (see: Mother and Father). I’ve found that it’s very easy to become very narrow-minded about the city, and all of the things going on in it. Many people can be reluctant to go North of a certain street if they live in the Entertainment District, hesitant to travel West of a certain street if they live in the Beaches, and so on. I’ve noticed that this hyper-local allegiance is also prevalent in beer, as well as when discussing better beer bars. Some people are choosing to drink only from breweries that are from their stomping grounds of Toronto, or will only support a bar that’s within spitting distance.
This observation has only been amplified by the recent adoration for the “Toronto VS Everyone” trend. Not to say that there’s anything wrong with this trend (much love to Peace Collective, do your thang dawg). I actually think it’s awesome to see people showing love for their city and remaining loyal to their neighbourhoods and local stops. However- there’s some seriously good stuff happening in the suburbs these days, and I don’t think they are getting enough recognition. You may be thinking I’m being biased since I’m a burbs girl born and raised, but I have actually just signed a lease on an apartment in the city, so I see firsthand the draws to both ways of living. I’ve also noticed while working at a brewery, that events like Ribfests or some of the specialty activations during Ontario Craft Beer Week are far more impactful and well attended in these regions. Of course this is, in part, due to the relative quietness of the regions in comparison to the city. But the significance of the events to these communities is, in turn, exponentially more impactful- and I think that needs to be noted and rewarded. I think there should be more attention paid to the suburbs and the GTA, because any effort exuded in these regions seems to be paid back tenfold by the appreciation and participation of consumers.
Outlined below are three examples of areas outside the city that are home to some awesome bars and breweries, with a few gems being highlighted as inspiration for you to get in a car, or dare I say it, on the GO train, to visit these not so sleepy suburbs.
Bar to Visit: Tap & Tankard
Live Music, daily specials, and two different bars with over 15 taps and plenty of tall cans to choose from. This bar is a hub for the community, and houses many different groups throughout the week including philanthropic and running groups. The food is excellent, proving it’s far more than just that bar you went to when you were perhaps slightly less than 19 years of age.
Bar to Visit: Rib Eye Jack’s Ale House
Ridiculously long bottle list (100+ beers in total between bottle and draught) with goodies from Ontario and Quebec, as well as rotating cask selections. Need I say more? Oh yeah, they also have pretty great whisky if that’s your thing. They try to use local ingredients when possible, and the atmosphere is laid back and welcoming.
Bar To Visit: Hungry Brew Hops
Amazing rotating tap selection that changes so often they have an “on deck” section in their beer menu so you can plan accordingly. The owner Boris is well known in the industry, and for good reason. Tons of variety in the food offered, amazing beer and the atmosphere is exciting and just upscale enough without feeling stuffy. If you know someone who’s been here or lives in Newmarket, people love to rave about this place! Good vibes all around.
Breweries to See: Arch Brewing
I’ve barely skimmed the surface of what these regions have to offer, but I hope this encourages you to venture outside of Toronto if you get the chance. Thanks to the following lovely folks for inspiring this article, who work (and drink) in these places and helped me create this blog post: Kristin MacDonald, Jen Reinhardt, Mike Relic, Jon Graham, Jared Allen.
Have any suburban spots that you think should have been included? Tweet me and tell me about them: @_VictoriaBrews