Beer In The Burbs- Putting the “Great” in the “Greater Toronto Area”

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.

Whitby/Oshawa

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.

Breweries To See: 5 Paddles, Brock St, and while you’re out here, go to Bowmanville and see the nice folks at Manantler.

Photo by The Tap & Tankard.
Photo by The Tap & Tankard.

Mississauga/Etobicoke

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.

Breweries to See: Trafalgar and Cameron’s in Oakville, Black Oak & Great Lakes Brewery in Etobicoke

Photo by Hungry Brew Hops.
Photo by Hungry Brew Hops.

Newmarket

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

Photo by @rebeccabentolilaphoto on Instagram.
Photo by @rebeccabentolilaphoto on Instagram.

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

Hungry Brew Hops Visit

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I finally had the opportunity to check out Hungry Brew Hops! It’s a gastropub that I have been hearing about for months from friends and fellow beer lovers, and all I can say is it was worth the wait.

Hungry Brew Hops is located at 211 Main St. in Newmarket, Ontario. The restaurant is placed among little boutique stores and cafés and fits in very well. When you wilk in the door you get taken away with the rustic décor and large scale art on the wall, but it’s the little touches that make this place special. The details that went into the design are amazing, from the warm rustic tables, to the wall of kegs at the front entrance. As you walk past the bar, you will notice the 28 tap handles including 4 wines on tap. One thing you can’t miss is the “Hungry” light sign hanging on the wall of the bar. This is definitely an eye catcher!
My girlfriend and I, were seated near the back of the restaurant by the open kitchen. Once seated, we got to see the full beer list with brews from around Ontario and the world, but our eyes were easily taken away from the menu when we noticed the beautiful chalk art on the wall displaying all the beer styles. It is truly a work of art.
Once we ordered our first set of beers, myself a GLB Saison Dupump and my girlfriend a flight, the service was excellent. Our beers came promptly and our orders for food were taken. The food menu at Hungry Brew Hops is quite vast. There is definitely a great selection of food to pair with the amazing beers that they offer.
The food was delicious. Very good portion sizes and full of flavour. Even though I was full I had to order dessert and another beer. I went with their apple cheesecake and a Sawdust City Skinny Dipping Stout. It was truly the perfect pairing.
My overall experience was great! The food, service and beer were on point and the décor was so welcoming it made you want to stay. It was definitely worth the trip and I will for sure making another trip out there.