Beer-tasting the Toronto pub scene! / by Jessica Lee

I handed in my last university paper last week so during the weekend, I went to my first official beer-tasting. It was a pub crawl organized by DishcrawlTO. Basically you go to different pubs (there were six on this list) and sample different local Ontario craft beers, which is beer made from smaller companies.

I'm not much of a beer drinker (prefer wine) and thus not very knowledgeable about beer. But I did learn a few things on this trip.
1. I enjoy lighter beers
2. Toronto has a diverse pub scene
3. Some beer (and food) is really really gross

Below is a photo of us starting out at the Amsterdam Bicycle Club (look how confident we are, we thought we were going to down all 12 5-ounce beer samples). Love the decor in there by the way! We sampled Amsterdam Brewery's Big Wheel and Boneshaker. Big Wheel was mild, malty and smooth, while Boneshaker was strong, dark and had a "grassy taste", according to my friend Yamri.

One thing I've discovered about beer-tasting is that it's vastly different from wine-tasting. Sure both are sampling an alcoholic beverage but the crowd here was much different. There weren't any old ladies unlike when I did a wine-tasting in Australia. Also, there was no spitting bucket. And there was less knowledge about the beer from the person serving it to you.

At the wine-tastings I've been to, the sommeliers told you all the tasting notes that were going to be present and generally knew the alcohol levels, etc. At the beer-tasting, perhaps the servers knew the product, but they didn't bother telling us more things about it (possibly because they assumed the crowd wouldn't care, ie. they were just there to get drunk).

Luckily, some of the brewery owners were personally there at the pubs to tell us about their beers.

Here we are at Bier Markt; my favourite out of all six pubs because we got to sit on their patio. And because we got to eat their delicious food.

The owner of Spearhead Brewery was there to let us know that the lighter one, the Hawaiian-style pale ale needed to be kept away from heat otherwise there would be lots of "hops". "Hops" is a beer term which means bitterness.

He also told us about which tasting notes to expect, which made it easier for us to perceive the taste. The light one had a tinge of pineapple aftertaste and the dark one, the Belgian stout was creamy and had chocolate notes.

We also had the bar food, which was slow-cooked beef brisket. Amazing.

While we were there, we also ordered the beer-battered fried chicken and waffles, which were delicious!

Here is a photo of the patio crowd- the weather was amazing for April in Toronto.

Next, we moved on to Scotland Yard. I absolutely loved the vibe of the place. There were older people in there (in their 50s and 60s) so I felt like I was connecting with old souls. The place had a "whisky and cigarettes" and "back in my day" feel. Also, the bar was constructed of solid wood and had that "traditional"pub look. Scotland Yard is a pub I would imagine meeting one of my distinguished professors at and having intelligent debates (while we drink whisky on the rocks of course)- very "Yale" and "Harvard".

We had Mill Street Brewery's Vanilla Porter which was my favourite so far.

Here is the food we also ate/ didn't finish. Nachos and poutine.

Next we headed to Fionn MacCools, another Irish Pub. We were here on St. Patty's weekend and got to experience river dancing. The atmosphere was much more relaxed for our afternoon beer-tasting though. We tried Duggans Brewery's No. 9 (malty, disgusting, bitter) and No.5 (light, good, Sapporo style).

We swiftly headed to Great Burger Kitchen afterwards for Beau's Lug Tread Lagered Ale and Beaver River I. P. Eh (some Canadian there for you). I don't remember if we liked it or not because we stopped taking notes. Isn't it cute that you can have beer in a 70's style diner?

Our last stop was Berber Social and they definitely did not give us 5 ounce samples, but whole pints of beer. Needless to say we did not finish the entire glass, but we had fun tasting everything. This is the Orange Peel Ale from Great Lakes Brewery.

And thus, that concluded our beer-tasting tour. It was interesting to see all interiors of the different pubs along the Esplanade and to sample the different Ontario breweries. I hope to one day head to Ireland and England and compare the pub scene over there to our Canadian pub scene.

Thank you to DishcrawlTO for this experience.