Toronto’s Best Craft Beers and Where to Drink Them
Whether you’re looking for juicy sour ales or a comforting dry stout, Toronto is filled to the brim with noteworthy craft beers. We’ve created a treasure map for craft beer lovers that will lead you right to the best places to sip suds in the city.
Toronto’s craft beer scene has been on a sky-high trajectory and shows no sign of slowing. Almost every neighborhood in the city boasts a brewery that executes thoughtful, boundary-pushing beers. Stop into one and you’ll most likely be greeted by diehard beer-nerd bartenders ready to talk shop, or just help you find a beer you’ll really, really like.
Options go far beyond Pilsners; though you can definitely find an easy-drinking pint of such a lager, why not try a green tea-infused IPA at Godspeed, or traditional Belgian brews at Folly? Or perhaps drop into Burdock, where they’re collaborating with local winemakers to make mind-bending beer–wine hybrids. Plus, many of these breweries offer impressive patios, which are the perfect places to soak in Toronto’s fleeting summers.
The city’s beer bars, in turn, fly the flag for these breweries. There is a strong sense of community in the city’s beer scene, and bar keeps at the city’s watering holes are happy to guide you through Toronto’s diverse drinking options.
If you’re not in the mood to wax poetic about hops, it’s not an issue; there is still many a spot that’s great to hit for a carefree, ice-cold pint.
East End's Godspeed Brewing for Japanese-influenced beers and snacks
Gastropub, Pub, Japanese
Godspeed isn’t your average brewery. This establishment is the solo act of Luc Lafontaine, formerly of the famed Dieu de Ciel brewery in Montreal. The draft list is fascinating – many beers have a Japanese lean that speaks to Lafontaine’s years spent living and working in Japan. Take the beer Umi, meaning sea in Japanese – it’s a Gose-style ale made with shikuwasa citrus and sea salt. The addition of cilantro to the formula nods to the brewery’s Little India home. The Ochame is a hoppy IPA melded with Japanese green tea to make a sweet, layered sip. Food offerings speak to Japanese comfort foods; think fois gras miso pasta, gyuusuji doteni (braised beef stew with miso) and katsu sando.
Baseball is the water of life for many Torontonians, so if you’re stopping in the city, why not go with the flow? Left Field Brewery brews with intense Blue Jays fervor. It’s dubbed ‘Beer for Champions,’ and each iteration nods to the game. The Squeeze Play is a series of fruity sours, 10 Cent Beer Night is a double IPA and Lead-Off Single is a Belgian table beer. We could go on and on: the brewery has pumped out over 65 beers since opening in 2013. With that in mind, stop in on game day – even the sports-neutral will find themselves cheering.
The Bloor West brewery is one of the most innovative in the country. Some of their most spectacular beers aren’t beers, but beer-wine hybrids; Burdock combines beer and winemaking techniques, like aging in neutral oak barrels, adding splashes of local wine or aging beers on the skins of orange wines. The beers are beloved by grape geeks and beer nerds alike. Case in point: the Baby Riesling, a low-ABV grisette beer blended with Pearl Morissette Riesling before bottling. The brewery offers a full range of easy-drinking, low-ABV beers, and non-beer drinkers will fawn over the natural wine list. The Tuesday, a classic saison in a millennial-pink can, is a perfect partner to patio weather (and Burdock has a great patio). Grab a spot in the sun and order a piri piri chicken, and you have the makings for an idyllic summer afternoon.
This Dundas West bar is a dive bar for discerning drinkers. The boisterous spot is decked out with neon lights, a full row of pinball machines and an impressive selection of Ontario beers on draft. Try the Single Farm IPA from Ottawa’s Dominion Brewing, made with Quebec’s Houblonnière Lupuline hops; or maybe a crisp Belgian-style ale from Beamsville’s Bench Brewing Company. Whatever you choose, wash it down with a slice from Brooklyn Pizza, a thin-crust pizza joint that takes over the back corner of the bar.
Kensington Market has always been a hub for beer lovers – the market is full of excellent haunts and dives – and Kensington Brewery is the jewel in the crown. It opened in 2011 in the back of a restaurant, but has since moved to an underground spot on the main strip, where visitors can sip on flights in the tasting room while watching the hops ferment. Beers are approachable, ranging from an easy-drinking Pilsner to the more creative barrel-aged imperial stout.
The 25-year-old Rosedale drinking hole was one of the first bars in the city to launch an Ontario-only beer menu. The snug Canadian tavern offers beers from heavy-hitting brands like Amsterdam, Steam Whistle and Creemore, to more craft options like Innocente Conscience and Cowbell McNall’s. It’s all you’ve ever wanted from a neighborhood joint – the bartenders are quick to learn your name even if you’re just passing through, and a menu of elevated pub fare will line your stomach for a night of reveling. If beer isn’t your thing, ask for the tequila menu – it’s one of the longest and most diverse in the city.
Bellwoods Brewery is as much a center for merriment as it is a brewery. The sprawling patio right off the bustling Ossington Strip is decked out with big picnic tables and fairy lights, so bring your friends. The beer offerings rely heavily on experimentation and frequently rotate, making a case to stop in often. Current menu standouts include the Jelly King, a dry-hopped sour beer with rich, juicy notes of peach and tangerine, and the Wizard Wolf, a bright, refreshing pale ale with a big punch of hops.
For the last 30 years, this charming spot in the basement of the historic St Lawrence Market has been a shrine for beer lovers. The spot is old school – it carries only single-batch beers made using natural brewing processes. But that doesn’t mean the spot is uptight; they’ve got board games and billiards, both best enjoyed with a pour from the impressive tap list. All beers hail from Canada, and most from Ontario, making a strong case for imbibing with national pride.
Boxcar Social for an all-day café-bar with a serious beverage program
Cafe, Wine Bar, Contemporary, $$$
During the day, Boxcar Social is an impressive coffee shop, offering a fully curated coffee menu with a focus on single-origin beans and pour-overs. After 6pm, the beer menu is just as remarkable. The draft list zooms in on local beers, including Blood Brothers (you’ll find them later on the list), Left Field and Halcyon. They have four locations across the city, but the Rosedale one includes a dreamy backyard nook.
Birreria Volo is truly treasured by the city: there was uproar when the original location, Bar Volo, shuttered last year. But the team is back, and swinging for the fences with a menu that speaks of sophistication without pretension. Slide up to the bar in the Italian-style joint and check out the chalkboard of rotating drafts – it’s staggering. The 26 taps rotate frequently, and a notable bottle list rounds out the offerings. Highlights include stouts and barley wines from the lauded Dieu du Ciel out of Montreal, and both Quebecois and Belgian wits. Pair your beers with upscale bar snacks like the burrata, a table plate such as the charcuterie platter or carciofi, Roman-style artichokes with parmesan.
Beerbistro for a craft beer watering hole in Downtown Toronto
Pub, Bistro, Gastropub, Beer, $$$
For the downtown set, Beerbistro is the perfect reprieve from a drawn-out day at the office or a packed day of sightseeing. The elevated bistro has a superb tap selection, and the bar team is happy to play tour guide. The staff is incredibly informed on the beer world, so much so that the annual Canadian Golden Tap Awards are hosted here. On the food side, classics from French-speaking nations, like moules and steak frites, are the perfect accompaniment to a cold pint.
People's Pint for out-of-the-box beer in the Junction
Gastropub, Pub, Beer
What’s in a name? For People’s Pint, the name reflects the democratic process in which the brewery crafts its brews. People’s Pint started as a project in 2015 when they brought together 15 brewers from around the province to create a series of one-off beers. The concept was such a hit that People’s Pint developed from a one-time event into a full-scale project. Now, the brewery focuses on small-batch, boundary-pushing beers. A stop into the brewery is the best way to experience them; sip through everything from house-made tequila lime sours (cheekily dubbed the Gose Cuervo) to collaborations with Reverence Barrel Works.
In 2015, Blood Brothers was born when a pair of brothers decided they needed to bring more interesting beers to their pals. Now, the Geary Avenue brewery is a full-scale operation. Beer menus read like potions – the Shumei IPA blends West Coast and North Eastern styles of IPA, while the Paradise Lost is a sour ale brewed with carrots, mangoes and pineapples. Even more curious brews include the Abattoir, a farmhouse ale aged in Chardonnay barrels, or the Blood in Public, a crisp sour brewed with rice and dry-hopped with Sorachi Ace. The taproom itself is a prime spot to hang out; in the summer, they swing open the garage door so that visitors can sip beers overlooking the nearby park.
Saulter Street for approachable, easy-drinking brews
Gastropub, Pub, Beer, $$$
Saulter Street is your friendly neighborhood beer bar. The Riverside spot welcomes patrons with warm, homey vibes. Speakers play classics, bartenders are delightful and beer is approachable. The perfectly hoppy Pilsner is named after the neighborhood, and the snack menu nods to the ‘hood as well – many of the offerings are sourced from the Leslieville Cheese Market around the corner. For locals, refillable growlers will keep the party going after you leave.
Folly Brewing for authentic, Belgian-style beers under fairy lights
Pub, Beer, $$$
Here, 13 rotating taps showcase inventive riffs on Belgian-style beers. Must-tries include the Flemish Cap, an old-world saison fermented with Brett cultures from Guelph’s Escarpment Labs, and the Promethean Fire, a Flanders-style red ale fermented in cognac barrels. Great brews aside, the brewery is situated on a bustling chunk of College Street, and big tables, a bigger backyard and a laid-back atmosphere all lend an air of conviviality. A range of hip-hop and new rock blare over the speakers, inviting guests to stay well into the night.
Rorschach Brewing Co for a creative brewery in The Beaches
One of the newest editions to Toronto’s brew scene, Rorschach Brewing Co sits inside a century-old house on a strip of The Beaches. The live music on Saturdays make it a destination all on its own, but the 18 house drafts are equally alluring. Play it safe with Normopathy, a refreshing German Pilsner, or Reminiscence, a perfect example of a light Mexican lager. Or don’t – try the Malevolent Benevolence, an imperial Stout brewed to taste like churros, or the Hedonism, a Sorbet Sour IPA with notes of an orange Creamsicle. Once you’ve worked your way through Toronto’s craft beer scene, why not grab a bite to eat at one of Toronto’s best restaurants?