When it comes to beer in Toronto, let’s just say that locals take their brews very seriously. With thousands of craft beer spots popping up all over the city, it takes a long time searching for the right one to go to. While its great to have the selection and the large number of top beer spots to choose from, it can be very overwhelming, especially when you’re in a rush.
A programmer by day and a beer connoisseur by night, Katie Liu loves searching for the next best bar and can be seen on weekends sipping on her favourite craft beers in the Toronto core. From all corners of Toronto, she’s got you covered.
Here are Katie’s reviews for the 5 best bars in Toronto for beer lovers.
In my opinion, C’est What is at the top of the list for the best bars in Toronto. It looks like a normal bar at first glance. Located at a basement near Church and Front, with a pool table at the back and occasional live band music, C’est What really doesn’t sound too different from any other bar in downtown Toronto. What’s great about this bar, however, is the incredibly homey feel, awesome beer selection, and delicious food. Instead of the industrial look and dimmed light you see in a lot of modern bars, C’est What looks more like a British restaurant with bright lighting and yellow wood furniture. It feels comfortable and casual, like a place you can always stop by on a night that you’re too lazy to cook. With its stone walls, crackling fire, pool tables and fully-stocked cellar on display, this basement bar is the ultimate beer den. It opened in the late ’80s and has 34 taps, 18 of which are rotating.
Their beer selection is not huge, but it is filled with interesting craft beer options. They also have a decent size spirit menu and some cocktails. I’ve never tried their cocktails because I can always find more a beer that I’m really interested in trying. They also brew their own beer, though I’ve never tried it. Food wise, I always like their lamb burger and have never been disappointed by any dish that I’ve ordered. Sometimes their service can be slow, but most of the time it’s a positive experience and an overall good vibe.
I wouldn’t say C’est What is the best in terms of food or drinks, but if you ever feel lazy, want a quiet night out, or celebrate to celebrate a birthday with friends, they have very good beer selection. You will not be disappointed when visiting this Toronto bar.
What can be better than delicious German sausage and good beer? Maybe some duck confit fries? They even have vegetarian and vegan sausages if you’re not a meat person. This is a place that you visit once and will never forget. In fact, their website boasts,
“WVRST proudly offers 600+ bottled and canned Beers and Ciders, and 24 taps of ALWAYS changing/rotating Beers and Ciders, with SIX taps devoted to Ontario Craft Ciders and two taps to Bourbon and a Digestive.“
They are definitely not lying. The only thing I can ever complain about here is the loud music. Sometimes it hurts my ears a little bit, but most of the time I’m so focused on the food and drink. Really, there’s only so much I can say about WVRST because you really need to experience it for yourself!
I would say that the craft beer scene in Toronto, while not originated by, was elevated by two bars, Bar Volo and Bar Hop. Bar Hop has three locations now; the crowded and homey location on King, the more modern location with a really nice rooftop patio on Peter and Queen, as well as a location on the Danforth. I’m not too sure if all locations have the same menu, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t. Bar Hop has a wide range of beer selection, from the beer for people who don’t really care about beer, to beer that beer lovers will appreciate, to the rare and baller bottles that are almost as expensive as a fine wine. I always appreciate the detailed description on Bar Hop’s menu. They really try hard to describe each beer to help you make your decision. If you still can’t, the waiters are more than willing to help and provide their best advice. Bar Hop’s food is not bad either. Overall, this is my favourite bar in the city.
Birreria Volo is a sister location of Bar Volo, one of the original purveyors of craft beer in the city, Birreria Volo has an impressive list of brews on tap and an even more impressive list of bottled beer. Located in Little Italy, it’s sister outlet, Bar Volo had to close after 25 years but will be reopening in the near future in the Yonge Street area.
Bar Volo used to be one of the best craft beer bars in Toronto, until they shut down in 2016 for losing their lease at the original location, and have been struggling to relocate. However, I’ve heard that it’s coming back sometime soon. Before they shut down, a few years ago, the owner opened up Birreria Volo, a bar that’s specialized in sour beer.
Sour beer is a very unique style of craft beer, which has become quite popular in recent years. It could taste really weird to some people, while to others it tastes refreshing, delicious, interesting, and boozy all at once. Three years ago, after discovering this type of beer in New York, I was so obsessed with it and struggled to find it in Toronto and even Montréal, until Birreria Volo opened up. You will not find another bar in Toronto with so many sour beers. They have the funky kind, the citrus kind, the light and refreshing kind, and of course, the super sour, almost vinegar-like kind. It could be quite a new experience to try this bar if you don’t know much about craft beer, and do keep in mind, the beer here is not the bitter, hoppy beer that you normally expect.
Volo is a refined, European take on the traditional craft-brew bar. A wide and varied drinks list favors European beers, barrel-aged beers, and unique selections like Italian grape ales; a small, tidy snacks menu includes antipasti. The servers know what they’re talking about when it comes to the menu’s offerings and will help you choose the perfect choice. The menu headings are listed in Italian, and the drafts are served in riesling glasses to showcase the aromas.
Quite a few of my favourite beers are from Bellwoods. Bellwoods’ first location is located near the Trinity Bellwoods Park. There is a really nice patio attached to the brewpub. At first, I didn’t really love this place because I thought it was just another bar with a fancy name for their beers and very creative posters. But the newer products they’ve introduced in the past two years has blown my mind. I loved so many of them! Now I’m such a big fan of Bellwoods that I don’t want to miss any of their new releases. Besides the Ossington location, their second location is near the 401 and Allen Road, making it easier for people from outside of the downtown core to access their delicious beers. Bellwoods Brewery has even won dozens of awards, including The Top 100 Brewers In The World and the Most Innovative Brewery.
My personal favourite beer here is the Jelly King, a sour beer. My boyfriend likes Bring Out Your Dead, an imperial stout, and Witchshark, a double IPA.
The Beer Scene in Toronto is Growing Quickly
There have been more beer bars in downtown Toronto, especially concentrated in the financial district. They like to market themselves as ‘100+ taps’, but you will likely find that half of their menu is crappy beer, or stuff you can buy from any LCBO. For example, King Taps and Craft Beer Market (that’s just my personal opinion). The only time I visited King Taps, I couldn’t even find one thing that I’m interested in on their menu. Craft Beer Market, on the other hand, is worth a few more visits, and the staff there are always really nice. However, I can’t deny the fact that their menu doesn’t get updated (I might be wrong since it is a big menu, but most of the stuff is the same as I remember from my first visit some time ago), and a lot of items, both drinks and food, are overpriced.
There have been more micro-breweries popping up all over Toronto in recent years such as GodSpeed Brewery, Eastbound Brewery, Left Field Brewery, and more. I’m really happy to see that the industry is growing, and can’t wait to visit other bars in Toronto.
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