9 April 2017

Polkapolooza Craft Beer Tour 2017 Review - Toronto Day!

The hat says it all on Day 6 in The Six
  I don't know when my fascination with Toronto started but it's been with me as long as I can remember. Perhaps it was going to my first Maple Leafs game with my dad and the crowd on Carleton street after the game or maybe some of the school trips to the various attractions and museums around Canada's largest city. I've always dreamed of living and working downtown with the buzz of so many events every day at my fingertips. I imagined sitting in cool bars and staying out late with a morning meet-up at some hole in the wall coffee shop that served amazing brew. While moving to Toronto is not likely to happen (have you seen the prices for the tiniest of condos?) I do make sure every year for the Polkapolooza tour of Ontario to plan one entire day for the Big Smoke.
  It is perhaps possible to hit every brewery in town in one day, but we wanted to make sure we left time for each visit to be able to last as long as possible and not rush from one to the next. So many great breweries had to be left off the list that I could plan a few more trips just to hit them all and that is the plan for later this summer when I'd like to take a weekend and visit every single one.
First stop! Cameron's Brewing!

  The day started with our usual stop for some drive thru breakfast and coffee before a late addition to the trip. While reviewing the planned route I discovered that one of my favourites, Oakville's Cameron's Brewing, was open at 10 a.m and that would allow us to stop in before dropping off some Beer Saint presents to my pal Don on the way to Toronto. We've spent many evenings in the last year having a great time at Cask Nights in this now 20 year old Brewery and I was happy to grab a few of the single barrel Deviator Doppelbock from the 2016 release. A short drive up to the Beer Store where Don worked and a surprise craft beer gift for one of my favourite writers (Check out his blog, here). Long a supporter of all things craft beer, especially in Ontario, I was only too happy to drop off some of the hoppier spoils of our trip to the IPA lovin' Brew Ha Ha scribe.
Love hitting a new Brewery!
   It was now time to make the trek to the eastern end of Toronto and visit a relative newcomer to the scene in 2016. Located in Scarborough, Common Good Beer is not only a brewer of their own straight forward styled beers but also a large contract brewing space for such brands as Shillow and Lost Craft. We had a wonderful tour and visit with the team helping to make so many new beers. Huge space with plans for a proper tasting room in the future, I was glad to have finally made it here after my pals from this end of the city had been raving about it for months. They brew simple and stylistically on point beers, stop in and start your next T.O. tour doing a little good for yourself.
A tour and some beer chat!
Muddy York is always a must stop for us!

  I don't think anyone was surprised at stop 3 for the day when we pulled up to Muddy York Brewing. Long a favourite of both Kathryn and I, it is one of our most visited breweries from 2016 and not just because of the great beer they brew. Jeff and Susan are always happy to stop and talk about beer or anything else and it was a great visit as always. Work is underway on their tap room and the new, shiny tanks bring joy to my heart because that means more great Muddy York beer for all of us to enjoy. I cannot stress enough how you need to make this growing craft brewer in your next road trip, it will kick your day off right.
More Tanks means more beer!
All these visits and I finally remembered to get a picture with one of my favourite Ontario Craft beer people!
Thanks Jeff!
 Time was ticking for our lunch reservations and as happened so many times in the last week, we were running late. Hitting the road and heading west towards the core, we made our next stop at the ever expanding Left Field Brewery to meet up with another Instagram beer pal, Pat (Craft_Connoisseur). He had recently been hired on at the brewery as a sales rep and it was nice to add another real life friend to a growing list that craft beer has brought into my life.
Walk in and feel that left Field Vibe
  A tour of the production side and a chance to try the delectable Laser Show right off the tank as well as some craft beeer talk with the brewer of all the great Left Field beer made for an extended stop that found us leaving with some Beer Saint gifts of our own thanks to Pat. Make your way to Left Field, especially as the weather warms and the Jays return to the field. The brewpub was filled with happy beer drinkers, kids and dogs in tow and a happy vibe that will have you returning many times. Thanks again Pat for the hospitality!
Time for lunch!
A tradition for us on the Toronto Day of Polkapolooza was established last year as we stopped for lunch at the lakeside Amsterdam Brewhouse. Located just across from the Island Airport, it has beautiful scenery, great food, amazing service and of course, damn good beer. Settling in and catching our breathe before the all out sprint across the city that was to come, we ordered a few of the adventure brews (Stout for Mrs., Black Rye IPA for me) and a couple of pounds of delicious wings to give us the fuel we needed. Buzzing with the anticipation of that evening's St. Patrick's day party, the brew house was a great boost to our ambitious plan.
Delicious food, amazing beer and spot on service.

It is always such a wonderful place for some food and conversation and I am indebted to Amsterdam's own Heather for making sure we got a table when I forgot to make a reservation on this very busy day. She also gets her own Beer Saint status for the gift of 4 of their recently released Adventure brews for us to try at home when we finally ended the tour. The manager of the retail section, Kevin, was kind enough to grace my noggin with a new Boneshaker chapeau and we left with full bellies and happy hearts. A beauty place to stop anytime of the year, the coming summer patio season would be a great time for you to head down and get yourself acquainted with this Toronto landmark.
Craft beer, new hat and my bones are shook!
The second half of the day was a lot of short trips form stop to stop and a few visits with some folks we'd only known online. Starting on Ossington Avenue at Ontario craft Brewing darling Bellwoods Brewing. We had wanted to go to their new location, but that didn't fit into the plan...next time Hafis Rd. 
The Bell and the TTC
  I was lucky enough to score a coveted street parking spot across from the red bell and ran in to grab a few of the highly touted Milkshake IPAs, Milkshark. I promised a few to some friends and spied that they had Hellwoods, a stout for Mrs. Polk to get her very first Bellwoods beer on! Racing back to the car, we headed around the corner to the site of the inaugural Beer Saints meetup, Folly Brewpub.
Oh Folly, I missed you so much!

 I always make sure to stop at Folly whenever I am close by because I love the styles that they seem to always have a new take on. Proponents of using that funky Ontario yeast, it is also an amazing place for friends to gather and enjoy some great food to go with the wonderful beer. Time was ticking and we dove back into the car with some bottles for later research and a promise to ourselves that we would make time for a longer visit next time.
  If there is a more stolen piece of glassware than Bandit Brewing's racoon logo, I don't know what it is. I remember our first visit last year and hearing tales of people purloining the flight glasses in the time before they had glassware for purchase. We showed up a little before they opened but were happily taken to the back to meet the crew as they busily prepared for a Friday night crowd. Talking social media, new beers and of course, that iconic glassware, we once again had to move on with promises of a return when the patio opened and we could get some snacks under the warm summer sun to go with our beer.
Don't steal me!
  One of the hardest parts of this day is driving past places I desperately want to stop. I received messages from people asking why I wasn't stopping at one brewery or another. It wasn't easy but wholly necessary to cut the trip into a manageable size, regrets were many.  No doubt I will make it to the ones we had to miss during this particular T.O. run but onward we pushed as the day was coming to an end.
Another new to me Brewery!

  Next up was a unique stop that had two places in one building. Relative newcomer Shacklands Brewing and the award winning Rainhard Brewery are at opposite ends of the same industrial looking complex and we pulled into the parking lot laughing that we could hit 2 with 1 stop. Shacklands was first and it was the very personable Dave who made our visit go longer than we had anticipated. His engaging and excited enthusiasm for life and beer took us in and settled us down for a few samples. He even shared a rare barrel aged brew that was a hit with both of us. Pausing as the sun was headed down, Dave gave me that spark I sought when stepping into a brewery for the first time. Personality brings so much more to great beer and I encourage you to make this one a priority when your headed to the Junction next.
Too much fun at Shacklands.
Packed with so much hoppy goodness!
  Literally a minutes walk away was the very cool Rainhard Brewery that turns so many heads with their great beer and newly available 355ml cans of Unfiltered Pilsner and maybe the best pale Ale in Ontario, Armed N' Citra. Grabbing a few of each, alongside some bottles, we hopped back in the car for a short trip to a brewery that will be joining these two in this triangle of awesome later this year, Junction Craft Brewing.
  The fading daylight made our stop at Junction Brewing a short one as we had plans for later in the evening. Crammed into their current location, the new building is a huge space that will accommodate not only more beer but a lively and sure to be rocking taproom. We found a few beers for each of us and prepared to bid Toronto farewell for another year with one final stop...Great Lakes Brewing!
Feels like home to me!
  I've written a whole lot about GLB in 2017 and their celebrating 30 years of making fantastic Ontario Craft Beer. Many fun times have been had hanging out with the fine folks who work and make their living from being part of this iconic Canadian brewer and as we rolled in for the 12th and final stop of the day, I was happy with what we had accomplished. From big to small, LCBO giants to single label breweries, we had seen a wonderful cross section of what a day in Toronto can offer the craft beer fan. A pint of Canuck Pale ale and we said good bye to the penultimate day of Polkapolooza with a hoppy legend in my glass. The patio is open at Great Lakes, make the trip and sit a spell.
  One day remained and it was full of even more awesome people, beer and an evening that was a worthy finish to a week spent travelling the province...but that story will need its own telling another day.

Make your next beer run a little more epic
Break your routine and Explore everything Ontario Craft Beer has to offer.
You will be happy you did.

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