30 January 2018

Beer Time in The Aleyards - Polk in Toronto

From the Stockyards comes The AleYards!
  A journey to Toronto is always a wonderful thing for anyone in search of great beer. So many legendary breweries like Amsterdam, Steamwhistle and Great Lakes call the GTA home and the explosion of new and innovative smaller brewers have driven the number to a mind boggling 39 with another 17 in various stages of planning. It can be difficult to see through that many places to visit when organizing a day trip or even just an afternoon but The Aleyards is striving to make that decision a little simpler, putting 3 fantastic Ontario Craft brewers within walking distance of each other.
  Formerly the largest livestock and meat packing district in Canada, The Stockyards or Junction was a gritty, industrial neighbourhood that was also dry well into the 1980's and has seen an explosive growth in both retail, restaurant and housing as Toronto's gentrification reached north and west. Our first visit to this area came in 2016 and every time we go back it is growing, including 3 breweries sure to meet anyone's needs when it comes to styles, flavours and palate. Take a walk with us as we visit The AleYards and spend an afternoon with great craft beer.

Shacklands Brewing
Location - 100 Symes Road
Website - https://www.facebook.com/shacklands/
Hours - Monday-Tuesday Closed/Wednesday to Friday 11 to 9/Saturday 12 to 9/Sunday 12 to 6
Personal Fave Beer - Bourbon Barrel Aged Porter
  Opening just a year ago in January of 2017, Shacklands has quickly gained a reputation for it's Belgian style beers, eclectic tap room and overall positive vibes coming from the incomparable Dave Watts, who mans the front of house. Jason Tremblay was already a well regarded brewer within the community when they opened and since then has taken it to another level with some of the best brett focused, barrel aged and Belgian beers in the province. Sold exclusively in 650 ml bottles for take home, the lineup for pints and flights is constantly changing as is the music and a collection of vintage finds that floods the senses with memories long forgotten. The vibe is very chill, laid back and welcoming. You feel like its a local bar, long standing and comforting as you chat beer, life and anything else with Dave ping ponging around the bar, serving up tastes and ringing out folks at the front. Not shy about being socially aware, it feels good to visit a place where the beer matches the people and you want nothing more than to spend the afternoon listening to stories and drinking great beer.

Rainhard Brewing Company
Location - 100 Symes Road
Website - http://rainhardbrewing.com/
Hours - Monday-Tuesday Closed/Wednesday to Saturday 12 to 9/Sunday 12 to 5
Personal Fave Beer - Revolution 8 Double IPA
 The first to build in this burgeoning area of Toronto was Jordan Rainhard and since our first visit back in 2016, his reputation has grown along with his brewery. Opening in May of 2015, Rainhard Brewing has become a destination for Hop heads in search of some of the finest IPAs and Pale Ales in the province. That's not to say there isn't something for every palate as they have a great variety of amazing craft beer styles, including some fine barrel aged and sour beers to go with a taproom that is flooded with natural light and a bar that begs for an afternoon of beer and friends. An expansion is taking place and that means more great beer is coming as production ramps up and Jordan can explore the limits of his imagination. We were lucky enough to find him behind the bar on our last visit and his passion for the community is evident as we talked about the challenges and rewards of the last few years and where he wants to see his beer go next. Never content means always looking forward and demanding the very best from everything you brew and that indeed is Rainhard Brewing. The OG to The AleYards, it behooves you to make this a stop every time you make this trip.

Junction Craft Brewing
Location - 150 Symes Road
Website - https://junctioncraft.com/
Hours - Every Day 11 to 9
Personal Fave Beer - Junction Road Black Lager
  Originally opened by Doug Paterson and Doug Pengelly in 2012 down the road on Cawartha, Junction Craft moved this weekend into a building that used to house the old Toronto works incinerator and comes by the nickname "The Destructor", which may be the best named building in Ontario Craft Beer. Their original space was a cramped but cozy space that they outgrew as their LCBO available beers ramped up sales and their desire to make even more great things lept to match that rise. Moving into a larger space will allow them to expand their lineup and also help other small brewers to realise their dreams with their larger capacity to accommodate contract breweries now available. More English style focused than their 2 cousins in The AleYards, their Conductor IPA and Black Lager are but 2 examples of an impressive tap list and bottle shop. Available in growlers, 650 ml. bottles and cans, I can see the possibilities of constantly rotating styles and offerings as they get their feet under them in their new brew system. While the new facility dwarfs the old one, the feeling of a close nit pub remains. Our visit was in the late afternoon and the taproom was a collection of young people tasting and snapping pictures, families with strollers taking a respite on a beautiful day and other regular folk just chatting and enjoying the sunshine streaming through the windows. The English focused beers in our flights that included an excellent Porter, also gave us a nice Black IPA and I think we will see Junction be able to really explore new and exciting things now that they have a facility to match their vision.

  So there you have it, 3 very different breweries making distinct yet complimentary beers just steps away from each other. The Belgian, American and English influences on Craft Beer cannot be understated and on one block in Toronto you can experience them all in an afternoon. If that doesn't call for a road trip I don't know what does, so find yourself some free time and make The AleYards your next destination. Bring a friend or 5 and really explore something special with a stop at each one but make room in the trunk because you'll be bringing a lot of stuff home.


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