22 October 2017

The Big Smoke Redux - Polkapolooza 2.1 Day 2 in Toronto

   Day 2 of Polkapolooza 2.1 dawned and we slept in a little after the epic 800 plus km. journey of the day before. How could we sleep in with another 8 breweries lined up on this trip? Simple, the huge amount of new craft brewers that had opened in one of my favourite cities made it easy to take our time and still hit all of them with a good chance of being home for dinner. Toronto day is a staple of any tour, but much to the dismay of many of my crafty friends, their would be no Bellwoods, as we tried to give another perspective on the trip to the Big Smoke.
  We each choose one old favourite to visit that had something for both of us and we started at a brewery we go to almost every time we hit Toronto, Muddy York Brewing. We met up with beer pal Dave Lee and had a good chat with Jeff and Susan as always. We related stories of the previous day up north and heard a few suggestions for the stops to come, it's always good to ask the folks who live in a city for tips on where to go, park and eat. Securing a resupply of great MY beer, we hit the road for a quick trip down to Godspeed, opened by Dieu du Ciel alumni Bim Fontaine.
  While we had hoped to partake in their Japanese inspired menu to pair with our beer, the kitchen didn't open until 4, so it was a quick "pickup some beer" stop and a pin was put into the dinner plans for another day. It's an open and airy setup that we promise to explore more.

  The next stop was just minutes away and once again we were faced with a beautiful space and decided to stop for a few samples before continuing on. Rorschach Brewing is a relative newcomer but their tap/bottle list is already very impressive. Kat was immediately drawn to their Systematic Desensitization, a horchata dessert lager. Bursting with notes of vanilla and cinnamon, it did taste like rice pudding and was a hit. I tried the Absolute Truth Double IPA and came away impressed at what was being done here. Balanced with a juicy and bold bitter grapefruit, orange citrus, the oats added to the smooth texture. Grabbing 4 pack to take home of a few we hadn't tried, we scooted across the city for a bit to find the most unusual stop of the day.

  Saulter Street Brewing is located down a narrow street and tucked in behind a row of townhouses in an alley. Its' bright and open doors invited us in and I was struck by how much it resembled a neighbourhood bar, perfect for the place it was situated. They have one core beer, a Pilsner brewed with some dark malts and I was pretty impressed with the pint we decided we needed to have.
They also have one rotating tap and on this day it held a Common style brew that Kat enjoyed as we talked and rested before the final sprint. As the conversation went on, we came to find that our old pal Tanner, of Brock Street brewing, had moved on and landed here at Saulter Street. A pleasant surprise and a reminder that as the business of craft beer grows, we will see such movement while the people in it find new and exciting opportunities for change and growth. Informed that our next stop was only a few blocks away, we decided to enjoy the beautiful October day and walked on down to Eastbound Brewing to see what was our 5th stop in only three and a half hours.
  A big and open space, they were busy preparing for the evenings food service when we arrived but took the time to stop and talk about not only their beer but the scene in Toronto in general. We lingered for a while sampling and chatting before making some purchases and heading back into the sunshine for the walk back to the car. It's never long enough when we are doing these trips and we can't wait to come back here to try some of their food inspired and made with their beer.
  The day was more than half over and we were moving at a good clip...for Toronto. Although this day's trip was about a quarter of the kilometres of the previous one, it was a little more draining as the traffic was intense and packed. But we kept our spirits up and enjoyed the sights of a busy city while we turned to a spot located in the middle of a bustling and proudly multi cultural market.
  Kensington Brewery has molded itself into a very unique neighbourhood and added to the community with their take on the industrial chic that other Toronto brewers have embraced. It feels airy and open and while we only had a few moments to peruse the site, the folks working there were happy and informative. Another day to spend just hanging at the shops along the way is in order, post haste. Our time in the city was at an end but there were two more stops as we turned the Fiesta toward the Hammer and Casa de Polk.
  I'm an unabashed fan of what Great Lakes Beer does and with 3 new beers in the fridge on this day, it was an easy choice as my old fave stop of the day. We made our way out of Toronto to Etobicoke and the familiar GLB tap room. We grabbed the beers we came for and while I looked longingly at a few more Audrey hopburns, we had to stick to the budget... A quick hello/goodbye sent us on our way to the final stop of the day, western legend now open in 2 different spots in the GTA, Big Rock Brewing.
  Located down The Queensway from Great lakes, it can be found at the back of a full industrial plaza featuring many different importer and exporter wholesale distributors. A massive facility made for large scale production, it was not exactly the most inviting of space and had an almost corporate feel to it. The taps were decent, but the bottle list was almost devoid of anything that sparked our interest. We bought a few we haven't had because I am always willing to explore deeper, we left with a tired but happy outlook on the overall scope of the day.
  As hard as it was to pass buy so many amazing craft breweries in Toronto, Left Field, Bellwoods and the like, it was important to us to be able to see what was going on in different corners of the city and help break the routine we find ourselves in when it comes to this city. There are so many places we didn't get to and I am making a promise to myself that we will continue to make it our mission to go to each and every one as this journey continues.
  For the record, day 2 was 7 hours on the road, 195 kilometres, 8 breweries and over 30 new beers. It was a whirlwind, as this day always is and we went to bed knowing the next day was a longer drive but to quite a different setting and environment.
  Get out of your rut and try adding a new to you brewery on your next run to Toronto, you'll be glad to you did.

Raise your glass and your standards,
One beer at a time.


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