The best Toronto beer, bars and breweries – according to the experts

The Toronto beer scene is getting bigger by the day, so we asked writers, cicerones and connoisseurs to choose the cream of the crop


The Toronto beer scene has been enjoying explosive growth in recent years – but with all these options, it can be tough to know what to reach for next. We asked the city’s foremost beer experts – including writers, cicerones and consultants – to tell us where to go and what to drink.

Meet the judges

Stephen Beaumont: Beer expert; co-author of The World Atlas Of Beer (third edition out this October). beaumontdrinks.com
Greg Clow: Publisher and editor, Canadian Beer News. canadianbeernews.com
Ren Navarro: Owner and operator, Beer. Diversity (and former NOW Magazine cover model). beer-diversity.com
Robin LeBlanc: Beer writer and columnist; co-host of The Ontario Craft Beer Guide The Podcast. thethirstywench.com
Crystal & Tara Luxmore: Co-founders, Beer Sisters Inc.; Advanced and Certified Cicerones; Certified Beer Judges & Prud’homme Beer Sommeliers. beersisters.com
Lauren Richard: Advanced Cicerone specializing in beer education, on-site education at festivals, staff training, menu curation and food pairing. @BeerGirlCA
Jordan St. John: Creator of the beer specialist certificate, George Brown College; author; co-host of The Ontario Craft Beer Guide The Podcast. saintjohnswort.ca


BEST BREWERIES

BEST TORONTO BREWERY
& BEST ONTARIO BREWERY

Godspeed Brewery brewmaster Luc Lafontaine. (Samuel Engelking)

GODSPEED BREWERY
242 Coxwell, godspeedbrewery.com

RICHARD: You need to dig a little deeper than the surface to understand what [founder] Luc Lafontaine is accomplishing here. He’s a Quebecois man who lived in Japan, brewing beer in Toronto at his Japanese-influenced brewery in a traditional Czech fashion. Those things could be confusing – and yet he folds them together very delicately. His passion in melding historical practices with fresh new concepts and ingredients is unique and stands firmly on its own. He manages to not conform to the restriction of style guidelines while honouring and protecting the legacy of traditional methods – all while adding his own special Godspeed flair. His care and attention to detail is awe-inspiring.

BEAUMONT: Simply put, no one is making beers of this consistently high quality and consistency.

BEST TORONTO BREWERY (RUNNERS UP)

GREAT LAKES BREWING
30 Queen Elizabeth, greatlakesbeer.com

CLOW: While the punk in me feels like I should choose a less obvious underdog [as my Best Brewery pick], I just can’t help but give credit where credit is due. GLB makes consistently great beers, from the flagships through to the seasonals and one-offs, and their engagement with their customers and community is always on point. Respect to the OGs!

HENDERSON BREWING
128A Sterling, hendersonbrewing.com

LEBLANC: They’ve improved tenfold since first opening, and their very Toronto-focused image (like teaming up with Honest Ed’s sign painter Wayne Reuben) makes them a winner.

LEFT FIELD BREWERY
36 Wagstaff, leftfieldbrewery.ca

TARA LUXMORE: A community-minded brewery that makes some of the best IPAs in town, with a super-knowledgeable and friendly team.

MUDDY YORK
22 Cranfield, muddyyorkbrewing.com

RICHARD: [Left Field and Muddy York] both offer a wide selection of styles that appeal to many different kinds of beer drinkers. They are both always on top of creating new recipes and releasing seasonal offerings without oversaturating their selection with too much of one style. They also both have great values as a company, give back to their community and are run by some of the kindest people you’ll meet.

BEST ONTARIO BREWERY (RUNNER UP)

TOOTH AND NAIL
3 Irving, Ottawa, toothandnailbeer.com

BEAUMONT: A leading light of eastern Ontario brewing.

CLOW: Full disclosure: I’ve only had a handful of beers from T&N. But their flagship Vim & Vigor Pilsner is so spectacular that they deserve any accolades they can get.

BEST NEW TORONTO BREWERY

(TIE) AVLING
1042 Queen East, avling.ca

TARA LUXMORE: We love to brunch and lunch at this pretty, family-friendly Leslieville spot. From a seasonal, fresh menu by Chef Suzanne Barr to solid beers by head brewer Brandon Judd topped off by welcoming and knowledgeable service, it’s a spot worth visiting. Bonus: it has a massive rooftop veggie garden.

(TIE) PEOPLE’S PINT
90 Cawthra, peoplespint.com

CLOW: I love that they haven’t lost the enthusiasm of their homebrewing roots and aren’t afraid to experiment, but also keep quality and drinkability as priorities.

MOST INNOVATIVE TORONTO BREWERY

LEFT FIELD BREWERY
36 Wagstaff, leftfieldbrewery.ca

MOST UNDERRATED TORONTO BREWERY

SHACKLANDS BREWING
100 Symes, shacklands.com


BEST TORONTO BEER BARS

BEST BEER BAR (DRAUGHT SELECTION)

BAR HOP
391 King West, 137 Peter, 681 Danforth, barhopbar.com

CLOW: An obvious choice, but you can’t deny perfection.

(Runner up) BAR VOLO
17 St Nicholas, barvolo.com

BEST BEER BAR (CAN SELECTION)

HOTMESS TEX MEX
615 College, hotmesstexmex.com

TARA LUXMORE: An amazing selection of curated short cans paired with Tex Mex.

(Runner up) THE ONLY CAFE
972 Danforth, theonlycafe.com

BEST BEER BAR (FOOD/ATMOSPHERE)

BAR HOP KING WEST
391 King West, barhopbar.com

LEBLANC: The original location is cozy and inviting in atmosphere, the food quality is superb, and the beer selection is guaranteed to have something for everyone.

BEAUMONT: A combination of an ever-improving kitchen, great vibe and superior draught and bottle/can program.

(Runner up) WVRST
609 King West, 65 Front West, wvrst.com


BEST TORONTO BEER

Godspeed Brewery brewmaster Luc Lafontaine pours a Svetly Lezak 12 lager. (Samuel Engelking)

BEST LAGER

GODSPEED SVETLY LEZAK
242 Coxwell, godspeedbrewery.com

LEBLANC: I had two lagers by Godspeed that got me through the first month or so of the pandemic: The Svetly Lezák 12º Czech Pale Lager and its high-alcohol sibling the Silny Lezák 17º Premium Strong Lager. Just damn good.

BEST YEAR-ROUND CRAFT BEER

GREAT LAKES BREWERY CANUCK PALE ALE
30 Queen Elizabeth, greatlakesbeer.com

LEBLANC: Honestly, it’s a hell of a good Toronto-based beer to have in your fridge. Just very reliable.

BEST APA

(Tie) BELLWOODS JUTSU
124 Ossington, bellwoodsbrewery.com

RICHARD: A long-standing contender in this category, the Justu is refreshing and balanced.

(Tie) MUDDY YORK DIVING HORSE
22 Cranfield, muddyyorkbrewing.com

BEST BROWN ALE

(tie) BLACK OAK NUT BROWN
75 Horner, blackoakbeer.com

(tie) LEFT FIELD EEPHUS
36 Wagstaff, leftfieldbrewery.ca

CLOW: This was the first beer I tried from Left Field – and even with everything else that has passed through their tanks and taps over the years, it remains a favourite of mine.

BEST IPA

LEFT FIELD GREENWOOD IPA
36 Wagstaff, leftfieldbrewery.ca

BEST SOUR

(Tie) BLOOD BROTHERS WHITE LIES
165 Geary, bloodbrothersbrewing.com

(Tie) BELLWOODS JELLY KING
124 Ossington, bellwoodsbrewery.com

BEST WHEAT BEER

MUDDY YORK HABERDASHER HEFEWEIZEN
22 Cranfield, muddyyorkbrewing.com

BEST FLAVOURED AND SEASONAL BEERS

We couldn’t get our judges to agree on any of these – so consider this a mixed pack.

ST. JOHN: Summer: Henderson Zerostomia. Winter: Black Oak Nutcracker Porter. Flavoured: Eastbound Justacuppacawfee.

RICHARD: Summer: Muddy York’s Una Mas Mexican Lager. Winter: Amsterdam’s El Jaguar Imperial Stout aged in Buffalo Trace barrels with cacao nibs and chili – it’s generally only available at special events such as Double Tempest Day and Cask Days.

LEBLANC: It’s not Toronto and is coming out in LCBOs sometime in the fall, but Sawdust City’s Viva La Stout tastes like a raspberry Viva Puff and I honestly can’t stop thinking about it.

TARA LUXMORE: Summer: Indie Ale House Lemonade Stand. Winter: Left Field Sweet Spot Mocha Marshmallow Stout – they roast a marshmallow over it at the brewery. (The best.) Flavoured: Radical Road Cucumber Mint Kolsch is underrated, but always a hit with our friends and family.


MORE TORONTO BEER

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@nowtoronto

Comments (8)

  • Jake July 16, 2020 08:24 PM

    Do any of them use refillable bottles anymore??

  • Peter Mahoney July 17, 2020 09:18 AM

    Just a heads-up, Andrew Moore is the head chef at Avling now.

  • Ron Biega July 17, 2020 10:32 AM

    Tallboys deserved honourable mention in the cans designation!

  • Hershey July 17, 2020 12:17 PM

    Props to Luc. He doing a great job. All his beers have that subtle, yet complex, easy drinking vibe to them. Muddy York is often overlooked so it is nice to see that their range of beers being appreciated. You have some glaring misses in the article. Bandit Brewery has upped their game many folds and do the best new england style ddhipas. Reminds me of Vermont. Blood brothers also has their own distinct style of imperials, stouts and sours. Those aren’t to be missed for any Toronto

  • Faith July 18, 2020 01:31 PM

    Suzanne Barr didn’t create the lastest menu at Avling. According to Avling, Chef Andrew Moore created the most recent menu. Suzanne Barr hasn’t been with Avling for over a year at least.

  • Matt U July 18, 2020 03:51 PM

    So many good breweries have been missed or not even talked about here, bandit as someone said previously( I make special trips out from east end for them) and Rorschach brewery has the best stouts in the city. I have respect for god speed owners reputation but not at the price it costs to drink it. We want to drink good beer often, not only when we can afford it. That’s why Muddy York and Rorschach is two breweries of choice.

  • Matt U July 18, 2020 03:51 PM

    So many good breweries have been missed or not even talked about here, bandit as someone said previously( I make special trips out from east end for them) and Rorschach brewery has the best stouts in the city. I have respect for god speed owners reputation but not at the price it costs to drink it. We want to drink good beer often, not only when we can afford it. That’s why Muddy York and Rorschach is two breweries of choice.

  • Spencer July 19, 2020 11:12 PM

    I can’t believe Shacklands didn’t make the list. Seems like list needs more research. Should really call out best beers. Try Indie Ale House Instagator.

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