Toronto’s best beer bars

When sucking back suds, you want a venue that has a great vibe, super snacks and an awesome beer list. Here are our picks for the best places to knock back some brews.


Amsterdam BrewHouse

245 Queens Quay West, 416-504-1020, amsterdambrewhouse.com

Its sprawling, state-of-the-art lakefront digs may be new, but Amsterdam’s been a key player in downtown’s brewing game since opening its first brew pub in the mid-80s. Shake the chokehold of mid-July humidity by planting yourself on the ginormous patio and letting a cold pint and the lake breeze work their magic. Dip into standards like Boneshaker and Downtown Brown, select something special from the cellar (a bottle of the award-winning Spring Bock, perhaps?) or sip from a list of limited weekly releases like the Darjeeling Wit (brewed with spices and tea leaves) or the Testify (Encore) brett pale ale.

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Stefania Yarhi

Years in operation The original Amsterdam brew pub opened on John Street in 1986 the BrewHouse opened last summer.

Specialty ‘Dam good beer.

Food Something for everyone: pizzas, lobster rolls, burgers, salads, stuff to share. A menu key guides you through beer pairings.

Patio Licensed for 300

Hours Sunday to Thursday 11:30 am to 11 pm, Friday and Saturday to 1 am.


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Stefania Yarhi

Bar Hop

391 King West, 647-352-7476, barhopbar.com

Voted best draught selection at Ontario’s Golden Tap Awards last year (a deserved nod to the impeccably curated 36 taps plus two casks), Bar Hop is an outpost for great beer on a touristy strip otherwise best avoided apart from random pilgrimages to the LCBO and occasional culture absorption at TIFF Bell Lightbox. Since opening two summers ago, it’s become lower downtown’s spiritual home for craft brews, attracting everyone from occasional beer drinkers to full-blown hops scholars. What keeps the crowds surging in, besides the incredible selection, are the chill, über-knowledgeable staff, who unblinkingly fill in the blanks when it comes to the constant rotation of collaborative one-offs and small-batch specialties. Check in frequently for badass tap takeovers and the next instalment of Hop Talk, an educational meet-the-maker series featuring local breweries.

Years in operation Two

Specialty 36 taps plus two cask options tons of rotating and rare (mostly local) brews, plus a vast bottle selection.

Food Contempo pub fare like burgers and mac ‘n’ cheese don’t miss buck-a-shuck oysters on Tuesdays.

Patio A small front patio seats 14.

Hours Daily noon to 2 am.


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Stefania Yarhi

Bar Volo

587 Yonge, 416-928-0008, barvolo.com

Most things beer-related in Toronto are influenced by Volo’s gravitational pull. Family-owned and -operated since 85, this craft beer mecca brews its own (House Ales), imports the stuff beer geeks dream about via Keep6 (Trou du Diable, Cantillon, De Molen) and even organizes its own celebration of cask-conditioned ale, Cask Days. (This October marks the festival’s ninth year). Expect to wait for a seat on Volo’s super-popular leafy patio, but once you get a glass of something special in your hand, nothing else much matters.

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Stefania Yarhi

Years in operation 29

Specialty Thirty-two regional and often rare draught options, plus six cask ales and two local wines on tap. Explore the rotating selection of House Ales from the in-house nano brewing system, the cellar stocked with local bottles and awesomeness imported by Keep6.

Food Snack boards (local cheeses, meats, pickles) and sandwiches.

Patio Seats 60

Hours Monday to Thursday 2 pm to 2 am, Friday and Saturday noon to 2 am, Sunday 2 pm to midnight.


Beerbistro

18 King East, 416-861-9872, beerbistro.com

Beerbistro is one of the city’s top destinations for Belgian beer. And if you do dig that kind of scene, throw yourself into the mob, clear a path with designer-clad elbows and order a fancy beer – there are over 100 kinds to choose from. Beerbistro is an excellent launch pad for the novice beer drinker. The bottle-heavy menu is formatted as a flavour map navigable by mood. If you fancy something quenching, sociable, robust or spicy, your options (complete with tasting notes) are laid out for you.

Years in operation 11 years.

Specialty A wide selection of Belgian bottles, plus local and international selections 20 mostly local taps with some Euro faves like Rodenbach and Hacker-Pschorr mixed in.

Food Belgian-inspired fare like mussels and steak frites with suggested beer pairings gastro pub grub. Beer is even incorporated into some dishes, like the cheese and lager fondue ($15) and the Blanche de Chambly cured smoked salmon ($12).

Patio Sizable side patio seats 60.

Hours Monday to Wednesday 11:30 am to 1 am, Thursday and Friday 11:30 am to 2 am, Saturday 11 am to 2 am. Sunday 11 am to midnight.


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Michael Watier

Bellwoods Brewery

124 Ossington, 416-535-4586, bellwoodsbrewery.com

Bellwoods has serious clout in the local craft beer scene because of its signature brews. Diversity is the word at this west-side brew pub (a converted Ossington auto garage with lots of space for a good-sized micro system in the back), where you can sip an entire spectrum – from ultra-light Stay Classy (session ale at 2.8% ABV) to heavyweights like Donkey Venom brett barrel-aged porter and funkadelic small-batch Farmageddon (wine-barrel-aged Farmhouse Classic with brett).

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Michael Watier

Years in operation Two

Specialty Whatever’s new and seasonal from the brew pub

Food Cheese, meat and veggie boards padded by a few entrees. Beer-friendly snacks like fries, bar nuts and salumi.

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Michael Watier

Patio 40

Hours Monday to Wednesday 5 pm to midnight, Thursday and Friday 5 pm to 1 am, Saturday noon to 1 am, Sunday noon to midnight.


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R. Jeanette Martin

Bryden’s

2455 Bloor West, 416-760-8069, brydens.ca

This local has been valiantly waging war on the thirst epidemic in Bloor West Village since the turn of the century – 1998 to be exact. A trip to Bryden’s (a bit of a hike for those not stationed due west) is worthwhile for local beer lovers and mandatory during festivals like OCB and Toronto Beer Week, when it hosts a series of beer-tastic events. Bryden’s keeps it close to home with 17 craft draughts, the majority of them Ontarian.

Years in operation 16

Specialty Seventeen taps, including a cask option, seven of them rotating

Food Sandwiches, schnitzel, salads, nachos, butter chicken.

Patio Seats 20

Hours Monday to Sunday noon to 2 am.


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David Hawe

C’est What?

67 Front East, 416-867-9499, cestwhat.com

The first time I wandered in I was convinced I’d crossed the threshold into a magical land of beer, and my perception hasn’t altered much since. One of Toronto’s OG brew pubs, C’est What is to beer what Rodney’s is to oysters: a no-fail subterranean den of delights. “Toronto’s local” is the kind of place you can’t help but develop a soft spot for. Taps pour a combo of local craft beer (Black Oak, Flying Monkeys, McAuslan, Granite) and CW’s own goodness like Joan’s Dark Secret (a cask-conditioned dark bitter beer) and Mother Pucker’s Ginger Wheat.

Years in operation 26

Specialty Forty-four taps pour local craft beer exclusively, including seven of C’est What’s own beers and eight casks.

Food Lots of rib-sticking riffs on classic pub fare, from poutine and antojitos to butter chicken, jambalaya and shepherd’s pie.

Patio None

Hours Sunday and Monday 11:30 am to 1 am, Tuesday to Saturday 11:30 am to 2 am.


Cloak & Dagger

394 College, 647-436-0228, cloakanddaggerpub.com

There’s something true grit-ish about hole-in-the-wall bars that charms me more than reclaimed barnwood and 20-watt Edison bulbs ever could. Cloak & Dagger has a rep as a cave-like pub frequented by thirsty, cash-strapped students, but beer lovers know it’s got much more to offer. Squishing almost 30 taps behind the tiny bar, the pub pours primary craft brew from small Ontario breweries like Junction, Barley Days, Wellington, Kensington Brewing Company and Gananoque. Settle in at one of the back patio’s cigarette-pocked picnic tables and work your way toward a solid day buzz.

Years in operation Over 14

Specialty Twenty-seven taps plus cask, mostly Ontario craft

Food No regular menu, but guests are allowed to bring food. Taco Sundays offer all you can eat with lots of fixins for $3.

Patio Back patio fits 50

Hours Daily 2 pm to close.


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Photos by Stefania Yarhi

Get Well

1181 Dundas West, 647-351-2337, getwellbar.com

If you’re ’bout that craft beer, have it with a side of vintage video games and pinball tables. Communal man cave meets unisex adult playground, the space is pure fun. I’ve never had anything but good times here. Don’t skip the award-winning flagship brews like Get Well Porter that brewmaster Brad Clifford pumps out from the in-house nano system.

Years in operation Two

Specialty Anything from the brew pub, like Bastard Landlord IPA or Simcoe Session IPA, but there are 10 total taps plus two cask options, the majority of them local.

Food Beer counts?

Patio Nada

Hours Daily 5 pm to 2 am.


Granite Brewery

245 Eglinton East, 416-322-0723, granitebrewery.ca

The local uptown offshoot of a now-shuttered Halifax brew pub, the Granite has been spreading the good word on locally brewed British-style ales for over 20 years. Its Hopping Mad has cleaned up in the cask-conditioned ale category four years running at Ontario’s Golden Tap Awards. It’s a family affair: founder Ron Keefe recently passed the head brewer’s torch to his daughter, Mary-Beth Keefe. Flagship brews like the Peculiar Ale and Keefe’s Irish Stout have been enjoyed around town for years, but lately the Granite’s branched out with more seasonal and small-batch brews.

Years operating 23 in Toronto the original Halifax pub was founded in 1985.

Specialty British-style brews and cask ales growlers and kegs available at Granite’s store, open Monday to Saturday 11:30 am to 11 pm, Sunday 11 am to 11 pm.

Food The large menu covers lots of pub-appropriate territory like burgers, beer-battered fish and chips, Cobb salad and curries. Regular menus are rounded out with rotating weekly specials.

Patio Front and back seating 45 and 90 respectively.

Hours Monday 11:30 am to midnight, Tuesday to Saturday 11:30 am to 1 am, Sunday 11 am to midnight.


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R. Jeanette Martin

Indie Ale House

2876 Dundas West, 416-760-9691, indiealehouse.com

Indie’s earned a city-wide rep as one of the cool kids in the local craft scene for its big-flavoured, American-inspired brews and creative ingredients, but the inviting brew pub is generally packed with locals. It’s not uncommon to spot parents joyously clinking pints while young ‘uns are distracted by a plate of fries and an iDevice. The spacious room has a warm Canadiana vibe, a mellow clime for throwing back a flight of Indie’s seasonals like Dead Spadina Monkey (sour ale aged on raspberries), Couch Surfer IPA and collabs like the Camp Out S’more Stout with Sawdust City. So hop on your bike or trek out to the Junction. Indie’s worth multiple visits.

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Photos by R. Jeanette Martin

Years in operation Almost two

Specialty Inventive in-house brews. Hit the beer store for beer to go.

Food Pure beer food – pizza, burgers, mac ‘n’ cheese and snacks like smoked chicken wings and Parmesan and sage popcorn check out the Wednesday BBQ menu.

Patio No

Hours Brew pub Monday 5 pm to midnight, Tuesday to Thursday noon to 1 am, Friday and Saturday noon to 2 am, Sunday noon to 10 pm beer store Monday 5 pm to 11 am, Tuesday to Saturday noon to 11 pm, Sunday noon to 9 pm.


Mill St. Brew Pub and Beer Hall

21 Tank House, 416-681-0338, beerhall.millstreetbrewpub.ca

Mill Street’s earned my admiration with its successful coup: I think more people in T.O. proper, whether visitors or natives, now order Mill St. Organic Lager over Molson Canadian. Pause for applause. With last year’s Beer Hall expansion, the company has branched out with bolder brews and more experimental seasonals. Sample the beers of summer, like Belgian Cherry IPA and 100th Meridian American-style organic amber lager. Might as well order a shot of bierschnaps (a traditional German spirit distilled from beer via the in-house micro-distillery) to sip alongside your pint, because what the hell else do you have to do today?

Years operating The Brew Pub opened 12 years ago and added the Beer Hall in 2013.

Specialty A range of flagship and seasonal in-house brews plus bierschnaps distilled from staples like Tankhouse, Frambozen, and Coffee Porter.

Food Contemporary North Americana meets traditional German beer hall.

Patio Brew Pub seats 62, the Beer Hall 113

Hours Brew Pub Monday and Tuesday 11 am to 11 pm, , Wednesday 11 am to midnight , Thursday 11 am to 1 am, Friday 11 am to 2 am, Saturday 10:30 am to 2 am, Sunday 10:30 am to 10 pm Beer Hall Monday and Tuesday noon to 10 pm, Wednesday noon to 11 pm, Thursday noon to midnight, Friday noon to 2 am, Saturday 11:30 am to 2 am, Sunday 11:30 am to 10 pm.


Monarch Tavern

12 Clinton, 416-531-5833, themonarchtavern.com

I’m a hopeless sucker for bars with history. If these cultural monuments also happen to serve great beer within a stone’s throw of San Francesco’s sandwiches, even better. The Monarch, one of the city’s oldest licensed establishments (it opened in 1927), has shifted its focus in the past few years to spotlight Ontario brewers. The old-school upstairs, one of those rooms you wish had talking walls, is a sweet spot for a pensive midday pint, and the updated main floor holds more than enough bodies to spark a great party. Most of the taps keep it local with brews from Great Lakes, Side Launch and Left Field, and there’s plenty of bourbon to keep your IPA company.

Years in operation 87

Specialty 16 (mostly local) draught beers, plus one cask

Food Canadian pub faves with locally sourced ingredients: buttermilk-fried chicken, back bacon sandwiches and poutine. Snacks – sliced Italian sausage, mixed olives, Brazilian salgadinhos – have a more international bent. Lots of gluten-free options.

Patio None

Hours Monday to Saturday 11 am to 2 am, Sunday 4 pm to 2 am


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Stefania Yarhi

The Only

972 Danforth, 416-463-7843, theonlycafe.com

With all of the fantastic local liquid filling our pints (and our memory banks no doubt impaired by years of excellent intake), we tend to overlook the fact that our now thriving craft beer scene predates the past half-decade. A precious handful of visionaries were dishing local draught long before many devout drinkers of trendy microbrews were even born, let alone of legal drinking age. The Only is a grandpappy of T.O.’s beer scene, stocking up to 230 bottles. Some of the most desired brews make their way into its vortex, including the vast majority of Keep6 Imports’ portfolio: lots from cult indie breweries Trou du Diable, Dieu du Ciel!, Cantillon and De Molen. This hub for the beer community even hosts its own quarterly beer festival. Whether you’re a regular or an Only virgin, this is the kind of spot where strangers become friends and there are no pretenses, only the enjoyment of good drink.

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Stefania Yarhi

Years in operation 32

Specialty 24 taps plus a cask showcase local craft brews. Check out the crazy-extensive list, which routinely hovers around 200 bottles.

Food Limited lunch and snack options guests are encouraged to bring their own food to enjoy with their beer.

Patio The sunny back patio seats 50

Hours Daily 10 am to 2 am.


Stout Irish Pub

221 Carlton, 647-344-7676, stoutirishpub.ca

This cozy Cabbagetown pub has a far better draught selection than your average local. Old faithfuls from GLB, Amsterdam, King and Nickel Brook can always be found alongside the four taps devoted to limited-release local beers. Sniffing out more cool stuff to drink requires a glance at the bottles and cans. Stout keeps standards like Neustadt’s 10W30, Sawdust City’s Lone Pine IPA and Hogtown kölsch along with a rotating selection of seasonals and geeky finds like GLB’s Limp Puppet (session IPA) and Brouwerij De Molen’s Mooi & Meedogenoloos. It even does you the favour of playfully classifying brews (Come to the Dark Side, Sweet Young Thing, High Octane) to wash away indecision and suit your mood.

Years in operation Over three

Specialty 20 taps plus cask. Don’t neglect the well-curated bottle list.

Food The tasty menu spans lamb burgers, perogies and a poutine list (!) along with more traditional pub fare like Irish stew and beef dip.

Patio Seats 40

Hours Daily 11 am to 2 am.


Tallboys

838 Bloor West, 416-535-7486, tallboyscraft.com

In a city where pouring a dubbel into a pilsner glass can shatter your social life, drinking straight from the can is massively underrated. The relief of frosty condensation on your sweaty palm, the satisfying crush that follows your final sip: why deny yourself these small wonders in the name of propriety? At Tall Boys, where cans of local brew are the house specialty, glass shame will never be an issue. (If heathenry makes you squirm, glasses are, of course, available.) Tall Boys is almost always tuned into a game, making it a great haunt for sports fans. Keep an eye on the board to the right of the bar for the “secret beer” – whatever’s new and fleeting.

Years in operation Almost two

Specialty Over 50 tallboys and seven taps, exclusively Ontarian

Food Exactly what you want to eat with beer: nachos, pulled pork tacos and substantial, freshly ground burgers. Veggie options, too.

Patio None

Hours Monday to Thursday 4 pm to 12:30 am, Friday 4 pm to 2 am, Saturday 1 pm to 2 am, Sunday 1 pm to 12:30 am.


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Photos by R. Jeanette Martin

Thirsty & Miserable

197 Baldwin, 647-607-0134

One of Kensington’s raddest watering holes, Thirsty & Miserable gets my vote for best-named bar. A chill haunt to slake your thirst and slay your worries, this tiny spot (long ago punk rock haven Planet Kensington) has an even tinier front patio. Arrive early and kick your Cons up to observe the never-ending spectacle of daily life along the Market’s jugular. Owner Katie Whittaker has excellent and eclectic taste. Her bar is stocked with local one-off goodness (GLB’s Thrust! IPA spotted recently along with a limited supply of Dieu du Ciel’s bourbon-barrel-aged Péché Mortel) and a fridge of intriguing imports.

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R. Jeanette Martin

Years in operation Two and a half

Specialty Excellent beers in a chill, divey environment. (Highest praise – dive bars are the best.)

Food Snacks to cover legal requirements, but guest are encouraged to BYOF from surrounding (delicious) Kensington vendors.

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R. Jeanette Martin

Patio Seats 9 (not bad considering the pub itself only seats 28)

Hours Tuesday to Thursday 5:30 pm to 2 am, Friday to Sunday 2 pm to 2 am. Closed Monday.


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R. Jeanette Martin

Town Crier

115 John, 416-204-9588, towncrierpub.ca

Boasting one of the city’s largest draught selections, the Town Crier pours from around the globe with a focus on Old World brews from Belgium, Germany and Czech Republic. (If you notice parallels with Sin & Redemption and the Village Idiot, it’s because they’re owned by the same folks). The bottle list includes Trappist treasures like Westvleteren 8 and 12, Westmalle Tripel and Rochefort 10. On top of its oceans of delicious beer, the Town Crier’s big, sun-soaked patio (easily the best in the ‘hood) is a major draw.

Years in operation Three

Specialty 50 taps showcasing mostly Belgian and German beers

Food German- and Belgian-influenced dishes to parallel the Euro-heavy beer list

Patio 45

Hours Daily 11 am to 2 am.


Victory Café

581 Markham, 416-516-5787, victorycafe.ca

A Mirvish Village institution, the Victory has a street-side patio – usually rammed – where you can catch a beer buzz. Or cozy up to the bar for a pint of stout in the winter (not like we’re thinking about Polar Vortex 2.0 right now). It’s a relaxed spot for the locally-inclined beer drinker the Vic pours mighty drinkable brews from Beau’s, Spearhead and Neustadt, with two turnover taps dedicated to experimental and small-batch brews from Great Lakes and other badasses of brew.

Years operating Over 15

Specialty 15 local taps, plus casks

Food Standard pub grub, with veggie options

Patio 25

Hours Monday to Friday 3 pm to 2 am, Saturday and Sunday 10 am to 2 am.


WVRST

609 King West, 416-703-7775, wvrst.com

Don’t let the fancy (and addictive) encased meats at WVRST steal the thunder from the noteworthy row of Ontario-focused taps. The joint pronounced “Verst” is a the classed-up Torontonian version of a German social staple: the beer hall. Elongated communal seating makes this a stellar choice for low-maintenance parties. Just so the currently unaware can avoid confusion and unnecessary panty-bunching, WVRST doesn’t do table service. Order at the counter (if you’re lost, read the signs), take a number (calm down, they’ll give it to you), and your pint and sausage will be dropped off in no time. Psst: $5 glasses of Ontario craft every Monday. Prost!

Years in operation Three

Specialty 24 taps plus Ontario cask, lots of local beer, with three taps reserved for international classics like Pilsner Urquell and Weihenstephaner, and three taps dedicated to local cider from Spirit Tree, West Avenue and Twin Pines.

Food House-made sausages on a bun and duck fat frites. Mmmm. Mess-hall-style service.

Patio None

Hours Sunday to Wednesday 11:30 am to 11 pm, Thursday 11:30 am to midnight, Friday and Saturday 11:30 am to 1 am.

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