A few weeks ago I was chatting with a former colleague, an ex-Torontonian who now lives in England. He knows I’m a beer fan, and mentioned that a few night before, at some bar not necessarily known for the their beer selection, he’d been able to try a Le Trou Du Diable Shawinigan Handshake. Over his week-long visit he’d noticed a much more extensive penetration of craft beer around Toronto than when he’d left four or five years ago.
I’d slowly started to recognize the same thing of late, but hearing my friend’s observations just cemented it. Places like Smokeless Joe, C’est What, and Rebel House had been carrying the torch for craft beer, especially Ontario craft beer for ages, but I’d noticed a shift in the clientele of such serious beer places, especially Volo. It wasn’t the same faces, the same beer geeks, every time. We’d see people trying new beers, searching out new releases, willing to be educated. Beerbistro was probably at the front of that tide, with places like Bar Hop, Wvrst, Bellwoods, and Indie Alehouse forming the second wave.
The size and makeup of the crowd at this year’s Session Toronto was a huge indication of how craft is quickly becoming the expectation. Another is the fact that Spotlight Toronto has run a ’30 days of Ontario beer’ feature the last few years, and Mike DiCaro’s series wrap-up post does a far better job of exploring and summarizing this shift than I’ve managed here:
“Sure there was the rare brewery making weissbier and seasonals like an imperial stout, but the vast majority of what you encountered were pale ales with an amber ale or IPA being exotic. Even though it was only ten years earlier that time feels like eons ago. It has evolved into a completely new environment for craft beer lovers today. The bold, flavourful and hop-forward American-style IPA has become de rigueur and you can find a local craft example of just about every style imaginable […] .”
My favourite example of the shift might be Triple A, for all intents and purposes our new local. Make no mistake, it was the food that drew us here, and the food that’s kept us coming back. The beer selection for the first few months was basic; the most adventurous beer on tap was Mill Street Tankhouse. For the past several months, though, while the menu still contains the PBRs you’d expect in such a lo-fi place, they also carry Kensington FishEYE-PA, Flying Monkeys Stereo Vision, and Amsterdam Big Wheel — none of them exemplary beers, but a definite step-up from their original mass offerings, and a nod to the demand out there for decent, interesting, local beer.
I, for one, welcome our delicious new overlords.
Photo by Adam Fagen, used under Creative Commons license