Toronto has a pretty neat beer history, and we decided to get to know it a bit better. We have both lived in Toronto for a number of years, but there is still a lot to learn. So we connected with the Beer Makes History Better walking tour run by Urban Adventures to see what makes this city tick (and drink).
Our group of 12 was a mix of tourists and a surprising number of locals. I guess we weren’t the only curious beer drinkers in the city! We met at the crack of 2 p.m. at the Hockey Hall of Fame and headed off to local watering hole, C’est What? We’ve been here numerous times before, but it is a logical choice to showcase the sheer diversity of Ontario’s beer scene. I tucked into a modest flight of 3 beers, Kole sipped a barley wine, and the other guests sampled larger flights. Our guide, Jason Kucherawy, led a proper guided tasting for the group – how to appreciate the beauty of our beer, smell it, and the proper way to taste a beer. I appreciated this discussion from the get go – I have taken other beer focused tours that neglected to include this most crucial component.
We stepped blinking into the blinding daylight and headed a block over to the St Lawrence Market to sample mustards, VQA wines, and butter tarts. The tourists wandered in a
we, and the locals made a bee-line to their favourite vendors for snacks (Italian sandwiches FTW!). It was an important snack stop on a booze-themed day.
En route to our second bar of the day, betty’s, we stopped at St James Park at Jarvis and King. I walk by this park almost every day on my lunch break, but apparently I never noticed some of the most interesting aspects of the park – like the antique cast iron horse/human/canine water fountain on King St or the cholera pit in the nort
h of the park. And to think of how many lunch time picnics I had on the local cholera pit without ever knowing it…
We retreated to betty’s to enjoy their substantial tap list and a warming plate of nachos, and learn about Toronto’s lengthy experience in prohibition era. Ironically, food used to be outlawed in pubs immediately post prohibition, but that was eventually overturned when officials realized an empty stomach lead to a lot of drunken shenanigans. I know I act like a jerk on a empty stomach.
The walking tour wrapped up in the Distillery District, with an orientation on the distilling history of the area. We retreated to Mill Street Brewery‘s sampling room to test out their 4 core brands (sample sizes have significantly decreased in size since the ABInBev purchase), where the tour wrapped up. Some people lingered on the patio as it was an unusually warm November evening, but we had other plans and made our retreat.
Urban Adventures’s Beer Makes History Better is a pretty modestly priced option, at $32.21 USD per person (we paid for one guest and had one offered to us as a media courtesy). No beer or transportation is included compared to some other beer themed tours, but we left feeling a lot more sensible than we did with other tours we’ve done, like after the Old Toronto Beer Tour. The guided tasting at C’est What? really made our experience a great one – it was not just a question of drinking beer, but of sharing with other people how to enjoy a good beer.
Shawna has visited vineyards in 6 countries on 3 continents, and has a knack for finding the hoppiest beers around.
She can be found drinking alka-seltzer and coconut water in the morning.