In the last two weeks I have had the opportunity to explore so much of Toronto and its amazing food & drink scene. Harry came to visit from Scotland after two long months of long distance and so we rekindled our love for trying new restaurants, delicious food, & craft beer throughout our visit. Some highlights included an amazing whisky dinner at the Ceili Cottage in Leslieville in their Yurt, delectable tacos at the very popular La Carnita in Little Italy, & discovering an amazing pub in an unlikely place with The Wren on Danforth between Coxwell & Greenwood.
One highlight early in the trip was our guided tasting at Bellwoods Brewery on Ossington. I had heard of these tastings a while ago on their Instagram and thought this would be a great experience for the two of us to share as we both really enjoy drinking, and learning about, craft beer. This was meant to be a belated-Valentine’s gift for Harry but I was too excited about it so I told him when I booked us in, but it was my treat so the gifting spirit remained intact!
So on Monday March 9th we took the streetcar out west in anticipation of the tasting, first grabbing lunch on Dundas West at the now shuttered This End Up, enjoying the area & a Portuguese custard tart, strolling through Trinity Bellwoods Park, and grabbing a drink at The Drake before finally heading to the brewery.
We had never been to Bellwoods before, though we had tried some of their beer from the bottle shop when we visited Canada in October while we were both still living in Edinburgh. Firstly, the pub has an excellent air to it – mostly in that is smells delicious! There’s nothing like the smell of cooking barley. It was great to get a bird’s eye view of the establishment and to see the brewers at work. It’s nice to know that you are sitting at the source of the product you are drinking and to hear from a brewer who is clearly so passionate about what they do.
Throughout the Guided Tasting we were treated to 5 Bellwoods brews, some which were standard to Bellwoods’ lineup and some that were in their reserves, that were curated for our tasting. In this tasting our guide really wanted to highlight how diverse hops can be – that they do not just make a beer bitter but they can make a beer floral, citrusy or even woodsy. We also tried a beer that used brett, a type of yeast, that gives the beer a taste that one could almost call hoppy – but it was very low in IBU (a unit Bellwoods is not that keen on, but it’s useful for trying to communicate how this beer tasted). It was fascinating to learn about how they utilize hops, yeast and even fruit in their beers. It gets one home brewing senses tingling – it did for Harry anyway!
In this tasting we tried Boogie Monster, Stay Classy, Donkey Venom, Bounty Hunter, & Blitzen. It’s hard to exactly remember what I thought of them as it was nearly two weeks ago we were there, but going by my Untappd check-ins, the standouts for me were Stay Classy & Blitzen, although I would drink all of them again very happily. Stay Classy stood out to me as the perfect cottage dock beer. It’s very light, only 2.8% IBV but it is so flavourful and has such a wonderful bright citrus zing to it. It’s not like your normal wheat beer that may have subtle, sweeter notes of citrus (usually orange). I haven’t tried anything like it before, which is why it stuck in my mind. I need a case of this for the summertime. And by summer I mean a weekend at the cottage.
Blitzen was a special holiday beer flavoured with italian plums, lemon & holiday spices. I loved this beer and it breaks my heart that it’s on reserve! Although I suppose this makes room for some more amazing Bellwoods creations so I can’t complain. This saison is refreshing and sour though somehow awesomely warming. It’s quite strong in ABV (10%) but so flavourful in so many other ways. I have to say that I think saison’s are increasingly becoming one of my favourite types of beer. Most I have tried have been extremely creative and entirely delicious (ie Sumac Me Feel Like A Natural Saison by Pilot in Leith, Edinburgh. It was pink!), however it has not yet replaced my beloved Porters & Stouts.
I must, then, give a shout out to the Bounty Hunter and the Donkey Venom. The Donkey Venom in particular was a truly fascinating beer. With the tang of Brett and sour dried fruit topped with barrel aging is was truly a unique brew. It was very interesting to hear about Bellwood’s barrel aging process as well. While Bounty Hunter is a more typical Imperial Porter it definitely hit the spot.
This is starting to sound like a “drinks” post. So here’s the “eats.” Along with all this beer we were also given a charcuterie platter with local cheese, warm kielbasa sausage, cured meats, kimchi, olives and slaw along with mustard, honey and bread to accompany. It certainly paired well with the food and definitely helped absorb some of that rather strong beer. Although we were only tasting the portions were very generous and we definitely left feeling satisfied. The whole experience cost $35pp + tax, which I think is amazing value for what was an amazing experience.
And that’s truly what it was: an experience. Food & drink need not be merely a necessity. Harry and I cook great food at home and we occasionally eat a great restaurants too, but its these experiences that stand out. Learn about your food. Learn about where it comes from & learn about the people who make it – trust me it will make everything that much better. If you enjoy beer I would certainly recommend getting in contact with Bellwoods Brewery and arranging an experience of your own. You won’t regret it.