Today I got together with two old friends who are also dedicated beer fans, and headed out on a day of delightful debauchery starting with Black Lab Brewing, heading to Muddy York, and eventually ending at Lot 30. (There was a logic to this weird path across the city, but that I won't share with you.)
Black Lab Brewing is right at the corner of Leslie and Eastern. We arrived at 1300 on Saturday, to find about ten people occupying a space that could comfortably hold perhaps 25. There were also a couple dogs, as Black Lab forged its brand partly on dog ownership (as you might guess by their name). They had a guest chef selling bao - we were told "straight from the streets of Saigon!" but this was definitely fusion cuisine. Good, regardless of where it came from. But if you're going there, most days it looks like they'll have nothing more than bags of chips for food.
We got two flights between the three of us, although our shared interest in the darker beers meant that we ended up having three out of four the same on each of the flights. Their black lager was lovely - perhaps a bit stronger-flavoured that most, but to me, that was all to the good. My friends weren't as enthusiastic about that beer as I was. I was much less pleased with the "Porter with Cocoa Nibs," which tasted almost like a slightly roastier version of the black lager - not really what I think of as a porter, and not an outstanding beer. The friends review on that one wasn't particularly enthusiastic either. But the "Caesar of Notts" Barley Wine ... that was a revelation. Barley Wines tend to lean toward the fruitiness of the Belgian double/triple/quads, although they're not the same. But this one was closer to the Belgians than most. I described my problem with the Belgians and Barley Wines at the time as being that they have flavours sticking out all over, and they're often unrelated and you're sort of going "why?!!" But Black Labs' Barley Wine is beautifully rich and rounded with a strong and complex flavour, but none of this unrelated flavour notes throwing you off. The Pale Ale was also very good - if you like hoppy and citrussy. The Baltic Porter is a strong 9%, rich, and very nice.
By the time we left around 1500, the place was packed with both people and dogs. This is apparently a fairly common state of affairs for them, and I understand it if they're serving beer that good. I voted with my wallet on the way out, buying the Baltic Porter, the Pale Ale, and that outstanding Barley Wine.
We visited Muddy York because they were having a "Beach Party:" this was my third visit, and I've never seen them anything like as busy as they were today. Let's put it this way: it was 1 degree Celsius, and people were intermittently using the patio (to drink, not to smoke), it was that busy inside. They're located in a large industrial area north of O'Connor and St. Clair that offers nothing at all on a Saturday afternoon - except them and the also rather good Brunswick Bierworks a couple blocks away. We got a flight between the three of us and shared, standing. The smoked wheat beer tasted of nothing but smoke - a very light beer that I actually rather enjoyed. One of my friends wasn't impressed - too light and not enough character, but I could definitely drink it (a surprise, given that I usually hate wheat beers). The stout was unmemorable, but the "Port-Barrel Aged Plank Road Baltic Porter" was incredibly rich and lovely. It was interesting to find in the fridge that I could have a 500ml bottle of Plank Road for $7, or a 375ml bottle for $8.50. I didn't figure out the distinction until I got to the register: the smaller, more expensive one was the cask aged, and that's what I bought because it was what we had that was so very good.
Our last stop of the day was Lot 30, who I've been wanting to visit ever since they replaced the very unreliable "Lansdowne Brewery" in the same location at the intersection of College, Dundas, and Lansdowne. "Lot 30" is open when they say they'll be (unlike their predecessor), and offer some decent but not outstanding brews. We didn't dislike them, but I didn't buy any out of the fridge - which I'd done at both of the previous two.
photo: the bar at Black Lab
photo: The Black Lab building
photo: The beer menu at Black Lab (2019-03-09)
photo: the bar at Lot 30
photo: the somewhat fuzzy beer menu at Lot 30 for 2019-03-09