I've been telling people who ask me (and sometimes those who didn't ask) for years that the Bellwoods Brewery on Ossington is the best in the city. Today I finally went out to their Hafis Road location (nearest major intersection is Lawrence West and Caledonia). After strolling by three evangelical churches in one storey concrete buildings, I got to Bellwoods' unprepossessing building (it's an industrial area). The inside won't win your heart for beauty either - it feels like an attempt at a lawn party in an industrial wasteland. There's a small bar, a large fridge, and seating for about twelve people. And the tanks - lots of tanks and kegs, and a bottling machine.
But the staff are friendly, and - while they don't do flights - they're more than willing to give samples. In fact I worked through four free samples and it seemed they would happily have let me try every beer they had on tap. This is because they're in the middle of an industrial park and people don't get there by accident: they know that if you made the trek, you're a fan of beer. And they also know that you're going to find one you like and buy it: their beers are that good and they know it.
The beers I tried:
- Black Liquids Vol. 4: "Imperial Stout with Raspberry & Chocolate," which is excellent (I still think Rorschach's Jelly Donut was a little better ... but A) I thought it was the best beer I'd ever tasted in my life, and B) it was unpopular at Rorschach so I doubt they'll ever make it again). Heavy, slightly chocolatey, dominating raspberry, somewhere between tart and just a touch of sweetness, excellent.
- "A Stout with Coffee: Butter Knife" - good, too strong on the coffee for me.
- "Jelly King: Raspberry/Blackberry" - also excellent. Bellwoods always(?) has a fruit-based sour called "Jelly King" - the only question is, what fruit is it this month? Vivid red-pink, and a beautiful use of the sourness, which is very mild and blends beautifully with the dominant berries (I got mostly raspberry).
- Donkey Venom: Black Currant. Much darker, and much sourer. Not bad, but you've really got to want that sourness because it's a dominant part of the flavour.
I left carrying as much "Black Liquids" as I could manage, and one "Jelly King." And the next day I was downtown, so I picked up more of both at the Ossington location. It's important to understand: I visit a fair number of micro-breweries, and it's rare for me to go home with bottles - and when I do, it's usually just one or two.
Bellwoods easily retains their title of "best micro-brewery in Toronto." Check them out.
photo: the bar
photo: the kegs, tanks, and bottling machine
photo: the fridges
photo: many beers available