Toronto's Incredible Selection of Brew Pubs and Beer Bars


tags: Beer

My latest trip (to Gaspésie) left me with my already considerable interest in brew pubs heightened. Gaspésie - a mostly rural peninsula in Quebec, population 140,000 - has roughly 14 brew pubs. I thought that was probably more than Toronto. In an effort to prove this, I've created a Google Map of Toronto's Brew Pubs (and Beer Bars) - and found that I was very wrong. I'm at 38 brew pubs in an area bounded by Lake Ontario, Kipling, Steeles, and Kennedy, and the list isn't complete. Of course Gaspésie has us beat to shit on the brew pubs per person ratio, but hey, we have a lot more choice in a smaller area (and higher rents).

And if I'm doing that ... I might as well have a curated list of city bars that have a good selection of local independent beers. So I added beer bars.

A friend pointed out - "A" for effort (it seems to cover the entire North American continent), but there are several problems:

  • Toronto content is distinctly out of date (Bar Volo left its Yonge Street address where they're showing it 13 or 14 months ago, and they don't have The Only Cafe (it's only been there and awesome for ~20 years) - to name only two of dozens of problems)
  • I created an account on the site and made some changes (which are moderated), and also tried to get in touch through their contact form. Zero response so far (admittedly only 48 hours later), and my changes aren't showing.
  • I did a lot of searches for brew pubs while researching Gaspésie, and while travelling there: never came up. They badly need SEO help (a problem exacerbated by their data being stale).

So, I've applied a classic Internet response: "I can do it better." I made my own damn map, and now the potential online audience can be further divided among the multiple websites trying to lead them to good beer. (XKCD)

My favourites - and the places that have inspired me to do this - are The Only Café, C'est What, and Bellwoods Brewery (which I think makes the best beer in the city ... although I hardly ever get there!).

Things I've Learned

There are several places I want to try:

  • Blood Brothers Brewing - highly recommended by a friend
  • Common Good Beer - inconveniently located at Ellesmere east of Warden!, but a Google rating of 4.8!
  • Get Well - "Microbrews meet retro pinball machines" - how awesome is that, and their beer list is quite good
  • Muddy York Brewing - currently in possession of a totally unheard-of 4.9 rating on Google (although I admit that's based on only 15 reviews)
  • Craft brew places are a haven of bad internet security (in part because a lot of them use Squarespace): a very large percentage of them haven't bothered to apply SSL/TLS to their websites. You might argue that this is hardly necessary when the worst thing an attacker could find out is that a particular person is reading the beer list on the website (and you're not really wrong), but Google is already down-rating websites that don't have SSL, but shortly some browsers are going to start popping up warnings for any unsecured sites.
  • If you want to drink at a brew pub in this city, stay south of Bloor. Or go to the Junction.

Google Mapping - The Technicalities

This isn't as hard as it seems: Google provides an excellent introduction that I found very easy to follow. You have to have a Google account, and it's easy to keep maps private or make them editable by others. The interface can be irritating and occasionally non-intuitive, but for the most part it's quite good. And, of course, it's free.

My biggest frustration is that I'd like to have Google's ratings of the pubs and bars show automatically. I know it can be done as I see it on lots of other custom maps, but I haven't figured out how to do it yet.