Tag Archive: Bars I Like


It’s mah party!

This Friday, I turn 29 and I’m using it as an opportunity to check out some bars I’ve not been to yet and visit some old favorites.

First stop is Barchef. I might even spring for that Vanilla Hickory Smoked Manhattan ($45!). Before we spend all of our party-money, we’re going to head west and hit up Ossington for some more drinks. Probably Watusi, Reposado and The Painted Lady.

If the last one on that list doesn’t do us in, we’ll probably head back down Ossington and check out the Double Deuce, Unit and maybe the Savoy (‘cos it’s new, opened by the people from 751, and I hear they got dancin’).

Say hi if you see me (and that means we have to do shots)!

I’m not going out tomorrow. No matter who calls, what delicious beers they promise me along with all of that good company.

No, fuck that.

I will be staying in and maybe I’ll open that second bottle of Fuller’s Vintage 2006 I have in my closet. Maybe I’ll be really Irish and listen to Elliot Smith covers (like the one below) and be as dour as I possibly can be.

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Or I’ll just clean the house and go for a bike-ride. It’s going to be a lovely day tomorrow; loads of sun and temperatures hovering around the 15 celcius. I’ll probably get thirsty too and than of course I’ll have to stop at a bar. Maybe Betty’s but seeing as eyeing the traffic is the best part, I’ll probably settle for a patio on Queen St. West.

No sense drinking alone so I might as well call some of those friends and see what they’re up to and before I know it I’ll be where I said I wouldn’t be, having the time of my life.

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Do I stay in with Emily Haines or go out with Shane MacGowan and The Pogues? I think I know what by what power I’m compelled… Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Don’t bogart your liver!

I thought you should know why I suddenly split when you turned to talk with the guy on the other side of you. Yes, you were being loud and offensive which was why I gave you the cold shoulder outside of the washroom but I can chalk that one up to a simple misunderstanding.

Following me to the bar and trying to make amends by buying me a shot was a nice gesture but you fucked it up by sticking around afterwards and trying to be my new best friend. Newsflash: we’re not “relating” and while your proposal that we get “shit-faced” and sullenly mull over our collective sorrows is very Bukowski of you, I’m going to have to decline.

It’s not only that. Your repeated attempts to get the other denizens of the bar to cease with their celebrations of Canada’s triumph in Olympic hockey by screaming, “Shut the fuck up!” made me feel less like I was trying to enjoy a well-deserved pint at my local and more like I was baby-sitting a war vet with the emotional development of a fourteen year-old and PTSD to boot. Trying to throw a balled-up napkin at them was not such a hot idea but at least I was able to stop you. I might have had less success if you’d gone for a pint glass instead.

The reason we got along so well is because I’m a bartender and one of the more tiresome facets of my job is keeping idiots like you in check. I’m pretty good at it too but that doesn’t mean we have anything in common. The fact you occupied the seat next to me for over fifteen minutes when you don’t know me paints you squarely as a friendless dick who comes close to realizing the sad truth on the drunken, emotional rollercoaster that is likely a typical night for you.

I’d wish you the best of luck in finding other angry, young men to play with but I don’t think it’s in society’s best interests for you guys to congregate. For every Black Panther, there’s an Al Qaeda.

Just sayin’.

(Cross-posted from Craigslist. I couldn’t resist.)

Toronto’s cocktail scene is about to get a major upgrade with the opening of the Toronto Temperance Society. Perhaps embodying the maxim “drink less, drink better” more than any other venue, the club promises to the sort of joint where you never have to worry about getting anything different than the drink you ordered (unless you like Appletinis).

Only thing is, you have to pay an annual membership fee of $285 for the privilege of hanging out with like-minded imbibers.  Perfection doesn’t come cheap…

In another instance of exclusivity = credibility, a travelling cocktail party in Los Angeles is the Next Big Thing. Only a matter of time before someone starts doing that here (hey, wait-a-minute).

Apparently, shit beer equals poor stock performance for major beer companies. Who’d have thought? Even better, the supposed panacea for these corporations involves buying up perfectly good craft breweries and wringing every little bit of individuality from their recipes.

Robert Parker, the venerable wine critic, rated a wine higher in a blind tasting than he had in his published review of it earler. Cue snickering

Alcademics reviews a new liqueur from Bolivia that is made from coca leaves. While not quite monkey-for-your-back, it apparently does give you a boost. They also take a look at a mezcal, my new favorite tipple.

I’ll drink a bicicletta if it means I get to have a two-hour lunch in the afternoon to boot! Half-an-hour is practically criminal.

Moonshine goes mainstream with white whiskey. Hopefully the LCBO will get notice and start selling a bottle here (I’m not holding my breath).

Another thing they should get on Right Away is St. Germain. Why is this not available in Canada? It practically sells itself! Here are some cocktails to tide you over…

Over at A Mountain Of Crushed Ice, Tiare talks about collecting bar tools (which is about as wonderfully geeky as you can get when it comes to the industry).

Dr. Bamboo resucitates Midori melon liqueur (at least for enthusiasts) with a cocktail that actually sounds pretty tasty. I predict a dark age revival… Can new uses for blue curacao be far behind?

I grit my teeth every time someone asks for a Keiths. A Good Beer Blog pointed me in the direction of guys who just might be my heroes. I wouldn’t mind so much if people just admitted to being biased towards mainstream brands.

If I had a little more discipline, I’d release my own brand of syrups and bitters instead of waiting for lines like Trader Tiki to make their way up to Canada.

SLOSHED! puts together a Bumble-bee Cocktail which sounds amazing, courtesy of Charles H. Baker Jr. and his book, Gentlemen’s Companion (not a new release in case you were wondering). They’ve also managed to introduce me to my new favorite quote (by the same man)

…all really interesting people–sportsman, explorers, musicians, scientists, vagabonds and writers–were vitally interested in good things to eat and drink; cared for exotic and intriguing ways of composing them. We soon discovered further that this keen interest was not solely through gluttony, the spur of hunger or merely to sustain life, but in a spirit of high adventure.

What an excellent sentiment!

(Image taken from Boing-Boing)

How to decide which beer to order

I was at my current local, Hoops Sports Bar & Grill, conveniently located across the street from where I work, and about to order my first brew of the night when I was presented with an unexpected choice.

Sandra, instead of getting me my Rickard’s Red (they’d stopped carrying Mill St. Tankhouse Ale sometime in the fall), told me that the Creemore keg had just been tapped. Now the freshness of a keg doesn’t normally factor into my decision to partake or not but for some reason tonight, it really appealed to me and a set of criteria for ordering beer began to assemble itself in my mind.

1. Is it new or different?

Obviously, the most important question for anyone who truly loves beer. If you’ve never had it before, maybe it’ll be the best one you’ve ever had. Any truly decent bar will have one or two lines devoted to seasonal drafts and you’d have to be daft to pass up the opportunity to sample a pint of Grand River’s Jubilation Spiced Ale, for example. Even if you don’t like it, what’s the harm? You can always pussy out and order half-a-pint anyway…

2. Is it clearly the best beer available?

This is where Mill St. Tankhouse Ale often cleans up for me. Before they stupidly did away with it at Hoops, it was the only beer worth ordering in a line-up that included a full collection of Keith’s products. When it comes to that kind of decision, don’t settle for second-best. The flip-side to this neatly segues into point no. 3 which is:

3. Is it fresh?

It might be the best beer but if hardly anyone ever orders a pint because they’re too busy drinking Keith’s, it might not be up to its full potential. Just like in a restaurant, if you order the special that no one else is having, prepare to be disappointed. One person ordering their favorite beer from time-to-time can take an awfully long while to drain that keg and you don’t want to be the one sampling the lower third of that bastard.

So there you have it. Follow this quick-and-easy set of rules and you’ll probably be happy with whatever beer you end up drinking.

Or not. Maybe you just want a goddamned beer and you won’t even notice the taste because all your throat’s been craving all night is that magical equation of water, malt and hops.

Have at ‘er, I won’t stand in your way.

But for those of you who order a Keith’s, day in and day out, because nothing better comes to mind, try something else. And if I’m serving you, know this… I’m gonna fetch you your shitty beer but I hope it gives you gas and a nasty hangover tomorrow morning.

How to do you decide what you’re going to have?

Meet Ryan McVittie

bars_professionals_mcvittieHe’s the first contributor to the Jolly Inebriate and I’m quite pleased to have him on board.

I first got to know Ryan back at The Comrade, the bar he co-owns in Leslieville. After a long shift at Joy Bistro, I’d frequently start a night of drinking there because they had a fantastic selection of seasonal beers and Ryan could always be counted on to make a damn good cocktail when something stronger was required.

I’ve had quite a few good dates end up there and many quiet evenings on my own as well; although other bars have taken its place, I’ll always remember the good times.

I’ve seen Ryan at a couple of places since then but one thing remains consistent; he enjoys making classic cocktails, knows their stories and can experiment with ‘em when called on to do so. He’s a solid bartender and I hope you get as much from his experiences as I have.

In completely-unrelated news, I can’t get enough of this cover by The Arcade Fire. I couldn’t tell you which show it was recorded at or who did the original but it’s good. Give it a listen, download and share because it’s a bitch to source out on Hype Machine. ‘Tis the season!

(Photo taken from Toronto Life.)

Tequila and Mai Tais

While combing over my recent music downloads (Bruce Dickinson does a decent, apropos cover of All The Young Dudes!) I came across a .doc file of semi-intelligible bar reviews tucked away in the bottom, left-hand corner of my desktop. A week ago, I’d gone on a bit of a tear with some friends that started on Ossington and continued east on College through Little Italy.

Since, I haven’t done a proper review in awhile, I decided to post these scribblings and maybe even bone them up with whatever memories I have left of the night…

Reposado Tequila Bar was our meeting spot. I’ve only ever been there on the weekend and between the limited seating and the jazz bands they usually have in, you might have a difficult time of it. It’s still worth it.

I couldn’t begin to tell you which tequilas I’ve tried there because when you’re handed a 2 oz pour in an extremely-pretty stemmed shot glass, you shut up and drink it. I’ve stayed in the mid-price range and been very well-rewarded. They do offer Corzo Blanco Tequila (which I had the pleasure of imbibing at home after Bacardi sent me a bottle) which would pair pretty well with their freshly-squeezed juice but I recommend going with some of their more complex reposados and anejos for some slow-sippin’ pleasure. Stick to 100% agaves and you’ll do just fine. Hell, you’ll have a good time if you give yourself over to Andrea the bartender. She knows what she’s doing.

Next up, we went to Sutra Tiki Bar in Little Italy. I’d wanted to go to Sidecar but one look inside convinced me otherwise; it was far too brightly lit and when you’re bar-hopping, the last thing you want to do is stand in an empty room anyways.

Now, tiki occupies a very particular niche in bar culture. It comes and goes, surging in popularity as people rediscover kitsch only to disappear again as soon as it peaks. The much-maligned quality of the cocktails doesn’t help either.

There are many ways for a tiki drink to go wrong. With multiple ingredients and garnishes that are meant to evoke tropical fantasies as well as stimulate your taste buds, a “sweet rum drink” is a rather crude understatement.  Using multiple rums, spices, freshly-squeezed juices and home-made syrups is a must.

Take the Mai Tai. Two essential ingredients (orgeat and curacao) aren’t even available in Canada.  If you want to make orgeat this recipe by Rick of Kaiser Penguin is one I’ve used and it’s good. The closest thing we have to Curacao in Canada is Cointreau but you should really just go across the border and pick up a bottle in Buffalo.

What, you ask, is in a Mai Tai? Trader Vic’s family (who came up with the most enduring version) provides three recipes and (one psuedo-recipe) on the website that bears his name and I’ll reprint the first one here:

THE ORIGINAL MAI TAI

2 oz 17 year-old J. Wray Nephew Jamaican rum
1/2 oz French Garnier Orgeat
1/2 oz Holland DeKuyper Orange Curacao
1/4 oz Rock Candy syrup
juice from one fresh lime

Hand shake and garnish with half of the lime shell in the glass and float a sprig of fresh mint at the edge of the glass.

Now obviously, we Canadians run into trouble with the first item in the recipe, the rum. If you’re a bit of a traditionalist, you could go with Appleton Estate Master Blender’s Legacy rum (750 mL, 43% ABV, $89.55) which is produced by J. Wray but I agree with Tiare of A Mountain of Crushed Ice who recommends a good demerara (rum from Guyana).

The only available brand in Canada is El Dorado (you can get two vintage Bristol Classics but they’ll cost you anywhere from $200-$250); their 21 Year-Old (750 mL, 40% ABV, $109.95) would probably work very well.

If you’re feeling really fly, you could use an ounce from each; part of the fun of a good Mai Tai is the mixing and matching of different rums. Regardless of your budget, there’s probably a couple of bottles you can afford.

As for the curacao, you really should make a run and grab a bottle of the good stuff but Cointreau will do in a pinch. Rock candy syrup is not the same as simple syrup, it has a whole lot more sugar, and a decent recipe can be found on the Tiki Central Forum. I don’t even need to get into why you should use a fresh lime do I?

Anyway! Sutra’s Mai Tai doesn’t even come close to the traditional recipemenu2 as you can see from their menu to the right. Substituting amaretto for orgeat is lazy bartending and those juices don’t belong anywhere near a Mai Tai.

I ordered one anyway, just to see what it was like and while it’s not bad, it’s certainly not worth $7.50. Stick with the recipe above because you won’t find one bar in Toronto that can make a decent Mai Tai.

Most of their other cocktails were similar bastardized versions of the classics. A coconut cup with a little umbrella does not a tiki drink make.

Despite the disappointing cocktails, the music was boomin’ and the back patio floor is covered with ankle-deep sand which is kind of charming. There are better bars for the cost of the drinks but you could do worse if you’re with the right friends.

(For more information about tiki, head on over to A Mountain of Crushed Ice.)

We were going to go the College Street Bar but the bouncers carded us and insisted we pay cover. Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal but there were quite a few of us and, feelin’ rowdy and a bit put-out by the delay, we headed down the street to The Midtown where we were greeted with open arms.

It’s a new bar but it’s still stuck in the first few years of the millenium. Fatman Scoop and Co. were on the playlist and the bar was packed nine-deep with young ginos  ordering round after round of shots. Between the dancing and the Jager-bombs, we fit right in.

Nostalgia can have a powerful draw; we didn’t end up leaving till after last-call so this venue marked the end of our “crawl” but I suppose it was for the best that we didn’t close the night at Bistro 422 with pitchers of rye-and-gingers in hand.

So I figured that since I’m behind on several updates, I’ll just smoosh them all into one big post and get it out of the way so I can get ready for the next season (and perhaps even become more timely with my writing!).

The big thing for me this summer was festivals and travelling. I went to the Cutting Edge Music Festival at the start of August and when not enjoying some hard, hard music, I did my fair share of drinking as well.

My friend Kat (who bartends at one of my favorites, Rasputin Vodka Bar) and I packed a couple 24’s worth of booze. There was no liquor but I brought Corona (my go-to camping beer) and she brought half-a-dozen types of coolers.

I can’t stand the damn things due to what I feel is an excessive amount of sugar and Kat doesn’t generally drink beer but over the next couple of days we dipped into each other’s stashes and I have to admit that Bacardi’s Blueberry Guava Breezer was actually quite refreshing, dare I say even buyable if one were prone to that sort of thing.

bud busIn terms of where one could drink there was a licensed area set to the side of the two main stages which was a Budweiser Bus. I generally hate segregated beer gardens with a passion and there was no way in hell I was going to pay $7 for a plastic cup of Bud when the camping area was licensed as well.

Unfortunately, drinking there required leaving the pit, making your way through security without getting anything confiscated, climbing up a monster hill and trying to find your way through Tent City. I’m not exaggerating when I say this was a 10 minute walk, made exceedingly challenging for many folk dealing with the variety of substances playing havoc with their bodies. I wasn’t at all surprised when I heard stories of people dropping where they stood but I can’t believe that fucking hill didn’t claim more victims. Still, I made the trek over twenty times and I’d do it again if it meant not drinking a Bud.

CEMF was my first music festival and I’m definitely looking forward to attending more although I think I’d prefer ones in other countries that don’t have such draconian licensing restrictions.

The next big thing I went to was Toronto’s Festival of Beer. I’d never been and I figured I should probably go to see what the fuss was about. I was a bit put out by the steep entrance fee ($45!) and getting in to the event was a challenge of labyrinthian proportions but I still enjoyed myself.

I know that Greg Clow of Beer, Beats & Bites was largely unimpressed with the festival, Troy Burtch at Great Canadian Pubs and Beer also had some quibbles and Save Your Fork… There’s Pie’s Sheryl Kirby gave a number of good reasons why it sucked when stacked up to the Hart House Craft Beer Festival and while I agree with pretty much everything they said I think I’m coming from a different place in my take on the event.

dug those barrels!

They’re right when they take issue with the smaller number of craft brewers in attendance, the roaming packs of drunken louts (and requisite “beer Nazi” security force) and all the cringe-worthy accoutrement of the Molson-Coors/Anheuser-Busch Inbev crowd.

Beerfest was all of that but it was also fun! Tecate’s human foosball was a glorious mess of tangled limbs and drunken saves and almost good enough for me to forgive them for the piss they call beer. Sure the hats you received for winning looked dumb but my group largely negated that by stealing ours. The Steamwhistle photobooth was also nice carnival-style throwback but other than those two promotional tie-ins, I mostly stuck with drinking as much beer as possible.

My friends were already trashed by the time I got there but I managed to catch up pretty quickly with a stop at the Trafalgar Brewery booth and I had another go at their Critical Mass and Korruptor strong beers. Both tasted much better than I remember from that three-pack I bought back in the spring (or maybe I was just happy to finally have a beer in my hand).

In quick succession, I hit the Wellington, Radeberger & DAMM and McClelland Premium Imports booths. The first two didn’t do that much for me but the last one featured both the Erdinger Weissbier and Dunkel, Fruli and Affligem’s Dubbel, Tripel and Blonde. Unfortunately, they were out of Delirium Tremens by Sunday; this saddened me because I’ve always loved it and since it was banned by the LCBO awhile ago, it’s been very difficult to source it out beyond a few bars.

One of my friends had a massive hankering for wings and that was just fine with me because it allowed us to sit in the southwest corner of the festival where Great Lakes Brewery’s CASKapalooza! held court. I’d heard good things but I had no idea they’d have so many great brews just waiting for me to sample!

We ended up spending over an hour here; quite a feat when you consider that most booths didn’t merit more than a couple of minutes at best. During our time there, I tried the Snaggle Tooth Pumpkin Ale, Kaptain Kolsch, Iron Eagle Pilsner, Simon Says Stout and Superior I.P.A.

All were pretty good with the Snaggle Tooth and Kaptain definitely meriting a place on the shelf. My disappointment at not being able to try more of them has been tempered by the hindsight that I was pretty trashed by this point and wouldn’t have made it through much more.

Still, there was more of the grounds to traverse and I forced my comrades to take me back to the Bier Markt’s Oktoberfest Experience. There, we dined on sausages, sauerkraut and a most excellent weissbier which I believe was imported. The only finer example I’ve had would be the rather untraditional Edelweiss’ Snowfresh or Denison’s.

After this point, my memories of what we did next begin to jumble together like a night of partying… I remember watching some booth girls playing a drinking game that involved some kind of soccer chant and being extremely disappointed by the Eastern European lager I got when it was my turn.

We ended up in the center of the grounds and although I think I tried some great beers I don’t recall what they were called or even what they tasted like. I remember a couple of friends climbing up into a tree and getting reprimanded by security and one of our cups getting confiscated by the beer Nazis after we doubled up while one of our friends went to the washroom. We ended up dancing in front of the bandshell to some no-name band playing a cover of Home for a Rest, a song that is somehow synonymous with being smashed and Canadian. (On a sidenote: there are so many concert videos of that song being played by the band on YouTube… they must be very tired of playing it but if the festival is any indication of public opinion, no one seems to very tired of hearing it.)

In retrospect we were pretty much like everyone else by that point; very drunk and very, very happy. This may not be the best way to try out new beers but it can be a terrific condition in which to enjoy yourself. I may be getting older but I still take some pleasure in this sort of thing from time to time. The day I stop doing so may very well coincide with the day I start taking my writing more seriously but it hasn’t come yet. I saw plenty of assholes but I also met some incredibly-fun people and drank some damn good beer; those are the memories that stick.

When not going out, I’ve had the opportunity to buy a few beers here and there but not too many of them stick out in my mind.

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Boris Organic (not pictured here, I misplaced the can, but I’m sure you can picture it) is a middle-of-the-road lager with that slightly-malty, clean, inoffensive taste that features in so many beers of its kind. There’s not a whole lot of carbonation and you’re left with not much of an aftertaste because it’s so damn watery. It reminded me a bit of Mill St. Organic except not as good.

Both Nektar and Ochakovo Premium were both equally bland and I’d stay away from both of them. I don’t like the Eastern European lagers the LCBO brings over here and neither of these changed my mind.

Estrella Damm, on the other hand, is a lot better but that’s faint praise considering the company it was keeping. It poured with a nice thick head that left a lovely amount of lacing on the glass which was unusual given that I wouldn’t call this a full-bodied beer.

Still, it was quite lovely; dry, crisp and refreshing. The nose was definitely light and there was a decent mouthfeel but I would’ve preferred more carbonation. It’s definitely less grassier than some pilsners with some malt and just a touch of bitterness. Bonus points for no evident skunkiness or overt sweetness. There was very little aftertaste but the dryness definitely became more pronounced which I didn’t mind.

Everyone I know who doesn’t generally enjoy beer and has tried Damm has enjoyed it; this is definitely one of those beers you can satisfy most people without sinking to the level of your garden-variety macro-brews. I’ve had a couple cans with everything ranging from a tuna-melt sandwich to pasta and found it worked quite well as a “carb-soaker”. My only real caveat with this beer is that is has to be served ice-cold; it loses points for not aging well in the glass. Overall, it’s a decent beer to get drunk with but there are cheaper tallboys that don’t sacrifice too much in taste.

(Top photo by Matt Eckensweiler.)

beer liquor eatSarah Boesveld of The Globe and Mail reports on a “bacon trend” that seems to involve the tasty pork product being added to everything from cupcakes to ice cream and serving it with chocolate sauce. I just want my Bakon vodka dammit! I can’t imagine a better Caeser…

Corby Distilleries (owner of Wiser’s, Lambs, Polar Ice, etc. and controlled by Canadian Club’s Hiram Walker & Sons. Ltd which is itself a subsidiary of Pernod Ricard of France… confused yet?) reported a 24 per cent increase in its net earnings which it attributes to its license to distribute Absolut in Canada and the LCBO’s recent strike.

Why am I repeating this? I merely find it interesting and slightly worrying how tangled these companies get with their labyrinth of distribution deals spanning the globe. Basically, everybody owns a little bit of everybody.

I’m very happy to see Cocktail Culture post a recipe of the Bloodhound Cocktail because it means I’ll be able to use the rest of my strawberry syrup.

Camper English of Alcademics tries to make ice clearer by refreezing it multiple times. Besides the visual joke, the numerous responses from other folks make it worth browsing.

He also shows us how to get more mileage out of our simple syrup.

Could you tell a Collins from a Fizz if you saw them in a bar? The Kitchn gives an overview on the two cocktails, their similiarities and their differences.

Over at the The Washington Post, Jason Wilson rebrands the Red-Headed Slut (one of those slutty cocktails from the 90’s) for the new century and ends up paying tribute to a beloved and recently-departed film director.

Vodka & Co. posts three very delicious-sounding cocktails using Bombay Sapphire gin. Feel free to substitute your own favorite spirit but try at least one of ‘em.

Oh Group shares their recipe for shrub. (Make some, you won’t regret it!)

The cocktailnerd reviews the latest round of ginger beers in his pantry. I wish we could get some of these up here in Canada…

Coming so soon on the heels of 3 Brewers opening up a brewpub in Toronto, we have a local brewmaster getting in on the action. Canadian Beer News reports that Michael Duggan (of Mill St. and Cool fame) will be opening up Duggan’s Brewery at the former location of Denison’s Brewing on 75 Victoria St.

So I kind of owe you guys an apology. I’m dreadfully late on some promised reviews and other articles. Besides the party I’ve been busy enjoying summer. Not being at home means not much time between sleeping off the fun and going to work. I promise to do some more writing soon but since this season started so late, I want to enjoy what I can of it.

The party did go well. No slushies but all the guests were ably served by the bar I’d set up. I had to man it because the bartender I’d asked to come in was delayed by a lengthy catering shift elsewhere. Even so, I had a good time (one for me, one for you!) and while it wasn’t exactly revolutionary, it was a reminder of how even the most basic bartending can be tons of fun when you have your friends around you.

(Photo taken from The Stakhanovite Twins’ Flickr Photostream.)

3 brewersOn my way home, I was biking up Yonge St. to get to Gerrard when I passed a new pub just south of the Hard Rock Cafe near the Yonge-Dundas Square.

The front was open to the street, it was pleasantly-packed with guests and at first sight, came across as a different take on the mass-market pubs we’re so used to in Toronto.

After going over the menu and finding out they brewed their beer on-site, I couldn’t resist it’s obviously carefully-designed siren call; I simply had to go in and have a beer. Score one for Gerry Kakaroubus (one of the owners as I was soon to find out)!

What really sold me on giving the place a try was the tasting flight of their beers for a measly $6.75! I can’t think of a better way of getting people who might be stuck in their usual beer-buying patterns to try something new.

After taking a seat at the bar (I only ever go where the action is, tables are for parties) I was pleased to discover that all of the beers were above-average; they didn’t knock my socks off but I wasn’t disappointed either and having 5 new beers to try (you can add a couple dollars and get a bit of their special brew) was totally worthwhile.

The first one I sampled was their bi-monthly brew, a red ale called Indian Ocean. It wasn’t so much like an IPA but it was definitely crisp with clove and vanilla undertones and a slightly-bitter finish. I enjoyed it quite a bit and I ended up going back for some more after my tasting was done.

Next up was the blonde which reminded me of a pilsner with a bit of a grassy taste. It wasn’t very crisp but it was well-balanced; I would’ve liked a little more bite though. The wheat was quite delicate and next to the Rickard’s and Keith’s offerings, more than holds its own. Think of it like a Hoegaarden but more spicy and you’ll be on the right track. I wouldn’t go out of my way to order it but it was lighter than a Paulaner, for example, which might be right up some people’s alley. It’s definitely refreshing and I imagine it’d do pretty well as a component in one of their beer cocktails. (Yes, they mix beer with liqueurs which can be a whole lot of fun. I have fond memories of Hoegaardens with a liberal dose of Chambord at Jack Astor’s on Front St. They mix their wheat beer with either banana liqueur or peach schnapps but I’d imagine they’d substitute whatever if you asked nicely.)

The amber ale had quite a bit more bitterness from the hops, more so than the special brew, with some caramel undertones and a wee bit of grassiness. The dark ale was rather predictable with some chocolately-maltiness but I would’ve liked a bit more oomph. I was expecting more of a stout and I got something akin to Cool Brew’s Doublefist Stout except not as good.

(One beer I didn’t get around to trying was La Belle Province, a bottled brew brought in from Quebec City that apparently has a “hint of maple syrup”. It seemed to be a largish portion so I imagine it’d be best shared with a couple of friends.)

To accompany my beer I ordered some mussel’s on the bartender’s recommendation but they didn’t impress me. We’ve got some great mussels in this city (Smokeless Joes, Starfish, BeerBistro, etc.) and there’s no way these can even compare. The broth was supposedly made with beer and tomatoes but it was bland and not even the occasional piece of celery and onion could salvage it. You know you’re in trouble when sopping up the broth with the de riguer bread is a chore.

Where’s the spice? Where’s the fucking flavour??

There was also way too much of it… I actually had trouble finding all of my mussels. Complaints aside, the portion was very generous and the side of fries was crisp and tasty. The house-made mayo dip was particularly nice with a tartaresque quality that left me recalling some pleasant memories at Deep Blue Fish & Chips.

Normally, I do pretty well with picking the best dish to have on any menu but I was led astray by an obviously-inexperienced staff-member. Next time I’ll go with one of their flamms which seem to be very close to a thin-crust pizza. The menu is quite large with a lot of items in place to ensure there’s something for everyone. It’s not my bag but I can see why they’d do it.

Despite not being able to recommend something decent for me, the staff were relatively friendly and not overbearing. I’d definitely go back with friends if I was in the area and with Yonge St. being a relatively bereft of decent dining options, you could do far worse than spend some time with the 3 Brewers.

(Image blatantly stolen from Urbanspoon.)

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