There’s something very welcoming and all-inclusive about pubs. Whether guests are young or old, beer drinkers, wine tipplers or teetotalers, everyone knows what to expect, from the casual dress code to the kick-back-and-relax vibe.
Toronto is hopping (get it?!) with brewpubs and local watering holes making and pouring great suds — domestic, imports and craft brews, the “it” drinks of the moment. Check out these event-ready pubs for the upcoming holiday season and beyond:
Destination: The Craft Brasserie & Grille, the newest arrival on Liberty Village’s dining-bar scene, is located on the corner of Atlantic and Snooker Avenue.
The Scene: It isn’t just the main lounge’s bar, lined with 120 taps and 40 stools, that flags this pub as a beer-lover’s palace. There’s also the glass walk-in fridge filled with kegs, meticulously organized, that keep all those taps flowing. The lower-level heritage building site is very apropos for a beer hall, with exposed brick, ductwork, and wooden beams giving it an authentic industrial brewery-like aesthetic, even though it doesn’t produce beer. Red leather booth seating and an open kitchen preside over the adjacent dining area.
Capacity: Full buyout, 260; Dining area, 130; Lounge, 130 including semi-private mezzanine seating for 32
Beer-Food Cred: Did we mention the 120 beers on tap? Over 80% is local craft with a well-chosen international showing. The restaurant brings in small kegs only to ensure freshness. Chef Adrian Andaya draws on his Filipino roots for some delicious takes on beer-friendly foods.
To Dos: In-house Prud’homme beer sommelier Matt Sieradzki is keen to share his passion and knowledge with carefully curated tutored tasting flights.
Beer With A Side Of Music
Destination: Named after the burr-like plant used as beer’s bittering ingredient before widespread use of hops, Burdock opened at Bloor and Dufferin in April.
The Scene: There’s a trifecta of fun here: A restaurant-bar with on-site brewery stashed at the back and an adjacent music hall. The main space is non-pub traditional, enjoying lots of natural lighting and homey décor with a low kitchen-counter island-inspired bar, decorative tile mosaics (a holdover from the previous tenant, a Portuguese churrasqueira) and lush greenery. A glass wall is the window on the back-of-house brewing action. Walk through to the adjacent music hall, a custom-designed multi-versatile space with excellent acoustics. Launching soon: Private event space in Burdock’s barrel and bottle storage warehouse on Geary Street.
Capacity: Restaurant, 70; Music Hall, 90; Warehouse, 100
Beer-Food Cred: Twelve taps, nine that pour Burdock’s craft beers. There’s also cider plus carbonated Kombucha. Hearty fare takes its cue from local, seasonal ingredients with lots of vegetarian options.
To Dos: Host a full-on brewmaster’s event with a guided tour of the brewing process, tastings, including sips from the different fermenting stages, and beer-paired menu.
Destination: The Wicket, a year-old-pub in High Park, immediately topped the hoods “Like” list for great grub, suds and bartender-owner Nigel Naimool’s hospitality, quick wit and event-convener skills.
The Scene: Clutter-free of traditional pub tchotchkes, the two-storey space plays off casual cottage aesthetics. Warm, textured woods and colour palette combine for an upscale rec-room vibe. Sealed century-old petrified barn board serves as undulating bar tops downstairs and upstairs. High Park landmarks and activities get a nod in framed black and white archive photos. Floor-to-ceiling patio windows plus upstairs skylights wash the bar with lots of natural light. A large second-floor back games room is a bonus!
Capacity: Downstairs, 36; Upstairs 76
Beer-Food Cred: Irish imports and local craft taps plus a rotating menu of tallboys and ciders. A solid selection of bourbon and whiskeys keeps on trend. Special drink and brand orders accommodated. Food is delicious, taking a comfort approach with global fusion twists. Event menus are custom-planned. New website coming soon.
To Dos: Bring your game face for darts, pool and pinball. BYO Play Station gaming consoles and playlists for event fun and your listening pleasure.
A Scottish Toast
Destination: Beer and whisky — the water of life — come together at
The Caledonian, one of Toronto’s top Scottish pubs, located on College Street just south of Ossington.
The Scene: Handsome dark wood and tastefully chosen Scottish artwork and accents make for a cozy, elegant setting. Tables surround the bar with its gleaming back wall of bottled Scotch treasures. Between the front-of-house bar-dining room and a delightful gem of a patio out back sit two private event spaces: The Arbagh Tasting Room with fireplace, and the Glenfiddich Bothy, a heated covered area of the patio for intimate year-round events. A bothy, by the way, is a Scottish Highland’s shelter, usually left unlocked for anyone to use.
Capacity: Main restaurant, 70; Arbagh Tasting Room, 25; Glenfiddich Bothy, 16; Patio, 60
Beer-Food Cred: Over 250 whisky malts and blends make the pub a scotch-lover’s destination. Of the 12 beers on tap, 10 are Scottish imports. Non-tap selections include Scottish ales, stouts and lagers not available anywhere else in North America. Roasts and stick-to-your-ribs Scottish classics like haggis, neeps and tatties, and steak pie are plated with culinary showmanship.
To Dos: Tutored whisky or beer tastings, including paired dinners, are the main event here, customized to tastes and budget. Tap into the owners’ connections for rare samplings, brand ambassadors, bagpipers and highland dancers.
Great Pub, New Look
Beer Destination: Popular local the Pour House Kitchen & Pub reopened in August after a major rebranding and renovation, from outside in to menu, shifting the restaurant-bar from its former all-things Irish to a true-blue modern-day gastropub.
The Scene: Gone is the Irish kitsch. In its stead is great contemporary design. New are the textured, interlocking wood walls, exposed brick, funky lighting and accents like decorative tin ceiling tiles as wall art. Two large patios continue as great warm-weather destinations. Several group dining and event spaces include The Cottage Room — pull over the sliding barn door for privacy. Take over the pub’s back half by combining The Strange Room, a larger private space, with additional traffic into the adjacent Area 51.
Capacity: Full buyout, 200; The Cottage Room, 25; The Strange Room, 50; Area 51, 15; Upper and Lower patios, 50 and 55
Beer-Food Cred: Twenty-four taps pour pints of well-chosen craft beers, mainly local. There’s an additional selection of over 20 in the fridge. The new menu is inspired, elevating pub fare with fixings like edamame nibblies and Elk burgers. Event grub gets lots of attention, too, with offerings such as food stations — curry, poutine and popcorn among them.
To Dos: Beer-savvy staff happily detail the notes and stories of the carefully selected craft taps. Live music and DJ billings fit with the pub’s new hip, livelier personality.