Friday, July 08, 2011

A little drive to Toronto

Did I tell you the one about how back in May Patty and I drove to Toronto? Probably not to many of you, and definitely not on these "pages".

See, it was a mostly personal trip, not so much a Brew Lounge trip. Though, where Beaumont and Bryan are involved, there are sure to be many fine brews. And for new discoveries along the way, I'd be derelict in my duties if I did not report back to you some new recommendations.

It may not be the timeliest of postings, but daggumit it's gonna be posted. Come to think of it, Beaumont is involved in the most delinquent Brew Lounge posting of all-time, last October's Rhine River cruise through Europe.

We drove north with in-person birthday wishes and a couple of growlers and six-packs from Sly Fox in tow for Steve. If I'm gonna miss the Bock Festival at Sly Fox, then Bock must travel shotgun. Plus, when they heard where I was headed, they insisted I take some extra with me.

This is just a short posting of some of the places we stopped along the way. Not full reviews, mind you, rather brief mentions of places you may wish to check out when traveling through New York State or north of the border in Toronto.

Just when you do the border-crossing thing, don't ask the crossing guard if he really does know Steve Beaumont. Seriously. Long story. A funny and long story. Don't ask, unless you buy me a beer and ask nicely.

Cole's in Buffalo, NY — An ad in the Ale Street News (I'm pretty sure that's where the idea came from) took us to this nice Irish-style spot north of downtown just off the Buffalo State College campus. It's been around since 1934 and boasts a lot of taps and a quality bottle menu to boot. Lamb burger and an IPA (called 'The Kind') from nearby 3 Heads Brewing in Rochester, NY satisfied me for the last leg of our drive to Toronto.

The Burger Bar in Toronto, ON - We were barely in town an hour and we were whisked away to The Burger Bar in the city's Kensington Market neighborhood near the University. My how this neighborhood has developed since we were last there nearly 10 years ago.

Steve introduced us to owner Brock Shepherd who was in the process of launching his own brewery, Kensington Brewing Company. At the time (don't know if status has changed since then), his Augusta Ale and Extra Hoppy were being contract-brewed somewhere outside of the city but with plans, if I recall correctly (everything from this trip is going off memory--fortunately, mine's usually pretty solid) to eventually set up shop in the back of the restaurant.

Beers were solid, as were the small bites that we enjoyed pre-dinner, and are recommended for your keen beer goggles to seek out when in Toronto. Not sure how wide the distribution may ever become, so simply head to The Burger Bar instead of traipsing around town hoping to find it. Plus, if the restaurant isn't to your liking, there are plenty of other options up and down Augusta Avenue.

Bar Volo in Toronto, ON - Before heading off to dinner, we made a stop around the corner, or around the University, from The Burger Bar. Bar Volo appears to be making waves in downtown Toronto. Big waves. Owner Ralph Morana is serving up some of the most interesting beers from eastern Canada, particularly (of course, hopefully) Ontario.

On this particular early Friday evening in mid-Spring, there was a healthy crossover of happy hour-goers as well as early birds getting a start on the evening. Morana made sure that we continued our progressive dinner across town with a plate of appetizing snacks and some beers that he found interesting, including some of his own from his 1-bbl system in the back. Yes, that's right. Another bar owner with a license to brew and sell on-premise.

His brewing endeavor goes by the name House Ales. Morana often gets together with local professional and home brewers to create highly sought-after beers that are licensed for on-premise consumption.

They also take up a spot on the Ontario Cask Ale Trail, something I found very intriguing as Morana serves many of his house-made beer in this fashion, cask-conditioned that is. Morana played quite the gracious host and makes Bar Volo an automatic stop during our next visit to Toronto.

beerbistro in Toronto, ON - At this point of the evening, it was time for a proper sitdown dinner. Beaumont is a minority partner in beerbistro and I've only eaten of Chef/Owner Brian Morin's creations at Monk's Café in Philly. So it became a near-given that we drop in for our dinner and last stop of the night. It was certainly the most upscale environment of the evening of our three stops and, given its location, was quite obvious that we were as "downtown" as we'd been all day/night. The Financial District, Theater District, and all things tourist dominate the areas adjacent to beerbistro.

With a bottle of Cantillon St. Lamvinus to get things started, we were off to quite a fine dinner. Morin stopped by to chat for a bit and then let us attack our plates of food from the seasonally-changed dinner menu. The beer menu is smartly organized into groupings that help simplify (or complicate, depending upon your perspective, I suppose) the selection process from a large beer list. Categories include: Appetizing, Bold, Contemplative, Crisp, Fruity, Quenching, Robust, Satisfying, Smoky, Sociable, Soothing, Spicy, Unpredictable, and even recommended "Beer for (both red and white) Wine Lovers".

Empire Brewing Company in Syracuse, NY - Syracuse was almost exactly half way along the drive home for us. It was too late to stop in Ithaca, so we figured to stop in at Blue Tusk in Syracuse in its Armory Square neighborhood to grab some barbecue and great beers.

But, alas, they are closed on Sundays so we walked across the street to Empire Brewing Company. They're big on sustainability and what-not and brew up a wide spectrum of flavors and aromas to please a wide swatch of patrons.

We know Empire from Ommegang's annual Belgium Comes to Cooperstown. Last year, the brewery's White Aphro (Belgian Wit) and Sub-Terranian (Belgian Farmhouse/Tripel) impressed. The service on this particular Sunday was prompt, friendly, and educated (in the ways of beer). We got what we needed in the form of some burgers and beers before heading out for the second four-hour leg of journey.

All in a weekend's work play for The Brew Lounge.

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