Why every craft beer lover in Toronto should make a stop in Little Portugal

(Originally posted in The Toronto Standard)

 Is Dundas & Ossington Toronto’s New De Facto Beer District?

Is Dundas & Ossington Toronto's New De Facto Beer District?

 

Photo: Dan Grant (@BrewScout)

I’m not sure it’s even possible to spend an entire evening around Dundas & Ossington without hearing the Black Keys, Instagramming a fixie, or growing a beard.  Other Toronto neighbourhoods could lay similar claims, but there’s something different about this intersection – Jays caps worn properly, lumberjacks with eReaders, ethical tacos – that makes D&O a destination unto its own.

It’s like Portlandia on poutine, where dobro players debate Songza vs. Spotify with your friend’s kid, and Wonderdick cries into his red wine over our collective shame (Garrison Creek).

Gentrified & Hipsterdom is a magical place, where Starbucks cups magically appear in city garbage bins, even though nobody is drinking Starbucks (wink, wink).

And if all that isn’t enough for it to warrant its own BIXI station, Little Portugal has something even more special to offer – some of the best, unique beers in the city.

A couple blocks south of the intersection you’ll find Bellwoods Brewery. Since opening little more than a year ago, the micro at Argyle and Ossington has been cited as the top brewery in Ontario by one of the country’s most respected beer writers, ranked the third best new brewery in the world by Ratebeer.com and collaborated on recipes with a couple of the planet’s more renowned craft brewers.

I mention to one of the co-founders how impressive this first year has been and Mike Clark pretty much shrugs off the honours, focusing instead on the partnerships. “Yeah, I’m sure we’ll do another collaboration with Luc,” Clark states, as though it’s just one of those things people do (the Luc in question being M. Lafontaine, former brewmaster at Montreal’s revered Dieu du Ciel!, who now mashes in Japan). “We actually have another sitting in barrels now; a sour stout we’ve done with Evil Twin. That one will be here, but it will also go down to Evil Twin’s new beer bar in Brooklyn. I’m sure we’ll do more with Ontario breweries too. We’ve been talking with Jason at the Indie Ale House about doing something with him.”

Along with Luke Pestl, Clark rolled open Bellwoods’ big garage door (the brewpub is located in a former auto shop) last April, and the pair has been greasing the wheels ever since. “I would say in our first year we did about 50 different recipes – this year we’re honing in on about 12 or 15 recipes we liked best.”

Clark says Bellwoods has no plans to sell in the LCBO or The Beer Store, but the attached retail store is open from noon to 11:00, Monday to Saturday; and noon to 6:00 on Sunday.

Just west of Ossington, on Dundas, Get Well Bar, opened even more recently, and with it came the country’s reigning top amateur homebrewer. Brad Clifford’s “Best In Show” designation at the 2012 Great Canadian Homebrew Competition was the second consecutive such honour he received from the Canadian Amateur Brewers Association.

Get Well offers up a 100% Ontario craft beer selection and has three taps set aside specifically for Clifford’s recipes.  “Fantastic,” is how he describes the first six months. “When we first launched we ran out of beer in the first week or two. It went pretty quick. If anything, I’m just trying to keep up with demand.”

In addition to excellent beer, Get Well also has a free arcade (think Galaga, Gauntlet, pinball) to rest your pint glass on, while re-calibrating your wrist.

Like Bellwoods, the neighbour to the north is also into collaborations (including one with Indie Ale House) and it too has no plans to sell off site.

Opera Bob’s doesn’t brew its own beers, but the pub just east of the intersection does lay claim to its own house tap.  Bob’s Bearded Red is an Irish Red Ale developed by Mill Street’s head brewer, Joel Manning, who calls the Opera Bob’s his local.

Although the nitro-charged pint (which gives it the same cascading effect as Guinness, but in a beautiful, creamy, copper-blonde) has since been spotted at several other pubs around the province, BBR is as native to the neighbourhood as The Biblio-Mat.

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