One man’s folly

When we last left out intrepid explorer (little ol’ me) he was in a good ol’ Duke Boys situation where things just seemed to be going wrong one after the other.  Ol’ UsedHair Duke was stuck miles from his hotel outside a brewery that wasn’t going to open for another 2 hours.  There wasn’t time to return back to the hotel and get back before the brewery opened.  So, he just had to find something else to do.  Luckily Uncle Google Maps found him another brewery in the area that was only a 15 minute walk away.  So, our intrepid explorer set off a walkin’ towards Folly Brewpub.  The walk was good.  But when he got to Folly Brewpub, the view from outside made him wish he had access to the General Lee.

Folly Brewpub front access
Folly Brewpub front access

OK.  Is it open?  Is it closed?  Is there some wacky plan afoot that has been masterminded by Roscoe and Boss Hog?  Alright, I’ve got plenty of time to investigate the situation.  Is there a way around the construction?

Construction entrance to Folly Brewpub
Construction entrance to Folly Brewpub

This looks promising?  Let’s give it a whirl.  Once I cross the street, I can see a path that might just go to Folly.  As I get closer, I find a crossing worthy of a General Lee style jump.

The way to Folly Brewpub
The way to Folly Brewpub

OK.  So, I’m pushing the metaphor at this point.  But, you have to admit it’s fun.  At this point I feel like I’m having a real adventure despite the (in all seriousness) tiny, minor, standard, construction.  Because, if you can’t have fun, there isn’t much of a point.

Once I get inside Folly, it is everything I would expect from a really good quality brew pub.  A really good selection of beer and food as well as a good sense of humor.

Folly Brewpub Interior
Folly Brewpub Interior
Folly Brewpub beer selection
Folly Brewpub beer selection
Some kind of joke in a sign
Some kind of joke in a sign

What really impresses me about Folly is that they have a specific style.  They are really into farmhouse ales.  This is not to say they only have farmhouse ales.  They certainly have a broad range of styles.  But they have a passion for farmhouse ales.  That’s always a good sign that a brewery is not just going through the motions to have a business.  This place is dedicated.  After a good long talk with the people working there and hearing just how hard it is to keep a business going with construction going on that make someone feel like the Dukes of Hazzard getting in, the concept of a dedicated brewery is absolutely reinforced.

In the long run, I walked away with 3 bottles of really interesting beer and a hell of a good story.  That’s a huge win by any standards.

Down in Joe’s Garage

During the conference I found myself with an interesting combination of an afternoon off and a coupon code for a free Uber ride. It was time to explore a brewery a little further out. I just had to be sure to be back by 6pm for a speech by some grand high muckity muck. A few Canucks that I know recommended a place called Bellwoods Brewery, so off I went. There was just one slight problem. Remember when I said Toronto is awesome because every brewery seems to have a bottle shop attached? Well it turns out that Google Maps listed the operating hours of the bottle shop, but not the brewery itself. So, when I got to Bellwoods it was empty and did not open for another 2 hours.

Bellwoods with a few hours left until opening
Bellwoods with a few hours left until opening

OK. Well, Google Maps got me into this situation, maybe it could help get me out as well. I looked up breweries and found another brewery about a 15 minute walk from Bellwoods. That would leave me an hour and a half at the other brewery and plenty of time to get a drink at Bellwoods before heading back for the Grand Poobah’s speech. I had this.  I will leave the story of the other brewery for the next post (never cross the streams). But, I will say that it took me significantly longer than an hour and a half at the other brewery. Darn. But I did get to see some cool street art on my way back to Bellwoods.

Cool street art on the way to Bellwoods
Cool street art on the way to Bellwoods

Now I’m finally back and Bellwoods look like a hopping and happening kind of place.

Bellwoods in full swing
Bellwoods in full swing

I order a beer, text one of my colleagues that I’m just going to have to miss hearing Burgermeister Meisterburger. Accepting my fate, I was now free to relax and look around a bit. The main thing I notice is that the whole thing is set up in a garage. Like the garage on the side of someone’s house in a neighborhood (not and industrial garage in a business district). But what still puzzles me is just how massive this garage is. Who has a garage so big that they can convert it into a brewery?

Bellwoods garage door
Bellwoods garage door
Bellwoods bar area
Bellwoods bar area
Who has space for brewing equipment on the SECOND FLOOR of their garage?
Who has space for brewing equipment on the SECOND FLOOR of their garage?
Now you're just talking crazy space for a garage
Now you’re just talking crazy space for a garage

As crazy as the size of the place is, the beer and food were definitely worth missing out on the speech from Sir Loin of Beef. I hit the bottle shop to get a few for the road and headed back for the big reception.

Bellwoods bottle shop
Bellwoods bottle shop

Do one thing really, really well

When I was researching breweries in Toronto, I noticed one called Steam Whistle Brewing that was really close to my hotel.  But it was only open during business hours and they only made one beer.  There was a risk here that it would be like the Canadian version of a Rolling Rock.  I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to try and get there or not.  But, then I passed the building on my way to the CN Tower and I was petty impressed with the Steam Whistle tower right in front of the CN Tower.

img_5860
Steam Whistle Tower in front of CN Tower

Then I passed the building on the way back to the hotel and was sure I wanted to get a look inside.

img_5903
Steam Whistle Brewing building

I found some time during the next day to skip out early and head over to Steam Whistle.  I just had to get a better look.  Although the building is a bit plain on the outside, the inside was absolutely bustling with people and has quite a bit going on.

img_5863
Steam Whistle entrance

The Steam Whistle beer itself is a well done pilsner.  What gets me about this place is the fantastic array of decorations and dedication to the beer itself.

Steam Whistle growler fill station
Steam Whistle growler fill station
Steam Whistle refrigerator
Steam Whistle refrigerator
Steam Whistle products
Steam Whistle products

These guys really love their beer.  And they have been dedicated to it for a long time.  One of the bar tenders showed me how the bottles have changed over the years.

img_5877
Steam Whistle bottles through the years

The oddest thing they had was definitely the calendar that they made for charity with the male staff of the brewery in sexy poses.

Steam Whistle calendar
Steam Whistle calendar

Pretty damn odd, and awesome. But, let’s get down to brass tacks.  What can I bring home for the bottle collection.  Turns out that, at the brewery, they sell their beer in milk bottle growlers.  That’s milk bottles like the type my grandfather used to deliver to people’s doorsteps.  Cool!

Steam Whistle milk bottle growler
Steam Whistle milk bottle growler

I absolutely don’t have any other bottles like that.  It really made the trip there worth the effort.

Say What?

The next brewery in the Toronto series is C’est What? (pronounces Say What? because… French).  As I conducted my online research before ever going to Toronto, I saw this place listed and noted that it was close to my hotel and had food (the two things I usually need in order to recommend that the people I travel with might want to go there).  However, looking at the 90’s style website wasn’t overly selling the place to me.  The food listed on the menu looked interesting, but sparse. I kind of got the impression that I was getting ready to go to a fast food place with white plastic tables that also happened to brew their own beer.  I could not have been more wrong.

I happened to find myself with a few hours to kill before meeting up with a group of peers for dinner.  I figured this was the prime opportunity to check out C’est What? without risking a bad recommendation to my fellow travelers.  So, off I went to see just what this place was actually like.  When I found the door that lead in, I was still a little leery.

img_5911
C’est What? door sign

I don’t know why (considering the picture on the door sign of a nice place and the disclaimer that they had been around since 1988), but I still felt like I was about to head into someplace fast-food-like that didn’t really focus on beer.  On the trip down the stairs, I started to get myself a clue.

img_5912
C’est What? stairs

OK.  So, this place was at least going to be serious about their beer.  You don’t create a mural like that and serve swill.  Then I walked into, IMHO, the largest and coolest finished basement I’ve ever seen.

img_5915
C’est What? interior – view 1
img_5919
C’est What? interior – view 2

Don’t let the empty tables and chairs make you think this place isn’t “happening”.  These pictures were taken at 2pm (the deadest hour of all for any bar/restaurant).  The bar itself was also impressive.

img_5916
C’est What? bar

Now we’re talking.  They even had a really impressive selection of beer.

img_5918
C’est What? beer selection

Including a hemp beer.  I know people find these fascinating.  I just don’t see the point.  But it was cool that they had one.

img_5917
C’est What? hemp ale sign

I ended up staying long enough to talk to several of the bar tenders.  Turns out that C’est What? was one of the first craft breweries in Toronto and has been running strong for quite some time.  They have a long history of great quality and a dedicated set of beer-loving customers.  It’s hard to ask for anything more.

So, despite my original trepidation, C’est What? turned out to be one of the best brewery stops.  There was only one problem.  No bottles, no cans, no growlers, no crowlers.  All I was able to get to commemorate my visit was a pint glass.  The beer lover in me rejoiced, the bottle collector in me cried.  If you want C’est What? beer (and I highly recommend that you do), you will just have to go to the bar and get it.