Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Toronto: One Day and Three Breweries

Terry and I love exploring new cities, and Toronto seemed a natural choice for Terry’s first day off in Buffalo. After a quick breakfast (I scrambled up some eggs), we headed out early in the morning and made it across Canada by 8 am, enjoying the green trees along the side of the roads and the view of the CN Tower as we approached the city.

Around 9:30 am, we parked in the center of the city for $15 for the day and decided to try to walk as much as possible. I had researched a little, but neither of us considered the fact that we wouldn’t have access to our phones during the trip, since we aren’t on an international plan. Luckily, Tim Horton’s had free wireless Internet, so we could plan our day more specifically. Of course, we grabbed a few donuts to hold us over until lunch.

We had some time before our first stop, so we wandered to the waterfront, which was really lovely. Toronto is situated on Lake Ontario, and it was a beautiful morning.

Amazing hair

Around 11 am, we headed over to Steam Whistle Brewery, stopping for a few photos of the historical roundhouses on the way in. A roundhouse is used to turn trains around; at one point, North America had several thousand, but now only about 200 exist.

Steam Whistle Brewery was absolutely the highlight of our day. I had read that they offer terrific tours, so I went with the “Souvenir Tour” (tour + a pint glass), and Terry chose the “Six Pack Tour” (tour + six pack of beer to take home + a retro bottle opener). The reviews I read on Trip Advisor about the tours definitely didn’t lie; this brewery was fantastic! We paid for our tours and sipped on tasters for a few minutes while waiting for the adventure to begin. Our guide, Katie, offered us each a full bottle of beer to take on the tour, and we had another taster waiting when we finished. I’m sure if we had asked for more we could have gotten it, too. They don’t skimp on the beer!

Steam Whistle only makes one kind of beer, which I found extremely unique. Most breweries we’ve visited make a variety, but this place aims to “do one thing, and do it well.” So they focus on a Czech-style pilsner, which I found delicious. I was grateful that the one type of beer they make was one I like—I’m not a fan of hoppy beers or super dark beers, so this one worked for my palate.

Our tour and tour guide were awesome. Katie knew a lot about not just Steam Whistle but beer in general. We asked several follow-up questions and couldn’t help but be impressed with her extensive answers. Katie also took us around to all the equipment, explained the brewing process, talked about the history of Steam Whistle, and related several anecdotes about the owners. We felt lucky to get a small tour of only six people—I’d recommend getting there early for the personalized experience.

One of my favorite aspects of the brewery was their commitment to being as green as possible. They only use four ingredients: barley, water, hops, and yeast. And they use a green bottle, which is apparently better for the environment. They also reuse their bottles about 42 times, and they have a stamped label instead of a paper one.

Terry and I both found the tour to be really fun and a great way to start our day. We asked our guide for a lunch recommendation, and she sent us on a loooooong walk through Toronto. And we certainly did get to see a lot of the city! We walked through several neighborhoods, past cute shops and cafes, through parks, past some interesting characters. Finally we arrived at Bellwoods Brewery, a small place with a huge BBQ set up out front. The communal seating allowed us to meet some girls from Baltimore, and we had a great time chatting with them. For lunch, we ordered the burger, the chicken thighs, and the corn on the cob (essentially one of each item they offered). Everything was delicious! I was even impressed with the cucumber salad on the side of the chicken thighs. We also ordered a few beers and thought those were tasty, too.

{As usual, I'll add the photos once my technology decides to function.}

After lunch, Terry and I wandered back toward the waterfront area. We wanted to check out Casa Loma, an historical house fairly close to downtown, but we had already walked a LOT and didn’t think our flip flops could handle another six miles round trip. Instead, we ventured back to the waterfront, which had completely transformed. In the morning, it was quiet and empty; now it was poppin’! They had a live band, kids’ activities, street vendors, and crafts for sale. There was also a huge pet store/pet expo, which really just made us miss Scout.

For dinner, we decided to go three-for-three and hit up one more brewery: Amsterdam Brewhouse right on the waterfront. Unfortunately, the service was pretty terrible, but it seemed that their attempt to have a special Labor Day seating section was the only problem. On a normal day, I’m sure it’s far less hectic. The food was decent and the beers were pretty good, but we would probably choose somewhere else next time.

Our trip to Toronto ended with a nice walk back to the car—by this time we had reached over 20,000 steps, and we were exhausted.

Merely standing felt like a huge exertion, so I was grateful for the two-hour car ride back to Buffalo. We stopped for ice cream on the way back to top off the evening.

Fun facts about Toronto:
  • It’s the fourth most populous city in North America (it follows Mexico City, New York City, and Los Angeles).
  • It’s under a TON of construction! I’m not sure if it’s always that way, but they’re building several new condo buildings, and Terry and I just couldn’t wrap our minds around how many people must live there.
  • Breweries are not the only option for food; Terry and I just happened to end up at three of them. Toronto looks to have a lot of popular dining choices, including Cibo, which we almost did for dinner (and sort of regretted skipping). 
What do you like to do for quick day trips? Any cities you think are good for single-day excursions?

1 comment:

  1. Ah you weren't too far from me then, when you visited. I'm about 45 mins west of the city :) Looked like a fun time!