Toronto Ontario Breweries Part 1 – Bellwoods, Niagara, Nickel Brook, and Great Lakes

Bellwoods Brewing

I didn’t have anything on tap my first visit to Bellwoods because it was late in the evening and they were quite crowded at their restaurant. Thankfully I saw the shop outside and was able to grab a few bottles. I got their Jutsu, hazy pale, Jelly King, hazy sour, and farmhouse classic, each in 500ml bottles.

The Jutsu was thick yellow haze that was more green at the bottom half of the bottle with all the yeast and hops. The beer had a grassy hop character and other tropical fruit hops that ended with a strong hop acidity like drinking pineapple juice. If drinking it again I would probably pour the dregs into a separate glass and not drink it. I liked it better with what I poured out first.

 

Jelly King I assumed would just be a clear kettle sour with mild hop kick but it was almost as hazy as Jutsu. It was fruity with notes of grapefruit, mild tart kick and mild hop acidity, much less than Jutsu. The farmhouse classic was a good funky saison that clearly should have been bottle conditioned longer as it erupted when I opened the bottle and spilled all over the table. It had hints of vanilla and a dry finish, reminding me of a muffin or light white cake.

I returned to Bellwoods some days later and tried two tasters of some beers that I hadn’t picked up in bottles the first time. I was very glad I did because I got to taste Runes and Witchshark. While Jutsu was great it was also ridiculously acidic, so it may have been just extra fresh. But Runes was soft, thick, and creamy without that acidic bite. It had tons of tropical fruit and citrus notes and mild caramel on the finish. It is a great example of the modern hazy IPA. Witchshark was a nice balanced double IPA though a bit maltier than I like and compared to Runes, I didn’t finish the taster. It was bitter with mild malt, mild pine and some candied fruit notes at the finish.

Top 2:
Runes – Hazy IPA
Jutsu – Hazy Pale

Niagara Brewing

Niagara brewing is a total gimmick of a brewery that gets a lot of traffic by being so close to the falls. They have a restaurant and both indoor and outdoor seating. I tried four beers while I was there and some were quite drinkable. The Blood Orange Berliner Weisse was a great low alcohol kettle sour with orange flavor, light tart kick, and effervescent carbonation. This was my favorite from this brewery.

The lager was fruity and thin with a mild sweet corn finish. It is a standard lager. The Schwartz was quite nice with a medium body and flavors of thick molasses and sticky burnt toffee. It tastes more like a stout than a schwartz but is quite good. The IPA was very sweet and heavy on the caramel from malts. It was too sweet and not particularly hoppy. I would have preferred to have it on cask being this style.

I wouldn’t recommend a trip out for the brewery alone but since Niagara is such a popular destination, it is a good enough stop for a pint after you are done walking. I did not have any food there.

Top 2:
Berliner Weisse with blood orange
Schwartzbier, black lager.

Nickel Brook


Nickel Brook brewing is in Burlington in Ontario Canada, about an hour west of Toronto. They don’t yet have the license to have a tasting room so you can try free tastes and buy bottles to go. I won’t get too critical of any of their beers since I only had a small taste of each of them. They had a good variety of options including tasty low malt hoppy beers that had a great balance to them. My friend swears their double IPA is one of the best hes ever had but they didn’t have it for tastes at the time I visited.

What stood out to me the most was the cherry dark sour I had. It was fantastically balanced and jammy with mild sweetness, low acidity, and mild oak. I enjoyed it so much that I bought bottles of the cherry dark sour, cherry blonde sour, and Flanders red style to bring home with me. I wasn’t originally planning on packing beer back but at $5 Canadian a 375ml bottle I couldn’t resist.

I got to try the Flanders at a bar later that evening and really liked its mellow flavors. Many beers in the style are either too much like vinegar or too acidic but this blended very nicely just like the cherry dark. It had good flavors of dark fruit and mild biscuit malts with a mild oak character. I will enjoy sharing these bottles with friends after I return but I would also recommend everyone try these delicious sours if you are in the area.

Known for:
They have a wide variety of beer but I would recommend coming out for IPAs or barrel aged sours. They also have some solid stouts available and lighter kettle sours.

Great Lakes Brewing

Compared to some other breweries I visited, Great Lakes Brewing isn’t doing anything hyper modern but the majority of their beers were quite good and to style. They have a good sized tasting room with outdoor seating and sell most of their beers in cans.

I enjoyed their pompous ass, a hoppy version of an English mild with a mild malt backbone and some citrus hops and a dry bitter finish. Their session IPA was a classic example of the style, lightly bitter with notes of resin and pine and a crisp finish on a light body. The red lager was nice and fruity with notes of currents and a dry finish.

The blonde lager was crisp and delicious, an excellent example of the style with light fruit and a dry finish. The IPA was lightly sweet and mildly bitter with lots of citrus and pine. This is purely classic west coast style. The pale ale was also low on malts with a bitter finish and notes of citrus and pine.

Come to Great Lakes Brewing for standard examples of styles done excellently well or look for their cans in the market.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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