By Brian Yeo
Bellwoods Brewery – In the latest addition to Toronto’s dynamic craft beer scene, the doors to Bellwood’s Brewery opened permanently for business on Wednesday April following a soft-opening the week before.
Located in a former garage/art-space at 124 Ossington Ave., the cafe inspired brewpub
is a partnership between Luke Pestl and Mike Clark who met as brewers with the Amsterdam
Brewing Company while the initial menu offerings were created by Guy Rawlings formerly of
the Brockton General and Lucien. Given that I was in Toronto last Friday, was not too far from
Trinity-Bellwoods and, of course, thirsty and hungry it seemed pre-determined that I would
end up at Bellwoods.
Arriving shortly after their opening time of 5 p.m., the smallish 40-seat space was already
filling up so I settled in to a seat at the end of the bar with the intention of tasting a couple
of beers and menu items before moving on to other plans.
However, those initial intentions were quickly lost when the food and beer started flowing. I started off with the Berliner Weiss, (seen in the photo to the right) which I have to admit I was pretty excited to see as it is a style of beer you don’t often encounter, and as I have mentioned before, I love sour beers.
The Berliner clocks in at 3.2% abv with subtle notes of banana, lemon, wheat grain with whispers of funk and delivers vibrant carbonation with a light sourness. Of all the beers tried this one probably exhibits the least complexity but that is mostly what I expect from a Berliner and it is a super refreshing drink on a warm summer day.
I paired the Berliner up with Chef Rawlings’ take on classic pork rinds (very top photo). The pork rinds are delicate and airy, almost reminiscent of popcorn and come with a vinegar dipping sauce which the sourness of the Berliner handles deftly. As a side note, I think I have found my ultimate favourite bar snack in these pork rinds . . . mmmm pork.
Next up was the Farmhouse Saison at 6% abv, which again and in the hopes of not sounding
repetitive is a style of beer I enjoy immensely.
For those of you unfamiliar with Saison’s it is a beer whose lineage can be traced to the French speaking areas of Belgium known as Wallonia that were largely brewed to slake the thirst of farm workers during the summer.
Stylistically, these farmhouse ales are hard to define and can range from full-bodied and sweet to dry and fruity. Bellwoods’ take on the saison delivers well-balanced complexity in spades. Brewed with Saison Dupont yeast (a must try beer!) the beer has a cloudy golden straw colouring and draws you in with lovely tropical and citrus fruit scents pooled with a delicate earthiness and moderate spicing, the carbonation is quite lively and the hops and alcohol are superbly integrated for a tremendous beer.
I used this beer for the balance of my meal which was skewers of jellyfish with soybean (below left photo), lamb’s tongue with mint, raisin and walnut, and duck hearts with charred jalapeno oil (left photo). In all cases the beer delivered a successful marriage but the earthy richness of the duck hearts and gentle heat from the jalapeno provided the absolutely beautiful marriage of flavours with the Farmhouse, terrific!
It is at this point that my evening goes slightly askew. Following the kind recommendation of
the folks sitting beside me, who happened to be industry, I decided to indulge in one more
beer before making my way into the early evening.
But nobody warned me about the perils of the Witchshark! This devious creature is nothing short of a hop monster. An intensely robust Double IPA with a 9% abv bite cast under a spell of vivid floral and citrus tones neatly countered by rich caramel malts creating one of the more superbly integrated and crafted DIPAs I’ve tasted recently.
Beware of getting yourself all witch-sharked though.
The impressions left of my time at Bellwoods are that Luke and Mike have an intensely bright future and have delivered another excellent venue for craft beer lovers in Toronto. The beers are first rate, the environment is warm and friendly and the staff is extremely knowledgeable and delivers top-notch service.
Watch for a patio and retail space to open soon. For more info visit here.
Wellington Brewery’s Welly One-Off Rye-It!
Wellington has released the latest in their string of limited edition Welly One-Offs, the Rye-It!, this past Saturday. In adding rye to their malt bill, brewers are often attempting to add a spicy, drying complexity to their beers while also rounding out the mouthfeel which Wellington has achieved quite nicely with their interpretation.
The Rye-It! pours a brilliant copperish- red hue with a slight amber toned head. Initially the aromas are very subdued giving off hints of white pepper, pink grapefruit, lemon, bready malts and earthy hops all of which become slightly more pronounced as the beer warms in the glass.
Delicate carbonation combined with the rye yields a smooth and creamy mouthfeel for this mid-bodied ale which finishes dry and refreshing with suggestions of grapefruit pith, lemon, and fresh rye bread.
In some aspects I was initially expecting something a little more bombastic from the Rye-It! based
on the previous two beers in the One-Off series, the Welly Mammoth Stout and the Terrestrial
India Brown Ale both of which were big, unique beers.
However, the Rye-It! keeps more in line with Wellington’s strengths of producing well-crafted British inspired ales and is well-worth seeking out to add to your summer beer repertoire. Available in 473ml tall cans through the brewery and watch for it on tap in good beer bars throughout Southern Ontario. For info, go here.
Beer Events Update
As per usual, lots is happening in the world of craft beer with numerous events coming up to
fit all tastes and budgets.
Community Beer Works: If you happen to follow the adventures of these folks from Buffalo
in their campaign to start a local nano-brewery and “Embeer Buffalo” you’ll be happy to hear
that their inaugural brews will be available this Friday starting at 5 p.m. at both Cole’s and
Mister Goodbar on Elmwood Ave. For more info go here.
Premier Brands: Do you like beer? Do you like sausages? Then Tuesday April 24 is the
night for you. The folks from Premier Brands Ltd., Schneider Brauerei Germany, and WVRST
Beerhall are presenting an evening of sausage and Weisse bier pairings. More info here. The last Premier event with Hacker-Pschorr was fabulous and this promises to be equally fun.
Muskoka Brewery: So how do you feel about beer, barbecue, and bluegrass? Muskoka just
revealed details about their second Secret Kitchen dinner in Toronto for Thursday April
26. The first Secret Kitchen was held in a downtown loft but you won’t know where this
will be until the day before. I love top-secret shenanigans. Check here for details.
Canadian Beer News: And finally, Friday April 27 promises to be an evening to be remembered as Canadian Beer News teams with Chef Victor Barry, Splendido Restaurant and the Roland + Russell Import Agency for a night of exquisite food and beer pairings.
This evening will feature the Canadian debut of the Hitachino Nest XH, a Belgian styled ale from
Japan aged in Sake barrels and the exclusive chance to taste the De Struise Double Black, a
Belgian Imperial Stout which has only had a single case shipped to Canada. To view the mouth-
watering menu click here.