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Beer: The National Drink
The brewing industry has been part of Ontario's heritage since 1840, when Thomas Carling opened his Brewing & Malting Company to supply the British army and the early pioneers. By the 1870s brewing had become a modern industry and maltsters were important businessmen. From the mid-1800s to mid-1900s, there were more than 300 breweries across the province. Prohibition and the Temperance League in 1916 closed most of the small, family-run operations, but even when Prohibition was repealed, the era of the small brewery was over. Restrictive distribution laws, the Depression, and organized, big breweries that delivered good, well-advertised product soon led to consolidation.
The past few decades have seen a resurgence of small, craft breweries. Two breweries in Toronto give tours.
Mill Street Brewery. Mill Street Brewery, in the Distillery District, makes Ontario's only certified organic lager and a seasonal Helles Bock. It is open for sampling daily, with free tours weekdays at 3 pm and weekends at 3 and 5. A brewpub is on-site. 55 Mill St., Old Town, Toronto, ON, M5A 3C4. 416/681-0338. www.millstreetbrewery.com.
Steam Whistle Brewery. The Steam Whistle Brewery brews an authentically crafted pilsner and offers tours (C$10) of its historic premises Monday-Thursday 1-5, Friday and Saturday noon-5, and Sunday noon-4. It has tastings and hosts other special events. The Roundhouse, 255 Bremner Blvd., Old Town, Toronto, ON, M5V 3M9. 416/362-2337. www.steamwhistle.ca. Union.
Bar Volo. Classy Bar Volo is a relaxed place for a beer on busy Yonge Street.
Beer Bistro. Beer Bistro has a long beer list and also a brew-inspired menu.
Bier Markt. Bier Markt has an awe-inspiring keg room and a loyal after-five clientele.
C'est What?. C'est What? has a wide selection of exclusively Canadian craft brews. 67 Front St. E, at Church, Old Town, Toronto, ON, M5E 1B5. 416/867-9499. www.cestwhat.com. King.
Smokeless Joe. Smokeless Joe, a tiny bar half below street level, has one of the best beer selections in Canada, averaging 200 choices, and an sidewalk patio open in nice weather. 125 John St., Entertainment District, Toronto, ON, M5V 2E2. 416/728-4503.
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