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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and the Temperance League in 1916 closed most of the small, family-run operations, but even when Prohibition was repealed, the era of the small brewery was over.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, like the not-to-be-missed Oktoberfest. It's also a great place to stop before or after a Blue Jays Game. 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.
Oliver & Bonacini Cafe Grill. If you want to "see and be seen" in the Financial Distirct head to this 14,500 square foot restaurant and bar, which has a wraparound patio that faces both Front and Yonge streets. Since opening in June 2010, the O&B Café Grill, as it's locally called, has since become the destination for the city's tastemakers, Bay Street's movers and shakers, and the neighborhood's urban dwellers. O&B Original Cocktails worth sipping include Cherry Manhattan and Strawberry Peppercorn Caipiroska. This is one of the few spots in the Financial District that hosts brunch on weekends. 33 Yonge St., Financial District, Toronto, ON, M5E 1G4. www.oliverbonacini.com. Union.
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