Best Beer Bars in Toronto

If you are looking for the best places to grab a pint or hard to find bottle of beer in Toronto, then here is the list for you!

Slowly and steadily the beer scene in Toronto has been growing over the past decade. There was a time when local craft beer selection was limited and beer bars were rare, but thanks to a crop of new local breweries and efforts from some long-standing bars, good beer is here to stay in Toronto.

This is a beer listing above all else, with price, service and location factors only marginally influencing selections. As long as you’re looking for a great pint of local craft beer or something different – like a lambic, double IPA or barleywine – these destinations will please your beer palate.

Bier Markt King Street, Toronto

Patio at the Bier Markt on King Street in Toronto

 

The Bier Markts

600 King St. W. / 58 The Esplanade / 7 O’Neill Rd.  thebiermarkt.com

With multiple locations, the Bier Markt brand has been around in Toronto for more than a decade. With a slight beer hall feel and heavy German, Belgian and European beer menu you can usually find something special here. They often have interesting feature menus such as a popular Game Meat festival. Just know that not everyone comes here for the good beer selection, just as many people consider the Bier Markts to be ‘meat markets’. Weekends here can have loud music and line-ups to get in. They’re in more clubby and nightlife areas so that can be a plus or minus depending what you’re looking for. Another bonus is that The Esplanade and King Street locations have great patios, perfect for a day of drinking and people watching.

C’est What

67 Front St. E. cestwhat.com

This is one of the stalwart beer bars in the city. With a subdued, hippy style to it, you go here to relax and enjoy some pints of craft beer from Ontario. They have their own beers too, including a Hemp Ale. The basement location and a cozy fireplace make this a winter destination, as the lack of outdoor seating makes it a dead spot in summer. You don’t go here for imports or bottles, they specialize in pints of local beers, including a selection of cask ales.

Beer Bistro

18 King St. E. beerbistro.com

Mephistopheles Stout from Avery Brewing

Beer Bistro has exclusive stock of many beers in Toronto, including Mephistopheles Stout

 

This is as good as a beer bar gets in Toronto. Right downtown, with an upscale but welcoming vibe, you can get some real treats here. Their draft list usually has some nice Belgian ales mixed in with a wide variety – although somewhat generic – list of Canadian brews. Where Beer Bistro shines is in their bottle selection and food. In my opinion, the best mussels in town are served here. Their bottle list is somewhere around 100, with many US micro brews, Canadian and European beers. Don’t be surprised to find some interesting options here from less famous beer destinations too, such as Italy.

Prices at Beer Bistro can be high and many of their bottles are 650/750ml meaning you’re paying upwards of $30 a bottle. The easy solution is to not drink alone and share those big bottles. The bar staff here are among the friendliest you’ll find too. If you want a real treat, grab something from their beer cellar menu, featuring some rare vintages and exclusive offerings found nowhere else in Toronto, including a number of Cantillon brews.

Bellwoods Brewery

124 Ossington Ave. bellwoodsbrewery.com

Opened earlier in the year, this brewery is one of the exciting newcomers to the Toronto beer scene and is already gaining big praise. That praise is well deserved. A welcoming atmosphere and scene that exudes beer, this isn’t your average bar. They have a mix of foods to appeal to both veggie lovers (grilled peaches) and meat lovers (duck hearts).

The food selection is just complementary to the beer selection though. Their beer options are often changing and have ranged from Saisons, to an Imperial IPA, a Baltic Porter, Berliner Weisse and a Belgian Dubbel – all served in proper glassware.

Stubbies and bottles are sometimes available at their on-site retail store as well. Their current beers and planned beers show that when it comes to a Toronto brewpub, Bellwoods isn’t scared to experiment and push the limits.

Mill Street Brewpub

55 Mill St. – millstreetbrewpub.ca

With a lively patio and packed bar, Mill Street seems to always draw a crowd. Their Tankhouse Ale is a personal favourite of mine and is one of the best beers in Ontario. While their beer selection may sometimes seem to be resting on their laurels and riding that Tankhouse and Organic Lager wave of success, they have begun to offer more seasonal and interesting brews, many of which you can only get at the Brewpub. The food is pretty standard, with something for everyone, but the location in Toronto’s Distillery District gives it an extra incentive to make it worth a visit.

Bar Volo

587 Yonge St. barvolo.com

Arguably the hottest beer bar in Toronto. The owner here has gone to great strides in the last few years to run Cask Ale and IPA competitions. They have their own in house brews called House Ales and offer Toronto’s best selection of Canadian craft beers on tap. Expect a number of Quebec beers here you may not get elsewhere, the same goes for some west coast Canada beers. Their bottle menu is just as impressive as their draft list. The place is small so getting a table or spot near the small bar area can be a challenge, but well worth it. It may be over-hyped by some, but any visiting beer lover to Toronto would be doing themselves a disservice if they didn’t stop in here, especially if you enjoy cask ales, as they’ve always got some flowing at Bar Volo.

Smokeless Joe

Smokeless Joe Taps

New Location for Smokeless Joe = More Beers on Tap!

488 College St. twitter.com/SmokelessJoe

Once the quaintest little smoke-free basement bar in Toronto, Smokeless moved to College Street this year. They’re in an area near Kensington Market, which is fast becoming the best beer area in Toronto. More space means Smokeless Joe can now offer more beers on tap and keep a fresh, inspired list of bottles ready from around the world. Their new location maintains that friendly feeling, where couples, friends or solo beer lovers are all welcome. Note: Sadly, Smokeless Joe’s closed down in October 2013 as the owner (Joe) has had to focus on some health issues instead of running a bar. Thankfully many more beer bars still exist in the city.

The Only Cafe

972 Danforth Ave. theonlycafe.com

Over on the east end of town there are a handful of bars catering to lovers of good beer, but this is the stand out from the crowd. A cozy (small) bar on the Danforth, The Only has a great variety of bottles available. their tap list usually has a surprise or two as well, with local breweries happy to give them some seasonal and special beers. Good prices in a friendly little bar. Grab some food elsewhere before you arrive, as this is not a place to go for a dining and drinking experience, just good quality beers.

Bar Hop

391 King St. W. barhopbar.com

The newest entry on this list, Bar Hop came into existence recently and quickly became a hotspot for beer lovers in the downtown / King West corridor. With 20+ craft beers on tap, this bar is the brainchild of former Smokeless Joe stalwarts, so it has a similar simplicity and menu concept. (Think oysters and minimal TV distractions.) It’s in a clubby part of the city, so weekends may get a bit loud here as this place is destined to grow in popularity.

Ciro’s House of Imported Bier

1316 Bloor St. W.

From the east to the west ends of the city. In an area that was once dodgy and could still use a facelift, Ciro’s is a beer oasis. Their selection is impressive, but not huge, with plenty of Belgian beers on tap and in bottles. You’ll get your Coronas and other macro brews here too, but the low prices on the good stuff are what makes this place special. Staff are friendly and the decor is simple, so go without high expectations and just enjoy a few quality beers. While you likely won’t find anything too rare here, they may have some Belgians that are sold out elsewhere at prices that can be 1/2 that you’d pay down town.

Honourable mentions….

If you want more of a noisy pub atmosphere then check out The Victory Cafe, which suits almost everyone and has an above average beer selection including cask ale. Castro’s Lounge in the beaches is a worthwhile stop, while the Ceili Cottage in the east end of town has a lively Irish atmosphere to it, making it a great spot for some sticky pudding or a pint of Ontario cask ale. The Rhino is a popular spot on West Queen West with cheap prices, a great summer patio and cavernous space inside and can cater to almost any beer taste.

About Red Hunt

A former journalist and business analyst that now works in the world of travel marketing. Based in Toronto, Red Hunt has travelled to more than 40 countries over the past 10 years. You can follow Red on Twitter @redhunttravel.