I’ve known about the Beer Makes History Better tour for a number of years, but never had the timing right to join the tour myself, until recently.
Run by Tour Guys founder, and fellow beer lover, Jason Kucherawy, this isn’t your typical beer tour, it’s more of a light history tour of Toronto with beer stops thrown in. It’s actually a great mix of fun and learning, as everyone – tourists and locals – are bound to walk away with a few interesting tidbits of information on beer or Toronto.
I have recommended this tour to friends visiting town many times, but always felt a bit guilty as I hadn’t done it myself. Well, now I can finally recommend this tour with confidence! Jason entertained us with Toronto beer history and Toronto city history, as well as teaching us all a bit about the styles of different beers.
Kicking off at the Hockey Hall of Fame, he impressed everyone with his top secret tip of how to spot the Stanley Cup, without having to pay to enter the Museum. (Take the tour to find out!) Then we moved on down the street towards the Flatiron building, learning about the history of Gooderham & Worts. Smartly, before we had to consume too much education, we were at our first pub for some beer consumption.
Yeast Farts and Alcohol Sweat at C’est What
As we perused the impressive list of local beers at C’est What, Jason gave us our first beer lesson. A quick recap of the difference between top fermented ales and bottom fermented lagers and a review of the beers on the menu. He put effort into trying to determine appropriate beers for each person’s tastes. As we began to enjoy our first drinks, Jason eloquently spoke about the key ingredients of beer, in particular yeast. As he put it, the yeast eats up the sugars in the beer, and farts out CO2 and sweats alcohol.
Bet you hadn’t quite thought of beer in that way before, huh?
We had some great discussions over the first beers, including talking about whether farming of certain grain crops was started to make bread, or actually started to make beer? Hmmm.
As we moved on to our next stops, Jason pointed out some interesting parts of the city. Old water fountains with separate drinking bowls for humans, dogs and horses; and signs commemorating historic places of Toronto.
The LCBO and St. Lawrence Market
Buying beer in Ontario means one of two things – visiting the Beer Store or the LCBO. As our tour friends from Denmark, the US and UK listened on, Jason pointed out how the government controls most of our access to alcohol. In some ways, good, in other ways bad, we all agreed that at least it wasn’t as bad as it used to be – the original LCBO stores required you to have a liquor buying license and were not allowed to display any products in plain sight!
Learning a little more about Toronto, as we meandered around St. Lawrence Market, the Beer Makes History Tour, took a beer break and we sampled some fine Niagara wines, local mustards and other treats. The market is really a must stop for anyone who is coming to Toronto, not just for the foodie aspect of today, but for it’s important role in the early days of Toronto.
The Betty Ford Beer Connection
Munching on some nachos and enjoying some more local beers, our little tour group was gelling quite nicely, enjoying the casual vibe of Betty’s. This Toronto bar has quite a history to it apparently, as Jason was eager to point out. Most people found it quite amusing that the bar was originally named Betty Ford, but had to change their name for somewhat obvious reasons.
Betty’s is your typical neighbourhood dive bar. Nothing fancy, just comfy and simple. They do stand out though by offering a better selection of beer than most little bars.
Some Final Learnings and Final beers…
After a couple of hours, and a handful of beers, the last stop of the tour was in sight. We ventured towards the Distillery District and learned a little more about the Gooderham facilities and buildings that still stand today. We saw all the pipes that still connect the building, which one used to carry alcohol. It was a perfect place to end the tour, as we were now at the home of the Mill Street Brewpub, and new Mill Street Beer Hall.
After enjoying some final samples in the retail shop, our group split up. Some buying some Mill Street beers to take back home, and others stopping to enjoy a few final beers, and some food, at the Mill Street facilities.
The tour took just a little longer than 3 hours, but didn’t feel rushed at all. We had plenty of time to drink some beers at each stop and also take some photos and learn about the development and history of the city of Toronto. All around, probably the best walking tour I’ve done in the city!