First Draught: the Biere de Garde (along with a barrel-aged version) from Bellwoods Brewery
By David Ort
The barrel-aged Biere de Garde (Image: Bellwoods Brewery)
An impressive number of breweries have opened in Ontario in the last year or so, but on top of their quantity, it’s worth marveling at their diversity. And of the new crop, Bellwoods Brewery on Ossington is possibly the best.
Co-founders Mike Clark and Luke Pestl met while they were both brewers at Amsterdam Brewery before joining forces as co-owners of a craft brewery. Their shared goal was to maintain as much control of the production and sales as possible so that they could experiment broadly with different brewing styles.
With the striking popularity of its beer, along with the small production size, it's tough to recommend one particular offering at Bellwoods Brewery (plus, the product turns over quickly). But this week there is a rare opportunity to sample the Biere de Garde side-by-side with a barrel-aged version of the same beer ($7.50 each).
This rustic French-style ale has all of a season’s hot-weather appeal, plus a bit more alcohol and darker spice flavours to match the weathered-penny colour. The briefly-aged version picks up a touch of acidity and a smooth, lingering finish from the cab sauv barrels, sourced from Niagara's Creekside Estate Winery.
If you don’t manage to catch the Biere de Garde, the Lost River Baltic Porter ($8) should be around for a while (it did, after all, win a gold medal at the 2012 Canadian Brewing Awards). This beer gets its name from the buried Garrison Creek, and the historical connection is especially appropriate given porter's status as the stronger forerunner to stout — both in alcohol and flavour. Dark chocolate and dark-roast coffee aromas and flavours predominate.
While Bellwoods reserves almost all of its production for on-site, by-the-glass sales, a short licensee list includes The Black Hoof, Hoof Raw Bar, Grand Electric and Canoe. Still, expect this brewery to grow in the near future.
“The next move is to order tanks, and we'll basically be tripling our capacity," says Clark. “A lot of that will go to retail sales. By this time next year, we'll be able to have regular retail hours.”
Bellwoods Brewery, 124 Ossington Ave., 416-535-4586
When David isn't busy drinking beer for his articles here, he writes about food and drink for Toronto's online publications including his own site, Food With Legs. For more of his thoughts on beer and life in general follow him on Twitter.