Draught Diversions: Steam Whistle Brewing (Toronto, Canada)

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and posts that don’t just focus on one beer here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

Here’s a change of locale for a brewery post, North of the US border in fact. For my job, I’ve traveled fairly frequently this year to the tune of about one business trip per month. I don’t always have time or the opportunity to do much more than stick to the work/conference schedule for these business trips, but on one recent occasion, a brewery was literally across the street from where I was spending much of my time, so I of course had to visit. The location? Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The brewery? Steam Whistle Brewing.

The water tower is visible from blocks away, a beacon to follow for well-crafted beer.

Toronto is one of the Great North American cities and is Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel’s inspiration for the fictional DC Comics city of Metropolis, home to the Daily Star (now Planet) and of course Superman. Be that as it may, at the hub of downtown Toronto is the Metro Toronto Convention Center (where I was spending much of my time), Rogers Centre (home of the Toronto Blue Jays), and the world famous CN Tower. Near all those locations, directly across the street from the MTCC and adjacent to the CN Tower is Steam Whistle Brewing, which occupies an historic railway Roundhouse, thus the name Steam Whistle.

Steam Whistle is a relatively small brewery, especially in terms of what they produce. That focus; however, on ingredients, process, and care has allowed the founders of the brewery to create a delicious Pilsner.

Image courtesy of Steam Whistle Brewing’s Website

Walking in, the first thing I noticed was how bright and inviting the brewery was. There were some tables in the back near the brew tanks and a nice bar with friendly bartenders. Also noticeable – only two taps. That’s right, Steam Whistle only pours two beers – a Pilsner and an unfiltered version of the Pilsner. In essence, just one beer. And one beer using the tried and true four simple ingredients of a classic beer (from the “our beer” page on Steam Whistle’s Web site):

Steam Whistle is one of the only remaining Pilsners in the world that still adheres to the strict standards of the Bavarian Purity Act of 1516. We brew using only pure spring water, malted barley, hops and yeast. No corn syrup, no foam enhancers, no artificial preservatives.

The brewery has received several awards, including Toronto’s best microbrewery as well as other awards for the beer, for the brewery, as a workplace, and for how green/environmentally conscientious the brewery is. But to win those awards on essentially one beer is pretty fascinating. Sure, untappd will show other beers the brewery has made as one offs, but by and large Steam Whistle staked its reputation on a finely crafted Pilsner.

The delicious, fresh Pilsner I enjoyed at Steam Whistle Brewing.

…and what a delicious Pilsner it is (my untappd check in). The convention center had cans of the beer for one of the evening events, but I wanted to wait to try the beer fresh at the brewery and I’m glad I did. I haven’t had too many Canadian beers so I wasn’t sure how they’d compare to beers from America or Germany. But this beer, in its fresh from tap pour is absolutely fantastic and one of the better Pilsners I’ve had recently. This is a treat of a beer that shows just how simple basic ingredients can create an elegantly crafted beer at the hands of a master. Of course, I’ve been on a Pilsner kick for the past couple of months so that may have factored into how receptive my taste buds were to the beer, if I’m being totally fair.

The variety of ways you can take home some Steam Whistle Pilsner, including their award winning Suitcase pack.

The first day I visited I had the large pour of the Pilsner. The brewery is, as I said, a great space and with the international nature of Toronto, naturally going to attract people from all over the world by virtue of its location. I had the chance to chat with a chap from Scotland about the beer and other worldly things. I was about halfway through my beer when the brewery filled up very quickly. A Toronto Blue Jays game had just concluded and as I was exiting, there was a line to get into the brewery since it was at maximum capacity. I suspect they have this problem very often.

The second day, just before jumping on the train to the airport, I had the unfiltered version of the Pilsner (my untappd check in) which I enjoyed even more than the standard Pilsner.

The Unfiltered Pilsner, only an 8oz pour, may have been a tad better than the standard Pilsner.

I remarked to the bartender how delicious the beer was and lamented the fact that Steam Whistle is only available in Canada and not in the States. He said that may be changing. If the brewers are able to maintain the flavor and a hint of the freshness in the beer as it journeys across the border, that will be good thing for fans of well-crafted Pilsner in the US.

Full view of the front of the Roundhouse

I don’t know how many folks reading this will be visiting Toronto, but I can without hesitation heartily recommend a visit to Steam Whistle Brewing.

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