The Beertown Public House is a group of beer-focused restaurants in Ontario, part of Charcoal Group of Restaurants based in Waterloo, Ontario.
Waterloo is some 70 miles west of Toronto, a university and technology town. The area also features an early and continuing Mennonite presence, originally an influx from the United States. Today Waterloo is quite diverse, with people from all over the world.
The town is often paired in discussion with nearby Kitchener, a city of similar origins, roped together as “Kitchener-Waterloo”. Guelph, another university town, and Cambridge are not so far. Together these constitute a loose and growing economic region, and so Beertown emerged from that vs. the Toronto metropolitan area, a more typical pattern for such a place.
There are now eight Beertowns, the latest on Wellington Street West in Toronto, at University Avenue in the downtown core. Beertowns were established earlier in Waterloo, Guelph, and Oakville among other regional centres.
The Toronto site therefore marks a first for Beertown in this sense, it has reached “the big city”.
The Charcoal Group is owned by four partners including Jody Palubiski, its long-time CEO. He was interviewed recently by Alan Quarry on Quarry’s Blog & Grill site. The interview is a good introduction to the Charcoal Group and its “brands”, including Beertown.
I had lunch at the Toronto spot yesterday and was impressed. Even though it had just opened everything ran smoothly. The beer selection was exemplary, craft to the max with a few macro selections. The food was first-rate, I had Korean BBQ chicken wings.
The beer choice is divided into “static” (permanent-list) draft, static bottles, rotational bottles, and rotational draft.
There is a terrace on one side, and considerable space open to the sidewalk on all sides in good weather.
There are a number of beer-aware destinations in the downtown core, but a new one is always welcome, and I suspect this Beertown will cut its swath in its patch of downtown. The location too on the western edge of the core is not far from the Rogers Centre. With the Toronto Blue Jays playing here again that will help bring in the people.
Beertowns do not brew onsite, and I don’t think it’s really needed. With everything from lassi gose to bourbon-barrel Imperial Porter currently featuring at the Toronto location, no help is needed on the beer front.
Looking in the rear-view mirror for a moment, and overseas, a UK pub guide of 1976 noted that unexpectedly in the City of London, “posh blocks with tinted glass” blended harmoniously with traditional architecture such as old warehouses.
The observation has proved true in time for other parts of London, and for the pub itself, which needn’t look Victorian in other words – after all only one stage in its development. North America led the way here since our urban centres were designed later and closer to the spirit of modern commerce.
Based on visits to London in recent years I think the two streams have merged, cities everywhere in fact seem a blending of old and new. The pub can look as if from any age and blend in.
The truth is, for many patrons, its spirit is not affected. What “makes” the public house is not Victorian bric-a-brac, a leafy garden, a railway arch, an avuncular landlord.
It is excellent beer, in quality and variety, other drinks, food if wanted, and other people. All Toronto beer haunts have a central bar, even in office blocks, and talk and conversation await for those who want it. No different to the cozy chats of an oak-paneled snug.
The pub evolves, yet remains the same, the good ones do.