|The Steam Whistle Brewery in Toronto, Ontario|
In 2008 I decided to take my wife to Toronto for her birthday. Neither of us had ever been to the Toronto Blue Jays' ballpark and since we hope someday to visit them all, it seemed like a great weekend trip that we could take. When I found out that there is a hotel attached to the ballpark AND that some of the hotel rooms actually look out onto the field, I knew that I had at least to look into it. Figuring a room would be in the multiple-hundreds in terms of cost, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could get a one-night rate of less than two hundred bucks! It was luck of the draw whether we would get one of the coveted rooms that looked out onto the field and we wound up coming up short. Still, our room was great, the hotel was amazing, and it was definitely worth the expenditure.
We got to Toronto early in the day with the ball game scheduled for later that night. After we got settled into the hotel, we decided to go and out to do some sightseeing. (I'll outline where we went at the end in the "WHAT ELSE TO DO IN THE AREA" section of the review.) While we were traipsing about the city, we kept seeing a weird truck that looked sort of like the Red Bull jeeps that you will see from time to time in New York (the one that has the giant Red Bull can on the back). This vehicle, though, seemed to have an enormous beer can on it, which was really odd. Eventually, we were able to read the writing on the side of the truck and saw that it was from the Steam Whistle Brewery. We had never heard of it before so we made a mental note to look into it later.
In a way, it was one of the most interesting beer/brewery experiences I've ever had. For one, the beer (a pilsner) is the only beer made by the brewery. Seriously--they make one beer. It was serviceable as far as pilsners go but it definitely wasn't the best I had ever had. Distribution was also interesting as the beer was available only in tall aluminum cans (though they've since added bottles). We wound up snagging two to go and I have them on my travel desk as mementos from the trip.
|Steam Whistle's only beer: a pilsner.|
I give the Steam Whistle Brewery a grade of B mostly because of the awesome bouncer that we encountered at the door. Free beer is great but not all free beer is...great. I'm sure the tour was great and, if it was, I'd definitely bump up the grade to a B+ but even then I can't say that this is a "must see" destination. The fact that they offer only the one beer reduces my level of interest since I enjoy scoping out multiple brews of varying styles to really get a sense for the brewery's direction and beer philosophy. Still, if you're in Toronto and especially if you're visiting the CN Tower or staying at the Rogers Centre, you might as well swing by to scope it out. I recommend hitting it up but don't go out of your way for it.
Steam Whistle Pilsner
WHAT ELSE TO DO IN THE AREA
Toronto is a cool city that, in some regards, reminded me of New York. There is a lot to do but I can't imagine spending more than a few days there at the most.
--Visit the CN Tower. The enclosed observation area at the top has two levels, the lower of which has giant glass panels that you can walk out on (like the Willis Tower in Chicago now). Here's a picture looking down from one of those panels:
|The view from on high|
--Visit the Hockey Hall of Fame. This is really a MUST-DO type of thing even if you're only remotely interested in the sport. There are a bunch of awesome interactive exhibits and it's a great space overall. Definitely take some time to check it out!
--Visit the harbor front. Just a cool area of Toronto worth seeing.
--Stay at the Renaissance Hotel located at the Rogers Centre (especially if you're seeing a baseball game). I can't describe adequately how awesome it is to go to a Blue Jays game while staying at this hotel. To begin with, there is a phenomenal restaurant that overlooks the outfield that you can eat and drink in while watching the game (we stayed there for the first two innings). After that, just head downstairs and enter the ballpark to enjoy the views of the CN Tower (if the roof is open) and, theoretically, the Blue Jays as well (at least if Bautista is on a tear). The best part though is after the game is over. When everyone else is filing out looking for cabs or trying to drive out from the parking area...you're already up in your room watching them. Of course, you could hang out in the hotel lobby but it's best to do that later on since the visiting team will most likely be staying at the Renaissance as well. Great opportunity for some photos and autographs.
For more information about the Steam Whistle Brewery and its tour, please visit their official page here:
--Beer Whisperer Matt