photo illustration by david van dyke/metro toronto


Sean Stoughton will be one of the speakers at Pioneer Village’s Black Creek Brews Fest in Toronto this weekend.

It wasn’t so long ago that craft brewing was near extinction in Ontario.

But John Graham thanks Jim Brickman for founding and brewing Brick Brewing in 1984, and a few others for being modern-day pioneers of craft brewing.

“We’re sort of the next wave of brewers,” the founder of Church-Key Brewing told Suds earlier this week.

That’s why he’s looking forward to celebrating Ontario’s tradition of craft brewing at the first annual Black Creek Brews Fest at Pioneer Village this Saturday and Sunday.

Out of wooden barrels, Graham will be serving his highly touted West Coast Pale Ale — which was runner-up to Beau’s Lug-Tread Lagered Ale at the Golden Tap awards last weekend — as well as his Northumberland Ale and Holy Smoke peat-smoked scotch ale — holy smoke, it’s good.

Doubt me? Then you might doubt the beliefs of the many Golden Tap voters who voted the Campbellford brewery to be the most popular microbrewer outside the GTA (see complete results at

History is an important part of the festival and Church-Key’s operation: Graham brews out of a converted Methodist church, originally built circa 1878.

“Education is always great so people know and understand where the things they eat and drink come from,” Graham says. “In a quickly globalizing world, we quickly lose sight of where the things come from.”

Enjoy fresh, craft beer, the company of the men and women who toiled over it, a lesson in Ontario’s almost-forgotten beer history and even some live music (Tanglefoot, and Elliott Brood).

While Brickman was the first of today’s 30 craft brewers, the former Upper Canada boasted more than 300 in the 19th century, according to beer historian Ian Bowering.

Other Brews Fest brewers will include Robert Simpson, Steam Whistle, Great Lakes Brewery, and Black Oak. In modern pioneer-speak, that’s beauty, eh?

Pioneer Village is located at 1000 Murray Ross Pkwy., one block east of Jane Street, south of Steeles Avenue. The fest is on from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. Admission is free with regular admission to the Village ($13 for adults, $12 for seniors and students, and $9 for children 5-14). Visit for more information.

CREEMORE: A little further north, the hamlet of Creemore Springs will host its 20th annual Copper Kettle Festival, a village fair held on Main Street this Saturday. Once again, excellent beer (Creemore’s traditional lager and new pilsner), plus homemade sausages from Stadtlander Farms, music by James McKenty & The Spades, a farmers market, a car show, wagon rides ...

Visit www.creemoresprings.comfor more.


What a great awards night it was at the Beerbistro.

The Golden Taps, organized by terrific online resource, allow online voting from beer lovers to determine which craft brewers create and serve the best beer in Ontario.

At the gala, Taps founder Cass Enright looked classy in his pressed suit and tie, the beer was outstanding and ... OK, I didn't make it, and I've been bending my ankle backwards to kick myself ever since.

Below is why.

If you love beer, these winners are places you should visit or brands and brews you should get to know at the LCBO, at these breweries, and/or at beer-smart pubs across the province.

Just one beef: Mill Street Tankhouse Pale Ale for the fourth straight year?

Sure, it's a delicious, complex combination of spice, fruitiness and even chocolate, but come on, Gold Tap voters — try some other taps.

That being said, hats off to brewmaster Joel Manning, who continues the young but fine tradition set by Michael Duggan, and the Mill Street crew on their three awards.

Here goes:

  • Best microbrewery in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA): Mill Street, Toronto

  • Best microbrewery in Ontario (outside of the GTA): Church-Key, Campbellford

  • Best beer brewed in the GTA: Mill Street Tankhouse Pale Ale, Toronto

  • Best beer brewed in Ontario (outside of the GTA): Beau’s Lug-Tread Lagered Ale, Vankleek Hill

  • Best bar in the GTA in terms of draught beer selection: C’est What, Toronto

  • Best bar in the GTA in terms of bottled beer selection: Beerbistro, Toronto

  • Best bar in Ontario (outside of the GTA): Winking Judge, Hamiliton

  • Best brewpub or tied house in Ontario (including the GTA), Mill Street Brewpub, Toronto

  • Best beer of the festival: Black Oak Transvestite’s Tipple, Oakville Golden Taps Editor’s Circle Awards (recognizing significant achievements in the Ontario beer industry, determined by select panel of media and Bar Towel members):

  • Great Lakes Brewery, brewers of Devil’s Pale Ale and Orange Peel Ale

  • Michael Hancock, brewer of Denison’s Weissbier and Dunkel

  • Roland + Russell, beer importers

  • Volo Cask Days, an event organized by Bar Volo in Toronto

Visitwww.goldentap.comandwww.bartowel.comfor more information.