What is it like to be a homebrewer in Toronto?
Pretty awesome actually.
Ontario, and Toronto in particular, is currently experiencing a renaissance in homebrew retail, and public interest. There are countless new homebrewers buying starter kits every day, just ask the local homebrew shops (LHBS). This is definitely related to the exponential growth that craft beer in Toronto has experienced in recent years. People have been inspired to learn more about how beer is made and how to make it themselves at home. In the last few years several high quality shops have set up in this province, and two of them are based right here in Toronto. Prices available to homebrewers for ingredients and equipment are now lower than almost any of the big US homebrew stores, which is great news for the average homebrewer.
Toronto Brewing is a big supporter of our club and has a retail shop in Downsview Park at 3701 Chesswood Drive. They probably the widest selection of malt, hops, and yeast in Canada and great prices. Their employees are all homebrewers, involved in the local homebrew community through competitions, judging, running classes, and discussions on our facebook page. They have even let us host club meetings in their space.
Noble Hop is a relative newcomer to the Toronto homebrew scene, opened in September 2014. They are located downtown Toronto at 1567 Dundas St W They have already garnered the love of local homebrewers through their regular bottle swap events, homebrew classes, and strong social media presence. They have even let us host club meetings in their space. Be sure to check them out! **NOTE: Noble Hop has closed and Toronto Brewing is opening up a new shop in the same location. Will update this post when things shake out.
Brew North is another newcomer to the Toronto homebrew scene, opened in February 2015. They are located at 1578 Queen St E in Leslieville filling a much needed role in Toronto for an east end homebrew shop. The owner Nick has been very supportive of our club and we hope to host a club meeting there soon!
In addition to our local Toronto shops there are some awesome online shops as well. Ontario Beer Kegs is known Canada wide for great selection, customer service, and quality products, they sell much more than just kegs! Beer Grains Supply Co is also known Canada wide for their great selection of ingredients and for their constant support of homebrew competitions. Everwood Ave Brew Shop is located near Halifax, NS but they always have something new and interesting you haven't seen anywhere else.
Some of our neighbouring towns also have their own local shops: Brewer's Pantry (Bowmanville), Canuck Homebrew Supply (Hamilton), Short Finger Brewing (Waterloo), The Brewmonger (St Catharines), and Canadian Homebrew Supplies (Brampton).
One thing that was missing in 2013 was an active homebrew club focused on the local Toronto area, so in April 2013 five enthusiastic homebrewers met for the first time and GTA Brews was born. Our goal is to unite Toronto homebrewers and create a sense of community. We have met each month since that first meeting and grown our membership very quickly. As of today we are approximately 700 members online (350 when this article was originally written), and 20-30 members at our meetings each month. We provide a much needed forum for homebrewers to share their beers for feedback and discuss brewing. We also organize occasional bulk buys of various items and ingredients. We organize internal homebrew competitions (Seasonal Competitions) for our members and external homebrew competitions (Brew Slam) for homebrewers across Canada. We even collaborated on a cask of Chocolate Orange Porter for Cask Days 2014 with our friend and club member Tina from Junction Craft Brewing. Our meetings and discussions are organized through our facebook page so please don't be shy and join the conversation and ask your questions. We are friendly and welcome new faces.
In addition to us, Southern Ontario Brewers (SOBs) serves as a regional club to allow communication and coordination between homebrewers and clubs in different areas of Southern Ontario such as Durham, Hamilton, York Region, and Toronto. There is also a national organization called Canadian Amateur Brewers Association (CABA) which organizes competitions and the occasional event, usually held in Toronto.
Some neighbouring towns also have their own brew clubs. Durham Region has the Durham Homebrewers Club, Hamilton has the HOZER, Kitchener-Waterloo has GRAB, York Region has Brew York, and London has the London Homebrewers Guild.
Through all these shops and organizations there are several hundred serious homebrewers in this city, and probably thousands of casual and new homebrewers. These numbers will continue to grow rapidly and soon GTA Brews and Toronto as a whole will become Canada's largest and most vocal homebrew club and community so let's all work together to make this community great!
Published November 5, 2014.
Updated August 13, 2015.