Whet your Steam Whistle with free beer in Toronto

CanWest News Service
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

TORONTO-Free beer. Now there's a tempting proposition on a hot day - or even a cold one.
At Steam Whistle Brewery in Toronto, you get two eight-ounce glasses of their premium Pilsner just for walking in off the street - and you don't even have to take the brewery tour.
This is a broke university student's fantasy. But judging by the crowd that has descended upon the slick in-house bar when I visit, it hits the spot with other demographics too
"I was really surprised to find this, especially in Toronto," says Jim Smyth, a construction worker, who is "extending his lunch hour" with a friend.
"We walked in, they gave us a free beer and since then they've given us, like, four more. No questions asked," says Jesse Hawkins, 22, of Ottawa, wearing a look of disbelief.
It's not all about free beer. Well, OK, it's mostly about free beer. But Steam Whistle's vibrant branding - think bright green bottles that borrow from Coca Cola's '50s era design - translates into a fun tourism product.
Housed in the circa 1929 John Street Roundhouse (a maintenance building where CPR locomotives could turn around) near the base of the CN Tower and the Rogers Centre, the interior decor is modern, fresh and exciting. There is even a public space for concerts and events, and the lobby is perpetually livened up with art installations.
"We're not a snob appeal brand. We're a beer that anyone can enjoy and we like to think the brewery is like that too," says spokesperson Sybil Taylor. The tours, which run seven days a week, provide an intimate look at the inner workings of the brewery.
My guide is Tim McAfee, a boyish redhead who also works on the production line. On a platform overlooking various oversized steel vats, McAfee offers us a hop to munch on (not a flavour you'll want to add to your snack cupboard). He also explains how Steam Whistle was founded in 1998 by three Upper Canada Brewing employees who were laid off when Sleeman acquired the company.
In a truly Canadian move, the friends went up to Algonquin Park to drown their sorrows.
"They literally started it while sitting around the campfire drinking," says McAfee. They wanted to call the new company "Three Fired Guys" brewing, but decided against it (but look closely at your Steam Whistle bottle and you'll find the characters 3FG - an homage to the original plan).
They decided to concentrate on perfecting a single beer. The Pilsner, characterized by a malty aftertaste and a strong colour, is brewed under the 1516 Bavarian Purity Law, which stipulates that the only ingredients can be hops, malted barley, yeast and water.
Tour participants get to check out various stages of the brewing process, including fermentation, bottling and canning. The highlight comes at the end of the tour, when eager visitors are invited to yank a chain that activates a genuine steam whistle.
"That was ... life changing," Hawkins quips after his turn. But judging by the look of utter satisfaction on his face, he's only half kidding.
Ottawa Citizen

If you go
Where: Steam Whistle Brewery is located at 255 Bremner Blvd. in Toronto.
Tours: Run every 30 minutes between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. from Monday to Saturday, and on Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Cost: The basic tour costs $8 and includes a comic book and souvenir glass or bottle opener.
Contacts: www.steamwhistle.ca or 1-866-240-BEER

Organizations: Coca Cola, CN Tower, Rogers Centre Upper Canada Brewing Sleeman

Geographic location: Toronto, Ottawa, Algonquin Park

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page