Imagine that it’s Toronto in the 1950s. It’s Friday afternoon and you’ve been working hard all week. But whether you’re imagining yourself in an office or in the stockyards, two things that unite us in our fantasy are a sense of getting closer to that whistle blow that signals the day’s end and a glass of our favourite brew waiting at the finish of a busy day.
As I explore the Steamwhistle Brewery on an afternoon tour, I learn that it’s exactly this imagery upon which founders Greg Taylor, Cameron Heaps, and Gregory Cromwell based their brewery. Originally named 3 Fired Guys Beer, all three founders originally worked at Toronto’s first craft brewer, Upper Canada, until it went public and was taken over by Sleeman. The brewery then moved to Guelph, which resulted in the soon-to-be founders losing their jobs.
But where some would accept the loss, the three newly fired guys saw the opportunity to start a brewery of their own. Thankfully, they ended up changing the name of the brewery to Steamwhistle, inspired by the retro symbol of the day’s end. It’s a concept the self-labeled “good beer folks” take seriously. At the brewery’s entrance, a charismatic bartender offers me a half-pint sample. After explaining that I’ve already had one, he refills my glass with a wink and encourages, “Go on, it’s Friday!”
The lager is crisp and refreshing on first taste with a bitter middle and a smooth finish. The tour doesn’t begin until everyone has a full glass in hand, and there’s a lot to learn — even for the most avid Steamwhistle drinker.
Steamwhistle makes only one variety of beer: its signature pilsner. I’ve always been more partial to ales myself, which has left me wondering why I enjoy the Toronto-brewed lager so much. The guide explains that this is because the extra hops used in the brewing process of pilsners (like Steamwhistle) give them their delightful bitter flavour, so they taste more like ale than other types of lagers. Additionally, Steamwhistle adheres to the Bavarian Purity Law, an international high standard for brewing.
Besides tasting decidely better than many of the large national brands (while Steamwhistle hasn’t expanded to fill orders for all of Canada, you can buy the brew in outlets across Ontario, Alberta, and BC), Steamwhistle also boasts the greenest brewery in Canada.
In the office, Sybil of the marketing team is working to send out reminders about Earth Hour and sending emails to employees to encourage them to make a clean air commute to work (via public transit or bicycle). Although the brewery does not use organic ingredients (most organic farms are unable to meet the brewery’s supply needs), Steamwhistle’s barley is grown in Canada and resold as feed to local farmers after being processed. The brewery’s biggest green initiative is actually its 1950s-inspired green bottles, which last three times as long as standard amber bottles and fetch an 85% return rate.
Whether you enjoy drinking your beer by the pint at your favourite pub or by the bottle in your own home, Steamwhistle is a great go-to beer. It’s certainly a notch above most domestics — pure and simple enough to hold its own among the premiums. But don’t take my word for it! Stop by the historic Round House for a taste.
Steam Whistle Brewing
The Roundhouse – 255 Bremner Blvd
Canada, M5V 3M9
Phone:(416) 362-BEER (2337) 1-866-24-0-BEER
Monday to Thursday
Noon to 6:00 p.m.
Tour Times: Tours start at 1:00 p.m. and run every 30 minutes, with the last tour at 5:00 p.m.
Friday and Saturday
Open: 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Tour Times: Tours start at 12:00 p.m. and run every 30 minutes, with the last tour at 5:00 p.m.
Open: 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Tour Times: Tours start at 12:00 p.m. and run every 30 minutes, with the last tour at 4:00 p.m.
All pictures courtesy of Steam Whistle Brewing.