Food & Drink: Indie Ale House

When I heard another micro brewery / restaurant was opening up in Toronto, I couldn’t have been happier. It seems like a rash of such places have been popping up in the last few years. Trinity Bellwoods Brewery previously held the title of the newest kid on the block, until Beer Academy also opened this year. I was excited and curious to go and see what the newest pretender to the throne of local brewkings could offer.

The brewpub and adjacent retail store are in The Junction. For Toronto folk this seems an odd location, yet it has proved to be a blessing. Once known as The Village of West Toronto Junction then Town of West Toronto Junction, it didn’t become part of the City of Toronto until 1909. The Junction was the place for pubs and restaurants of its day. However (like my neighbourhood on a Saturday night) this soon became a problem. The area had quickly become known as a place to get shitfaced. This turned into a huge source of embarrassment for residents tired of seeing their neighbours passed out in doorways every morning. Before long, they had become fed up with such problems, and a temperance movement ensued. Every Methodist housewife from Dundas West to High Park was soon telling her husband (let’s be honest, you know it wasn’t a lot of men wanting this), friends, and relatives to vote for the Junction to be a dry neighbourhood. The votes were tallied and in 1904 it was made so, even after amalgamation into the City of Toronto some five years later. Sure, that doesn’t seem like a big deal. However the Junction was still dry up until late 2000. That’s right – no booze, and that was during two world wars, The Vote and the first ever Hockey broadcast. The last twelve years has been a battle of license applications in a flurry of activity. Now they can actually make booze in the area, let alone sell it. Those Victorian glory days are not far off again…

I rarely go to this part of Toronto for obvious reasons, but in recent years the area has seen a real growth in good night life, restaurants and new inhabitants: not just families, but young artists and couples looking for good rent and a nice getaway from the bustle of downtown living. Loads of converted warehouses and industrial space make an attractive prospect for homeseekers. Mix that with a place making their own beer and a well regarded ‘pub’ menu and I am intrigued. I must travel out of my Little Italy comfort zone to check it out.

The Junction’s public transport connections are nothing to be envious of, so after forty minutes of being stuck in traffic with the meter running, I am pleased to be greeted by a very Icelandic looking chap (with a huge beard and belly to match), I must be in the right place! The retail store is immediately on your right upon entry, and is already open for business offering a selected few Ales in growler size (a comically large brown jug – 1.89 litres, or 4 pints) for $20, plus a $4 dollar deposit fee. You can bring the growler back for a refill anytime. Also on offer are branded glasses and t-shirts. They’ve wasted no time in getting the brand out there. Maybe a little too soon, but you have to commend the enthusiasm.

The room is large and impressive, dominated by a glass wall protecting huge steel vats of delicious booze. Decor is a mash of post-industrial ideas: exposed brick and steel are offset by a decidedly vintage art deco bar area. We are immediately ushered to a table at the back (just by the glorious smells emanating from a small kitchen hatch). The beer board happens to be beside us, and tells us what is on offer that day. A comprehensive list of IPAs, Porters and Witbiers are available, all of which list the size of the beer (not every one is granted pint status), the ABV (most above the 6% – 8% mark) and the price. I order the Pumpkin Abbey (9.5% – good thing it only comes in a 10oz glass). At $5.50, it is a bargain, a surprisingly dark beer with beautiful clean pumpkin flavour. It is hard not to order another, but I soon spot the answer to my prayers at an adjacent table. A flight of beers.

You are able to pick five beers from the board ($10, with every beer above 9% being a dollar extra). An array of samples arrive on a wooden paddle within moments. The flight we selected comprised Breakfast Porter (7.2%), with a chocolate nose and caramel undertones; Dark Wheat Rises (7%), that tasted more like an IPA than a wheat beer, it was deliciously complex with notes of citrus and bitter hops; thirdly, Spadina Monkey Sour (5.5%) is a sour beer that has a crisp sour taste of granny smith apples with a cereal finish not unlike Froot Loops. I have to stop myself from immediately ordering a whole glass of the sour as the next beer, Cockpuncher Double IPA (11%), is one of the best examples of the style I have had in the city. The hops are subtle but have just enough bitterness. Notes of grapefruit, lime, and tangerine with a hint of malt. The only problem is that it at a whopping 11% alcohol even a quarter of a tumbler went to my head. The last beer, but certainly not the least, was the Barnyard Belgium Rye Pale Ale (6%). Made with rye instead of barley malt, this beer blows me away, the hoppiness is similar to the Cockpuncher, but the malt gives way to the spice of the rye. I was in heaven, and sent my significant other to go and beg the retail store for one of their growlers full of the stuff. We couldn’t even make it all the way home without dipping into our stash. A return visit hinges on the availability of this stuff.

Food definitely falls into the ‘grub’ category, with a combination of hits and misses. Popcorn with whipped bacon fat butter ($3) is a poor choice to start. The bacon grease is overpowering and a little nauseating. The pizzas, however, are well executed, with pies like the Angry Hawaiian ($14), with grilled pineapple, Berkshire pork belly and charred jalapenos; or the Toadstool ($15), with a garlic cream sauce and laden with four different kinds of mushroom. Also on offer are Canadian staples like gourmet mac and cheese dishes and some great looking sandwiches we didn’t have the stomach capacity for, including a Shrimp Po’ Boy ($12), and Smoked Pulled Pork ($13). The menu is not over-reaching, it is all designed to complement the real reason people are talking so much about the Junction at the moment. The beer.

Indie Ale House is located at 2876 Dundas Street West

Toronto, M6P 1Y9

Hours: 11:00am to Midnight every day except Mondays

Mondays 5-Close (or otherwise specified on their Twitter account)

Indiealehouse.com

Jen Hunter is Spindle’s Toronto Food & Drink Correspondent. You can follow more of her gastronomic misadventures on Twitter @JennyTreehorn