As an Irish person living in the metropolis that is Toronto, it is impossible to escape the typical stereotype that comes with our nation’s territory. Known for being big party people, up for a laugh, and of course our fondness for a few sociable drinks, this image is something we pride; as this positive and harmless nature is adored by others.
So what better way to embrace the “Paddy” in me than to visit Toronto’s famous Steam Whistle Brewery, for a guided tour of its history and operations.
In Ireland, we have come to call Guinness “The Black Stuff,” but today I am moving further afield and introducing my taste buds to “The Golden Stuff.”
Situated within The Roundhouse at 255 Bremner Blvd; beneath the shadow of the CN Tower, lies the Steam Whistle Brewing company itself. Originally built as a repair facility for steam trains in Downtown Toronto, this building played a huge role in helping to pioneer this great nation in times of development and discovery. And despite changing both product and purpose in later years, the Building stills provides many jobs to the city and continues to encourage Canadian innovation and promote creativity.
The dream to create a memorable, premium Pilsner beer that Toronto could claim as it’s own and be proud of, first started when its founders Greg Taylor, Cam Heaps & Greg Cromwell set out on a canoe trip in the springtime of 1998. Here, they discussed at lengths their hopes and aspirations to one day own their own brewery, and create a Pilsner that would compete with already established beers and lagers across the world. And in the year 2000, this dream became a reality, when they opened for business and the “Steam Whistle was Born.”
As I walked up to the Brewery, I remarked on how well maintained the building and it’s surrounding grounds were. The large red brick brewery, had fantastic period-style windows, typical of most factory buildings from 1930’s-1950’s. As I stepped through the doors, you could appreciate how the architecture ensures a perfect tourist experience. The layout has allowed the light from outside to illuminate the visitor reception and gift shop, making it feel refreshing, and both open & cosy at the same time.
Booking in for my 3pm slot, I met up with the rest of my group, who all happily chatted to each other, prior to the commencement of the tour. With a TOOT TOOT of the classic steam whistle horn behind the bar, the tour was set in motion and we were introduced to our fantastic tour guide Max.
After a complimentary bottle of Steam Whistle, our guide firstly told us how the beverage was created; by explaining to the group the brewing process, as well as the vital ingredients needed to make it happen. The smells, sounds and tastes awaken your senses within the brewing chamber, which only help to enhance the tour experience. Later we moved into several other rooms, where brew master decisions were made, as well as the bottling, canning, packing and distribution rooms. With 88,000 bottles produced per day, you can only imagine the amazing scenes that this number of green bottles look like… It was like walking into the Emerald City of Oz.
As the guided tour concluded, Max encouraged us to ask any questions we had, which was really helpful and informative. If the tour wasn’t good enough already, we then got given another sample of Pilsner on Tap. With it’s smooth, refreshing taste, it was the perfect beverage on this hot day in Toronto.
In conclusion, the Steam Whistle tour was so enjoyable and a great way to spend my day off. As a person who loves a bit of history and sociable outings with friends, the brewery is a great way to put these two together.
You could only imagine my devastation, however, when I found out that this Pilsner is not sold back home in Ireland. But I do believe that someday it will. With the success of it already here in Canada, the only way is up. And when you think of it, with its beautiful, eye-catching green bottle and can, where else would it look better, than in the Emerald Isle? I’ll just have to make sure to raise a bottle of it on the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations next year, here in Toronto.
But I must say, the tour and brewery itself would not be the success that it is, if not for the fabulous people that work inside. Our tour guide Max, was a wealth of information and with her fun personality, witty humour and welcoming manner, she was a delight to all the visitors. She had an infectious energy, which you couldn’t help but admire.
Also, I must give credit where credit is due for a second employee. As a writer, it is imperative as to how any story begins, develops and ends. The same goes for all interactions we have with others, especially in the tourism industry. I met a girl called Sarah working at the ticket desk as I first entered. She graciously greeted me and explained the offers that were available. Her warm, cheerful and bubbly personality make her an asset to the company.
Whilst browsing the gift shop, Max and Sarah kindly agreed to have a photograph taken. As I thanked them, and waved goodbye, I realised that the Steam Whistle Brewery is definitely a gem within Toronto’s Tourism industry. For tourists, natives and everyone in between, make this attraction a MUST SEE on your to-do list.
For more information on how to visit this attraction and where this beverage is sold, the official website can be found by clicking Here.