Follow beer writer, Troy Burtch, as he explores the wonderful world of craft beer and the pubs that serve it. Great Canadian Beer is a place to come to catch up on beer news, read tasting notes, check out event listings, and for pub previews and reviews.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Castro's Lounge: Toronto, ON

The Beaches in Toronto is a great place for a stroll on a nice day. Sunday just happened to be one of those days and I found myself walking by Castro's Lounge on Queen Street East.

As soon as I entered the pub, I could tell that this was a place that survives on the loyalty of regulars. There were people in the middle of a card game at the bar and a group of men sharing stories over some pints by the open window overlooking Queen street. The servers seemed to know everyone that entered and greeted them with a friendly hello. I arrived around 3pm and there was a handful of customers, but by 4:00 the pub was buzzing with conversation as the crowd grew.

Fabin, the general manager, informs me that Castro's was once home to a crepe eatery with another name that eventually obtained a liquor licence and soon evolved into a pub. It is a small place with a capacity for 35 people and serves a wide array of terrific, hard to find beer. If you walk into the building, you will notice a set of stairs that lead to a basement. This was the first Castro's Lounge, but it is only used for storage and bathrooms now. Fabin mentioned that they are trying to convert it back into a pub in order to increase capacity.

The draught line-up consisted of some good Ontario craft beer in Wellington Pale Ale, Cameron's Auburn, Creemore Springs, Mill St. Tankhouse and Wit and also featured the ever delicious Beligum based Delirium Tremens and Belle Vue Kriek. The bottled selection is also very nice. Quebec's terrific Unibroue beers are available like Raftmans, Fin du Monde and Trois Pistoles and Belgian beers like Chimay, Leffe, Duvel and Rochefort. There is some good US beers available as well in Rogue and Anchor. The only mainstream beer available is Alexander Keith's, and Fabin mentions it is not one of their bestsellers. 20oz pints run from $5.75 to $8.75.

The first thing I noticed as I walked through the front door is the number of pictures on the walls. Framed photos of world leaders from the past, along with movie stars and Castro himself, cover the walls and were very neat to through. Some of the wooden tables feature a chess board as the table top and Fabin confirms that many regulars take part in contested matches. The tables also have a small lamps sitting atop emulating a nice glow. There are a couple of televisions throughout the pub showing some football games but the volume is kept off.

The layout of the pub works well for this small establishment. There is a garage door that opens up to Queen street and stools offer you the chance to drink in the sunlight. The bar is located at the back of the pub and a small island bar sits immediately in front. As mentioned, there were a group of regulars tossing around some cards and I think I even saw a box of dominoes that weren't in use. The bar can seat up to 10 people and would be great for taking a group for some beers. Above the bar is a collection of empty Beligum imports and Unibroue bombers along with glassware. I order a Raftman's and I am delighted to see that it is served in the appropriate glass.

Castro's would be a hard place to read in as the music is a little loud and the regulars are having conversations all around you. But that creates its own ambiance. This would be a great place to take a bunch of friends who are visiting the city for some live music and good beer. As for food. I didn't have anything as I was just there to drink. Fabin states that they serve traditional pub food along with pasta's and bar snacks.

A good place to try and a nice walk down Queen Street East.

2116 Queen Street East
Toronto, ON
(416) 699-8272

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