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.


Friday, November 16, 2007

Great Lakes Brewery: Toronto, ON

As I sit hear sipping on my last bottle of Great Lakes Winter Ale, I am peering out the window waiting anxiously for the snow to come. I have already posted a profile of the Winter Ale, so I thought I would share a small bit of information on the brewery that produces it.

Great Lakes was open for business in 1987 right at the start of the craft brewing renaissance. They started off with a Lager they called Golden Horseshoe, on draught only at various pubs and restaurants. It proved to be so successful that Great Lakes expanded their operations to include Red Leaf Premium Lager and Black Jack Premium Lager while bottling all three for Ontario wide distribution. All three lagers have gone on to win numerous awards at both the Ontario and Canada wide level.

Recently though, Great Lakes noticed a trend occurring in the brewing industry as more and more breweries were offering more diverse styles of lagers and ales. They didn't want to be left out of the action so they started brewing seasonals that have done extremely well in the Ontario market. They started off with Devil's Pale Ale (also known as 666) as a special brew for the 2006 Toronto Beer Festival, but because of the tremendous response it received, Great Lakes decided to carry it year round in attractive black 473ml cans. From here they introduced Orange Peel Ale and Pumpkin Ale which tastes exactly how they sound. Their latest seasonal release is the Winter Ale which recently made a debut in Nova Scotia.

Because of their new brewing creations, Great Lakes was awarded the 2007 Editor's Circle award at the Golden Tap Awards for significant achievement in the brewing industry. "That award means a lot", stated sales manager John Bowden.

The brewery is located at 30 Queen Elizabeth Blvd off the Gardiner Expressway just a 15 minute drive from downtown Toronto. It features a fabulous retail store where you can purchase memorabilia and fresh beer. There were only a handful of employees in the early days of the brewery, but today, 25 people show up to look after the brew house, make daily deliveries, visit key accounts and look after the finances.

The brew house features a very old copper kettle that dates back to the early 1900’s which came all the way from Germany. There are 12 fermentation tanks in a back room that are kept at a cool temperature allowing the lager to age to perfection. I was lucky enough to get there just as they were brewing their Winter Ale and peaked my head into the vat for a look. (see picture)

They have come a long way since 1987 and their repertoire of beers cements their position in the Ontario market as an innovative and creative leader. It is worth a trip out to the brewery for a Friday tour and make sure to pick up some fresh ales while your there.

30 Queen Elizabeth Blvd
Toronto, ON

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