I was in need of a beer. It was a hot day and after a long day at the office I decided I deserved one. I jumped on the 501 Queen streetcar and headed east toward the beaches. As the car stopped at Queen St. East and Sumach street I peered to the left and took notice of the Dominion on Queen pub and realized I had yet to step foot in the historic building. I jumped off the red rocket and entered the pub to see what it’s all about.
The pub is located right on the corner of Queen and Sumach and is attached to the once famous Dominion brewery. The huge Victorian structure was built by Robert Davies in 1878 and served the citizens of Toronto until the doors closed in 1936. One article I came across mentioned a rumour that stated Robert had owned 144 taverns in Toronto during the height of his wealth. His father, Thomas Davies had erected the Don Brewery years before in 1850. Robert was also the brewer and it seems he knew a thing or two about brewing. In 1911 he won a number of gold medals for his ales, lagers and porters at Chicago's World Fair. After years of neglect, the Dominion brewery received a face lift from the Sorbara Group between 1987 and 1990 and today businesses of all varieties occupy the site.
The pub is a large brick building that still features the markings of previous enterprises that have called this location home, and the once prominent hotel situated above the pub serves as a rooming house today. Downstairs where the pub now resides was originally a drinking room for the hotel patrons. A nice little bit of history.
Walking back towards the pub I noticed a sign located on the outside on the right hand wall that read, "Local and Regional Craft Beer" so normally it peeked my interest. I entered through the front entrance of the Queen St sidewalk and made my way down the long narrow hallway and into the right hand side of the pub. I did a quick scan and figured it showed some promise.
I stepped up to the bar and glanced over the tap handles: Mill Street Tankhouse, Organic Lager, Neustadt 10W30, Steam Whistle, Wellington Country Dark Ale, McAuslan Cream, Great Lakes Orange Peel, Stratford Pilsner, Denison's Weissbier, Moosehead, Tuborg, Carlsberg, Magners and a house brew called White Seal Lager. I settled for a Denison's as the hot and sticky weather prompted me to, and it was the right choice as it went down smoothly with the sharp carbonation of the German wheat beer quenching my thirst.
As I mentioned, I had entered the right hand side of the pub off the narrow hallway. This area is wide open, with many tables and chairs that create a look straight from a 50’s diner. There is lots of wood paneling throughout this area and large windows offer some terrific natural lighting that shine on the many framed antique beer posters that provide a sentimental touch. Just off the right side of the bar you’ll notice the kitchen that sends the aroma of pub food through the air. There is a decent sized staging area located near the large front window looking out towards Queen Street for the local musician’s that entertain the locals every week.
The bar was long and curvy and situated towards the back of the pub. Half the bar acts as a serving station and the other half features 8 bar back stools bringing you close to the action. Unfortunately there was no action the afternoon I made an appearance as the pub was almost completely empty, which would typically make for a great conversation with the bartender, but even that was negated. There is a collection of pitchers and glasses hanging in metal racking over head and two rows of liquor bottles grace the back wall. There is a large television with a muted sports program playing and the bartender mentions that regulars enjoy watching soccer matches on weekends. One thing missing from the bar area is a pricing list of the beers available which I find helpful at times.
There is a beautiful spacious patio on the Sumach Street side that sees large numbers during the summer months. Many times I have ventured by and noticed how busy it appeared. The shading of the umbrella’s and from the building itself is welcoming. It’s a good place to people watch as well, as this stretch of Queen Street East is currently re-branding itself. Individuals from the nearby shelter and residents of the rooming house above the pub, co-habitat with young parents that frequent the newest shops and with those who are working on their first homes.
The Dominion on Queen is also well known for their Jazz and Blues music that takes place on Sunday afternoons, usually performed by local talent. There are currently Tuesday night jam sessions with plans to extend them to Friday and Saturday nights.
The whole pub is split into three large separate rooms. I have already described one; the second room is located on the left side of the entrance and features some more tables and chairs and a pool table, and the third room has been designated as an event room that is located behind the second room. It is a good sized pub that would be a great location for hosting a beer related event.
One thing I never did confirm was the date that new ownership took over and made it what it is today. So if anyone knows, please share. I guess it offers me the excuse to go back for another pint…or two.
500 Queen Street East
*With some help from www.lostrivers.ca