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, January 19, 2009

West 50 Pourhouse: Mississauga, ON

I never get out to Mississauga, in fact I think I can count on one hand how many times I been there for something. Well, I had to head off to a hockey arena for a research project (my fiance's, not mine) a couple of months ago and used that for an excuse to visit the West 50 Pourhouse, giving me a chance to look over their 115 taps lines featuring 105 different beers.

The restaurant is attached to a large commercial building, making it tricky finding a way in. Once inside the building you go for a bit of a stroll before finding an escalator that leads you to the front entrance. Here you’ll be greeted by a lovely young hostess who will usher you inside the posh dining lounge.

I took a seat at the bar and within two minutes I had a pint in my hand. It wasn’t my first choice. Or my second. I had asked for a Delirium Tremens – out, and something else – out, so I went for a Cameron’s Auburn that was nice and fresh. I have heard some disparaging things about the freshness of West 50’s draught beer, but the Auburn was delightful. I briefly chatted with general manager Jason Joynt who confessed that while they do offer a large beer menu, it is sometimes difficult to ensure all 115 tap lines remain stocked all at one time. “It’s hard, but we have been doing a pretty good job making sure we are fully stocked, but busy nights sometimes put a strain on our inventory,” explained Joynt. I guess I arrived after a busy week.

All around us were middle-aged people dressed somewhat professional for a night out on the weekend. Joynt states that the clientele changes daily but it mainly consists of younger urban professionals looking to experience different beers in a more upscale setting than a traditional pub.
As mentioned, the West 50 is slick, very clean and features a polish appearance. It reminds me of the Esplanade’s Bier Markt without all the InBev logo’s on the wall. There are many snug booths to accommodate groups of four that line the far perimeter of the outside wall, situated below a handful of slanted windows overlooking Burnhamthorpe Rd. The dining area is in the shape of a ‘U’, which then reminds me of the restaurant atop the CN Tower. Candles provide lighting on all the tables and the restaurant was decorated with Christmas ornaments to compliment the season.

The bar is long. Very long. It starts at the front entrance of the restaurant and continues right to the back wall. Because of the ‘U’ shape dining area, the bar is also shaped like a horseshoe and tap handles line the back wall with lines coming from a state of the art keg storage room. A chrome bar top is so shiny that I can also see my reflection. Bar back stools line the bar, upwards of fifty or so. Televisions hang from the ceiling and are showing sports with muted volume, providing an almost sports bar feeling. But the music. Turn it down please, and turn off the Katy Perry. I know she kissed a girl and she liked it, but this type of music didn't fit the bill at an establishment like this.

I had the opportunity to check out that cold keg room later on during the visit and it was very organized with all the kegs and lines clearly identifiable . “We haven’t had the chance to clean out the empty kegs just yet, so it’s a little hectic, but you get the jest,” said another manager.

So, 115 tap lines featuring 105 beers. This has earned West 50 the distinction of having the most draught beer on tap in Canada. Sometimes more isn't necessarily better. Some of the beers aren't in stock, many are main-stream beers that you'd find at other chain establishments, and Joynt states that some of the beers have more than one tap locations. "Some of the biggest selling brands like Stella, Coors or Heineken have more than one tap only because they are the biggest sellers." Joynt mentions that while corporately owned and friendly to the national brewers, the West 50 is also working with local craft brewers and importers to make sure they have a wide variety of beers that would please everyone from the local beer enthusiast to the Bud drinkers. Beer cocktails are also on the drink menu, which I have yet to try and not sure if I want to. One thing that I did notice was the lack of beer knowledge the bartender displayed, something that is very essential in a place like this.

My final thoughts - good food, bad music, decent beer selection if available (and fresh) and a good spot to entertain guests coming from out of town. To be a true beer nirvana (instead of marketing the amount of draught lines), the West 50 should look into bringing in more seasonals, experimental local beers and maybe introducing customers to cask. For anyone who has ever been to one of the two Toronto Bier Markt's, you may find that the West 50 has many similar features in both appearance, atmosphere and business practices.

I have yet to really write about a beer bar that isn't independently owned and operated, but given the fact that there isn't much in means of beer destinations in Mississauga, I thought I could do so this one time. *West 50 is owned by Hip restaurants*

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