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, October 4, 2010

Taps and Tales: Toronto, ON

Because I'm gone for an extended period of time, I thought I'd schedule some old posts to appear over the next two weeks. This post originally appeared on December 11, 2008.

IMG_1933.jpgDanforth is well regarded for the number of restaurants that line the streets, restaurants people from all over the city flock to during the weekends for an inspiring and entertaining meal. From Coxwell to Broadview you'll find Greek restaurants, speciality food shops, greasy spoon diners, and a handful of good pubs with names like Allen's, Dora Keogh's, the Only Cafe, Auld Spot and Sarah's Cafe. Four days ago, after four months of round the clock renovations and strenuous research, a new pub has joined the scene and is located just west of Greenwood Avenue, mere steps away from the Greenwood subway station. The place is called Taps and Tales.

As mentioned, the newest addition to the strip opened their doors just four days ago and has been busy welcoming in guests at a rapid pace. I recently had the chance to venture in out of the cold to have a conversation with Harry, the general manager and Jasmine, the assistant general manager over a pint and some wings.

As I walked into the pub I noticed how nice and clean everything appeared to be. A shiny deep chocolate covered wooden bar, clean glass on the picture frames, sleek leather booths, clean polished hardwood floors and a fairly long draught line near the front of the bar, this places oozes brand new. A posh and sophisticated appearance, yet a pub atmosphere can be felt in the air.

I meet Harry at the bar and the talk immediately starts with his reasoning for selecting his current draught line-up. When it comes to beer Harry describes himself as a newbie, someone interested in expanding his knowledge, and his enthusiasm is evident in his voice. "I'm not a big drinker, but when I would find myself having a beer it would normally have been a Heineken, or something mainstream. Since I've started working on the creation of Tap and Tales, I've thrown myself into the craft beer world and I can't get enough." He added, "the people I've met in the industry are unbelievable people who have spent the time helping me and the staff understand the products, not stopping at their own beers."

Before opening Harry knew that he would have to get out into the area to see what else was being served to paying customers and he noticed the same thing was taking place in many of the watering holes; domestic lagers at cheap prices. It wasn’t until he started visiting the Only Café, a neighbour to the west, and Sara’s Café, neighbour to the east, and realized that they sold interesting products and they were retaining customers. “Castro’s, Sara’s and the Only were really helpful when deciding what draught line-up to put together,” exclaimed the general manager. “I tried the beers, enjoyed them and started to wonder if craft products were the way to go, besides, I wanted to open a place that supported the local players.” “Our place hopes to be a local for the residents around the area and we hope that they will embrace our selections."

He says all this as I sip on my pint of F&M Stonehammer Dark while scanning over the other tap handles that include: Black Oak Pale Ale, Mill Street Tankhouse and Organic, Denison's Weissbier, Creemore Traditional Lager, Guinness, Steam Whistle, Big Rock Traditional, McAuslan Cream and Apricot and Strongbow. "We've had a couple of people walk into the place since the doors opened and came to the bar asking for a bottle of Blue. The look on his face when I tell them we don't serve stuff like that is priceless. Needless to say, I don't think they'll be back." Harry has also included a number of well known beers to his large bottled list. Unibroue Fin du Monde and Blanche de Chambly, Young's Double Chocolate, a couple of Mort Subite, Duvel and more, and range in price from $4.75 to $13.00.

Harry and Jasmine also confirm that they will have Southern Tier IPA very shortly, joining only a small number of other Toronto establishments currently stocking the nicely balanced hop bomb. "We very excited about the Southern Tier," stated Jasmine, who found out about the beer when shopping at an LCBO recently. "I've talked with Roland and Russell (importers) about the beer and we will be getting it very soon," Jasmine stated.

Every pub needs a good bar to lean on and the Taps and Tales provides a nice long 'L' shaped bar on the right side of room. Krystal was working the bar and provided plenty of conversation; a great feature in a bartender and something that I find many Toronto pubs lack (not the good ones anyway). Ten bar stools and bar back chairs welcome weary passer-bys and put you right in front of the 13 tap handles. Low hanging light fixtures are above and candles provides added lighting on the bar top. There are two tv's found in the pub and Harry mentions that he had soccer fans in mind when installing them. There are a number of spirits situated directly behind the bar and are joined by two beer fridges; one of the left and one on the right, each fridge featuring a picture of the Toronto skyline.

This is one feature you’ll notice when you walk in, many old Toronto pictures line the walls from the entrance right to the back of the pub near the washrooms. There is a wide black and white canvas spread of an old 506 College streetcar hanging on the wall by the bar that sums up the theme of the new pub. “We wanted this to be a Toronto place, a simple pub to come and socialize with friends and family; to relax and enjoy each other’s company, much like it was done in old Toronto,” proclaimed Harry. “The pictures are all from Toronto and some date back to the late 1800’s, each one tells a story, a tale if you will, and that is what this place is all about,” he added. Jasmine, states this is how they came up with the Taps and Tales name. “We have the taps so we wanted to incorporate that into the name and tales, well, pubs are all about conversations, telling tales of the past, tales of present, and here, creating new tales. This is how we settled on the name.”

The layout consists of 4 sets of large booths situated to the right, complimented by a number of round tables for smaller groups. The front area features a clear garage door that will open up to the street (and sidewalk patio) in the summer months and is surrounded by refinished brick. "The old business that was here before was a Fish and Chip shop," stated Jasmine. "We have totally gutted what was here and put our own fix on it." A nice feature in the booths is the outlet that controls the lighting above. Dim it yourself for a private conversation or crank the light up if your reading. The pub also has free wifi, but me being old school, I don't like a pub with people typing away - go to a coffee shop for that.

Heading towards the back of the pub you'll walk up a step and enter a small room that contains two flat leather couches surrounded by a coffee table that is situated in front of a glowing gas fireplace and mantle. "We have big plans for this section," said Harry. "From hosting birthday parties to New Year's parties to poetry readings and book club meetings, we hope people come in and feel at home." The area does resemble a living room as there are no other tables present, and the warmly dimmed lighting adds a piece of tranquility away from the bar area.

The area surrounding the pub is a mix of young professionals, young families and down and out er's, and is a little east of the hotspots on the Danforth, but I think if Taps and Tales sticks to their game plan and stays the course, they'll be just fine. I nice little posh Toronto themed pub that will be re-visited again soon.

Taps and Tales
1282 Danforth Avenue
Toronto, ON
(416) 461-3020
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