When we are in Toronto, in between visiting friends and family, we like to search out micro brews that may not be readily available in NYC. The holidays were a perfect chance for our beer exploration. Craft beer is growing in popularity in Ontario and two of the best places to stop for local brews are C'est What? and Beer Bistro in downtown Toronto. C'est What is a great place to go with a group of friends to shoot pool or to enjoy a beer on a cold winter night by the fireplace. Beer Bistro serves up fantastic food, many of which are made with beer.
C'est What? Hazelnut Chocolate Stout (above, 5.1% ABV): This reminded us of some of the sweeter Imperial Stouts found in the U.S. but the nitro softens the sweetness. As it warms up, the hazelnut, bittersweet chocolate and sweet, dark fruit shines through with a lingering accent of cocoa. Like a flavored coffee, it was a very enjoyable, easy-drinking beverage.
Railway City Pullman Porter (6.8% ABV, St. Thomas, Ontario): This porter was somewhat sweet and though we would have preferred a tad more roasted character, wasn't a bad beer. The light carbonation dissipates and the sweet malt flavor take over. For the alcohol level, the mouthfeel seemed a little thin and fizzy.
We finished up with the C'est What? Coffee Porter (above left, 5.8% ABV) and McAuslan's St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout (above right, 5% ABV), both on nitro. The St. Ambroise is always a great pick, but we do prefer the regular tap or bottle to the nitro pour. The creaminess dulled the flavor a bit on both beers, burying the roasted character. The Coffee Porter was more like a cafe au lait and really hides the roasted bitterness of the style. Next time we'll try some of the regular pours of the dark beers (most were not available as it was two days before Christmas).
We then stopped by Beer Bistro for a quick pint, and the bar was in the midst of their Winter and Christmas beer promotion. Since we like to pick beers we have not had before, we chose the 'Guest Tap': the Nutcracker Porter (above) from Black Oak Brewing Co. in Etobicoke, Ontario. We liked this beer with it's cinnamon and strong espresso notes, spice and lingering bitterness. It pours jet black and 'sticky' (substantial lacing). Definitely the winning beer of the day.