12 Jul

Craft Beer Passport: Kensington Market

craft beer passport_5 Having so thoroughly enjoyed my first three stops on the Craft Beer Passport, I was really looking forward to crossing another couple of bars off of my list Tuesday night. We had made plans with my dad after buying him a passport of his own for Father’s Day and we were finally getting out to make good on our promise to visit some of the establishments together.

But on Tuesday morning I was worried: the weather network was promising rain all day and all evening with high risk of thunderstorms and powerful winds. As the rain poured down hard enough that I could barely see out the window, our plan of knocking off two bars with a stop for dinner in between seemed ill-suited to the day.

By late afternoon, however, the powers that be had decided to smile on our plan and the weather turned to our favour as the skies cleared for a lovely sunny couple of hours before dinner. Relieved, I set out to meet the others at our first stop: Thirsty & Miserable. The rain did make another short appearance as we strolled over to Margarita’s for dinner but it was a lovely summer evening and we didn’t mind it all that much. I, for one, was quite mollified by the unexpected treat of finding one of my favourite beers at our first stop.

Thirsty & Miserable

Location: 197 Baldwin St, Toronto (Map)
A small bar tucked into the less fashionable end of Baldwin street, Thirsty & Miserable is the perfect place to go get a great beer at a reasonable price with a couple of friends. It knows exactly what it is and it caters to the type of people who will appreciate it’s laid-back atmosphere and commitment to providing excellent brews without expecting a whole lot more. The service is good, the staff friendly and knowledgeable and the beer selection both impressive and well suited to my tastes. In discussing the craft beer passport, our server said that it would be worth it if they got even a couple of regular patrons of it and I am happy to say that – once I am more confident on my bike with a beer under my belt- I will certainly be one of those new regulars.

Headstock IPA

BreweryNickel Brook Brewing
Style: American IPA
ABV: 7%        IBU: 80

4 out of 5 cats

I first had this beer over at 3030 on my second stop but I liked it so much I had to have it again. here is what I said last time:

This IPA features strong tropical scents of mango, pineapple, and orange with a hint of pine in the aroma and big Citra notes. Hop-forward and unsubtle, the tropical fruits and resiny hops dominate while the malt emerges as the beer warms, providing a strong backbone. Well-balanced, Headstock has a nice long resiny finish and refreshing carbonation.

It was just as good the second time around and I was glad to have another chance at it as its not one I have seen in either the LCBO or the Beer Store. One of these days we will really have to drive out to Nickel Brook and stock up on some of their special edition beers.

Malevolent

BreweryNickel Brook Brewing
Style: Black IIPA / Cascadian Dark Ale
ABV: 9.5%       IBU: 90

4 and a halfcat

Announcement Tweet: MALEVOLENT BLACK IMPERIAL IPA is 9.5% and 90 IBUS, we don’t actually wish to harm you but this beer will assault your taste buds !

This double IPA is a thick black colour with off-white head and an aroma of chocolate and coffee malts and resiny hops. A perfect blend of roasted coffee and bitter hops, this is one of my absolute favourite beers. Bitter and bold, Malevolent has a full body with an aftertaste of big bitterness, molasses, and pine. If I recall correctly this was the first black IPA I had and I have to say it really turned me on to the style.

Margarita’s Fiesta Room

Location: 14 Baldwin St, Toronto (Map)
Since neither of our intended stops for the night served much – or anything really – in the way of food, we headed back east along Baldwin  to the string of restaurants featuring food of almost any kind you could imagine. With so many options, it was a hard decision but we eventually settled on Margarita’s and settled in for spicy Mexican food and some of their famous margarita’s. A big fan of berries – especially in slushy alcoholic forms – I went with the Fresita, a strawberry flavoured spin on their classic.

With dozens of delicious cheesy and meaty food options to choose from I eventually settled on the Dirty Miss Piggy, a delectable and slight spicy tortilla thing with pork and cheese and a really nice sauce that was both earthy and spicy. It came with seasoned rice and a small salad (or beans) and was just the right amount of food. I could have eaten more but I didn’t need to and it was a nice change from the overly large portions most places seem to serve. I can’t resist good food, especially when I know it will just end up in the green bin, so the North American standard serving size usually just results in my over-eating. I really appreciated having room left over to actually enjoy the side dishes and the rice was perfect for moping up the leftover sauce.

I have only been to Margarita’s once before and – to be perfectly honest – I played it safe and wasn’t all that impressed with my food. There was nothing wrong with it but it didn’t grab my attention. This time, after a more thorough perusal of the menu, I definitely did much better with my selection and I will certainly be back for more of their tasty Mexican food.

Handlebar

Location: 159 Augusta Ave, Toronto (Map)
A slightly more up-scale establishment, Handlebar is nevertheless a quite inviting and welcoming place with an old-fashioned country vibe and lots of bar seating. We only stayed for one drink as we were at the end of our evening but its close proximity to Thirsty (and its similarly nice beer selection) mean I will certainly be back to this place time and time again.

Baldwin FishEYE-PA

Brewery:Kensington Brewing Company 
Style: IPA
ABV: 6.5%   IBU: 70

3 and a halfcat

Named after Kensington Market’s (in)famous fishmongers on Baldwin Street, FishEYE is a bold and assertive India Pale Ale. We use 4 different varieties of American hops and a heavy dose of caramel malt to create a pleasantly balanced hop-forward IPA.

A clear, copper ale FishEYE is a nice local IPA with an aroma of peppery hops, citrus, and pine and thin white head. The flavour is a nice balance of tropical fruits, leafy hops, and a strong, toasty malt backbone. The body and texture are about average for the style and the aftertaste is more malty than hoppy. Certainly an enjoyable beer, FishEYE falls just short of being hoppy enough to make my list of favourite local IPAs.

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