Sunday, March 28, 2010

Getting Down, Downtown

Jeepers! It's been over two months since I've bothered to write anything. As usual, life got in the way. Working, sleeping, and commuting between the two. I meant to write some nonsense way back in January about a new brewpub I visited in Toronto. Most of my memories from the evening at Duggan's Brewery have vanished into the mists, but I'll quickly jot down what I do recall from my visit.

For starters, you may find yourself in Toronto one day and ask yourself "Where can I go to enjoy some really good beer here?"

If I was in an especially snarky frame of mind, I'd offer these wise words:
1. Rent a car
2. Leave town

Oh, I guess it's not all so bad in Toronto The Good. The sidewalks are no longer rolled up at night, you can actually drink on a Sunday, and you needn't flee to Buffalo to have a good time. Although if you do, you no doubt will!

There are a few places here and there in T.O. that are keeping jive alive, and I'll try out a few of them in 2010 to see how they rate. First up is a visit to Duggan's Brewery at 75 Victoria Street.

Duggan's is the child of Toronto brewmaster Mike Duggan who previously worked out of the Mill Street Brewery. He connected with the old Victoria Street location of Denison's Brewery and in December 2009 opened up Duggan's, a proper little bistro with nice food and a nice selection of suds. I wandered in for an evening in mid-January to check the place out.

On the upside, it's a very pretty room. The staff are very nice. There is food, and there is beer, and overall there's a rather upscale, pleasant vibe to the premises.

Is there a downside? Well, not as such, but aren't I the picky one when I feel like it? Duggan's selections are numbered without much of an explanation that I could track down. The #5 is an Asian lager featuring Japanese brewing rice and is described as having a "straw" flavour. Well, it tasted extra-grassy to me, and it just didn't sit too well. It's one of the few beers that I have ever gulped down in order to get to the next one. I have heard very positive comments about it from a trusted colleague, so we'll put this one down to my less than developed beer tastebuds.

I then tried the #13 Weisbeer (sic). Yes, that's how they spelled it. By now, you must be thinking that they've got at least thirteen beers to try. Well, no, they don't. Lots of numbers are missing from the menu, and several that were on the menu were missing in action. One had a problem "with the tap", another had a pressure problem, but the problem was apparently solved within the hour as it was available...within the hour! I suppose another problem was li'l ol' ME. I wasn't wearing a suit, you see. But the table of gents that took up a table next to me were, and although they ordered their Weisbeers well after me, they sure got them served way before me! No matter, it eventually showed up in a nice Weisbier-style glass, looked properly cloudy, and didn't taste too bad at all. I'd trade it in a heartbeat for a can of Denison's Hefe, but it was fine enough.

Friends soon arrived to scope out the rest of the available menu. I should mention that when I arrived, a bit before the Corporations That Employ Suits let out, the staff were bringing in brand new Duggans glasses, complete with the brewpub's logo etched into the glass. Very nice. If you don't mind your large glass holding 0.4 l of beer! There seems to be some sort of problem with folks wanting to shortchange you a mouthful of beer. This kind of thing gets the folks in Prague real mad - they know when they're getting a smaller glass than they bargained for, and they'll support the establishments that offer the full 0.5 l as a result. If you're that proud of the beer that you make for heaven's sake, give us that little extra, please!

Don't get me started on the smaller sizes! Well, OK, get me started. My aforementioned friends decided to give the #Whatever (I've lost my notes!), the Belgian Trappist style with the extra-high alcohol content, a go...well, it's served up in Juice Glasses! Little Juice Glasses! I totally understand, of course. You know what Canadians are like once you've poured 40% of a litre of Belgian-strength brew down their gullets. Oops, I stand corrected. None of us know. Little Juice Glasses. The prices weren't little, however. Meh.

The big calling card at Duggan's is the #9 IPA, a 6.2 % pale ale that is very hoppy, pleasant to drink, and my favourite of the pack. It's the only one I returned to, and the Duggan's that I'd drink again if I found myself back there.

The snacks were pricier than average as well, but very nice. Ribs and poutine showed up with curry as a base for their sauce. They're big on curry here, and it's quite tasty. My order of wings was billed as coming with a stilton flavoured dipping sauce. It didn't, but subsequent orders from my colleagues did, and I gather it was all quite acceptable.

Overall, my impressions of Duggan's are that they are in their own way, quintessentially Toronto. Quite diverse, pleasant and polite, clean, kind of over-priced for what you're getting, and missing something that is hard to put one's finger on, that something that makes you want to come back as soon as you can. I hear this a lot about Toronto. Folks love to come here....ONCE. Perhaps I'll pop back in to Duggan's one day. If you ever do, I'd enjoy hearing what you think.

NEXT: The Peterborough Project!