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Brewery Profile: STEAM WHISTLE BREWING


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The Roundhouse, 255 Bremner Blvd., 362-2337

Directions: Take the Yonge-University-Spadina subway line to Union station. Walk through Union Station (follow the signs) to the SkyDome. The Roundhouse is located just south of the SkyDome, on Bremner Blvd.

Steam Whistle Brewing, at the John St. Roundhouse.
One of Toronto's newest microbreweries, Steam Whistle Brewing, was founded by and follows the same principles of the original owners of Toronto's first micro, Upper Canada. Frank Heaps, founder of the Upper Canada Brewing Company, along with his son Cameron, began Steam Whistle in 1999, and the first bottles of Steam Whistle Pilsner were unveiled in early 2000. Steam Whistle has been brewing for only a short period of time, but it already has quite a history.

The Upper Canada Brewing Company was the first microbrewery in downtown Toronto. From its founding in 1985, Upper Canada produced some of the most well-known and loved beers in Toronto. However, they made some unfortunate business decisions in the 1990s, which led to their buyout by Sleeman Breweries. The fantastic Upper Canada brewery was closed and many of their brands were discontinued. Some of their beers continue to be brewed, in name only however, by Sleeman in Guelph. Please see the Bar Towel's profile of Upper Canada for a more detailed account of the history of this original Toronto microbrewery.

Memories of Brasal - their old kegs, still used...
The Upper Canada brewery was purchased by Sleeman, and Frank Heaps was out of the Toronto brewing scene. But Upper Canada founder Frank Heaps has brewing in his blood. A few years later, along with his son Cameron, they collaborated to found Steam Whistle Brewing. In early 1999, Steam Whistle bought all the brewing equipment and hired the brewmaster from the recently closed Quebec brewery Brasal. They had the means by which to brew, but their new company needed a place to do so.

...and the control panel for the bottling line, with French labels.
The original Upper Canada brewery was housed in a historic warehouse in the trendy King Street West area of Toronto. History and heritage is obviously important to the Heaps family, and this was demonstrated with their selection of the new brewery: they managed to find an even more unique location for Steam Whistle. They expressed an interest in the historic and long vacant John St. Roundhouse, south of the SkyDome in downtown Toronto. The Roundhouse is a horseshoe-shaped building, built in 1929 and was a storage and maintenance facility for Canadian Pacific Railway trains (train tracks run across the waterfront of Toronto, where the Roundhouse is located).

The building had been out of use for years, and prior to Steam Whistle's interest, was a rotting landmark from another time. But Steam Whistle came to the rescue, and with the City of Toronto, brought the building up to code and the brewery moved in. The City now hopes the Roundhouse will become a full-blown tourist destination, with the remainder of the building not being used by Steam Whistle planned to become a railroad museum in the future.

Steam Whistles awaiting the tasty Pilsner on the bottling line.
In late March 2000, Steam Whistle bottled and unveiled its first brew in Beer Stores, a finely crafted Pilsner. It is an extremely flavourful and refreshing beer. Steam Whistle plans to only produce the one beer - it can be done, as Creemore Springs has demonstrated. The Pilsner is a great brew, and its flavour is almost matched by its packaging: it comes packaged in a shapely green bottle, reminiscent of bottles from the mid-20th century. The experience of drinking Steam Whistle is very enjoyable - they have succeeded in both the aesthetics and the flavour of their lone brew.

The brewery itself opened its doors to the public on May 27, 2000, participating in Doors Open Toronto, a city-wide festival celebrating the architecture of Toronto. The front door of the brewery leads into a large space with a long main bar and spacious hospitality area, available to rent for private functions. The brewery itself is in the adjoining rooms, with large glass windows in the bar and hospitality area to investigate the equipment.

The main brewhouse at Steam Whistle.
Taking the tour of Steam Whistle is like stepping back in time to the days of Upper Canada in the early 1990s. All the tour guides at Steam Whistle are enthusiastic, and it is obvious that they love the beer and the brewery. Plenty of samples are provided, and a full tour was given, a wander throughout the brewery to take a look at the process involved in creating their Pilsner. The closing of the Upper Canada brewery was obviously saddening to Toronto beer connoisseurs. However, Steam Whistle successfully creates a brewery tour experience that rivals the enjoyment of visiting the original Upper Canada brewery.

A future restaurant at Steam Whistle.
The Steam Whistle space also features a large, open room facing the SkyDome, with windows overlooking the brewery. This area, partially finished, is reserved for a future restaurant. Since Ontario law prevents breweries from owning pubs or restaurants, Steam Whistle cannot open or operate a restaurant on their own. They are, however, seeking out partners to operate the potential restaurant. Hopefully this will come to fruition by 2001, which will undoubtedly be a great addition to the brewery.

An actual working steam whistle in the brewery.
Steam Whistle quickly gained popularity in Toronto, with its refreshing flavour and distinct image. They bill themselves as the "good beer folks" and the community is beginning to realize this. Their beer can be found in many Beer Stores and LCBOs, and pubs and restaurants in the city. For those who never had a chance to visit and experience the Upper Canada brewery, its spirit has been re-incarnated at Steam Whistle. The brewery is definitely worth a visit, and their beer is definitely worth enjoying.

The on-site brewery store offers various branded merchandise items for sale, including six-packs of the Steam Whistle Pilsner. Call ahead for tour information and times.

Where can I find Steam Whistle Pilsner in Toronto?

Pub Name Address Phone (416) Pub Name Address Phone (416)
The 360 326 Queen St. W. 593-0840 Liberty St Café 25 Liberty St. 533-8828
52 inc. 394 College St. 960-0334 Longest Yard 535 Mount Pleasant Rd. 487-6468
Acqua 181 Bay St. 368-7171 Mad Apples Restaurant 2197 Bloor St. W. 761-1971
Adesso Restaurant & Bar 200 Bay St. 367-9722 Madison Ave. Pub 14 Madison Ave. 927-1722
Allen's 143 Danforth Ave. 463-3086 Mavericks 804 Danforth Ave. 462-2605
Arcadian Court Restaurant 176 Yonge St. 861-6611 Mezzrow's 1546 Queen St. W. 535-4906
Aristotle & McGregor's 525 Mount Pleasant Rd. 480-2252 Midtown 552 College St. 920-4533
Auld Spot 347 Danforth Ave. 406-4688 Midtown West 558 College St. 966-6952
Avalon 270 Adelaide St. W. 979-9918 Mumbo Jumbo 527 Bloor St. W. 531-5777
Bar Code 549 College St. 921-4676 Myth 417 Danforth Ave. 461-8383
Bar Italia 582 College St. 535-3621 Ned Hanlan's 173 Eglinton Ave. E. 486-3133
Barberian's 7 Elm St. 597-0335 Oasis Restaurant 294 College St. 975-0845
Barootes Restaurant 220 King St. W. 979-7717 The Only Café 972 Danforth Ave. 463-7843
Bedford Academy 36 Prince Arthur Ave. 921-4600 Orbit Room 580 College St. 535-0613
Bedford Ballroom 232 Bloor St. W. 966-4450 Oyster Boy 872 Queen St. 534-3432
Betty's 240 King St. E. 368-1300 P.J. O'Brien's 39 Colborne St. 815-7562
Bistro 990 990 Bay St. 921-9990 Paddock Tavern 178 Bathurst St. 504-9997
Bottom Line 22 Front St. W. 362-7585 Pappas Grill 440 Danforth Ave. 469-9595
Bovine Sex Club 542 Queen St. W. 504-4239 Pauper's 539 Bloor St. W. 530-1331
Bow & Arrow 1954 Yonge St. 487-2036 Peel Pub 276 King St. W. 977-0003
Cafe La Gaffe 24 Baldwin St. 596-2397 The Pilot 22 Cumberland St. 922-5290
Cafe May Restaurant 396 Roncesvalles 532-9218 Purple Pepper Café 266 Queen's Quay W. 260-2095
Cameron House 408 Queen St. W 703-0811 Queen Mother 206 Queen St. W. 598-4719
Canoe 66 Wellington St. W. 364-0054 Queen's Pasta Café 2263 Bloor St. W. 766-0993
C'est What? 67 Front St. E. 867-9499 Rancho Relaxo 300 College St. 920-0366
Club Lucky 117 John St. 977-8890 Rebel House 1068 Yonge St. 927-0704
Cobalt 426 College St. 923-4456 Redwood Grille 2497 Yonge St. 487-7188
College Street Bar 574 College St. 533-2417 Rex Hotel 194 Queen St. W. 598-2475
Corner Pocket 533 College St. 928-3540 Rhino Bar & Grill 1249 Queen St. W. 535-8089
Diner Station 372 Harbord St. 588-7555 Ritter's Coffee House 1846 Queen St. E. 690-5200
Dirk's Bar & Grill 24 Duncan St. 885-5110 Riverside Cafe Bistro 730 Queen St. E. 406-2943
Done Right Inn 861 Queen St. W. 703-0405 Rivoli 332 Queen St. W. 597-0794
Dora Keough 141 Danforth Ave. 778-1804 Rodney's Oyster House 209 Adelaide St. E. 363-8105
Duffy's Tavern 1238 Bloor St. W. 538-1998 Safari Bar and Grill 1749 Avenue Rd. 787-6584
Elephant & Castle 212 King St. W. 598-4455 Saint & Sinner 1522 Bayview Ave. 932-0301
Esplanade Bier Markt 56 The Esplanade 864-9775 Scallywags 11 St. Clair Ave. W. 922-3737
Five Doors North 2088 Yonge St. 480-6234 Scruffy Murphy's Pub 150 Eglinton Ave. E. 484-6637
Fox and Firkin 51 Eglinton Ave. E. 480-0200 Senator 249 Victoria St. 364-7517
Fressen 478 Queen St. W. 504-5127 Shallow Groove 559 College St. 944-8998
Future Bakery 483 Bloor St. W. 922-5875 Smokeless Joe's 125 John St. 591-2221
Future Bakery 2199 Bloor St. W. 769-5020 Spirits 642 Church St. 967-0001
Gamelle Restaurant 468 College St. 923-6254 Squirley's 807 Queen St. W. 703-0574
Gem Restaurant 1159 Davenport Rd. 654-1182 Sugar 942 Queen St. W. 532-5088
Gio's 2070 Yonge St. 932-2306 Swallow 1544 Queen St. W. 535-1811
Grano 2035 Yonge St. 966-1511 Swan Restaurant 892 Queen St. W. 532-0452
Gypsy Co-op 817 Queen St. W. 703-5069 Ted's Collision & Body Repair 573 College St. 530-7569
Halftime Tap & Grill 302 O'Connor Ave. 467-5486 Tempo 596 College St. 531-2822
Harbour 60 60 Harbour St. 777-2111 The Roost 955 Lake Shore Blvd. W. 314-9900
Hard Rock Café 1 Blue Jays Way 361-4668 Tool Box 508 Eastern Ave. 466-8616
Hargrave Exchange 1106 Danforth Ave. 461-2599 True Grits 603 Markham St. 536-8383
Harry's 124 Danforth Ave. 465-0979 Unicorn 175 Eglinton Ave. E. 482-0115
Horseshoe Tavern 368 Queen St. W. 598-2162 Universal Grill 1071 Shaw St. 588-5928
House of Parliament 458 Parliament St. 925-4074 Up & Down Bar Lounge 270 Adelaide St. W. 977-4038
Hurricane's 963 Bloor St. W. 531-7818 Upfront Bar & Grill 106 Front St. E. 364-6054
Jammz Bar Bistro 44 King St. W. 364-9740 Utopia Cafe & Grill 586 College St. 534-7751
Jawny Bakers 804 O'Connor Dr. 285-1165 Verveine 1097 Queen St. E. 405-9906
Jersey Giant 71 Front St. E. 368-4095 Victory Café 489 Markham St. 531-9523
Joe Badali's Pizza 156 Front St. W. 977-3064 Vox 474 Adelaide St. E. 869-1967
Kalendar Koffee House 546 College St. 923-4138 Wise Guy's 2301 Danforth Ave. 690-8343
La Hacienda 640 Queen St. W. 703-3377 Woody's 467 Church St. 972-0887
Langolino Wine Bar 50C Clinton St. 530-4710 YoYo's Restaurant 1727 Bloor St. W. 767-7899
Lava 507 College St. 966-5282 Zipperz Bar 72 Carlton St. 921-0066
Le Select Bistro 328 Queen St. W. 596-6406      

Steam Whistle's website: www.steamwhistle.ca