Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Ontario (inc. Toronto) >
Mar 4, 2009 08:16 AM

American Microbrews in Ontario

[Note: This thread was split from a discussion of Highway 61 at: -- The Chowhound Team].

Are American Microbrews available ANYWHERE in Ontario? I have a suspicion that 'Big Brother' doesn't want us corrupted by such devil's brew.
And Highway 61 appeared to have every single Bourbon (and a few 'similar' products that are marketed similarly e.g. Jack Daniels, Southern Comfort) that is available in Ontario (below $100 retail at least). I saw them when I sat at the bar. And my review will follow after I've had a chance to see how they responded to my 'suggestions' - they seemed to be willing to adjust - even wrote down my comments.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. anchor steam, dogfish, and rogue are avail in LCBOs.
    I haven't been drinking much beer lately so i cna't tell you wha else is out there but i'm pretty sure these are still being stocked downtown.

    10 Replies
    1. re: CoffeeAddict416

      OK. Those are in bottle. I assumed (perhaps incorrectly) that draft was intended (as those offered at Highway 61 and mentioned above were draft).
      So how long does the LCBO keep stuff in their warehouse before shipping to stores? With wine it seems to be anywhere from 6 months to a year. That would be disastrous for a microbrew. If in bottle I'm guessing severe 'adjustments' would be necessary.

      1. re: estufarian

        You can find a variety of American Micro Brews at the Beer Bistro, unfortunately, they aren't cheap.

        1. re: Rudiger

          Beer Bistro is only showing Sam Adams "on tap". Hardly a microbrew as it's available at almost every airport lounge in US.
          I concede the point on 'bottles' - except Highway 61 is promoting their microbrews on tap.

          1. re: estufarian

            I'm not concerned with the Boston Lager (as it is quite readily available) but the variety of other beers offered such as their seasonal ales.

            The microbrews by the bottle is quite extensive.

          2. re: Rudiger

            The Harbord Room used to have the super tasty Brooklyn Brewery Lager on tap. It was gone on last visit due to low demand, possibly a sign of the demand for American microbrews in Toronto. A rotating US tap sounds like a great concept for my tastes but I they'd eventually have to weld the wretched Coors Light handle on there instead of microbrews in this town.

          3. re: estufarian

            sorry my bad!

            it's hard to say estu without talking to their supply chain manager
            Te comforting thing for me anyway is that the st lawrence market lcbo manager says he can't keep the american micros in stock due to them flying off the shelves!

            I don't recall there being a date stamped on the bottles ("best before" or "brewed on" or otherwise) but maybe there is? Or maybe the brewery would be able to tell you from a batch number if they're printed on the labels?

            I haven't seen a lot of american microbrews on tap. Other than Volo or Bier Bistro the only other place i can think of that MIGHT is bier markt or smokeless joe's but i don't recall seeing any at any of these locations.

            1. re: CoffeeAddict416

              Dogfish gets delivered regularly to the Brock Rd store, but it is always sold out when I get there. I suppose I should ask to have it held for me.

              Who knows what happens in the warehouse, or in shipping? Some years ago the LCBO sold a container of Pilsner Urquell that was clearly off. They sold it anyway, and blamed it on sea shipping.

              1. re: jayt90

                Dogfish hasn't been available in the past few weeks. They do have Brooklyn Lager and Southern Tier IPA. Not quite Dogfish, but both are a nice change.

                1. re: Dflip

                  I found Dogfish IPA 60 min. at the new LCBO, Kingston Road and Morningside. It was $15 for 6 small bottles, and it's one of the best beers I've had in recent years. I didn't like Dead Guy Rogue ale nearly as much.
                  The selection of beer (in an enclosed cool area) is better there than any Beer Store I have visited.

                  1. re: jayt90

                    I just finished a 6-pack of that too (60 min IPA)
                    I guess I have a sweet tooth because I would have rated the mill street barley wine higher but I don't exactly have a distinguished palette for alcohol either.

                    I also had the Anchor Steam Liberty ale which I thought was quite nice. Wish they sold it in a 361ml bottle though as the large bottle is too much for me to finish sometimes.

        2. OnDaGo: While I was born in 1985 and I cannot speak for the past, but Sam Adams now has a wonderful variety of seasonal brews. I wasn't aware of their lack of brewery for 4 years after their foundation, but marketing company or not, they still produce a variety of beers and I've enjoyed most of them (Their Chocolate Bock is truly special). And according to Wikipedia, they produce 35% of their beers at their home plant while I assume the majority of the Boston Lager and Light variety of brewed by license all over. I've also heard before that a lot of Sam Adam's seasonals are consider novelty beers, but I still enjoy them when I get the chance in the US. I enjoyed the Summer Ale that was available here last summer as well.

          estufarian: The bar upstairs was rather light. Jack, Jim, Soco were what stood out. Perhaps the downstairs bar was better stocked. I'm not expecting to see a bottle of Stagg, but throw me a bone, show me an Elmer T, Buffalo Trace, or Old Rip Van. Something I can't get at the LCBO.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Rudiger

            If you can't get it than neither can they. At least, I don't think so.


            1. re: Rudiger

              That's the issue - something you can't get at the LCBO. Why would anybody risk their capital on that? Needs to be a private import anyway - and you can't order that without your liquor license. And minimum case lots. Plus lots of paperwork.
              Amusegirl (my spouse) is a Bourbon freak - and we ALWAYS bring back Bourbon (whenever we travel). But with markups we won't pay the equivalent of retail - let alone hope to make a profit if we were running a bar/restaurant.
              Of course, under NAFTA the LCBO markups are 'illegal' anyway (but Ontario isn't a signatory to that agreement) - and I'm sure Highway 61 don't want to take on the Ontario Government - they can take back the liquor license at any time. No point in fighting City Hall (Ontario Hall?).
              It's just not realistic. Another trade barrier in disguise.
              And they had Woodford (for sure) - I thought about 5 selections total - but I wasn't checking particularly. Their website is mute in that area.

              1. re: estufarian

                Selling any Liquor that does not come through the LCBO ordering process is the quickest way to lose your Liquor licence... Even Special orders from wine importers go "through" the LCBO.

                1. re: estufarian

                  I forgot about the lab testing fee as well. Sadly, the prices do add up. Perhaps this has become more of a pipe dream than anything else.

                  Oh Ontario...

              2. I drive down to Buffalo twice a year with a van and some friends specifically to buy beer, hops, grains and yeast.

                Coming back we always declare everything but we've noticed that the VAST majority of the time when they're processing the extra charges if they notice you're buying stuff that isn't readily available in Ontario they're nice and severely undercharge.

                Last time I purchased about $300 USD myself and was only charged about $25 CAD.

                6 Replies
                1. re: radiopolitic

                  What tax would I normally pay on a 6 pack? Since I normally hit Buffalo a few times a year.

                  Got a link to a government site?

                  1. re: Rudiger

                    Finding an official link for it is next to impossible. Tons of people online have poured over the official website to find it but I've never ran across someone who has actually found it.

                    This is what a Border Service Officer posted in a forum:


                    Duty rate = 31.22% per HLT (Hectolitre)
                    GST = 5%
                    Ontario Provincial Mark Up Tax = .676% on the Litre.
                    PST = 12 %

                    Honestly though, from my own personal experience and from the hundreds of posts I've read about people attempting similar things for a 6 pack they will more than likely just wave you through.

                      1. re: HarryLloyd

                        I'm confused by this link as it doesn't differentiate between spirits and beer and spirits are a whole different category which you pay higher duties for.

                        1. re: radiopolitic

                          is it? makes sense to me. its all based on units of alcohol regardless of "mixture".


                          1. re: HarryLloyd

                            Yeah, spriits fall into a different category. I'm 100% positive of this. When you go through the office where they process your fees they give you a receipt (I looked for mine last night but couldn't find it) where it lists what which subsection and code equivalent you're being charged for. There's even different categories for different alcohol %'s for beer and the duties change accordingly.

                            The first time I did this I called up Border Services and spent a good 3 hours on the phone with someone trying to figure out the exact breakdown.

                            The same BSO that I posted the link info on beer from posted this:


                            Duty = 11.696% per LPA Unit of Measure

                            GST = 5%

                            Ontario Provincial Liquor Mark Up Tax = 59.90%

                            PST = 12%

                            Duty rate may vary depending on type of hard alcohol, the rest of the taxes will be the same.

                  2. i don't know how i missed this considering it was probably split from my intervening into the hwy 61 thread... but anyhow.

                    yes, you can get A american microbrew on tap but it's very limited. the beer bistro rotates through their taps with high frequency and i find that brooklyn brewery (usually the lager) tends to get a feature fairly often. i've actually seen them at a couple (but only a couple) more bars around town but i can't say for sure where else. unless it's a dayna's pick right now it doesn't seem to be on beer bistros draught list at the moment. Brooklyn Brewery did do quite a bit of marketing though that i haven't seen american microbrews do in toronto before and i think they were hoping to have a strong impact but it never really materialized.

                    otherwise we're kind of SOL. i don't mind the bottles and will pick a beer that i prefer the flavour of overall than one that i just know is better draught. i relish my trips to philadelphia just because the sheer availability of delicious american microbrew on tap is utterly astounding in comparison. there is no way i will never order a beer with dinner there. too bad i can only handle a pint at a time, if that!

                    also, after trying the whole line of brooklyn brewery, i can say that they're absolutely competent at what they do and each one is of equal tastiness for each style... but there's nothing particularly amazing about them that would make me switch from a rogue in a bottle.

                    1. Unfortunately due to our ridiculously restrictive alcohol laws in Ontario, the wonderful American microbrews are not widely available. The only restaurants I know of with a selection of American microbrews in bottles have already been mentioned - Volo & Beer Bistro.

                      The LCBO where you can find the best beer selection is at 2 Cooper Street (Queen's Quay, just east of Yonge). While the selection is better than most, the American microbrews are still lacking. For instance, I believe the only American IPA's you can find are Dogfish Head 60 and Southern Tier. You can check the LCBO website for specific products.

                      While on topic of American microbrews, I just saw this awesome video the other day that has a brief history on American microbrews that could interest some people:

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: kwjd

                        I also found Brooklyn Lager which is quite nice at the Cooper St. store. A bit of hop for a lager, but I did enjoy it.