NeighBEERhood Crawl With Amsterdam Brewery, Kensington Market

Craft Beer
The Natural Blonde by Amsterdam Brewery.

Over the past few years, the craft beer scene in Toronto has exploded. Just take a walk through the beer aisles at the LCBO and you’ll see how much shelf-space is dedicated to craft beer. As more and more beer lovers actively seek out unique brews for their individual palates, the industry is responding. And responding in amazing fashion.

One of the first truly craft breweries in Toronto is Amsterdam Brewery. Since 1986, they’ve been part of the revolution we see in the beer scene today. Using only traditional brewing methods, their beers are brewed fresh daily and include 6 year-round brews and a variety of seasonal offerings. In 2013, Amsterdam Brewery opened a new brew house right on the water’s edge of Lake Ontario. Merging the food and beer experience under one roof, it’s one of the best spots in the city to sit back with some friends on a hot summer’s day.

This summer, Amsterdam Brewery has partnered up with Toronto’s premier walking tour experience company, Tour Guys, for a series of “Neighbeerhood Crawls”. Part pub-crawl, part walking-tour, it’s an immersive experience for guests that incorporates Amsterdam beers, great local bars, delicious local food, graffiti sightseeing and historical revelations.

This past weekend I was invited to experience their second Neighbeerhood Crawl and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity! Each crawl takes place in a different part of Toronto and so for this installment we met up in Kensington Market to explore the neighbourhood and learn about its history and incredible graffiti culture.

We kicked things off at Supermarket with an Amsterdam Natural Blonde and sweet-potato chips. Dave from Amsterdam Brewery explained a bit about the beer, a blonde lager made with all natural ingredients and the first beer the brewery started producing. It was crisp, smooth and very refreshing for this particularly hot and sunny day.

Kensington Market Toronto
Freshly baked empanadas from El Gordo Empanadas.

Showing off his fine hosting skills, Dave made sure we weren’t drinking on empty stomachs. We headed down the street to 214 Augusta Ave, a medley of various food stands sharing a single space, to lay a base with empanadas. Greeted by the owner, Alfonsio, of El Gordo Empanadas, we got to choose from a huge selection including chorizo, chicken, and even kimchi stuffed Chilean-style empanadas.

With one beer down and some food to soak it all up, we were now ready to learn a bit about the neighbourhood. Dave handed the reigns over to the incredibly knowledgeable Jason from Tour Guys. I’ve taken a tour with Jason before and I highly recommend you do too if you get the chance. I’m always blown away with this guy’s breadth of knowledge and enthusiasm for sharing it with others.

Kensington Market Toronto
Jason showing off Kensington Market’s Garden Car. It’s a park in a car, or a parked car!

Kensington Market is a special place in Toronto. It’s the only area in the city where big commercial chain stores won’t be found, with locals even fighting against any that try. Seriously, Google ‘Walmart + Kensington Market’ and you’ll see what I mean. The area prides itself on small, locally owned and operated shops, many of which have called the neighbourhood home for decades.

Kensington Market is also the most ethnically diverse area in the city with a rich history. In the early twentieth century, the area was mainly inhabited by Jewish immigrants. They converted the front rooms of the Victorian Style homes into shops and thus the “Jewish Market” was born. After the Second World War, the Jews moved north of the city and Italians and Portuguese immigrants moved in. Later, immigrants from the Caribbean, East Asia, Central America, Africa, and China moved in.

Graffiti Kensington Market.
Jason talked about the many different graffiti pieces you’ll find in the neighbourhood. Respect is currency amongst graffiti artists. The more respect you have, the longer your piece stays up.

Speaking of graffiti, it was time for round two. Dave ushered us over to Graffiti’s, one of the oldest bars in Kensington Market and home to Black Metal Sunday brunches. The timing of our arrival couldn’t have been any better as the band that was playing that afternoon were coming back to do another set. Our next brew on the menu was the Big Wheel, an amber ale that strikes a great balance between an ale and lager, perfect to enjoy on a summer day.

Craft Beer Toronto
Stop number 2: Graffiti’s for a Big Wheel.
King of Kensington
After Graffiti’s, we took a walk to Bellevue Square to learn about the King of Kensington, Al Waxman.

After having the chance to meet royalty, it was time to wrap things up at our last stop of the crawl. Handlebar is a relative newbie in the neighbourhood whose name is inspired by the bicycle-loving locals and choice of facial hair rocked by many of the patrons. They hold some interesting events including a recent indoor bicycle race as evidenced by the rubber tire marks covering the floor. The bicycle seemed to be a running theme for the day. Dave handed out the last beer we would try on this tour and let me tell you, it wasn’t for the faint of heart. Boneshaker is everything its name implies. It’s an unfiltered American IPA at 7.1% and packs a hoppy punch. Even seasoned IPA drinkers will feel an extra kick in the pants from this one.

Handlebar Toronto
Not for the faint of heart, the boneshaker will shake you to the core!

Amsterdam Brewery bills themselves as the neighbourhood beer, where you can find their products everywhere. As I said my goodbyes and meandered my way out of the Market, I thought about how well this rings true in this neighbourhood. An all natural area, locally run and supported, well balanced with countless ethnicities, and an edgier side for the adventurous.

NeighBEERhood Crawl Ticket Giveaway!

Amsterdam Brewery and Tour Guys will be running two more installments of their neighbeerhood crawls in the fall. Unfortunately, you can’t buy tickets to these tours. The only way you can get on one of these crawls is to win tickets. You can follow them on social media to find out when their next contest is. But, I’m excited to share that they’ve given me a pair of tickets for their next event to give away to one lucky reader right here! The neighbourhood and date have yet to be announced but you can expect it to occur on a Sunday in September.

So how can you score a pair of tickets? Simply comment below about what your favourite craft beer is and why, along with a neighbourhood in Toronto you’re most interested in learning more about. A winner will be randomly drawn out of a hat and announced on my Facebook Page.

Nitty Gritty: The contest is open to those 19 years of age and older. No purchase necessary. You don’t need to be based in Toronto, but note that the tours take place in the city and transportation to and from the neighbourhood will not be covered. If you are unable to attend, a runner up will be chosen instead.


UPDATE: The contest is now closed. Thank you to everyone who entered!



38 thoughts on “NeighBEERhood Crawl With Amsterdam Brewery, Kensington Market

  1. My favourite craft beer is Great Lakes Brewery’s recently rebranded Canuck Ale. Crisp and refreshing, sessionable with a nice amount of hoppiness to it. The neighbourhood I would most like to learn more about is Kensignton, obviously an area with a lot of history and a lot of character.

    1. I enjoy the Canuck Ale too though I almost didn’t try it because I thought their old design was cheesy, haha. Love the new rebrand!

  2. Self confessed IPA lover… And Boneshaker rocks my socks!! Hops and Robbers is also a go to, and lately Detour by Muskoka Brewery has been my easy summer drink – good for day time drinking and after softball! I’d love a tour of Cabbagetown, I’ve always wanted to know more about my hood.

  3. I’m a newbie to beer and can’t name my fav craft brand but the neighbourhood I would like to explore is Kensington!

    1. We all have to start somewhere 🙂 That’s way a tour is great because you get to sample a variety and see which ones stand out for you.

  4. I’ve heard some great things about the Tour Guys but have yet to go on one of their tours – plus beer and food too? I’m in!

      1. oops – got all excited about the tour and didn’t give you that info did I? I’m a novice when it comes to beer and am only getting into it now having visited a few craft beer places in Buffalo. I’ve heard some great things about Flying Monkey (and I love the name). I actually grew up in Kensington Market but its been years since I’ve been back and even then – I know nothing about the real history of the neighbourhood.

  5. I love Kensington! I usually go to Urban Herbivore or Wanda’s but now I’m going to stick to Fatso Empanadas and beer.

  6. Looks like a fantastic tour, I want to go!
    My favourite craft beer recently is Beau’s Lug Tread Lagered Ale and it’s everywhere right now so that’s fortunate for me. The neighborhood I’d love to know more about is Kensington. I spend so much time there but don’t know much about its history.

  7. Did a photo tour of Kensington Market at TBEX and loved it. The market car is a brilliant, eye catching idea. Love the sound of empanadas washed down with a Boneshaker.

  8. My favourite craft beer is Beau’s All Natural or Flying Monkey. I would love a tour of Distillery or Kensington 🙂

  9. Thanks for coming on the tour and writing such a nice post about it! A lot of love from commenters here for Kensington Market. Tour Guys operates Toronto Urban Adventures and there’s a Kensington Market & Chinatown tour every morning but Mondays at 10am. Book a group of 4+ people online with the promo code SUMMERFRIENDS and save 25% on the whole booking!

  10. Woooo! This looks so fun. Too many beers to choose from these days, but I had the Amsterdam Fracture again recently…so delicious! I never get over to Greektown but would lvoe to check it out more…

  11. My fav craft beer is St.Ambroise Apricot Wheat Ale, I love the fruity taste to this refreshing wheat ale! I would like to learn more about the Leslieville area.

    1. Oh that’s a great one for a hot summer’s day. Very refreshing indeed! I don’t know much about Leslieville myself, so I’d love to learn more too!

  12. Looks like a great time! Favourite Craft Beer is Sawdust City’s Lone Pine IPA, and as far as neighbourhoods go: The Danforth!

  13. I don’t know the name of it, but it is made by a local brewer and served at the Indie Ale House, a smores stout. Rich, chocolatey, marshmallow-grahamy goodness reminds me of simple times with good company around a campfire. And since the indie ale house is located in the junction, that is an area I’d like to learn more about!

  14. Boneshaker by Amsterdam has to be the number one beer for me, a great amount of hops without being overbearing. Nice and unfiltered for a straight-from-the-tanks vibe, super refreshing. I’d love to learn more about the Junction

  15. I love the Raspberry one by Amsterdam because I’m a girly girl who likes fruit in my beer 🙂

  16. Boneshaker and Twice as Mad Tom are definitely up there for me. I’m a fan of trying any Craft Beer I can get my hands on though! Kensington is an area I’d be interested in.

  17. I have too many to name, but one of top fave’s is Beau’s Smokin Banana Peels. The Junction would be a neat place to check out!

  18. I have too many to name, but one of top faves is Beau’s Smokin Banana Peels. The Junction would be a neat place to check out!

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