If you’re a beer geek visiting Toronto, Bellwoods Brewery has just been added to your itinerary.

Almost three years ago exactly I went to visit my then long-distance girlfriend in Toronto for the first time. I had just begun my journey into craft beer, and I wanted to see what the Six had to offer. I stumbled across Bellwoods one fateful day while getting some local ice cream, and things have never been the same.

Bellwoods Brewery first opened in 2012, and they have since expanded to a second location north of downtown Toronto, all the while putting out quality brews in a wide variety of styles. While I’ve had winners and losers alike from different breweries, I have yet to be disappointed by anything released from this Toronto spot. In the five years since their opening, Bellwoods has received a large number of accolades, including a gold medal for their Baltic Porter, Lost River.

Deep chocolate flavor and dark stone fruits wrapped in a delicious roasted malt body!

The space itself has a nice, natural feel to it. You can either sit at the wood countertop bar, one of many tables inside (and out, weather permitting), or on a balcony overlooking the whole space. From this vantage point you can people-watch or peek in at the brewing area while enjoying a delicious beer and some tasty food. The open garage door lets in a lot of natural light, but the more intimate alcoves in the taproom call for some candle-light dining experiences. With ten different taps, a large number of reserve bottles you can try and the occasional guest beer, Bellwoods is a great location to hit for a first time visit to the city.

Bellwoods brews are a treat for both the eyes and the taste buds!

One of Bellwoods’ greatest strengths is their barrel program. Over the years they have built up a robust catalog of barrel-aged sours and stouts, as well as several blended sours. One I’ve had recently was the 2017 edition of Motley Cru, a blend of 1 and 2 year barrels loaded with a ton of passion fruit puree. This beer was surprisingly tart, but the oak and wild yeasts provide a nice funky wood note to carry you from tartness to tropical passion fruit sweetness. Light, fruity and a crisp body makes for a great drink year round.

If you’re up for something a bit darker, 3 Minutes to Midnight is a Cognac barrel-aged Imperial Stout that brings some serious dark chocolate flavor. The cherries added round out the beer with a slight fruity tartness, and there is a raspberry version that I can not resist. This beer really is like drinking a liquid black forest cake!

Motley Cru brings the funky complexity only a blended sour can provide.

Lately, Bellwoods has been working on a series of milkshake style IPAs with a variety of fruit additions. Based on their Witchshark IPA, the Milkshark series has included peach, strawberry and blackberry variants, to name a few. I was recently able to try the vanilla and strawberry editions, my first time trying two together, and I couldn’t resist the temptation to mix them into a glass of strawberry-vanilla goodness. Both beers were super smooth, coating your mouth with long-lasting flavor. The double dry-hopped vanilla version naturally added some fruity citrus hop flavors and aromas to the otherwise intense level of vanilla, but I preferred the nice sweet tart twinge the strawberry version had to offer.

Bellwoods has fully embraced the Milkshake IPA style with these creamy treats!

Don’t get me wrong – I’m very happy that my relationship is no longer long-distance. But I lament in the fact that I don’t have as many reasons to visit this amazing brewery. All is not lost, however. Bellwoods now seems to be a growing name down here in the States, dropping collaborations with some very well-known breweries like Trillium and Other Half. I couldn’t be happier, and if you get your hands on one of their beers, you’ll know exactly why.