With its bustle of boutiques and quaint cafes, it seems nearly impossible to make Bloordale in west Toronto any more charming – but Burdock Brewery and Music Hall (1184 Bloor St.) is going to try.
Fully opened in April of 2015, Burdock is a small pub with big aspirations. With 12 taps, a modest sitting area, and a small patio, Burdock lacks the gaudy pretension of some other venues trying to cash in on the craft beer craze. One thing it does have, however, is a gleaming 1000 litre stainless steel brewery in the back and a passionate brewer ready to make some beer.
Burdock’s Co-owner and Brewery Operations Director, Matt Park, is a young, zealous brewer. When he came to Toronto from British Columbia, he felt starting a brewery was the logical thing to do.
“I moved to Toronto from BC, and I only had two skills – one was putting out forest fires and the other was brewing,” Park laughs. “It was like the only option.”
There are many bars which serve house-brewed beer, but few have the background Park and his team does – a team which includes Siobhan McPherson, who used to brew with Amsterdam and Mill St.
“She’s super technically skilled,” Park says. “She’s extremely talented.”
What began as Park’s hobby to make inexpensive alcohol soon became his career.
“I started in University making cheap hooch and kind of got carried away, until my apartment was covered in stainless steel and carboys,” Park jokes, noting there were many pitfalls, research and hurdles before he was able to open a brewery proper.
Burdock gets its name from the burr-like plant found ubiquitously across Eurasia and North America. Ironically, it is also often used as a liver-stimulant (something both the plant and the bar have in common). Park said the name was partially chosen as a nod to his interest in plants, but more importantly, because it sounds good.
Not limiting the plant-interest to its name, Burdock also sources greens grown on local high school rooftops for its menu, and even has a little hop garden growing out back, to one day include in their beers. Clearly, Burdock is a venue that places value on local, intimate integration.
Currently Burdock is pouring 12 ever-changing taps of their favourite brews from across Ontario and Quebec. Once the brewery is up and running, however, at least 6 of those taps will feature beers brewed at Burdock. But what’s brewing?
“We’ve got a good lineup of 6 beers we’re going to launch with. All fairly sessionable. We’re going to be coming out in the middle of summer so we want to keep it appropriate to the season,” Park explains. “I really like session ales, like lower alcohol spectrum stuff.”
“Bellwoods inspired me a lot with some of their table beers. Stay Classy is a favourite of mine. But I also like big nasty, massive dark beers that you can drink on a bearskin in the middle of night.”
Another theme that is going to run at Burdock’s is a focus on yeast. From trips to vineyards to observe fermentation techniques, to actually collecting wild yeast out in the field, Burdock wants these microscopic fungi to play centre-stage in their beer.
“We want to be a really yeast-centric brewery,” Park says. “Yeast are so powerful, they determine like 70 to 100 per cent of the flavour.”
On top of its beers, Burdock also features am acoustically tuned, sound-dampened music venue, where 25 shows in June alone will be played.
With its eclectic culture and local focus, Bloordale seems to be the perfect location for Burdock, and Park is well aware.
“We’re all about this neighbourhood. We love Bloordale,” Park says. “The people here are so friendly, there are so many great businesses. This neighbourhood is awesome, we’re stoked to be here.”
If you happen to find yourself meandering through West Toronto, and fancy a good pint of beer in a fantastic up-and-coming pub, you’ll be hard pressed to do better than Burdock. And, if you can wait until later this summer, you’ll be able to pop in and try a Burdock-brewed beer, custom created by its skilled and passionate team. It’s definitely a place you’ll want to stop by at, and sip a Burdock beer slow.