May 17


Bellwoods Brewery, 124 Ossington

As a relatively new transplant to Toronto from the West Coast, one of the things that I miss is beer. I mean real beer, like the I.P.A’s that are almost as easy to find as water in Vancouver from beer capitals like Portland, San Diego, and San Francisco. Going to a LCBO store here can lead a hops lover to despair and the not very aptly named Beer Store seems like a cruel joke. But like most major centres these days there is an uprising against the monopoly that the beer giants have over consumers, and new breweries are opening all over the Greater Toronto Area and Niagara region every month. An example is the success of mid-size Ontario breweries like Mill Street, Steam Whistle, and Amsterdam, but what interests me even more are the tinier DIY breweries. These new breweries can be found on tap around town at dedicated beer bars like Bar Volo and Beer Bistro and favourites of mine include Oast House, Church Key, and Great Lakes Brewery. One brewery though that has really stood out for me is Bellwoods which is considered by many to be the best new brewery in Canada.

bellwoods pub

Conveniently located close to my house in the trendy Ossington-Dundas area, Bellwoods has gone quickly from upstart brewery to neighbourhood fixture. They are so popular that one cannot travel a single block in the neighbourhood without seeing the ubiquitous red bell that is their logo, found on all their bottles, tote bags, t-shirts, and cardboard carrying cases. Started just over a year ago by Luke Pestl and Mike Clark, formerly brewers at Amsterdam Brewing, it is stationed in a transformed old auto garage complete with sliding garage doors. With 20 foot plus ceilings it is perfect for their fermenting tanks, but it also houses their own minimalist farm chic pub that wouldn’t feel out of place in Brooklyn or Portland. Their white picket fenced patio with picnic tables is the area’s most sought after spot for an after work beer in the summer and they also have a bustling retail space at the side which sells their bottled products exclusively. As well, this spring saw them launching a new food menu that features an excellent short ribs dish with shitake slaw and pickled potatoes as well as a beer friendly Pork Belly and Clams. Plus they still have on the menu their ever popular charcuterie board and for the more adventurous, grilled duck hearts. In a recent article in New York Times, Bellwoods was at the top of their list for places to visit if you had just one day in Toronto. I couldn’t agree more.

Here are my three favourite beers that are currently available in bottles at their on-site retail shop:

Wizard Wolf

WIZARD WOLF (Dry-Hopped Session Ale)

Bellwoods version of a session pale ale, this one weighs in at 4.8% alcohol, but still has a high enough level of hops which gives it a complex flavour. It pours a nice golden colour and is has a slight pineapple taste without being too fruity. One of my favourite every day drinking beers, I wish they could serve this at my local sports bar while I watch the Jays play.

bellwoods beer

WITCHSHARK (Imperial Indian Pale Ale)

As I mentioned earlier, I love those hoppy I.P.A beers that dominate the West Coast scene. So I was very happy when I took my first sip of Witchshark – in fact it is the beer that originally converted me to Bellwoods tasty brews. As a double I.P.A it is definitely the hoppiest of their beers and with an alcohol volume of 9% you must be careful as one can hardly stop at a single. I enjoy drinking it best on the patio accompanied by their charcuterie plate.



I was pleasantly surprised by this one, as to be honest I have never been much of a fan of German beers. One of Bellwoods newest concoctions, it was inspired, of course, by a trip to Portland. It is very hops- forward for a Hefeweizen and is complimented quite nicely by banana and citrus flavour notes. I enjoyed it so much that it is certain to be my new summer beach beer or for chilling in the evening at nearby Trinity-Bellwoods park.

Beyond picking up their beer at the shop you can also find it on tap at over 10 local bars and restaurants in Toronto including hotspot Parkdale taqueria Grand Electric and David Chang’s T.O. outpost of Momofuku. Unfortunately though their facilities are currently too small to accommodate distribution outside of the GTA. So for now you are going to have a hard time finding Bellwoods in your town which is kind of rough since they were ranked the world’s 3rd best new brewery in 2013 by highly influential beer blog It just means you have another excuse to visit the big smoke and check out all the great new restaurants and bar that have made the city become one of North America’s rising culinary destinations.

May 3

Twigs - How’s That (by twigstv)

#afterhours #trippymane

Muscle Shoals documentary


When you think of the major cities that produced Soul and R&B music in the Sixties, most people automatically mention Detroit, Chicago, and Memphis. They are the holy trinity of course, but one little town on the border of Alabama and Tennessee gave each city a run for their money. That place is called Muscle Shoals and the subject of this excellent documentary that premiered this week at Toronto’s Hot Docs Festival.  It was there in Muscle Shoals at FAME Studios that a group of session players called The Swampers produced a string of hits for many legendary artists, beginning with Percy Ledge’s international smash ‘A Man Loves a Woman’. Other vocalists who cut some of their most sucessful records at the studio, include Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, The Staple Singers,  and Etta James.

aretha at Muscle Shoals

But here is the thing, the sessions musicians at FAME Studios were not the African-American Jazz or Blues musicians who performed the hit Soul and R&B records in other major cities. Nope, these players were good ol’ country folk and most of this documentary explores what is literally in the water, mud, and spirit of Muscle Shoals that produced musicians who could create such a “nasty groove.”Not only did this unlikely crew produce incredible soul music, but in the late sixties and early seventies these same musicians from this tiny village than gave birth to Southern Rock. As further hit records were recorded by bands like, Lynard Skynard, The Allman Brothers, and even The Rolling Stones. Besides featuring some of the best music ever recorded, the highlights of the documentary are the interviews in which we get to hear the incredible behind the scenes stories from legends like the incredibly funny Keith Richards.Yet the most touching and amazing story of all is that of FAME Studio founder Rick Hall, who overcomes a lifetime of tragedy and in the process changes the course of music history. Not only a great film for fans of 60′s Soul and R&B but for fans of music in general.

View trailer here

Playing two more times this weekend at Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Friday May 3, 6:15pm

Saturday May 4, 9:00pm

Apr 25

Wild Nothing // “A Dancing Shell”  #music4spring

Mac Miller - S.D.S.

Fly Lo production jazzy soulful production graces this track from Mac’s forthcoming sophomore album, Watching Movies with the Sound Off. If you dig Captain Murphy then you be all over this!

Apr 16

Paul White ft. Danny Brown - “Street Lights” (Official Music Video) (by pitchforktv)

Apr 15

Ghostface Killah performs with Adrian Younge on Jimmy Fallon promoting  their excellent new cinematic hip hop opus, Twelve Reasons to Die. The track is called, I Declare War, and it gave me the chills

First video from Pro Era’s new mixtape, Peep The Apocraclypse, finds the boys in good form enjoying the “sights”.

PRO ERA - OVERSEA (by Creative Control)

Apr 4


Karelia Kitchen, 1194 Bloor St west, Toronto

While reading Marcus Samuelsson’s terrific memoir, Yes, Chef, it suddenly occurred to me that I have never eaten real Scandinavian food. As my friends and family can attest, I love to eat everything and I can go on for days about my food obsessions such as Taiwanese soup dumplings, Vietnamese Pho, Mexican tortas, etc. I am sure you get my point, but here was a food culture that I was only faintly familiar with. Like most people of course, I have indulged in my young adult days in my fair share of budget Ikea Swedish meatballs. I don’t think that really counts though, that is like saying you are familiar with Italian pasta because you eat Chef Boyardee. I kind of felt embarrassed at my ignorance as I read Samuelsson’s delicious accounts of his family dinners. Nowadays a lot of people like to discuss the highly regarded Copenhagen restaurant Noma like they have been there but probably like me the closest they will ever get to eating Noma’s food is eating at restaurant currently employed by a chef who staged there briefly for a summer. And even then it is more about technique then Scandinavian ingredients or dishes. So it was with great excitement that I happened upon the small Scandinavian café and smokehouse, Karelia Kitchen, located on West Bloor in the up-and-coming neighbourhood of Bloordale.

baby shrimp smorrebrod

The decor of Karelia Kitchen, will do nothing to stop whatever Ikea preconceptions you may harbour with its typically clean modernist  design that one would expect from a Scandinavian restaurant. Some may call it Nordic cool.  I kind of enjoy it’s stuck in the Nineties vibe as you are certain to hear in their music rotation down tempo classics such as, Thievery Corporation or the Café Del Mar compilations. What they specialize in is Smorrebrod, which is officially now my new favourite lunch. Smorrebrod is a beautifully presented open sandwich that tastes as good as it looks. It starts with a dense rye bread, generously smeared with a creamy butter (almost mayo like), topped then with either cured meats or smoked fish and then adorned with beautiful garnishes such as herb sprigs, candied dehydrated onion, or preserved lemons. It is just lovely and my favourite is a luscious beet cured gravlax or their excellent baby shrimp salad which is topped with an artfully presented hard-boiled egg wedge. I also really enjoyed the made daily golden beet and barley salad as a side. As well, on the weekends Karelia does their own take on brunch which features many more Scandinavian specialties, such as scrambled duck eggs, smoked trout, and blueberry griddle cakes. Get there early as it is extremely popular. And yes, in case you were curious, they also serve meatballs.

beet cured gravlax

Darrell Banks-Somebody (Somewhere) Needs You (Revilot Records)


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