The 3 Brewers
After 3+ years of negotiations and tireless work trying to crack the Ontario market, Les 3 Brasseurs, or The 3 Brewers as they're going by in Toronto, opened June 15th on Yonge Street just south of the newly developed Dundas Square. It has been an interesting time watching the building transform from an empty shell on a prime piece of Toronto real estate into what it is today.
"The building that sat here before only had one floor and when we took it over it was a complete shell. We pretty much built this place from scratch," stated Gerry Kakaroubas, one of the owners of Les 3 Brasseurs. "We are really excited about finally being open here in Toronto, a city that appears to be interested in the craft beer movement that is sweeping North America." Kakaroubas was in town to watch over the first few days of operations before heading back to his home in Montreal and was very pleased with the turnout on day one.
Les 3 Brasseurs was established by a family of brewers back in 1986 with the first establishment opening in Place de la Gare a Lille in Northern France. The company became so successful that many more sites were opened in France, 28 to be exact, and the company soon set their sights on the Quebec market. There are now five locations in Montreal each with capacities nearing 300, and each location produces and serves the same beers, using the same recipes.
The Toronto location is no different than the others, layout excepted. The same five beers are brewed on-site and seasonal products are expected to be offered to customers in the very near future. "We have been brewing here in Toronto and we currently have our four draught beers available," stated Kakaroubas as he lead a group of us on a tour of the entire restaurant/brewpub. "Right now you can order our Blond, Amber Passion (Red), Belgian Wit, and Virago Brown Ale from the tap lines, and our La Belle Province bottled beer is currently fermenting downstairs." La Belle Province is an Amber brewed with maple syrup. Unlike other brewpubs, The 3 Brewers won't be selling growlers or the La Belle Province for take home, not yet anyways.
Upon entering the Toronto location you are immediately standing in front of the glassed in brewing vessels. The copper kettles are polished and shining, catching the attention of each individual who enters. Heading past the brewing area you'll come to the long attractive 'L' shaped wooden bar with a copper topping. You'll find 15 or so bar back chairs waiting to accommodate you.
The bartender pours pints from the copper covered draught tower, which hides the lines that come down from the cooling tanks holding the finished product. No kegs here, everything comes straight from the tanks. "We plan to brew 28 days a month in this location," said Kakaroubas. "In Montreal we brew 30-35 batches a month, so we're playing it safe here for now, but we'll see what happens."
Above the bar sits a number of wooden barrels and old wooden beer crates baring Les 3 Brasseurs lettering, which are suspended on a loft-like barn floor. This bar, although new, shiny, and sleek, has an old European feel to it. It could be because one of the brewers was standing behind the bar talking to customers, pouring beer with his apron on.
In front of the bar is a long island seating area with more high bar back chairs that face the opposite wall of the bar and separate the room. A number of booths are in the front of the island, but are separated by etched glass atop the lengthy island, offering a little privacy.
Back out to the front of the building. There are a bunch of tables situated close to the large windows, which open up to offer patrons an unobstructed view of the always busy Yonge Street. The windows were open last night and the nice gentle breeze coming in off the street was pleasant. The open windows are also a great way of attracting customers. Many people walked by, glanced in, turned around and came in to check things out, sometimes walking in through the window. "I think we'll get a lot of foot traffic stopping by. Whether it be shoppers from the mall across the road, or people leaving the theatre."
Right in the middle of the pub is a set of stairs that take you up to the second level where more seating awaits. When walking up the stairs you'll notice a large wooden sign illustrating the brewing process in graphic format. To the immediate left of the stairs is a brick encased gas fireplace that will be pleasant to sit near during our cold winter months. Although the second floor is large and spacious, it still retains a small cozy atmosphere with a number of small 'snugs' tucked away on the rear wall. There are a number of small tables right next to a couple of windows that put you right above Yonge street, a good place to people watch. The east side of the building features the fermenting tanks, surrounded by glass panels and is decorated with green hop stenciling. And just like the copper tanks below on the first floor they're nice and shiny.
Up another flight of small stairs and you're on the third level where another full service bar is in full swing. More seats, some attractive wooden brewing barrels hanging from the ceiling with chains, along with the bottom of an old maltster and more beer crates and scattered beer signage are all situated on this floor and create a nice visual affect.
One more flight of stairs and you're almost shaking God's hand. There is a private entertaining area that can accommodate up to 50 guests that Kakaroubas states will be used for birthday's, special events, and private parties. A large skylight brings in a lot of natural light that transmits down to the 1st floor and creates a beautiful glow off the tanks.
As you can gather, this brewpub is huge. Kakaroubas mentions that capacity is set at 300 and on busy weekend nights I have no doubt that this place will be rocking from street level all the way to the top. The music can be a little loud and abrasive, but it did settle down as the night wore on. All the servers were friendly and courteous and to show how serious they are about their business Kakaroubas has brought over a number of experienced staff from Montreal locations to work here in Toronto. "Some of the cooks, servers, and managers have relocated to Toronto from Montreal to get us up and running and one of the brewers recently came back from brewing at the Papeete location in the French Polynesia to brew here."
The beers are well made, subtle, not crazy, but definitely done right. After sampling all five during our visit I walked away thinking that the Belgian Wit was the best of the bunch - nice and refreshing, thirst quenching and true to style. The price per pint is quite reasonable too. A pint of the Blond and the Red cost $5.50 and the Wit and the Brown will set you back $5.85. Pitchers run for $13.95 and $14.95 and a sample of the four draught beers cost $6.75. And The 3 Brewers also offer the option of purchasing a one litre glass at $8.75 - $9.10, a great deal for the hefty mug, or schooner as the boys out east call them. A bottle of the La Belle Province cost $11.45 and we had ours poured by the brewmaster himself, making sure the bottle didn't touch the glass. The beer geeks out there will also be happy to hear that the Toronto location will take part in the seasonal beer program that all other locations offer. "We will be doing new beers every two months or so, like a Christmas beer, an Oktoberfest, a Spring beer, and more," claimed Kakaroubas.
I was impressed with my first ever visit to a Les 3 Brasseur location and I welcome the Toronto brewpub with open arms. Ontario needs to see more of this. Lord knows we have the room. It's a great addition to the local beer scene and I hope it attracts both the most serious of beer drinkers to the inexperienced.
***Video courtesy of Cass Enright.