Toronto’s finest craft brewer celebrates 25 years
It’s as synonymous with Toronto as the CN Tower and the Blue Jays—to discerning beer drinkers at least. And yet, Toronto’s finest, and first, craft brewery is named Amsterdam.
Amsterdam Brewing Co. first opened in 1986 on 133 John St. in downtown Toronto. Owner Roel Bramer named his company after the city from his native Holland, selling a variety of brews and fare from The Amsterdam Brassiere and Brewpub.
It was in 1988 when Bramer started a second brew pub on King St. W., which he eventually turned into the Amsterdam Brewing Co.
“Two great pubs became one,” they say, and the Amsterdam Brewing Co. is a mainstay at 21 Bathurst St., at Lakeshore Blvd. And yes, if you are noticing, the neighbourhoods that Amsterdam moves to quickly turn into the city’s liveliest neighbourhoods only a few years later.
It’s no coincidence, says owner Jeff Carefoote, who took over the brewery in 2002, and who has taken the mantel of creating the freshest craft beer for the city.
“The brewery has been in the city since its inception and it has always been at the edge of where the city was moving,” says Carefoote. “When the brewery moved to King and Portland, King Street wasn’t what it is today certainly, but now there is no more desirable real estate. Now we are at Lakeshore and Bathurst and now this area is much embraced. Anybody that wants to develop an area should call us and we’ll put up a brewery.”
(416) Urban Wheat
A testament to its great tasting unique beers, the Amsterdam Brewing Co. is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and business has never been better. Carefoote and his team decided to take the opportunity to raise a toast to their beloved city and commissioned a beer that would commemorate and celebrate its origins.
The Amsterdam Brewing Co. has launched the (416) Urban Wheat—named after Toronto’s area code—as an homage to its city.
“We wanted to do something to celebrate the city and our achievement,” says Carefoote.
“We talked about kinds of beers we could make that would be suitable for people who aren’t as familiar with craft beer. We came up with idea of it being an urban wheat beer. It is very drinkable but with some body and colour, and a distinct aroma. We think (416) Urban Wheat isn’t like any other beer in terms of taste profile.”
“Most people make bold anniversary beers,” says Jamie Mistry, Amsterdam’s brew master. “What I mean is very strong, high alcohol beers with a focus on what we call true beer aficionados. We wanted to create something that everyone could try and everyone could enjoy—a beer with great flavour and taste.”
416 Urban Wheat is an American Wheat Ale, which is a clean hopped light beer, made predominately with malted and unmalted wheat. The results are a slightly hoppier brew than a typical light beer with aromatic citrus notes and a lemon zest smell and that comes from the hops themselves.
“We made this brand for this city that we grew up in and have been in for 25 years,” says Blake van Delft, Marketing Coordinator. “Being a business, whatever you do, it’s a testament to your customers and yourself if you survive 25 years. We felt making (416) Urban Wheat was a good way to say ‘thank you’ to the people that have supported us in Toronto for the past 25 years and to give them a beer they could call their own.”
Amsterdam Brewing is a Toronto centric business, which is just how Carefoote likes it.
“I live here. The volumes have grown, that is for sure, with more consumers that put these kinds of beers into their consideration set in their stores.”
In the past 25 years, Toronto’s craft brewing industry has grown with the Amsterdam Brewing Co., and a community of beer lovers and drinkers has been mutually beneficial.
According to Carefoote, the products have gotten considerably better and more and more are built with the consumer in mind. All those things are factors in what has helped the Amsterdam Brewing Co. grow and thrive in this millennium.
To kick off Toronto’s Beer Week, held September 16 to 24, the Amsterdam Brewing Co. will welcome fans and friends to their brewery for a special tour. If you can’t make it, perhaps try Amsterdam beer in one of the many bars to which the beer is delivered fresh, daily. You’ll be hard pressed to find many other beers that were delivered the day it is ordered.
“The business has evolved and continues to grow—we are now into our second generation of drinkers,” says Carefoote.
So raise a toast to the Amsterdam Brewing Co. with (416) Wheat Ale. “It feels great,” says Carefoote. “It’s pretty significant in today’s world, to be growing even after 25 years, and it’s an accomplishment we are proud of. We want to give credit to the people that made that happen and the people who love our beer.”