Let The Drinker Decide #BrewedAwakening
Those familiar with my beer writing over the past 25 years know that I am not a fan of the terms craft beer or gastropub. It’s because they assume too much.
In the early days of modern Canadian brewing (starting in the 80s), we classified the new beers coming out as microbrews because they were from small breweries. No one called them craft breweries. When you use the C word, it’s basically implying that the beer is well crafted, which is by no means a guarantee from any new brewery, regardless of its size. Let beer lovers and – to some extent – us critics, writers and judges determine if the beer is good. Otherwise, please just call it what it is: beer.
The same goes for gastropub. Calling yourself that just opens up the potential for criticism. It creates an expectation that the food at the pub will be better than that of other pubs, and it also means it costs more. I’m not a food critic, but I expect that any food critic would tell you not to put the words fine dining in a restaurant name or in its marketing/menu. If the food is good, your reputation will speak for itself. People will know.
A good example of a pub with excellent food and beer is The Oxley, a gorgeous little spot in Yorkville, Toronto. I was there last week for supper, and again for lunch the next day, because I enjoyed it so much. They offer a nice beer (and wine) selection, three cask ales, and a menu that contains both standard pub fare – burgers and fish & chips – and items you’d normally expect at a premium restaurant, such as the soy braised beef short ribs that I enjoyed for dinner. And, yes, the prices are up there. That dish was $31.
They also do a nice job on cask ale. Durham’s Red Dragon was on form. Durham is an excellent local brewery established in the 90s that specializes in UK style ales and knows how to prepare a cask ale properly. I enjoyed many of their ales at C’est What when I lived in Ontario. Red Dragon is richly textured and malt driven, with a delicious toasty note that the bartender accurately described as ‘Coffee Crisp,’ and it is a modest 4.7% alcohol.
Yes, The Oxley is a great pub, a pretty pub, a popular pub and a busy pub with elevated cuisine that serves some well crafted beer. But I still won’t refer to it as a gastropub.