“Italians always drink beer with their pizza,” is an idea that North American beer geeks love to glom onto more than it is strictly true. I mean, sure, there is a lot of good beer in Italy—Rome is one of the best cities in southern Europe for it—but vino is still il re.
That bred-in-the-bone focus on wine is part of what makes it so remarkable that Eataly Toronto has a brewery in the basement. We have Jason Fisher, the founder of Indie Alehouse, to thank for that.
As the story goes, he began pestering Nicola Farinetti, son of the Eataly founder, before Toronto was on the long list of candidates for a store. As so often happens, Fisher’s perseverance paid off and his brewery was chosen to run the Birroteca venture that connects to the lower level of the Manulife Centre.
Under the general oversight of Jeff Broeders (Indie’s head brewer), John Jenkinson, formerly of Folly Brewpub on College, has taken the lead at Birroteca.
The beer selection
At opening, they had nine taps pouring their on-site brews that include original creations and Indie classics, like Lemonade Stand (their lemon and lactose sour) and Pepin the Short (a Belgian-style patersbier). The Eataly-specific portion of the list is built around an Italian-style pilsner tuned to go well with pizza and pasta. The rest are standouts like Lupo, a complex but easy-drinking pale ale and Dolce, a nearly 10%-bruiser of a pastry stout that tastes like tiramisu in a (appropriately small) glass.
As they get their feet wet and expand the diversity of beer recipes, the idea is to incorporate more spcialty ingredients from the grocery store. Likewise, the tightly focussed food menu for the 35-seat space will feature meat, cheese, bread, nuts and the like from Eataly.
What’s Eataly like?
Upstairs, in Eataly proper, there will be a total of four restaurants with up to a handful of Birroteca options on tap. (Some of them also have thoughtfully chosen draught lines and bottles or cans from breweries like Muddy York and Collective Arts.)
The bottle shop—possibly the only one in Toronto attached to the PATH?—might be the most attractive draw for downtown Torontonians. There, you’ll find some Indie classics like the Fates & Furies series but also the site-specific offerings.
Why does a grocery story need a brewery? Well, Eataly Toronto (like the other 39 locations around the world) is more like a dozen or so restaurants and cafes with a few culinary gift shops sprinkled between them. Sure, there is a fish counter (run by Diana’s, no less), fresh pasta and all the rest, but it’s the dining that is clearly meant to be the big draw. And that’s one of the many reasons why it makes sense that Indie, one of Toronto’s most successful and creative brewpubs, is there to provide the hoppy refreshment.