Don’t know your hefeweizen from your dunkelweiss? The brand-new Beer Academy will get you sorted.
Opening up an institution for the appreciation of beer can be a tricky thing. Sure, there’s no shortage of punters willing to knock back a cold glass of brew, but getting those same people to think of beer in a more refined manner—to treat beer like wine, essentially—can present a challenge. It’s the one faced by Todd Fowler and Justin Lamontagne, the brewmaster and beer sommelier, respectively, at the recently opened Beer Academy. “We’re not trying to be preachy, and we don’t want to come off as know-it-alls,” says Lamontagne. “We just want people to enjoy and learn about beers.”
Located in the old Duggan’s Brewery on Victoria Street, the Beer Academy is the headquarters of Six Pints Specialty Beer Company, founded last year by Ontario’s Creemore Springs and B.C.’s Granville Island to broaden their reach into the beer market. In addition to the brewery, there’s a tasting room, retail store, and events space, all centred around the Beer Academy’s mandate of “creating beer enthusiasts.” It’s something Fowler and Lamontagne, as well as their staff, take very seriously. Whether they’re debating the merits of an Ammersee glass versus a Brussel glass for different beers, or discussing why a three-year-old aged Britannia cheddar is the perfect accompaniment to a glass of just-colder-than-room-temperature India Pale Ale, there’s a lot of passion on display.
“The key with everything we’ve brewed in-house is that it acts as an introduction to different beers,” Fowler says. “We don’t want people to be scared off from a beer because of its colour. We want them to be able to engage with it.” One of the ways the Beer Academy hopes to accomplish this is by putting less of an emphasis on beer brands and more on beer styles. Currently, Fowler has five in-house batches on offer: a porter, with dark chocolate and coffee undertones; a citrusy, peppery take on the kolsch; a dunkelweiss, inspired by chocolate-chip banana bread; a tart, spicy Belgian brown ale; and a bitter, slightly hoppy English-style IPA. In the brewery’s tasting room, curious beer fans can sample these suds by the flight and chat with the brewing team. They’re even offered small tasting cards detailing the ingredients and process that went into a given batch. Growlers of house beer are also available for purchase, so the education can continue at home.
With patrons checking the clarity of each beer, sniffing for subtle notes, and sampling half a dozen flights, the Beer Academy isn’t exactly a typical urban microbrewery. It’s a good spot for an after-work pint, but it’s perhaps not a raucous-night-out-on-the-town type of place. “This isn’t the kind of beer you would drink to get smashed,” says Lamontagne. “We think of it more as the kind of beer that’ll smash your taste buds with flavour.”
The Beer Academy, 75 Victoria St., @beeracademyto.