My trip to the Ceili a couple of weeks ago also included a stop in at Castro’s Lounge, a bar in the Beach(es) known for cheap bottles of good beer. It was a bar that I was unaware of until Chris from Castro’s started up the Toronto Beer Blog and have been meaning to give the bar a try ever since. (Chris also hosts beer events at Castro’s, so check out his blog and send him a message to find out about what is coming up.) The easy reference has to be the Only Cafe on the Danforth and not just because the two bars reside east of Yonge. They are similar in most ways – size, feel and beer selection. The assortment of furniture feels thrown together at random, a collection of scraps from back alleys and garage sales. The lighting is turned down really low, almost to non-existent levels. Lots of dark, warn wood and a random collection of artifacts on the walls helps create a laissez-faire vibe. Lots of small tables squeezed into the space rather than the communal vibe that goes on at a place like the Ceili. Castro’s definitely has an intimate feel and lots of the other tables were obviously involved in deep conversations.
There is an old, tattered beer menu and, just like the Only Cafe, it is massively out of date and does not tell the true story of what they have to offer. From my table I spotted a line-up of Trappist beers in the fridge – Rochefort, Achel, Westmalle and maybe a Chimay Bleue. Lots of other European imports were available, mixed in with local craft beer. Next time I won’t ask for a beer menu, but just head straight back to look into the fridge and explore. There were probably some beers on tap, but my brain was too busy choosing which delightful Belgian ale I felt like to notice.
To get nit-picky, the beers are a little cold out of the fridge, but it is hard to complain when a bottle of Achel Brun is priced at just over $7. The relaxed atmosphere is great for beer geeks or the casual drinker, especially because you can try a lot of great beers without having to spend as much as you would at beerbistro. Beers were served with the proper glassware, which is always nice to see. It seemed strange that I had never heard of this gem until last year, but the location is probably what helps keep it under the radar (at least with those of us living in the west-end). Castro’s is definitely worth the long streetcar ride, just make sure you don’t fall asleep on the way back.