Arguably no beer is more implicitly associated with Toronto than Steam Whistle. Their easy-to-drink style and prominence in most bars in the city makes Steam Whistle a reliable go-to beer for a lot of beer-drinking Torontonians and the tourist-friendly location of their brewery means that Steam Whistle is a requisite stop for a lot of visiting Jays fans looking to get a bit of a buzz before surrendering to the $9-for-a-watery-macro-lager nonsense that is the Roger’s Centre. Like it or not when people think beer and Toronto, they most likely think Steam Whistle. But how much do you really know about Toronto’s biggest craft brewer?
Here are six things you probably didn’t know about that beer in the distinctive green bottle.
1. Steam Whistle’s round house was once the best real estate deal in the city.
The John Street Round House was built in 1929 and was still used to service steam engines as recently as 1986. When Canadian Pacific Railway decided to leave, they sold the building to the City of Toronto for $1.
2. If you ever find yourself in a bar fight, a Steam Whistle bottle should be the first thing you grab
Steam Whistle bottles use 30% more glass so they’re extra heavy. Sure, they’re actually thicker so that they can be washed and reused as many as 45 times (as opposed to the common brown bottles which can only be reused about 15 times), but this also makes them ideal for self-defence should you find yourself amid rowdy Red Sox fans at a bar after a baseball game.
3. The company was founded by three guys who got fired.
Greg Taylor, Greg Cromwell, and Cam Heaps, the founders of Steam Whistle, were all employees of the Upper Canada Brewing Company until Upper Canada was purchased by Sleemans and everyone was essentially fired. Sometime later, the trio hatched the idea to start their own brewery while on a camping trip and so the original name for the company was actually “Three Fired Guys Brewery.”
4. Steam Whistle cans are great for shot-gunning beers.
Not only is a pilsner a little easier to chug than some of the more complex craft offerings in the city, but Steam Whistle cans also a feature a Canadian flag on the back of them which is (coincidentally?) an ideal place to puncture them with your keys before shot-gunning one.
5. Steam Whistle’s unique suitcase-style 12-packs are one of the 50 Greatest Canadian Inventions.
In 2007, the CBC compiled a list of the 50 Greatest Canadian Inventions and the pop-up carrying handle Steam Whistle uses was ranked number 22 (technically the winner was the original 1957 inventor, Steven Pasjack, but Steam Whistle brought the style back in 2001).
6. That lady who smelled burnt toast smelled it at Steam Whistle.
Or at least a lady playing her did. The actor who immortalized the line “Doctor, I can smell burnt toast!” in the minds of a generation of Canadians uttered the phrase at the Roundhouse. The Heritage Minutes series, those 60-second bits of Canadiana that aired on CBC and CTV, were filmed at the John Street Roundhouse in the years before Steam Whistle moved in.
If you want to learn more about Steam Whistle (and drink some of it), they do daily tours every 30 minutes from 1pm to 5pm.
Photos by Mark Sivilia