This place is called the Distillery Historic District – a small centuries-old village with cobblestone streets and dozens of wonderfully restored 19th century buildings — representing the largest and best preserved Victorian industrial architecture in all of North America.
The Distillery District is a national Historic Site with an incredibly rich history. Once upon a time, it was home to the Gooderham and Worts Distillery and it played an important role in the growth and wealth of both the city and the nation (George Gooderham was the founder of the Bank of Toronto, later becoming TD Bank). By 1871, the Gooderham and Worts Distillery had an annual whiskey and spirits production totaling 2.1 million gallons. Its exporting business shipped millions of gallons to clients as far as South America, and at one point, it was the largest distillery in the world. After 153 years of continuous production, the Gooderham & Worts distillery finally ceases operations in 1990.
After the closing, the distillery had a second life. It turned into the number one film location in Canada and second largest film location outside of Hollywood. Over the years, more than 1700 films have used the site, including Cinderella Man, Chicago, and X-Men. In 2001, Cityscape Holdings Inc. purchased the distillery in partnership with Dundee Reality Corp., and they designed a project to restore its more than 40 historic buildings into a pedestrians-only village dedicated to arts, culture and entertainment. In 2003 the Distillery District reopened and quickly became one of the city’s top tourist attractions. On site you can now find the Young Centre for Performing Arts, numerous pubs and restaurants, exquisite art galleries and antiques vendors, as well as a weekly farmer’s market. For more info and a listing of current events visit
Mill St. Brewery
The favourite spot for most in the Distillery District is the Mill St. Brew Pub and retail store. Mill St. Brewery officially opened in December 2002, housed in the original tankhouse of the Gooderham and Worts distillery. Now after 8 years, the small brewery renowned for its handcrafted beer has expanded its operations with a larger facility in Scarborough. The original tankhouse is now home to the Brew Pub, where guests can enjoy a hearty meal and a refreshing Mill St. beer, while witnessing the brewmasters hard at work in the brewery experimenting with new batches of brew.
We visited the Mill Street Brew Pub one afternoon; walking into the pub you receive a warm welcome from the staff, and look around in awe at the amazing historic building, more alive and warm than you could imagine for a Victorian-era tankhouse. The walls are covered with art, some which are very old renditions of beer posters, and some are more recent, designed by local artists. In the middle of the pub is the heart of the operation. Patrons can sit and enjoy a nice cold Mill St. beer while watching the beer making process in action. Our gracious host, co-founder Steve Abrams, took us on a tour and explained the process of making beer — every step from dumping bags of malt into the mill to the up and coming batch of beer going through the brew kettles and fomenters.
Mill St. Brew Pub has a proud family-like atmosphere with its employees. They take pride in their product and it really goes to show when you taste any one of their numerous tasty beers. At the brew pub, you can sit down and enjoy some (or all) of the thirteen beers on tap along with a fine meal from the restaurant.
Mill St. Brew Pub and Mill St. Beer have won many awards since their inception. They have been awarded Canadian Brewery of the Year in 2008 and 2009 as well as best brew pub for three consecutive years. The Mill St. Tankhouse Pale Ale has won countless gold medals and their Belgian Style Wit Beer won a bronze medal in the 2008 World Beer Cup in San Diego. The awards just keep coming.
Mill St. is always experimenting and aims to produce a variety of beers to suit every taste, including small batches of seasonal brew. In 2006 Joel Manning, former president of the Canadian Brewing Association joined the Mill St. crew as head brewmaster and has brought even more credibility and creativity.
Mill St. Brew Pub is a great, energetic place to go for a pint and a fabulous meal or just to watch the crew make their award winning beer. And if anyone is up for the task, you can earn your MBA (Master of Beer Appreciation) and have your name forever immortalized at the brew pub (85 pints later)! Check out their website for special events, and more info at www.millstreetbrewery.com.
Photo by Marc Radford