This article was originally written in February 2007 for the food & drink website Taste T.O., and republished here in September 2011 (but back-dated to match the original publication date) after the Taste T.O. blog was shut down and taken offline.
Up until a few years ago, one of the best quick meals to be had in the downtown core was a heaping bowl of steamed mussels and clams at Conchy Joe’s, a welcoming seafood restaurant on Victoria Street. Along with adjacent steakhouse Louie’s Brasserie and downstairs neighbour Growler’s Pub, Conchy Joe’s was part of Denison’s, a brewpub specializing in classic German lager styles such as dunkel, hell, bock, marzen – great beers all. However, my favourite from the Denison’s line-up – and my regular companion to those mussels and clams – was their spectacular weissbier. And I wasn’t the only one to feel that way, as it was voted the best German-style weissbier in the world on RateBeer.com.
Sadly, landlord problems caused the entire Denison’s complex to be shut down in early 2003, and it looked like all of the Denison’s beers were dead. But thankfully, brewmaster Michael Hancock wasn’t willing to let that happen, and he was soon contract brewing Denison’s Weissbier at Mill Street Brewery using his original recipe. He’s since moved production to Black Oak Brewery in Oakville, but the beer remains the same as I remember it being back at Conchy Joe’s: an absolutely perfect rendition of the style, with the classic banana and clove combo in the aroma, wonderful fruit and yeast in the flavour, and an amazingly crisp and lingering finish that keeps you coming back for more. Like any good weissbier, it’s a great warm weather refresher, but it also has enough flavour and body to be enjoyable at any time.
My only complaint about this beer is that I have to go out to get it, as continuing demand from his draught accounts has made it impossible for Michael to make his beer available in bottles. But the upside to this is that his pride in his craft and his sense of perfectionism means that Michael always does his best to ensure that the bars and restaurants carrying his Weissbier (as well as his Dunkel, which he has also revived) serve it in the best condition possible. So while it may not be quite as fresh as it was when it was being served from a bar just a few feet from where it was brewed, you can generally be assured that any pint of Denison’s you order will be amongst the freshest beers available in Toronto. And if you can find a place where you can order some mussels and/or clams to go with the Weissbier, that’ll be a nice bonus.