by Erin Crosbie
Enjoying live music in Toronto isn’t hard, with venues across the city providing exemplary music every night of the week. Likewise, having a delicious pint in Toronto has never been easier, as the city’s craft brewing industry has exploded since 2015. What is often challenging, though, is finding somewhere where you can see some great music and enjoy some of Ontario’s most delicious brews; too often you’ll spend $8.50 on a tallcan of PBR at a show, only to spill half of it on the dance floor. This list will hopefully serve as inspiration to go see a show, grab a beer, or hopefully both!
1. Burdock Music Hall (1184 Bloor Street West)
Nestled in the heart of Bloordale, between Lansdowne and Dufferin subway stations, Burdock provides both a terrific music venue and an amazing brewpub experience. Brewing their own beer since July of 2015, Burdock offers some of Toronto’s funnest, funkiest beers on tap and in their bottle shop. They also have tremendous rotating guest taps, offering fare by excellent GTA mainstays like Revel Cider Co, Longslice Brewery, and Folly Brewpub.
Musically, the hall is as eclectic as their beer menu. Artists such as Bernice, Franky Rousseau, and Michelle Willis have played Burdock in the past, but a look at their upcoming events show a wide host of varied music: Canadiana folk trio The Good Lovelies, chamber-folk mainstays Ozere, Indian-pop outfit Rakkatak, and more.
2. The Painted Lady (218 Ossington Avenue)
Tucked on the upper edge of the trendy Lower Ossington strip, The Painted Lady is a hidden gem for both live music and beer consumption. With a tap list containing as many European beers as Ontario favourites, The Painted Lady is an excellent place to hit up even if it’s just for a pint.
But the music is good, too! The Painted Lady features a varied line up of, well, basically anyone who wants to play there! Hip hop, R&B, funk, pop, rock, electronic...it’s all possible to be seen at The Painted Lady. The bar also features regular burlesque nights on Fridays and Saturdays, with some of Toronto’s top burlesque performers working it on stage with live musical accompaniment.
3. Odd Thomas (31 Mercer Street)
Odd Thomas is, well, a bit odd. A combination craft beer bar and nightclub, Odd Thomas takes the traditional King West nightspot and adds a bit of west Toronto style to the mix, offering a host of excellent craft beers on tap, and even table-side keg service.
The tap list is very good, featuring less common options like Liberty Village 504 APA, Flying Monkeys Antigravity Lager, and Mascot Pilsner (brewed downstairs in Mascot Brewery, which also operates a rooftop beer garden above Odd Thomas).
Odd Thomas aims to be weirder than its King West cohorts, and its unique “craft beer club” design certainly helps it succeed in that respect.
4. Cameron House (408 Queen St. West)
A mainstay of Toronto music venues and dive bars alike, the Cameron House in Queen West remains one of the best places to check out live music in Toronto -- but it’s not half bad for beer, either!
From the Cameron House’s rollicking front room you can see rockabilly, folk rock, bluegrass and old time, surf rock, blues, and all kinds of other music playing until the early hours of the morning -- just because the Cameron House has been a Toronto institution for years doesn’t mean it doesn’t still know how to have a good time! And with a tap menu that includes Ontario bar favourites like Mill Street, Amsterdam, Wellington, and appropriately enough, Cameron’s, you’ll have plenty of delicious beer to go with your boozy and bluesy night.
5. C’est What (67 Front Street)
Though it’s surrounded by the hustle and bustle of Toronto’s downtown, C’est What is a gem of a brewpub that matches its great beer and food with some equally great music. The bar sports a huge tap and bottle list, featuring Toronto favorites like Bellwoods Brewery’s Jelly King, Rainhard’s Kapow IPA, and Left Field’s Eephus Oatmeal Brown Ale. They also have some of their own brews, like a tasty Chocolate Ale and a Homegrown Hemp Ale.
The venue books jazz, funk, and singer-songwriters, and the space’s cozy ambiance makes for a fine live music venue. The room’s cottage-chic makes it feel homey, but the beer menu rivals your average downtown music spot.
6. 3030 (3030 Dundas Street West)
If you’re up in The Junction, there are worse places to end up than the cavernous hall of Dundas’ 3030. With a terrific, constantly rotating tap list populated by terrific breweries like Beau’s, Royal City, High Park, and Junction Craft, the bar is a favourite among beer snobs living north of Bloor.
Musically, 3030 is on fire. With DJ nights, regular funk and Motown nights (The Intentions play the room monthly, perhaps Toronto’s finest Motown cover band), and bookings of all kinds of music, the large room is equally excellent for dancing and drinking.
Erin Crosbie is a writer and music lover in Toronto.