Godspeed Brewery isn’t just another brewpub and bottle shop crowding the scene.
The combination of owner/brewer Luc “Bim” Lafontaine’s imaginative, thoughtful and refined brews, served alongside chef Ryusuke Yamanaka’s carefully executed izakaya comfort food in such a stunning setting, is utterly captivating.
Going to the “pub” just got a serious upgrade.
Beer lovers will know Lafontaine from his time as head brewer of Montreal’s renowned Dieu du Ciel! And perhaps even the brewery he opened in Japan back in 2014 (Cool fact: after living in Japan for years, he not only speaks the language, he can write it too. Even cooler: he played bass in a Japanese rock band!).
After 25 years of brewing, it’s here at Godspeed that he really shines with spectacular, complex, yet approachable, easy drinking beers that are truly unique, including his Summer Ale “Pilsner-like, but brewed with an ale yeast” Natsu (abv. 5.0%), citrusy Dai Dai (abv. 4.7%), and keg-conditioned Dortmunder (abv. 4.8%).
Draught beers (9 oz. $4.50, 13 oz. $6.25) include Smoked Saison (abv. 4.2%), Transatlantic Ale (abv. 5.2%), Yuzu (abv. 4.7%), Momiji (Amber Kellerbier abv. 4.6%), Smoked Porter (abv. 5.5%) and Stout (abv 4.7%). There are just 15 taps – 10 dedicated to Godspeed, with 5 others including two wines (5 oz. $13.75), cider (9 oz. $6.50, 13 oz. $9), and kombucha ($5). Select suds are also available in 355-millilitre cans at the pub and retail.
Considering himself “an old-school brewer, Godspeed is about that too.” And before you go thinking all of his beers are Japanese, he really likes German brews and has been “trying to do a lot of different beers, while always paying respect to the styles and ingredients.”
Note: all beer and food prices include tax.
Chef Ryusuke Yamanaka’s (Momofuku, Nobu London) focused menu features 10 enticing, made-from-scratch Japanese comfort food options (no ramen, udon or sushi).
Tuck into selections of Gyu Tataki (Seared rare AAA Canadian beef $17) Karrage (Japanese fried chicken $9.75), Katsu-Sando (pork cutlet sandwich $14) and dessert (Yaki Imo Pie – Sweet Potato, Matcha Crumble and Nutmeg Cream $9).
While dishes are meant to be simple comfort fare, execution and presentation is fine modern. In the concrete setting, especially sitting at the open concept kitchen counter (dinner and a show), the experience is more in line with a tasting menu. The reverence for ingredients and preparation is evident, just as with the beer.
Fixtures & Fittings
Trying to find the perfect spot took some time – a full year in fact, of viewing 70 to 80 properties. The former discount store, while a luxurious 7,000-square-feet, has no plumbing or electricity.
Lafontaine went to a nearby café and “watched the foot traffic to get a feel for the neighbourhood.” He liked what he saw. The biggest brewpub in Toronto currently produces 25 hectoliters of brew with six vessels. He plans to double this with four to six more fermenters and some foeders wood barrels.
Lafontaine takes great care with every decision he makes, including glassware. He selected a sleek, modern stemless wine glass from Germany that allows his 9-ounce and 13-ounce pours.
Designing the space with good friend Michel Rousseau from Quebec, the room was kept open – “I like every room to feel as one,” Lafontaine says.
The clean, minimalist space, lined with custom long tables, stools, benches and cherry bar, could in fact, stand in for a modern Japanese temple, save for the magnificent brewing vessels on display in back.
Rousseau painstakingly incorporated Lafontaine’s “love of old Japanese things” and “boro,” Japanese patch clothing, throughout the space. The 30,000 nails representing individual stitches in the patchwork took 300 hours to complete. Both men are all about “precision and details.”
“I want to create a space to inspire people. I also hope to inspire future breweries so they can care about details and employees,” he says.
Off the Oshinagaki
Natsu (abv. 5.0%) This light summer ale is one of the most delicious, refreshing, engaging brews – with spicy hops and delicate malt – you’ll ever have.
Dai Dai (abv. 4.7%) A citrusy, floral saison with daidai fruit (a Japanese bitter orange) delivers mild tartness with a dry finish.
Dortmunder (abv. 4.8%) Keg-conditioned Dortmunder, a German lager with cracker-like malt, soft spice and grassy notes, gets sugar and yeast added to the mix, creating an easy drinking, with a slightly more estery and higher carbonated beer.
Stout (abv 4.7%) Roasted coffee and dark chocolate – need I say more? Clean and medium-bodied, this is the best “coffee” break you’ll take all day.
Pickle Plate ($8) The menu description of “house-made assorted Japanese pickles,” may sound simple, but this dish is anything but. Single ingredients are fermented in a variety of spices and liquids for days before hitting the plate. Daikon, for example, is cured with salt, sugar, yuzu peel, kombu (seaweed) and chili. You’ve never had a more complex daikon, delivering equal amounts sweet and sour, with serious crunch and just the right amount of give. You’ll dig the smoky heat of napa cabbage and zucchini’s toothsome texture. Finishing your veg has never been easier.
Chikuzenni ($9) Braised root vegetables, served cold, is much more fascinating than it sounds. Bamboo shoots, lotus root, garlic, delicious deep-fried tofu, shiitake, carrot and yam cake get braised with salt, light soy and sugar. Set alongside crunchy snow peas, it’s like a walk through a magical Japanese forest. Each ingredient stands out on its own, but brought together, a symphony rings out.
Mushroom Salad ($14) At first glance, a ton of dressed arugula topped with a pile of deep-fried wonton strips is all you see. But just you wait. Underneath, king, shiitake and enoki mushrooms sautéed in butter and soy await you. When paired with the peppery greens, crunchy wonton and sweet and sour ume amazu dressing, it’s at once unusual and yet fascinating, like a Takashi Murakami work.
Yaki Onigiri (grilled rice balls, 2 pcs/$9) These stick-to-your-ribs tennis ball sized rice balls topped with yukari (shiso leaf furikake made with red basil), nikumiso (a kind of meat sauce made with miso), finished with chopped scallions, are as fascinating as they are filling. Chase them with the addictive side pickles.
Gyuusuji Doteni ($18) A rich stew boasting braised beef and tendon in hatcho miso will have you thinking “Japanese beef bourguignon,” especially topped with a dollop of sour cream and green onions, and served with toasted baguette slices and garnish of coleslaw on the side.
The space accommodated 80 guests inside, with room for 18 on the covered patio.
At the Stove: Chef Ryusuke Yamanaka
Head Honcho: Luc “Bim” Lafontaine
Map it: 242 Coxwell Ave. (at Gerrard)
Daily – 11 am to 11 pm
Monday to Thursday – 3 pm to late
Friday to Sunday – 1 pm to late
Monday to Thursday – 5 to 10 pm
Friday to Saturday – 2 to 11 pm
Sunday – 2 to 9 pm
Phone it in: (416) 551-2282
How Cool is This?! Bring Godspeed brew home with you with the convenient retail shop located onsite.
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