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Jack Doak has always had an affinity for antiques and historic architecture.
So when a space became available for rent in Toronto’s Distillery District, he jumped at the opportunity to open a third location of his brewery brand, Old Flame Brewing Co.
His flagship brewery, located in charming downtown Port Perry, Ont., opened in 2013 and is housed in a building that dates back to 1884. After a successful run, Doak opened a second location in Newmarket, Ont. in December 2020.
“The Distillery has been a muse for me for quite some time, and I drew inspiration for Old Flame from a number of visits to the Distillery,” he says. “The theme of Old Flame is about an old flame (a friendly nickname for an ex); everyone has one and whether it was a good or a bad relationship, it forms who you are. Just like old buildings, we’re steeped in nostalgia, and we want to make sure your beer experience with us is worth remembering.” Taking over the former vintage GW General store, Old Flame’s decor is also a nod to the past, with plenty of rustic signage and trinkets and plush chaises that are perfect for drinking in.
If the third time’s the charm, Old Flame Brewing Co.’s arrival in Toronto is sure to be a success, with Doak anticipating the taps flowing and pints being poured by early March. While the brewery offers a vast selection of stouts, sours, ales and IPAs, the traditional European-style lagers steal the spotlight.
“A lot of craft breweries in the city are focused on an ale program, but we wanted to offer lagers,” Doak says. “We found an opportunity in the market to offer a quality, craft lager—more beer drinkers in North America prefer to drink lagers because they’re light, crisp, and refreshing and finish clean with none of the aftertaste or bitterness that’s more characteristic of an ale.”
Old Flame will always have 12 beers on tap, as well as a selection of seasonal brews that rotate out. Some of their best-sellers include the Red Vienna lager, Brunette Munich dunkel, the Raven Black lager, and the super-light Hazy Blonde lager. Dog-friendly, Old Flame also just created a new Pilsner appropriately named “Puppy Love”—but despite the name, this one’s for humans! As far as the space goes, the concept is as clear as the brewery’s classic German-inspired Blonde lager—Old Flame is a traditional brewery; it’s not a gastropub and it’s certainly not a bar.
“The traditional brewery used to have a very distinct character that set it apart from a bar or a restaurant but now, we’re seeing them morph into one, and I think some of that magic gets lost,” Doak says. “We don’t have TVs and we encourage people to get off their phones. We love that wafting, biscuit-like, bready smell that fills the air and we want you to know that you’re sitting in a brewery.”
As such, Old Flame does not have a kitchen with a full-service menu. Instead, a 16-foot shipping container acts as a food prep station, where beer drinkers can order from whatever pop-up collaboration is taking place. Scheduled pop-up partners include El Catrin, Pure Spirits, District Pizza, Cluny Bistro & Boulangerie, and BOKU. Smaller bites like charcuterie spreads and soft, chewy German pretzels will also be on offer.
Inside, there’s seating for roughly 90 people, and in the summertime, front and back patios will provide additional space. There’s also a tasting room which offers daily complimentary tours and free tastings on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Old Flame Brewery is located at 43 Tank House Lane and will be open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.