Follow beer writer, Troy Burtch, as he explores the wonderful world of craft beer and the pubs that serve it. Great Canadian Beer is a place to come to catch up on beer news, read tasting notes, check out event listings, and for pub previews and reviews.


Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Cloak and Dagger: Toronto, ON

With my fiancé out having a girl’s night I decided I would check out a pub that many readers have recommended I try. I headed down College Street to the Cloak and Dagger located just east of Bathurst. It was a damp night and there was no one on the street so I figured it might be a slow night at the pub. Walking up to the front door I approached a male and female who were having a smoke. The female mentioned that she would be with me in a second. Be with me in a second? Um…. okay. I assumed she was the bartender and that no one was inside watching the bar. I was right.

There was three guys sitting at the bar watching the start of the Leafs game on the large projection screen and I immediately noticed the excessive volume of the game. Not a great start. But let’s put that behind us.

The six year old Cloak and Dagger is another pub known for their draught selection as they offer many Ontario Craft beers along with a couple of Unibroue products. It is a small place with very dimmed lighting, dark paint and a good sized patio in the warmer seasons.

As you walk into the pub there is a small staging area to your immediate right for live bands to perform. I find this spot a little odd as it offers the only sunlight into the place and would make a perfect spot for a row of bar stools offering customers a nice window seat. There are four wooden booths that can hold up to six patrons each and four high tables each of them with a little candle offering a hint of light. There is one section of brick wall while the rest is covered in cherry coloured wood with decorative paneling.

As mentioned, it’s not a big place. It is very narrow and not very long, but that helps provide character. To round out character though you need a supporting cast and the Dagger has a couple of items that do just the trick. When you enter the pub you will notice an old weathered piano sitting against the left hand wall. Rumor has it that it actually gets played every now and then when a patron has one to many, or tries to play. There is also a snug near the washrooms at the back of the pub that features an old tall standing black radio. I envisioned families in the 40’s – 50’s sitting around it listening to the Leafs game, back when they were a contender.

The bar is small but very attractive. Six bar stools occupy the ‘L’ shaped bar and all the draught towers are above the bar making it easy to read through them all. And there are some dandies to read. Creemore Premium Lager, Creemore Urbock, Creemore Pilsner, Church Key Holy Smoke, Wellington County Ale, Stratford Pils, Great Lakes Winter Ale, Great Lakes Devil’s Pale Ale, Steam Whistle, Mill St Tankhouse, Mill St Organic, Guinness, Kilkenny, Harp, Smithwicks, KLB Raspberry, Moosehead, Strongbow, Nickelbrook Winter Bock, Blanche De Chambly and Wellington on cask.

Maudite is sometimes available, but unfortunately it was not on my visit. I had the Holy Smoke and it’s nothing like what I remembered it to be from the summer, leading me to think it was off. Behind the bar is an array of odd collections of glass plates, money, beer posters and beer mirrors.

Colin, co-owner of the pub, mentions that the Cloak and Dagger is very local friendly as they make up most of their clientele. No need to look far as the three guys I mentioned earlier are getting louder and louder and swearing more and more. This is definitely a place you go with the guys and leave the girls at home. It is also a place that thrives on liquids as I didn’t see anyone ordering any food.

I only had a couple of concerns in the Dagger and they had to do with a: the noise of the hockey game and b: the female bartender. She was swearing up a storm behind the bar and regularly walking past me on her way out the front door for a smoke. I know, it’s a pub, still. I even over heard her talking to a man who was interested in trying the Great Lakes Winter Ale. After providing him with a sample she simply stated “I don’t think you’ll want a pint of that, or a pint of the Holy Smoke.” She then start telling the man about certain beers which was making me itch to get up and correct her.

But I still had a good time. I think the pub would be totally different during the daytime and I will go back to review. I would recommend others visit to give it a whirl, just make sure you ask for a sample for laughs.


Anonymous said...

I've had mixed results with that place. Not so much with the staff, but with the clientele - a really wierd mix of precious arty-fartys and sullen twats.
Great beer selection, though.

Black Dog said...

I like this place a lot but it can get a little loud for conversation - either from the band or music.

The staff I have dealt with have always been terrific.

Anonymous said...

I've been here for two weeks so far in Toronto. This has to be the best place I've visited simply by virtue of the bar staff giving people the time of day. The beer selection is very good for Toronto (the cask beer they had was off but they asked my opinion before selling it to others, bless 'em) and the staff are absolutely superb. I went in thinking it might be not so good (and it is very dark inside, it has to be said) and ended up stopping for many hours.

If it's good weather, try taking your beer outside where the music is quieter.

Troy Burtch said...

Anonymous #2
I'm glad to hear that you are enjoying yourself. The Cloak does have a great draught selection.


Anonymous said...

I've always enjoyed this place. Not only for the beer selection, but for the staff too. Very down-to-earth "a nice little pub".

Troy Burtch said...

Anonymous #3
I hear what your saying. I've had many people tell me that my experience was something they've never experienced at the Cloak. I plan on going back shortly for a yearly follow-up.

Anonymous said...

This pub has a mind of it's own. If it chooses you, you'll be happy there. If it doesn't, you well... aren't one of the chosen. Good luck!

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