Today We Feature Godspeed Brewery!
By Robin LeBlanc
Godspeed Brewery, located on the intersections of Coxwell and Gerrard in Toronto’s east end, is a neighbourhood bar with an international reputation, helmed by a brewer who instills a lifetime of struggle and love into his beers with unparalleled skill.
Located on the intersections of Coxwell and Gerrard, Godspeed was one of the most hotly anticipated breweries before it opened in 2017. Owner and Brewmaster Luc Lafontaine (known as Bim to virtually everyone) came from a hell of a pedigree. Some notable experiences include having worked through the ranks at famed Montreal brewery Dieu du Ciel to become head brewer, consulting for a number of breweries, and spending a few years to develop a brewery just outside of Tokyo before coming back to Canada and calling Toronto home. While here he put in some work as a bartender at Bar Hop while his brewery was in development.
To understand the hype and expectation that surrounded Bim’s decision to do this, one must first know the hype Ontario had and still has for Dieu du Ciel. The beers were brought on by the Morana family of Bar Volo and Keep6 Imports fame and both the quality of the beers. along with the support of an Ontario presence that tends to set the tone for trends. made the Quebec brewery a hit and anyone associated with them were deemed as virtual gods to the beer nerds. So when a former brewer of Dieu du Ciel came to Toronto with the plans of making a brewery, speculation and anticipation of Toronto getting bold beers similar to DDC were strong. That is, until you talked to Lafontaine himself, who would quietly say that he just wanted to brew beers that he likes drinking.
Finally in 2017 the space was opened and upon entering the brewery any thoughts of a Dieu du Ciel 2 were immediately thrown away. After months of intense speculation and discussion everyone saw the brewery for what it was; an accumulation of the around thirty years of brewing experience of a man who takes great care in the details, is open to new ideas, and makes clear his technical, aesthetic, and philosophical influences. No one sets out to make a brewery like Godspeed without having lived a life of struggle and love in equal measures to make it a reality. It’s a brewery that can only come from someone like Lafontaine with a philosophy of endurance, patience, humility, and skill to put it all together.
The large space feels like a mix of modern European and Japanese aesthetics, the minimalism and dark wood accents creating a slick yet comfortable vibe. Even when filled to capacity, like on events such as the annual Dieu du Ciel Péché Day, there’s an open air intimacy to it. The food, prepared by chef Ryusuke Yamanaka, is simple Japanese comfort food made well. Crunchy and hot karaage, divine homemade Japanese pickles, and a katsu-sando that can only be described as life-affirming. None of the dishes are powerhouses designed to make you feel so full you can’t move, they’re a gentle accompaniment for the centerpiece of the brewery, the beer itself.
Now, the beer. Where to begin? From the Ochame IPA made with green tea harvested annually from Lafontaine’s tea fields to the Irori peated scotch lager which is a tribute to his mentor Greg Noonan, each beer feels like an extension of the brewer’s life influences. European, Japanese, and North American beers are celebrated and willing collaborators in Godspeed’s selection, blending well together.
It should be noted though that one particular influence has particularly impacted the way Godspeed is known throughout the city, and indeed throughout the world. A trip to the Czech Republic and, most notably, the cellars of famed Pilsner Urquell Brewery left a massive impact on Lafontaine, who went home freshly inspired and immediately set to work on creating a number of Czech lagers as authentically as possible. The beers were such a hit with customers that they very quickly became flagships. Since then Lafontaine has strived to perfect his techniques and has released a number of Czech lagers, even collaborating with the Czech consulate.
The pandemic impacted a lot of businesses and Godspeed was no exception. They shut down table service before it became mandatory for bars to do so and while they did lose revenue from the foot traffic, they were met with a high demand from people in and around the area wanting to support their local brewery. On a personal note, I credit Godspeed’s Světlý Ležák 12° with getting me through the first leg of the pandemic.
With the way the news seems to be going, things are starting to open up again. And when that happens, we can’t wait to make a visit to Godspeed — with a few Not Your Child Corp breathalyzers on hand.
A 6-Pack of beers to from Godspeed Brewery to try:
Světlý Ležák 12° Czech Premium Pale Lager (5% ABV) – $3.50
The start of what would become a long journey celebrating the Czech brewing philosophy and people. Crisp and clean with balanced bitterness along with malt sweetness. Notes of cracker, honey, and a touch of grass with a light floral character.
Polotmavý Ležák 11° Czech Amber Lager (4.4% ABV) – $3.50
Roughly translated to “half-dark”, Polotmavý is very malt rich, with notes of caramel, toasted bread crust, and peppery spice backed up with a firm bitterness.
Sklepník v Oceli Pilsen Inspired Lager Stainless Edition (4.4% ABV) – $3.50
The ultimate tribute inspired by tastings in Pilsner Urquell’s cellars. Made with the help of the Consulate General of the Czech Republic, the beer contains floor malted Czech barley, Saaz hops, and brewed using a triple decoction mash. All that combined with extending cold conditioning in stainless tanks and natural carbonation makes for a beer that is absolutely god tier.
Ochame Green Tea IPA (6% ABV) – $3.50
Using green tea picked every year from Lafontaine’s tea field in Japan, expect floral and lemon zest notes imparted from the tea working well to balance hop astringency and blend with sweet honey and biscuit notes.
Oberkassel Altbier (4.7% ABV) – $3.50
Dark fruits, bread pudding, and very light citrus notes make this slightly hoppier take of an altbier a lovely addition to your fridge.
Irori Peated Scotch Lager (8% ABV) – $4.50
An annual tribute to Lafontaine’s friend and mentor, the late Greg Noonan, who was the head brewer and owner of Vermont Pub and Brewery for over 20 years and authored many fantastic books on the subject of beer. Irori highlights some of Noonan’s many passions — namely, scotch ale, lager, and smoked malt. Wonderfully smokey with a balanced sweetness and a bit of a kick at 8% ABV.
Godspeed Brewery can be located at:
242 Coxwell Ave.
Toronto, ON M4L 3B2
Web Site: godspeedbrewery.com
Robin LeBlanc is an award-winning drinks columnist, author, and beer judge. Since first starting her blog The Thirsty Wench in 2011, she has gone on to write for numerous publications, has co-written two editions of The Ontario Craft Beer Guide, a book detailing the many breweries of the province, and is co-host and organizer of the very successful podcast The Ontario Craft Beer Guide the Podcast, where she regularly provides news and insights into the goings-on of the Ontario and international beer world.
You can follow her on Twitter at @thethirstywench