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Beer Run: T.O’s Black Lab Brewery

A fine finish line in the east end as the weather warms.

Actual Black Lab at Black Lab Brewery. (All photos by Dave Carpenter)

I live in the Upper Beach in Toronto’s east end. Any avid runner in the area will tell you that close-by Taylor Creek ravine offers one of the most scenic running routes in the city. From the creek, you can also easily access similarly attractive ravine systems to the northeast and northwest, making Taylor Creek a gateway to a vast subterranean oasis, and exemplary of Toronto’s nickname as ‘A City Within a Park.’

The main, paved path runs alongside the actual creek, mostly shaded by trees, while a series of basic-to-advanced walking and running trails lie within the forested areas on either side, as the ravine slopes upward toward residential streets and parks above.

My wife (Kristin) and I picked up running about a decade ago, so we’ve logged a lot of hours in Taylor Creek , often while training for marathons, trail races, or in my case, when run-commuting to work in midtown Toronto (more on that in a blog post to come). This past Saturday, though, we descended into the creek, headed to Black Lab Brewery in Leslieville.

How to Get to Taylor Creek:

If taking the TTC, get off at Victoria Park Station. Walk or run to the creek entrance off dawes road, via Crescent Town road (opposite Vic. Park subway station, less than a k). By car, there’s parking available at the Dawes Road entrance (link to map below). From there, follow the signs (or, your GPS watch) to the creek and get running. You can also enter from the western end via Cullen Park and run the route in reverse for a shorter jaunt.

Scenes from Taylor Creek, including these cool faux-ancient statues. (photos by Dave Carpenter.)

Destination: Black Lab Brewing

Black Lab Brewing is one of our favourite spots in the Leslieville-Beach area. Nestled within a gentrifying industrial nook just past Leslie Street on Eastern avenue, the brewpub’s minimal-ish, open concept design, with odes to canines writ large on the brewery’s high walls, makes for a chill, friendly environment to sit back and sip suds with a chaser runners’ high. Long rows of tables encourage strangers to mingle and chat, and the taps along the high wall at the bar dispense some of the best suds in the city, from a cheery light lagers to more boozy and hoppy dark beer. Black Lab offers 10 types of brews, including a Pynk Hibiscus Pale Ale (Brewed in support of the PYNK Young Women’s Breast Cancer Program at Sunnybrook) , the Cornerstone Black Lager and a Dry Hopped Altbier at reasonable prices. You can also purchase bottled brews at the store’s shop near the entrance.

Black Lab is (duh) Canine Friendly.

Black Lab reminds me of west coast brew pubs I’ve enjoyed in the Pacific Northwest and B.C., with a ballpark 3-to-1 human-to dog-ratio. The brewery also holds tons of events with food partners, and for charitable causes, including ‘The Sausage Party Pop Up‘, going off when we dropped in after our run. Featured food on our visit included vegan-macaroni-and-cheese-dogs grilled on site, to celebrate the Brewery’s first year in business.

Bonding time with my best gal and beer at the finish line, what’s not love? You will too, assuming running to beer and eats on a lazy saturday sounds refreshing. That’s certainly the case for us, and why I’m sharing this route with other East Enders (and all Torontonian runners for that matter) on the hunt for a unique urban trail experience, and for those visiting the city.

The Route Breakdown (13kish)

  • Off the west side of Victoria Park north of Eglinton, opposite the subway station, descend the stairs downward into the ravine to start of the trail (or from the adjacent parking lots off Dawes road); head east along the trail all the way to the Don Valley Parkway underpass (feel free to go off-roading on the trails to the right and left as the ravine slopes upward). 4.1k in total
  • On exiting the underpass on the west side of the DVP, turn left and follow the Lower Don trail travelling southwest that straddles the Don River on your right. At around 6k, note signs for the bridge, accessed by a set of long stairs on your right hand side that will take you over the DVP and into the south end of Riverdale Park as the route takes you eastward. 6.5k total
  • Head up the road along the southern end of Riverdale Park to Broadview Avenue. Cross Broadview, turn right and then a quick left on Victor Avenue (you can continue straight on to Langley, but I really love the the architecture on Victor. Follow along Victor for four blocks to Carlaw. Turn right on Carlaw and descend all the way down to Leslie (you’re going to enjoy this stretch of running if speed is your thing). Once you hit Eastern, turn left and run 13 short blocks (not being sarcastic, these are midget blocks) to Leslie; cross Leslie and Black Lab Brewery is about 100 metres further on your left (north side). 3k and change.
Directions: Basically due east at Eastern Ave. and Leslie St.

Enjoy!

Dave Carpenter is a digital media vet based in Toronto. For more on my background, see my linkedin profile.

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