Taking a Beer Tour in Toronto
“You know, they’ll never put it up to what it’s worth.”
That’s what my brother told me a few years ago when I complained about the price of beer in Newfoundland.
“How they make it so good and sell it so cheap I’ll never know. Beer is a bargain at any price.”
Yep, that’s my family. We love our beer. So much so we even defend the price of it.
Fast forward a few years and I’m on a beer tour in Toronto called Beer Makes History Better. It’s run by an outfit called Urban Adventures who I’m to learn are somehow related to Intrepid Travel. I’m not quite sure exactly how, but beer does that to you. Things get hazy. Memory gets faulty. Words go in one ear and out through your penis.
I managed to keep my sober long enough to learn a few things though.
Toronto had a Flatiron Building long before New York
Toronto’s Gooderham Building — commonly called the Flatiron building — was completed in 1892. New York’s Flatiron Building was completed in 1902. I’m not saying there was any copycatting going on, but I’m not saying there wasn’t either.
Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market was named Best Food Market in the World by National Geographic
That’s a pretty hefty honour. It even beat out New York’s Union Square Greenmarket (and a bunch of others I’ve never heard of) to grab the title. That’s Toronto: 2, New York: 0 for those that are counting. (I know the Canadians are.)
Ye olde water fountains abound
Okay so maybe we only saw this one, but I would have walked right past it our “Intrepid” guide Jason hadn’t pointed it out. This one on King Street was designed to quench the thirst of Toronto’s four-legged friends (dogs and horses) and their two-legged owners. No cats please. That’s just gross.
Craft Brewers have an uphill battle in Toronto (and in the rest of Ontario)
Why? Here’s the short version (please correct me if I missed any details — I mean, I was “on the beer” when I heard this).
Beer in Ontario is sold primarily through The Beer Store, the retail name of privately-owned Brewers Retail. Regulated by the Ontario government, Brewers Retail is 49% owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev of Belgium and 49% owned by Molson Coors Brewing Company with its primary headquarters in the United States. The other 2%? Owned by Japan’s Sapporo of course. While The Beer Store purports to have a policy of “beer neutrality” (they can’t recommend one beer over another), they are permitted to charge a substantial “listing fee” to any brewer that doesn’t fall under the Anheuser-Busch-InBev-Molson-Coors-Sapporo monopoly to get their beer on shelves.
Thankfully many Toronto bars carry and actively support the little guy. And microbreweries are free to sell their beer at their brewery location.
Still, really Ontario? I think you need to talk about this. Perhaps over a beer. Or maybe, like me, it’ll just go in one ear and out through your penis.
Note: I was a guest of Urban Adventures for their Beer Tour in Toronto, but they did not ask that I write a favourable review.