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Toronto Beer Week Preview – History and Culture

 

Did you know that the Toronto beer scene has more operatic members than a Romberg revival? It’s true. You’ve got Oliver Dawson, who runs the Old Toronto Beer Tour. You’ve got the world class Robert Pomakov who owns Opera Bob’s at Dundas and Ossington. You’ve got Mirella Amato, who left a budding operatic career to teach people about beer. For whatever inexplicable reason, the willingness to research the history of beer in Toronto and then present it to craft beer neophytes has come to be their area of specialization.

Let’s have a look at the upcoming Toronto Beer Week historical events that are pouring in from this quarter.

THE OLD TORONTO BEER TOUR

Oliver Dawson’s Old Toronto Beer Tour is a mainstay of Toronto beer tourism, now a dozen years established as a source of historical context for brewing in Toronto. The main strength of this tour is the balance struck between attempting to provide a comprehensive introduction to the history of brewing in Toronto and the inevitable sampling of wares at stops along the way. While the tour is definitely informative, if you’re taking notes over the course of the day, you’re relatively likely to find that they become increasingly indecipherable by about three o’clock.

You’ll tour Steam Whistle. You’ll ramble about Fort York as you learn about the initial settlement of the city and how we had to ship beer from Kingston. You’ll learn about Canada Malting. You’ll learn about the effect the influx of Irish settlers had on the city in its formative years. You’ll wander about in Corktown listening to an informative dissertation on the effect of Dominion Brewing on Toronto’s development while wishing you had used the bathroom at the previous stop. Oh, the places you’ll go.

Highlights of the tour involve stops at the Amsterdam Brewery and the Mill Street Brew Pub.  The tour now includes a stop at the Six Pints Beer Academy, which should add informational value about brewing ingredients. I say if you’re going to go on the tour, you should also splurge for dinner afterwards at The Granite Brewery. That might put the length of the tour at eight hours, but it’s a fun eight hours.

The Old Toronto Beer Tour will run on both Saturdays of Toronto Beer Week. You can buy tickets on their website here. It is definitely value for money and a fun afternoon out.

BEER MAKES HISTORY BETTER

If you’re not up for the full eight hours of beer tourism, you could always go on the Beer Makes History Better tour, led by Jason Kucherawy. While Jason has not, as far as I am aware, ever performed an aria, I don’t see why that should disqualify him from a certain amount of hype.

Unlike the Old Toronto tour, this is a walking tour which focuses slightly more heavily on the distillery district. It says on the Toronto Urban Adventures website that it will help you “Learn what role beer played through the decades in helping Torontonians cope with cholera, fire, war, depression, rebellion, muddy streets, and general Victorian stuffiness.” Cholera is bad, but Victorian stuffiness is more contagious. How else do you explain the profusion of sideburns and starched collars in that era’s portraits?

The Beer Makes History Better tour runs just about every day during Toronto Beer Week and meets outside the Hockey Hall of Fame. According to Jason, while there are some predetermined topics, the majority of the conversation is driven by discussion and questions from those in attendance. It’s practically guaranteed never to be the same tour twice.  You can buy tickets here.

A DAY AT THE RACES – TORONTO BEER QUEST III

What’s that I hear you say? You know all about beer? You’ve been on the tours? You want something interactive? I don’t know how I’m hearing you say that since I’m writing this before you’ve read it.

Mirella Amato has put together a third edition of the Toronto Beer Quest. It’s a scavenger hunt/amazing race style event in which you and a partner follow clues, take photographs, utilize GPS coordinates and try to beat the clock in order to demonstrate your complete dominance of Toronto beerdom. It’s a little like living a Dan Brown novel, but instead of papal conspiracy it’s about beer; a vast improvement.

Teams will be awarded prizes this year for having matching costumes which may fall into the following categories:

“The Real McCoy” Most Authentic Prohibition Era Costume
“You Slay Me” Funniest Costume
“The Bee’s Knees” Most Impressive Costume

Also, the first 25 teams that register get baseball caps with the event logo. That’s pretty neat.

Reading over the online presence the event has generated, I suspect that this year may have a prohibition theme to it. Not that you’d want to bone up on that beforehand in order to have an unfair advantage. That would be wrong.

You can buy tickets here. It takes place on Sunday, September 16th.

A NIGHT AT THE HOPERA

One of the most esoteric events for Toronto Beer Week is Hopera at Habits Gastropub on September 19th. It merges opera and craft beer in a relatively novel way: pairing arias, duos and trios with specific craft beers. I’m not entirely sure how the pairings will work, but I have constructed helpful examples of the kind of things that I might come up with:

You could easily pair an aria from Wagner’s Ring Cycle with Spearhead’s Hawaiian Pale Ale in order to reference the power of Wotan’s spear within the plot of that story.

You could pair one of the Flying Monkey beers by claiming that some of that crazy stuff on the label is symbolically masonic and then going with something from Mozart’s Die Zauberflote, which people also attribute that stuff to.

You could pair a selection from Offenbach’s Orphee aux enfers with Beau’s Lugtread. Offenbach is from Cologne and so is Kolsch.

I don’t know. There’s all sorts of possibilities. I look forward to seeing what those talented folks come up with.

In summary, don’t just sit there drinking during Toronto Beer Week. Absorb some culture in addition to large quantities of beer.