In the UK, there are entire websites devoted to the concept of the Pub Crawl, but in Canada it’s something of a lost art. I say “lost art” but the truth of the matter is that it may be a phenomenon that never properly developed. How could it? The layout of Toronto means that there are not the number of pubs within stumbling distance to make such an endeavour worthwhile. Have a look, for instance, at this London Pub Crawl: The Monopoly Board Pub Crawl. I imagine that at some point (Probably around The Red Lion) you’d need to send the soberest remaining member of the pub crawl out to buy a monopoly board in order to determine which pubs remained and whether you’d like to mortgage Fenchurch Street Station in order to be able to pay your bar tab. The fact that it can be done at all speaks volumes about the amount of thought semi-professional English inebriates have put into the thing. It’s worth mentioning that a 26 pub crawl would need to take place over the course of approximately 12 hours, resulting in 26 half pints of beer at a rate of approximately 15 minutes per, if you factor in walking time. It’s patently impossible to complete in a single day and is the kind of thing that sensible people wouldn’t even consider attempting. It’s so completely destructive that it’s the backstory for Dave Lister on Red Dwarf.
Fortunately for Canadians considering a Pub Crawl, there’s The Walk To The Ballpark, now in its 33rd consecutive year. Nick Pashley, the elder statesman of Toronto Pub Goers and all around nifty guy, came up with the idea in 1977 and has been working for years towards getting the route exactly right. According to his book, Notes On A Beermat, The Walk developed as the result of the fact that Exhibition Stadium did not serve beer during its early days. In some puritanical frenzy, people were forced to sit through a 57-104 season in complete sobriety. For the home opener, which was played with snow on the field, brandy would have been completely apropos.
At this point in time, the crawl has outlived its association with Baseball and has taken on a life of its own, complete with notifications in the form of press releases containing route information and a not insubstantial amount of whimsy. Here are some of the FAQs from the press release, to give you an idea of the tone of the event:
What is the Walk to the Ballpark? It’s an institution. Kind of like the Terry Fox Run, but less noble. People take a day off work, go to a pack of pubs and drink beer.
Why do you do this? It seemed a good idea in 1977.
How do I meet up with you if I can’t get there at the beginning? Examine your life, for starters. What’s stopping you from turning up at 11am with the others? No ambition at all? I mean, what’s important to you?
But I have a job! That’s not a question. Look, we all have our problems. Deal with them.
Are the times quoted accurate? Oh great, a comedian. You ever tried to organize a pubcrawl? Of course they’re not accurate. Even if we get to the Rebel House, say, right at 3pm, get a pint straight into you, it’s still a helluva walk to Volo, okay? Then somebody inevitably turns up at 10 to 4, just as you’re trying to herd these people out, and orders a damn pint and gets all miffed that the rest of us are leaving. Honestly, is this the way we won WWII?
This year, the crawl schedule looks like this:
11 am: Duke of Kent, Yonge Street just north of Eglinton.
Noon: The Granite Brewery, Mount Pleasant just south of Eglinton; eat lunch.
2 pm: The Twisted Kilt, Yonge north of Davisville, formerly the Bow and Arrow
3 pm: The Rebel House, Yonge near Rosedale Subway
4 pm: Bar Volo, corner of Yonge and Dundonald
6 pm: Pay attention – new place… Duggan’s Brewery, 75 Victoria Street.
8 pm: Beerbistro, 18 King Street East, give ’em a chance to get the after-work suits out.
Later: Kilgour’s, 509 Bloor West, as is traditional among our people.
It’s a good route and it’s worth pointing out that it’s mostly downhill. That’s important on a pub crawl as any student at Dalhousie will tell you. You certainly wouldn’t want to do it the other way around if only because the hill between Rosedale and St.Clair would see that half the participants remained at the Rebel House patio for the rest of the day (not unhappily, either, as the sun is shining and the air is as crisp as their excellent kettle chips.)
Being as the next stop as of this writing is the Twisted Kilt, whose faux-Tudor façade I can see from this chair, it seems impolite not to join the group at this point for at least a half pint and a stroll down Yonge street. Feel free to come along and introduce yourself to the group. I promise that you won’t be sent to procure a boardgame, although I cannot absolutely guarantee that you won’t be asked to get a round of drinks in.
EDIT: OCTOBER 4, 2010.
I made perhaps the worst showing in the history of pub crawls, managing to get through the Twisted Kilt and a pint of Hobgoblin before a flu that I was unaware I had been fighting off made itself known outside of the Rebel House. Like most people on the pub crawl, I spent most of the next day lying down. The difference was that I was in no way hungover.