There are, of course, two things that people claim that they don’t want to see being made: law and sausage. One contains a lot of grease , pork and leftover trimmings and the other is delicious sausage.
That being said, no one ever claimed that events planning shouldn’t be open to public consumption, so I thought that it might be fun to talk about Toronto Beer Week, how it’s coming together and why you (yes you, gentle consumer/bored guy looking for something to do) should be excited.
A lot of North American cities have been having beer weeks recently, and it makes a huge amount of sense that this should be the case since the advent of the organic and locavore movements. Beer is, after all, an agrarian product and it makes sense to celebrate the best of what’s local. Seattle had one. San Diego had one. Philadelphia had one as well, and while I know just enough about the beer scene in Pennsylvania to appreciate how good an idea that is, I still have a mental picture of the cast of It’s Always Sunny flipping cups and getting involved in a cheesesteak eating contest.
Now, I can hear the cogs turning in your head. I understand that you’re thinking to yourself, “But Jordan, isn’t this just another in an increasingly desperate series of bids by Toronto to be taken seriously as a world class city? Isn’t this the same kind of thing that leads us to send Mel Lastman to try and bid for the Summer Olympics? Remember that time we built the CN Tower and that escalator to nowhere? Where did that get us? It still takes me an hour and a half to get to the airport and my feet hurt and it’s too hot out and I’m surrounded by Canada geese.” I hear your concerns, polite but almost cripplingly neurotic citizen, and feel like I should point out a couple of things that will serve to put your mind at ease.
First of all, I’ve talked to a number of people on the organizational committee for Toronto Beer Week and I can tell you flat out that I have never heard anyone utter the phrase “World Class City” even in jest. Toronto Beer Week seems to be content to focus on the realities of what is actually possible given the beer culture in the city, and that approach has served them well. They’ve managed to get over 45 venues and 15 breweries involved during the inaugural edition of Beer Week through hard work and planning. The events list continues to grow and there’s a lot of focus on making sure that everyone who attends an event has the best time possible. The watchword is accessibility and hopefully bringing attention to products that are available locally will produce converts to small, independent brewers located around the Greater Toronto Area. That’s basically the only goal: getting you to drink a nice pint of locally brewed beer.
It’s a grass roots movement, and the Toronto Beer Week team is comprised of local brewers, pub owners and enthusiasts who are there because they want to be there. This is not some cynical cash grab perpetrated by international macrobreweries. Toronto Beer Week started as the product of nine people with a good understanding of the beer scene in Toronto. That’s not how it’s going to end up though: The fact of the matter is that I see a lot of industry professionals rallying to the cause.
I was at a media dinner for the event at The Monk’s Table the other day and while I was sitting there making copious notes I realized something interesting. They’ve somehow managed to get everyone on board. Bill White was there to guide us through the dinner, which he managed in a thoroughly entertaining and engaging manner. Stephen Beaumont was there, lending both his credibility and wealth of knowledge to the proceedings. Mirella Amato from Beerology, who is hosting the TORONTO BEER QUEST during Beer Week was there. They had a number of legitimate journalists and some completely illegitimate bloggers like myself.
The best part is that everyone was excited about the direction that Toronto Beer Week was going in.
Now, maybe I’m just the new guy on the scene, brimming with the kind of wide eyed optimism and naivete that can only be instilled by gift bags and a developing sense of belonging, but it occurs to me that none of this has to happen: The reason that Toronto Beer Week exists is because a lot of talented people who are extraordinarily passionate about beer have banded together to share their interest and expertise. The best part is that this is not some ragtag bunch of misfits trying amateurishly to pull off a coup: These are professionals who are essentially volunteering their time to ensure that people who go out to an event are going to have a good time. There’s very little in the way of self aggrandizement. Everyone is on message and in the coming weeks you’re going to see a lot of promotion and enthusiasm and a lot of people are going to work very long hours to get the word out. Never in Toronto have so few done so much to convince so many to drink a nice pint of beer.
Starting this week, you’re going to be able to pick up the Toronto Beer Week passport at participating locations and you’d do well to check the events calendar periodically to see what those locations are going to be able to come up with. There are already some absolute corkers lined up through Bar Volo, beerbistro, C’est What and The Monk’s Table. I get the feeling that the tickets for the BrewDog dinner are going to go very quickly indeed, what with the recent press that they’ve been given.
To my mind the question is no longer “Is this going to be any good?” Currently the question is “Which events should I hit first?”
It’ll give me something to think about as I trudge humourlessly along delivering passports and coasters.