Happy New Year! 2014 was a great year for craft beer in Ontario and I think 2015 is shaping up to be even better. Ontario has more breweries, more brewpubs and a greater focus has been placed on the issues surrounding distribution and sales. With the disclosure of the Ontario government’s complicity in the Beer Store’s anti-competitive practices, more Ontarians are becoming aware of what they are buying and who’s selling it to them. To help support the momentum I’ve decided to try a couple of things to help support local, independent brewers which you may also want to consider.
Buy Beer at its Source
One of the things I am aiming to do this year is purchase the majority of my beer from each brewer’s retail store. This has a number of advantages. Firstly, it gives the craft drinker access to products not available through the Beer Store / LCBO. Second, it provides an opportunity to interact with the people who make the products we love; pick their brains for homebrew ideas, get a sneak peek of what is coming up, or just shoot the breeze about beer generally. Thirdly, it gives the purchaser an opportunity to explore Ontario. Just visiting retail shops in Toronto has exposed me to areas I might not have otherwise spent much time in from the ultra-trendy area around Bellwoods Brewery to the beautiful Lakefront on which Amsterdam’s brewhouse resides.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly. this practice allows the craft consumer to buy their products outside the Beer Store / LCBO structure. The tax is still paid so the services we enjoy are still safe, but one can send a message that they do not support the archaic, anti-competitive nature of the “Brewer’s Retail” or the LCBO’s complicity in their oligopoly.
Attend More Local Beer Events
Many of the same advantages from one’s retail habits apply here; attending these events gets you out, forces you to meet others in the scene and supports the breweries you love. Such events also give positive exposure to the craft scene as a whole and show that good beer is for and is made by artists and thinkers rather than the boorish slobs imagined by those unfamiliar with craft beer and its drinkers.
I felt I definitely could have made more time for local beer events and look forward to getting more involved in 2015.
Homebrew or Blend
This made sound like an odd resolution / suggestion if the aim is to support the brewing of others, but homebrewing is really the best way to understand the brewing process and what goes into making a truly good beer. It will give you something to talk about should you pursue either of the two above options and is a great way to help train your nose and palate.
Can’t stretch all the way to brewing? Try blending! Doing so not only gets you out of your standard drinking habits, it makes you think about the individual elements in each beer you like. Here’s a nice link to get you started. One simple blend that I liked was: 1/3 Mill Street Coffee Porter, 2/3 Amsterdam Boneshaker for a roasty pseudo American Black Ale. The easiest way is to simply pour 3 bottles (1 Mill St, 2 Amsterdam) into an empty growler and serve immediately. There are all sorts of wonderful blends to try, so give it a shot. Worst case, you’re left with a bunch of leftover beer you already like.