Day 328

Working at a major beer show like this weekend’s Toronto Beer Fest is a bit different than working at a small craft-beer-oriented show. The small shows are usually a collection of the local craft brewers, who mainly attract between a few dozen to a few hundred men and women in their thirties and forties.

The Toronto Beer Fest, on the other hand, drew over 20,000 people, and also featured the Big Three Canadian Branch Plants of Multinational Brewing: Molson (owned by the American Molson Coors), Labatt (owned by the Belgian giant Anheuser-Busch InBev), and Sleeman (owned by Japan’s Sapporo).

It was a great opportunity to observe what was really two festivals in one.

Steamwhistle hats

Hats made from Steam Whistle beer cartons.

The craft brewer typically rents a small booth manned by the brewery owner, the brewery owner’s sister-in-law and a couple of the sister-in-law’s good friends. (Although Lake of Bays Brewery had a very large and impressive area, with enough room for a dozen shaded tables and a “Birds of Prey” demonstration. Likewise Steam Whistle had a very large area, and amused everyone  by constructing silly hats out of beer cartons.)

The main consumers in the craft beer area were  the usual suspects, mainly middle-aged couples trying different beers and asking questions about them–although neither their questions nor our answers could be heard over the typical loud beer festival music. (However, unlike small beer shows, the music was provided by live bands rather than the show organizer’s iPod.)

The province of Quebec was also well-represented by six small breweries, who brought with them the best and most creative beers of the festival.

Over on the other side of the park, the big boys had rented large swathes of land, erected very nice hospitality areas, and employed large numbers of healthy young women dressed in attractive (but minimal) clothing. In Ontario, the legal drinking age is 19, and hundreds and hundreds of young single men aged 19-21 showed up to consume beer and ogle the healthy young women.

Over the past 18 years, the Toronto Beer Festival has gained a reputation as a drunken frat-boy party, and certainly the evidence would seem to still support this view, including the young gentleman who sat down on the grass not 10 metres from our booth and then passed out.

(In Ontario, if you want to serve alcohol to the general public, you have to pass a short provincially-mandated education course in order to get a “Smart Serve” license. One of the points hammered home during the course is that it is illegal to serve alcohol to someone who is inebriated–but that law seemed to have beeen more honoured in the breach than in the observance in certain areas of the festival.)

However, such displays of excess were the exception rather than the rule in our neighbourhbood, and mainly resulted from young men who had staggered off to the washroom and then, on the way back to their friends, had wandered off course into the craft beer area. Saisons, wheat beers, pale ales, IPAs, cask ales, stouts and porters–bewildered, the young men found themselves strangers in a strange land.

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5 Comments on “Day 328”


  1. “…the young men found themselves strangers in a strange land.”

    LOVE that line! Well written commentary on the beer fest!

    • Alan Brown Says:

      I confess I lifted it from a comment made by Moses in the King James Version of Exodus 2:22b: “I have been a stranger in a strange land.”

      • Canageek Says:

        And here I was thinking it was a Heinlein reference.

      • Alan Brown Says:

        Well yes, it is the title of a Heinlein book, which I have read. (I still use the word “grok” occasionally to validate my hippie ethos cred.) But Heinlein himself borrowed the title from the aforementioned verse. So if I was borrowing from the title of the Heinlein novel, I was actually borrowing from his source.

      • Canageek Says:

        Grok is in the dictionary now:
        http://oed.com/view/Entry/81710?redirectedFrom=grok#eid (Subscription needed, I get mine from my Uni)

        grok, v.
        Pronunciation: /ɡrɒk/
        Forms: Also grock.
        Etymology: Arbitrary formation by Heinlein (see quot. 19612 at sense b).
        U.S. slang.

        a. trans. (also with obj. clause) To understand intuitively or by empathy; to establish rapport with.

        b. intr. To empathize or communicate sympathetically (with); also, to experience enjoyment.

        Quotes for it include (of course) Stranger in a Strange Land, T. Wolfe’s Electric Kool-aid Acid Test, Playboy, New Yorker, D. Lodge’s Changing Places and InfoWorld


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