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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Gourmet Wine/Beer and Food Show

I managed to get over to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre for the Gourmet Wine and Food Show on Friday night and had a good time without even touching a drop of wine or spirits, just beer. The show featured a number of Ontario craft brewers along with a handful of import agencies and larger regional breweries.

I met up with Cass Enright (Bar Towel founder) and did the tour, chatting with our local brewery representatives over some drinks and catching up with some familiar faces. I knew before hand that there would be a number of breweries in attendance but I didn’t bother to doing my homework to confirm which ones would be there. I was surprised to see a good variety of terrific beers being served; and at a good price too.

As we were discussing the state of the Ontario Craft Brewers Association with one of their members, Enright noticed something about how the wineries from France, California and Portugal were conducting their booths, a model that the OCB should seriously consider for the future. For example, there was a large area dedicated to the ‘Wines of California’ and all the California wineries were contained in that area, serving their products in their respective booths together - promoting their products as one big unit (visit link to view Enright's pictures of the set up).

The OCB should seriously consider this model for future events/shows/festivals as it would not only highlight their association, but it would also be a useful tool in educating the general public about their members and what they offer in this province. The Gourmet Wine and Food Show had no big guns like Molson or Labatt’s in attendance and there was no indication young binge drinkers (like the Toronto Festival of Beer attracts), it was a crowd of sophisticated drinkers who would be more than willing to explore a booth featuring many different brands covering many different styles. Having ten of more members of the OCB in the same area, preaching the same story, would have a lasting impact on the event's attendees.

The breweries that were in attendance were scattered about the entire floor and consisted of Cameron’s, McAuslan, Nickel Brook, Great Lakes, Mill Street, Steam Whistle, Cool, Pilsner Urquell, Rickard's and Big Rock. Import agencies consisted of Esprit, McClelland, Premier, and a couple more. It appeared that they were all doing good business; and overhearing conversations at the booths showed me that the individuals were interested in learning more about ‘this craft beer scene in Ontario’. The LCBO also had a store on site, which would have also provided the OCB to highlight their recently released Discovery Pack #2.

There were some interesting things I learned while indulging in some of the beers:

1. Nickel Brook is getting ready to release their 473ml cans of their Organic Lager at LCBO’s very shortly. “We are really excited about this,” stated co-owner Peter Romano. “We have big plans for our USDA certified Organic Lager and think we’ll do well in the can format.” No word on how much it will cost for a single unit, but keep an eye out for it.

2. Great Lakes Winter Ale has already sold well at numerous LCBO stores since its release last Monday and plans are to get it out to licensees in the next week, ending the run of their Pumpkin Ale.

3. McAuslan’s new mixer 12 pack will be at the Beer Store any day now. The mix pack contains three St. Ambroise Pale Ale, three Apricot, three Griffon Red and three Griffon Extra Pale Ale. This will be a useful tool when trying to convert people to the craft beer side of things.

I also had the opportunity to catch up with Taylor McAuslan, son of Peter McAuslan (owner of McAuslan Brewery) who came from his home base of Nova Scotia. I had the pleasure of dealing with Taylor on a handful of occasions when I lived in Halifax and it was nice to chat over some Oatmeal Stout. He also had a friend with him who recognized me from my numerous trips to the Henry House. She was my server every other time I attended. We both did the “You look familiar” glare at each other and ended up sharing some stories about our favourite watering hole.

It was a good night that left me with a sore head the next morning. Good to see beer getting more and more recognition at events such as this.

* The fingers in the background of the picture belong to Kirk Leaper, McAuslan Territory Manager. Funny guy.

4 comments:

Zoran said...

Thank for the great description of the show - I almost went but the family obligations got better of me. My only comment is regarding "no big guns present": what about Pilsner Urquell and Rickard's? In my book they are as big as they get :)

Troy Burtch said...

Zoran - what I meant by that comment ('no big guns') was that the show wasn't dominanted by Molson or Labatt's. While Rickard's and PU had a presence, it was a small one. A single booth without the hoopla of music, young beautiful girls in skirts or flashy signs.

I should have made that a little clearer, I can see where you're coming from.

Cheers,
Troy

Juan said...

dude

super jealous since i am now fiending some apricot beer.

also a MASSIVE thanks for suggesting Jack Krasowski for an interview. He was severely friendly and had encyclopedic knowledge of the company and ignored his duties for a good 20 minutes to speak to me even though he was stuck in traffic minutes before that.


Thanks again

Juan

PS
Coffee Porter, Raspberry and the IPA blew my mind.

My friend I brought along even went back the following night.

Troy Burtch said...

Juan - glad your enjoying the discovery of craft beer. And no problem giving you Jack's information. I'm glad he helped out.

Cheers,
Troy

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