I believe I've mentioned it here before, but before going on, and for the sake of transparency, I should state again that I was/am on the Executive Committee for TBW and one of its co-founders.
A Humble Start
Beginning back in March of this year, a number of individuals starting discussing the idea of holding the first Beer Week in Toronto but it wasn't until a trip to the Craft Brewers Conference in Chicago that John Bowden, Cass Enright and myself actually started to get serious about it. We talked to some Ontario brewery representatives who were present in Chicago and we talked with some British Columbia brewers to see how the Vancouver Beer Week was shaping up (VCBW took place in May, after the Craft Brewers Conference). Upon returning to Toronto the TBW talk heated up and a committee was formed to start the process of getting the event up and running. We believed Toronto was ready for it and could handle a full week of beer events.
After months of meetings, hitting the pavement and working on logistics, our committee brought beer to the forefront in Toronto from September 20th to the 26th. It was the main focus in the city. The mainstream media (Toronto Star, Globe & Mail, National Post, NOW) all jumped on board and provided us with great coverage. There was also great support from online media (blogTO, beer and food bloggers) that we were ecstatic about.
Here are some of my Pro's and Con's
Passports - The TBW Passports were a great success from our point of view. There were many licensees, breweries and drinkers that commented on the passports with overwhelmingly positive remarks. Each passport, in case you couldn't get your hands on one, featured a map of Toronto on one side that was highlighted with each participating licensee and brewery and the other side featured small bio's of each participating business.
These passports can be used for pub/restaurant suggestions as they cover the city. So, if you're heading to the west end and you're not sure where to find a good bar with a good craft beer selection, use the passport to see what's in the area.
Licensee Participation - This was key for the success of the week. When we were planning TBW we set a goal of signing up a minimum of 30 licensees - we ended up with almost 50! The response from the publicans surprised even us in the beginning. And after the week was complete, those we've followed up with were more than happy with the turnout their establishments received.
|Troy, Fred (Charlevoix), Daniel (Garrison), Cass Enright|
Quality of Events - The Ontario Craft Beer Week (June 2010) featured a number of events throughout the province but I felt that many of them lacked substance. Don't get me wrong, there were a number of very good and well organized events during their week, but TBW events had a lot of meat on the bone. New beers, brewers in attendance, beer dinners with international breweries, tastings with beer educators and writers, festivals and much more. There were events for everyone, across the whole city.
The TBW Logo - It will define the week. You see that logo and you are immediately reminded of the week.
TBW Homebrew Competition - Rob Symes, another individual on the Executive Committee (myself, Symes, Enright, and Bowden) developed the TBW Homebrew Competition, organized the judging, got great prizes and worked with Amsterdam Brewing Co. to get them to brew the winning entry on a commercial scale in February. He did an amazing job for a first year competition and the homebrewers responded by entering over 90 beers!
......I'm still trying to think of something.
No, in all seriousness I felt that the week went better than even our committee expected it to go. The people of Toronto, once we got our message out to the public, wanted this. The support from the public was unbelievable. We heard so many stories of licensees seeing new faces, getting returning customers, and at one place in particular, the cask ale continuing to run dry every other day.
One con that I personally have is the TBW website. I was the person that created and maintained the website this year. We used a free service and I believe it showed. The events had to be entered manually everyday, in the same format, and the application we were using provided me with numerous headaches when entering in information. Next year we'll have a 'real website'.
I would also like to thank our great sponsors who provided artwork, advertising and more. Thanks to NOW Magazine, TAPS The Beer Magazine, Bar Towel.com, Industry Images, Canada Coaster, Igniter and Axis Gear.
And a very special thank you to the Honourable Steve Peters (Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario) who tapped the Mill Street cask to kick-off TBW - to Adam Grant of the Monks Table: A Gourmand House for hosting the TBW Media dinner in August to help spread the word! - and to Mill Street brewery for hosting the media launch.