How good timing, good intentions and a few thirsty neighbours turned St. Clair’s Wychwood Barns into Toronto’s answer to a Bavarian beer garden.
When Cass Enright bought a house in the St. Clair and Bathurst area last March, he quickly ran into a major problem with the ’hood: There was almost nowhere nearby to get a pint of craft beer. As the proprietor of BarTowel.com, a website devoted to Canadian craft brews, he figured something needed to be done. The morning after he signed the papers on his new home, he called up Artscape, the which manages the nearby Wychwood Barns, to pitch them on holding a one-day beer festival.
His timing was fortuitous. The Stop Community Food Centre at the Barns have had beer on the brain since last summer, when it hosted its annual Deli Duel, a fundraiser and smoked-meat competition. “Not everyone was eating, but they all wanted to drink beer in our garden,” recalls The Stop’s Christina Palassio.
So this spring, Enright and Palassio conceived the Brewery Market, where Ontario microbreweries are tapping their kegs and pouring $5 cups over 11 summer Sundays at the Barns. It’s the closest thing Toronto has to Bavaria’s lively biergärten, small gardens where people drink fresh pints and eat pretzels and pork knuckle under shady trees. But instead of German fare, The Stop bakes pizzas in an outdoor oven, topped with ingredients from its gardens.
Palassio and Enright had different motivations for creating the market—Palassio’s was to raise money for The Stop’s food-education programs, while Enright wanted to create a better neighbourhood drinking scene and bring more exposure to local brewers. In between the craft-brewing heavyweights (Great Lakes, Cameron’s) are some seriously under-the-radar operations. “Last week, the Granite brewpub was featured,” says Enright, “and a lot of people had no idea they even existed. It’s just at Mount Pleasant and Eglinton, and it’s been there for 20 years.”
The Indie Alehouse, a nascent Junction outfit, will debut its brews this August, and in September look for Grand River, a brewery housed in a former Cambridge knife factory that took home four medals at this year’s Ontario Craft Brewers Awards.
So far, the neighbourhood is turning out. Nearby resident Fred Beserve has been to every market this year, after dropping in on the Market’s first installment in May, where Barrie’s Flying Monkeys brewery was exhibiting. “Now I get my chores done early so I can invite friends to the Barns,” says the 37-year-old bank consultant. “My wife and I take turns watching our two-year-old daughter in the playground, while the other has a beer with our friends. It’s the perfect Sunday afternoon.”
Coming up at the Brewery Market
July 24: Cameron’s (Oakville)
August 14: F&M (Guelph)
August 28: Indie Alehouse (Toronto)
September 11: Great Lakes Brewery (Toronto)
September 18: Grand River (Cambridge)
September 25: Beau’s All-Natural (Vankleek Hill)
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