The success of and interest in Toronto breweries has taken off as the push to eat and buy local food has branched into the beverage industry. With big names like Steam Whistle and Mill St. battling it out with emerging brands like Great Lakes, the industry is seriously booming in this city.
Crack open a six-pack of Great Lakes Brewery’s Golden Horseshoe Lager, and you’ll find an invitation to visit their Toronto-based craft brewery. John Bowden, a sales and promotions representative at Great Lakes, says visitors are flocking to the brewery, as a clientele dedicated to local craft beer grows.
“Small is beautiful,” says Bowden about the “drink local” trend. “Now it’s rare not to see craft beers on tap. The owners are getting it because the customers are getting it. Our once-niche market is becoming well-known.”
He notes that the demand for craft beer is especially apparent downtown, where bars like C’est What? focus on providing unique beer on tap rather than standards like Molson.
Of course, it’s not only beer that’s produced locally: it’s possible to find wine and even local spirits produced within one hundred miles of the city. Those looking for local wine will find it even easier to buy soon, as the LCBO responds to demand through plans that make it easier to identify purely Ontario wines in-store. The provincial government has also announced plans to encourage local wineries through subsidies and rebate plans for small- to medium-sized vineyards. They’ll also continue boosting marketing and advertising initiatives to promote local wines to the masses.
“We’re seeing the local trend in everything,” says Bowden. “We’ve been really fortunate, and we barely noticed the recession.” Bowden emphasizes that authenticity is key to the local brewery business. “Being local, people want authentic and fresh,” he says, noting that Great Lakes gets a lot of interest in individual seasonal beers like their Pumpkin Ale.
“There’s a revolution happening based on real flavours,” he says. “We’re starting to see the big guys put out new beer, but they can’t touch the locals.”
Lyndsie Bourgon is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, and Canadian Living magazine.