I'm not sure I ask good questions. Professionally, I have to be prepared to ask questions like "where were you on the night of June 27th, 1979?" or "would you agree with me that a bicycle pump and a hippopotamus are very different things, Mr. Jenkins?" Not that I do. I just have to be prepared. So, I was aware that the sorts of questions you learn playing the board game Clue might not be the same set of skills I might need to draw upon to put a few questions to Brewers Plate Toronto organizer Chris Lowry this morning. Happily, I think they were fairly lucid or at least he was kind enough to play along. Or he had the word to get out about this event and tickets to sell. Let's see how we did...
Q: What made you set up the Brewer's Plate in the first place? What did craft beer mean to you as you considered creating the event?
We saw beer as a great gateway drug to talk about local, sustainable business. Back in 2007 I was running a local, green business network called Green Enterprise Toronto and we wanted to promote local food and beverage businesses, regional farming, the whole idea of 'buy local first' for the local economy. We were inspired by a similar local beer event for sustainable business in Philadelphia. Craft beer is all about creative independent business that is place-based. full of character, with great stories behind it. If its locally owned, it is far more important for the local economy than any import.
Q: Over the four years since Brewer's Plate as been going, we have seen the number and quality of beer bars and brewers take off. How has the event grown in relation to the changing Toronto beer scene?
We've see a surge of interest among the craft brewers, with more wanting to be part of it every year. For the first couple of years we had 6 breweries from the Toronto region. When we started working more closely with OCB, we got more breweries on board. This year we are up to 20 breweries, and that's really exciting. There's a synergy between to thriving craft beer scene and the Brewers Plate, because the brewers can see how we can help to amplify their message and make the link to fine food, and the locavore food movement.
Q: What has been the response of the chefs to an annual date with good beer. Do any of them who run restaurants now have a better beer list?
I would say that all or our chefs are pretty savvy about craft beer, but I know for sure that they have discovered new ones at the Brewers Plate.
Q: This year's charity is a great cause to support. How have you tried to locally grown food into the Brewer's Plate even in a major urban setting?
Well the Toronto region is a vast breadbasket, its a wonderful agricultural region, and we include all of southern ontario when we talk about local food security in this region. Sourcing local year round is not as hard as it seems, and we like to thing we are helping to increase demand. Our charity goes deep into the culture, because they turn kids on to gardening and impart a lifelong appreciation for the soil, the beauty of fresh food, and the basic understanding that it doesn't just come from a store.
Q: What type of beer is out there that is not available in the Ontario market would you like to see available to advance the case for good food and good beer?
I think we make some of the finest examples of every type of beer right here in Ontario. I love the beer from other places when I am travelling, but I don't care about imported beer at home. Ours is so diverse, so amazing. But I do have a weakness for McCauslan's Pale Ale from Quebec.
Lob balls? Maybe. But I am more than interested to find out what is going on at this event and not because the gods have allowed me to attend. I hear that there is a secret world of beer in Toronto that is not made available to us in the hinterland, we auslanders of Easlakia. Not sure if that is echo chamber talk or something real. I need to investigate. Plus, Jordan broke down today waiting for something called (dear God, no) a "launch for Alexander Keith’s original cider" and, in his naturally troubled fevered state, reached out and called the Brewers Plate last year his beer event of 2011. He gets quite exercised about it all, in fact. Me, I am just worried I have the right socks to fit in with the hipsters of the Big Smoke.
But back to the main point. The event is held to further the good cause of teaching kids about gardening and growing your own good food. I am all over that. My peas were planted Sunday and other seeds have been started in their little covered trays. Growing your own food is about as easy, interesting, health, cheap and life affirming thing you can do with a clay pot and a handful of soil. A great cause for good beer to back.