About a month ago (April 18th) the crew from Alexander Keith’s rolled through Toronto with their mobile brewery setup. Their event brought ”Canada’s first mobile brewery to a downtown parking lot (near the Duke of Westminster Pub – ~Bay/Adelaide). The brewery itself was a large trailer that had been retrofitted to house a small scale (small for Keiths) brewery to display and educate passers-by on the brewing process. Two brewmasters were on hand to give a play by play walk through as they brewed* beer (*due to legal restrictions the process was taken to the point of adding yeast, which would trigger the fermentation).
Steve Durand proudly gave me a personal walk-through of the impressive setup. All of the key elements of the brewing process were present, including a hand-grinder for preparing the malted grist, hot liqor tank, mash tun, etc. Several varieties of hops were on display including cascade and hallertau hops, which are currently featured in Keith’s new Hop Series. The brewers explained to curious attendees the importance of hops in the brewing process.
I’m sure brewers of major/macro brands get a lot of flack from craft brewers and drinkers alike for selling out, making “crappy” beer, or otherwise not being authentic in what they do. Because large breweries often employ PR folks to represent their brands, an ingenuous perception of the brand can often be exuded. They don’t live and breathe the beer; they simply talk about it and try to sell it. Talking with Steve and watching the brewing staff explain the brewing process brought home the fact that there are very passionate people working at larger beer companies. Steve was as passionate as any established or upstart local craft brewer I’ve met. These guys are often overlooked, and while people will staunchly remain of the opinion that beer should be “craft, only craft”, it still takes an incredible amount of skill to ensure large batches of beer can be produced efficiently and with consistency.
As for the rest of the event, it was a little drab. There was a live band playing, picnic tables setup for hanging out, and a hop wall. Sounds sort of OK, right? Certainly it was due to legal/licencing issues, but there was not a drop of beer to be had on site. The picnic tables were unattended, the band had no audience, and the beautifully crafted bar (in the trailer) was not being used. The lack of beer hurt this event in a major way – imagine you went to a brewery during prohibition to learn how beer was made – what a tease! The brewers were not able to put into context the details about the brewing process, and no social vibe was created in the space as there was no reason to hang around. Guests were informed they could head back to the Duke of Westminster, but the disconnect between the pub and the Keiths setup was a bit too much, and the event lost the opportunity to truly promote their beer and create any buzz (alcoholic or otherwise) and diminished the excitement of seeing beer being made. Otherwise this was an innovative and enjoyable way to showcase the brewing process and get to chat with the brewmaster. I hope they were able to secure liquor licences in other cities/provinces as they toured Canada.