Ontario: A New Craft Brewery Is Not Quite Born


Good news to the west end of the lake as Left Field Brewery moves from “brewing” to “brewery” by opening up an actual plant soon to get me that oatmeal brown of theirs on a more regular basis. There is an open house this Saturday at the nearly open site which I can’t attend but I was really pleased to see this part of the notice under the plain and simple heading “Don’t Drive”:

Since you’re presumably coming to drink beer, please walk, take the TTC or grab a cab. If you or someone in your group must drive, you should know these three things; 1) Limited parking can be found along Greenwood Ave. and some other neighbouring residential streets, 2) We are the new kids on the block and would hate to peeve off our new neighbours by having guests parked in or blocking their driveways. Please only park in designated areas. And by far the most important, 3) Please do not drink and drive.

It has been some time since I launched Beer Bloggers Against Drunk Driving to a decidedly chilly response that included an email suggesting one should not discuss things that do not “promote craft beer.” A recent thread over at the BAers place took a more honest position, offering a range of views but largely admitting that good beer is not always a positive in every context. So, good to see that Left Field is starting out in its own bricks and mortar stage of life on the right foot and telling people to leave the car elsewhere as part of their prime marketing message. Stuff like that gives one reason to pay attention in a more and more crowded market.

Is Good and Craft Beer Really A Form Of Temperance?

Yesterday, Jeff reviewed the stated purposes of Oregon’s Liquor Control Act of 1934 as part of an exploration of the regulation of strong drink in his state. Lew has been writing along a similar line for some time on his separate blog Why The PLCB Should Be Abolished. Cass has been running a similar campaign here in Ontario at FreeOurBeer.ca. I like these campaigns as anyone should who lives in a jurisdiction with a sensory lab. It is, after all, just beer.

But one of the odder things about the good beer discussion is sometimes a bit of pressure to sing of the same song sheet. When I posed a category titled “Beer Bloggers Against Drunk Driving” there is a bit of a chilly response, the idea that one ought not to introduce anything negative into the conversation. One should not have a strong opposite view that asks why good beer might be a wee bit obsessively too central to the world view of those who write about it. It is, after all, a drug.

All that comes to mind for me when I look at the values Oregonianites captured in that law of 1934, we see words that sit in a middle ground, that challenge me to ask how I think about them now almost 80 years later:

(a) To prevent the recurrence of abuses associated with saloons or resorts for the consumption of alcoholic beverages.
(b) To eliminate the evils of unlicensed and unlawful manufacture, selling and disposing of such beverages and to promote temperance in the use and consumption of alcoholic beverages.
(c) To protect the safety, welfare, health, peace and morals of the people of the state.

I have been thinking about words like these a bit lately. They don’t seem to me as bad as the discussion might have led us to believe. In the comments following his post, Jeff raised the spectre of that darling of pre-WWI American prohibitionists, Carrie Nation. I noted that Carrie Nation was not a proponent of temperance but of abstinence. See, my point is that preventing abuse, promoting temperance as well as protecting peace and morals is pretty much what much of western culture wants when it goes to work or mows the front lawn or sends the kids to school. Which may mean we have to consider that in the end maybe temperance won and much of western culture is the better for it. None one advocates for abuse, intemperance, peacelessness and immorality. Of course not, no more than you would support other scourges of 1800s life like child labour or lack of public health. We underestimate or dismiss how more widespread and heavier drinking was then compared to now and how it may have come smashing into conflict with industrialized urban life.

So, is good beer the natural descendant of the temperance movement? Just as lower alcohol lager was presented as a temperance drink in the latter 1800s, is tastier beer now conveying the notion that mass produced beer need not be mass consumed? This is not to say that the liquor control boards should not be undone. I want to buy my beer in cornerstores and gas stations in Ontario like I can in nearby Quebec and New York. But should we reject all? What values can you not support? What regulations would you keep?

BBADD: Beer Bloggers Against Drunk Driving

bbadd4I was thinking the other day about scare-dee cats. While good beer for fans is fun, easy, relaxing and genial for others it can be another nail in the coffin of the moral and secure society we all grew up with or supposedly wished we did. There is something about this dichotomy that makes no sense to me. Craft beer should be making alliances with parts of society which would enhance its vision. For some that is the swank or even the snob but I don’t buy that either. I go to a fine restaurant about six times a year… maybe. Pinning craft beer’s star to fine food is niche and excludes. Similarly being pals with brewers or considering them rock stars is the slightly embarrassing refuge of needy geeks. Not to mention a bit of a sidetrack.

There are bigger issues which neither embarrass or exclude. One of the biggest problems related to drinking is, of course, driving. And drunk driving is primarily a problem caused by driving. No car, no crime. Lew posted about this today in relation to New Jersey’s Flying Fish’s Exit Series beers. When I pointed out that the state’s executive director of MADD had changed her view, Lew commented “Craft brewers and craft beer drinkers do NOT take this seriously enough.”

That was my moment. I was all ready to blast craft brewers for their inaction on the question when I thought about what Lew wrote a bit more. It’s true – craft beer drinkers do not take drunk driving seriously enough either. So we will from now on. By being BBADD. I am going to think about this a bit more and suggest that it is the role of beer fans to promote safe drinking, to present the responsible beer geek as the guy who takes pal’s keys or takes the cab or the bus… or acts as designated driver. We need to ask craft brewers to do the same. For me, this is a no-brainer. Craft brewers have the opportunity to be fight drunk driving and place themselves in the lead of the cause. Social responsibility in the cause could develop as a distinguishing aspect of being a craft brewer and a craft brew fan. There might also be an alliance MADD would welcome one day to confirm they are not the new dry but truly anti-stupid-death. But until that day comes, we can be BBADD to prime the pump.

So, spread the word. Paste the logo at your website. And I know it’s a bad BBADD logo up there so if anyone can make it better or, you know, bad ass or sick or whatever fill you boots. Write a post. Tell a friend. However you relate to beer, make sure it is BBADD.