All 10 bricks-and-mortar breweries currently operating in East Toronto have joined forces to form a brewing collective. The aptly named Toronto East Brewing Collective includes Brunswick Bierworks, Common Good Brewing, Eastbound Brewing Co., Godspeed Brewery, Left Field Brewery, Louis Cifer Brew Works, Muddy York Brewing Co., Rorschach Brewing Co., Radical Road Brewing Company, and Saulter Street Brewery and the group is set to release a statement announcing their formation later this week.
David Wallace, who handles Sales and Marketing for Muddy York Brewing Co, says the collective came not only from a shared vision of like-minded people who live and work in the area, but also a desire to put some focus on a region that can sometimes be overlooked.
“Most of the breweries in Toronto who have been the beneficiaries of media hype (deserved though it may be) are all clustered in the west end,” he says. “There’s already this ridiculous ‘cultural divide’ that makes people in the west end feel like traveling east of the Don Valley requires a full day of logistics planning and we’re hoping to dispel much of that nonsense.”
(I can confirm this a legitimate and frustrating thing. On recent travels to Toronto, I spoke to West-enders who hadn’t been to places like Godspeed yet because the 20 minute TTC trip was “so far.” As someone who lives two hours away, I wanted to throat punch them).
Luc “Bim” Lafontaine, Brewmaster at Godspeed, tells me the main focus of the collective will be mainly collaborative events. “We created the collective so we can put ideas together that will lead to events that promote the east end and its breweries.”
In keeping with this event-focused approach, the collective will launch in rather epic fashion on June 14th, taking over the taps at three different east Toronto venues. “Brewed in The East” will occur simultaneously at The Wren, The Only, and Bar Hop Danforth. All 10 breweries are participating and attending and all 10 breweries will brew a different beer for each venue, meaning there will be 30 unique beers being poured in East Toronto.
Given the oft-lamented lack of vocal lobbying efforts in Ontario, I spoke to folks at some of the breweries involved in the Toronto East Brewing Collective to see if this might be the start of an effort to advocate more strongly for brewers’ interests, but that does not appear to be the case, at least at this time. “We are essentially an organizing body for events and initiatives featuring breweries in the neighbourhood,” says Mandie Murphy, co-founder of Left Field Brewery. “It’s a possibility in the future but not a foundational goal.”
Regardless, it seems like a great initiative to continue to promote local beer in a city where the scene is booming and the brewers are seemingly intent to continue to collaborate even as the market gets increasingly competitive. “There’s lots of talk of community in this industry, some of it real, some not so much,” says Wallace. “But we are ten independent businesses, competitors for the same real estate, who have found much common ground and a real interest in supporting each other.”
Of course, whether or not that will compel the beer drinkers West of Bathurst to hop on the Bloor line to take the perilous journey east remains to be seen.