Politics and pints? It should be last call.
Craft breweries have always been chatty places, where discussions go deep and run the gamut from Brews and Bibles men’s groups in Texas Hill Country to board game groups and trivia nights ad infinitum.
But when it comes to politics, it’s time to zip it. Because breweries are in a no-win situation.
Conservative leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre created the latest storm after packing event space at Steam Whistle Brewing in downtown Toronto with supporters. That triggered a social media outcry from many Steam Whistle patrons, so the brewery distanced itself from the rally with a statement reading, “Steam Whistle is in no way affiliated with Pierre Poilievre, does not endorse his political views, nor did the brewery sponsor the event.”
That could’ve been the end of it, but Poilievre took umbrage during another leadership campaign rally in the Niagara Region, where he slagged Steam Whistle’s “watery” marquee pilsner and praised beer from Oast House in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Oast House didn’t appreciate the shoutout and responded, “Just for the record our brewery had zero affiliation with Mr. Poilievre’s recent event in Niagara, nor were we even aware our beer was there until the tweet a few hours ago. Also, to clear up any confusion, this is definitely NOT our property in the video.”
Breweries can’t win when beer becomes a campaign issue, caught between the passion of patrons and partisans.
Just ask London Brewing. During the 2021 federal election campaign, it was the host for a Liberal leader Justin Trudeau campaign stop, which was all pretty normal until a People’s Party supporter decided to throw gravel/stones/rocks (insert your media description here) at the prime minister — kind of a London version of the Chicago Seven being pushed through the window of the Palmer House where the chaos had nothing to do with the host but they wore the association.
It’s different for craft brewery owners who choose to put themselves in the middle of divisive issues, such as Innocente of Waterloo whose owner was front and centre protesting lockdowns and public health mandates during the pandemic.
But for everyone else, steering clear of politics or even responding on social media is bad for business.
MORE FESTS ON TAP
June is shaping up to be a busy month for craft beer festivals. On the grounds of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, there’s Brews and Food on Father’s Day, June 19. Organized by the local Rotary Club, the food truck and beer event has a trio of Stratford breweries — Black Swan, MVP and Jobsite — among the almost 20 taking part. Rusty Wrench of Strathroy is also making the trip, along with two pollinators-to-pint cideries, Heeman’s of London and Shale Ridge of Thedford.
Bigger is the new Great Ontario Beer Festival at Bingeman’s in Kitchener on June 24-25 where almost 40 breweries, cideries and distilleries will be represented. Among those tiny breweries you might not have heard about are Three Sheets of Port Elgin and IX Poets of Kitchener, along with a couple you likely have, Caps Off of St. Thomas and Natterjack of West Lorne.
Caps Off in St. Thomas and a local hot sauce creator have teamed up.
Big Dog Smokey Hot Sauce’s (bigdogsmokeyhotsauce.ca) soon-to-be released Hot Tam uses Caps Off’s Scottish ale, Hold Onto Your Tam. Fans of smokey hot sauce can buy it by the bottle or try it first at Bella Jack’s, a cantina around the corner and down the street from the wee brewery.
The smooth Hold Onto Your Tam was chosen for the sauce because of its smokey flavour, Big Dog owner David Young said.
Hot Tam is a new take on Big Dog’s original sauce, with the beer replacing apple juice.
“I use smoked habaneros for this sauce,” Young said. “(It) pairs well with beef, chicken, and pretty much anything.”
Big Dog started selling hot sauces at retailers during the pandemic. Hot Tam will be available at Caps Off. For a list of other locations, check Big Dog’s Instagram or Facebook.
NEW AND NOTED
Never say you’re sour on spring, unless you’re talking about a new beer. Powerhouse, the gem of 100 Kellogg Lane in London, has Sippin’ On Sunshine, a sour with tropical tastes, on tap and in the retail store. SOS is 4.5 per cent alcohol with an undetermined amount of vitamin D.
Returning to Imperial City in Sarnia is Coffee Blonde, brewed with beans roasted locally at Blackwater Coffee Company. Anticipate that your visual will differ from the taste sensation of this intriguing beer.
Total Eclipse of the Haze is a new New England-style IPA from Black Swan of Stratford. Brewed with Eclipse hops, it delivers notes of mandarin oranges.
Wayne Newton is a freelance journalist based in London.
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