Jon Johnson
COLUMNIST

At a recent “Homebrew Hangout,” a gathering of home brewers, I found myself talking to a British expat. He shared with me about the drinking culture in his home town, describing nights spent drinking pint after pint of boring beer, watching football and then his friends try to pick fights in the parking lot. Since he’s moved to Ontario and found our craft beer scene, he described his nights out as mostly trying and discussing new beers.
The best part of the current Ontario craft beer movement is obviously all of the great beer, but second to that is the community that has sprouted up around it. From the beer drinking enthusiasts to the home brewers to those employed by the breweries, the scene is full of people who love to drink local and support local. That’s a great thing to see.
The British fellow I described earlier is someone I only met that night, but is someone I have known online for a while, who has commented on my beer check-ins on UnTappd, and who I felt comfortable with instantly because of our shared interest in craft beer.
No matter our other interests, our mutual passion gave us something to bond over, and eventually a reason to become friends in real life.
Making new friends can be hard as an adult, but a mutual interest is a good start. Mutual interests tie together the breweries as well. With the craft beer industry paling in size compared to the macro beer industry, it would be easy to assume that existing breweries would view new brewery openings as unwanted competition. But this does not seem to be the case, with most established breweries welcoming new breweries to the fold, and sometimes even helping them out when needed. In fact, many small breweries get started by purchasing equipment that established breweries have outgrown. Just recently, when Guelph’s Royal City Brewing’s grain mill broke down, Wellington Brewery stepped up to mill for them to make sure they could keep producing.
When the local breweries band together they can grow the whole industry, and everyone benefits. In Ottawa, every new Beau’s customer won over from Molson is a potential new Dominion City, or Tooth and Nail customer, too. Every enthusiast who turns another enthusiast, or casual drinker, onto a great new beer may have just made a great new friend. Every home brewer who shares with another home brewer their secret technique now has to up their own game to win the next home brew competition.
The Ontario craft beer scene makes it clear that when everyone comes together, everyone wins.