Metro Morning

Brewery district could be Toronto's newest neighbourhood

Toronto already has theatre and distillery districts, but a loose consortium of craft brewers would like to add one more to the list: a brewery district in the city’s west end.

Thirteen craft breweries working together to promote each other's businesses

A beer from Rainhard Brewing Co., one of the brewers involved in the idea to create a new district in Toronto. (Makda Ghebreslassie/CBC)

Toronto already has theatre and distillery districts, but a loose consortium of craft brewers would like to add one more to the list: a brewery district in the city's west end.

The 13 breweries, most of which are located in the Junction Triangle, Bloordale Village and Trinity Bellwoods, are all keen on the idea of at least working together to support each other's businesses, says their de facto leader, Steve Himel, general manager of Henderson Brewing Co.

"As of yet this is just an idea. We are still in the early stages," Himel told CBC's Metro Morning on Tuesday.

That support could go as far as having the Junction Triangle officially declared the city's brewery district.

Himel discussed the idea with Coun. Ana Bailao, who he said was "extremely excited" by the idea. A motion is now before council that would kick-start the process.

According to Himel, a consortium could work together to promote their beer, as well as some of the characters behind it.

"We'd like to be in a position where we become more welcoming, more approachable for people who maybe have yet to find a way into craft beer," Himel told Metro Morning.

While most craft brewers enjoy a collegial relationship with each other, Himel said, they could benefit from better publicity for their wares.

"I think that a lot of beer drinkers don't understand craft beer, they don't understand craft breweries and they don't understand what's involved," Himel said.

"And if they have a single disparate experience that may not be something that's acceptable to them, I think they close the door on it."

Jordan Rainhard of Rainhard Brewing Co., supports the idea of a designated district. He already promotes his competitors' wares if his own brew doesn't appeal to a customer's palate.
Steve Himel of Henderson Brewing Co. is working with fellow craft brewers to promote each other's businesses and introduce more thirsty Torontonians to craft beer. (CBC News)

"Try everything. If you don't like something from us, maybe you'll like something from down the road from another brewery," Rainhard told CBC News on Monday.

Beyond a district, Rainhard would like to see Toronto establish itself "as a craft beer destination."

While Himel and his counterparts work out the details, Coun. Mike Layton is also working to promote Toronto's craft breweries via his so-called "Cask Force." His efforts are also focused on making it easier for craft breweries to do business.

Himel says that any effort will help, as the city lags behind others he has visited in its support for local breweries. In the meantime, he's getting ahead on preparations should the official district come to fruition.

He has printed a map that could be used for brewery tours similar to what wine aficionados can use to our wineries in Niagara.

"We are years behind what has happened in other cities and we have something to celebrate," Himel said.


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