I started working at a microbrewery in Toronto about six years ago, and since then, my entire outlook on the industry has changed. Since we get a couple of free beers after work, and the option of taking home a two-four with each paycheck, and given that I am surrounded by beer in tanks and bottles and the smell of barley and hops lingers in the air all day, the rebellion and revelry that beer used to represent has become more habitual, a part of my daily life.
There’s a strange dichotomy at work in my head, since seeing beer in such vast volumes leads me to devalue it somewhat because it’s so plentiful and generally given to me for free, but since I greatly enjoy the product, it makes me thirsty to find other equally tasty beers. I have a knee-jerk “w.t.f.?” reaction whenever I get charged for beer at bars, even though I know how entitled and downright bratty that sounds, but working at a brewery really spoils you like that and distorts all sense of market value and worth that we assign to products. The flip side is that since I consider the beer we produce to be of a high caliber, I’ve come to expect that same quality in any beer I buy, which ultimately ends up costing a buck or two more.
Lately, I’ve become obsessed with local brews, and thankfully we have a lot of amazing microbreweries in Ontario- Mill Street makes a delicious, light Organic beer and a hearty tankhouse ale, Great Lakes produces a killer, autumn-y Pumpkin ale, Steam Whistle boasts a refreshing, hoppy pilsner with all natural ingredients, KLB brews a kicky, delectable Raspberry Wheat Ale and Amsterdam’s Big Wheel, to quote their slogan, is one “ ’dam good beer.” Working in the industry has made me interested in sampling the local beers in any city I visit, because everyone has heard of the big names, but the lesser-known brands are often just as, if not more, impressive. However, if you want to access a substantial selection of beers from around the world without leaving Toronto, one of the best bars to check out is the Rhino in Parkdale, which features around three hundred different beers, making it hard to ever run out of new things to try.
When I was in high school, I romanticized the whole nightlife community, thought that bartenders had the most wonderful job imaginable and constantly interacted with the most fascinating people, be they the poets and musicians of the city, or the gritty underbelly of society whose stories would make your head spin. After having bartended for a handful of events at my brewery- or more specifically, having been sober in an atmosphere where everyone else was ridiculously inebriated- I see that bartending is a job like any other, and requires a great degree of delicacy and psychology, since you’re often dealing with people in lucid, vulnerable or volatile states. But more often than that, I have been the drinker, sipping on a pint while watching a concert, screaming over the music at a rowdy bar flailing around a bottle to emphasize my words, or just chilling out over a few beers with my co-workers, poking fun at each other and winding down after a long day. One more thing I can say about working at a brewery- paradoxically, I find myself drinking less than I used to, but enjoying it more than I ever did.