I love Stratford. We, my immediate and extended family, love Stratford. We’ve come up from Ohio and Pennsylvania at least a dozen times among us. We love the theatre, we love the town, we love the restaurants, the shops, the walks, everything.
Now, you know there’s a “but” coming, and here it is: but the beer is so disappointing.
When I first started coming to Canada, before I discovered Stratford, we would travel to Toronto for many of the same reasons we travel to Stratford, but we also came for the beer. That was in the 1980s, when good beer could be had north of the border that made our American beers weak and tasteless in comparison.
Finally though, over the past 20 years, American craft brewing has taken off, and the products are better and more varied than I could have even imagined. I have been to tiny brew festivals with a dozen different pale ales, a dozen different stouts, and porters and brown ales and pilsners and on and on. My local pub here in Pennsylvania has 40 different craft brews on tap, and any new bar or restaurant worth its salt has at least a dozen high quality craft beers.
So how has Canada, or at least the part I see, fallen so far behind? When we were in Stratford last summer, while there were a wide variety of beers on tap, most of them, including the products offered up as “craft,” would be laughed out of even a tiny competition down here. Insipid, dull, bland, flavorless, and yes, I am aware those are all synonyms.
On the way home, we had a car breakdown, and I chatted with one of the staff at the car dealership in Hamilton, and we talked about her recent trip to Boston. She discussed all the fun things they did, and mentioned they had one day of nothing but rain, and I suggested they should have visited the Sam Adams brewery for a tour and tasting. “American beer?” she said, “Why would I want to do that?”
Stratford, and Canada, you don’t know what you’ve been missing, apparently. Whatever you need to do to jump start your own native craft brewing sector, please do it, and do it soon. We want to enjoy Stratford and the beer on all of our future trips!
Christopher M. Hughes?, McMurray, Pennsylvania