Alan Mcleod originally said he wouldn't make it to Toronto until around 17:00. Then an email arrived saying he'd be able to escape earlier than anticipated and should be hitting town in the rearly afternoon.
And sure enough there he is, as chatty and jolly as ever. He joins me and Jordan at our table, but doesn't join us for a drink. He still has his car with him. Being a lawyer, he wisely stays off the booze when any driving is involved. One slight problem. He needs to drop off the car at his hotel before he can start enjoying himself properly. And his hotel is out by the airport. Which is miles away.
Alan is gracious enough to watch me and Jordan continue to get our mouths wrapped around more beer while sipping an iced water. If only I possessed such self-restraint. I wouldn't be such a fat bastard, for one thing. We finally relent to Alan's sad puppy eyes and are preparing to leave when Peter Friesen arrives. Damn good timing, that.
I'm not quite sure why, but our plan involves Alan driving us all out to his airport hotel for car ditching tyhen us all coming back into town in a taxi. On reflection it seems crazy, but I was a few pints into the session when I agreed. Beers has a way of making the oddest ideas appear totally logical.
The hotel is in a weird 1970's wasteland. A concrete colony of chain hotels stretched out along the airport's approach roads. Neither atmospheric nor particularly convenient unless you're flying. But it had one very important thing going for it: price. Alan couldn't find a reasonably priced room in the centre.
After bailing out of our return taxi we rush inside Indie Ale House. I really do rush, having been beerless for more minutes than I care to remember. It's bright, modern and full of young people. I count anyone under forty as young, old fart that I am. I could be the father of every other customer other than Alan. Another odd feeling to stack up with the ones from earlier in the day.
Not that I've anything against this sort of thing. Youth hanging around in pubs, I mean. It's what I did when I was their age. Though I avoided places like this like Watneys*. I stuck to pints of Mild and the company of old men. But I've changed as I've aged. Mostly because that type of drinking experience isn't really possible any more. Also because I realise any culture without a constant influx of the young is doomed to wither and die as its devotees dodder.
There's a fair percentage of women, too. (Something else my youthful haunts lacked. Unless you counted barmaids.) Not that I find it odd. It's much like the trendier places in Amsterdam in that respect.
Tucked behind the bar there's a brewery. One of the shiny modern type I saw so many of in San Diego. Crammed into a space that seems just slightly too small. They must employ slim brewers.
I'm in pleasure mode and having fun, not scribbling frantic notes. What was that beer I just had? What's the one in my glass now, for that matter? It doesn't matter. As it tastes good and the chatter is flowing as freely as the beer, who cares? I certainly don't. Not as if the vast majority of you will ever get to try it, anyway.
It's still light when we emerge bleary-eyed and stagger off to the next destination, 3030. Look to the bottom of the page and you'll see why it's called that. Neither that imaginative nor memorable. It's a barn of a place, divided into two bars by a curtain. We head to the rear one, which ends in a stage, as it's the emptier. Bit of a mistake that as a band turns up and makes conversation if not impossible, more effort and less fun than I like. We decamp to the front room as conversation is the main reason we've assembled. Alongside drinking beer, obviously. But I don't need to mention that, do I?
We end at another brewery, Bellwoods. It's popular. A bit too popular. We have to queue to get. I consider saying "Don't you know who I am?" to the nice young lady on the door, but think the better of it, anticipating a "No - now fuck off, you sad old git" reply. We eventually squeeze our way in and sit at a rustically rough table with a view of the shiny things. How much of the world's stainless steel is now tied up in brewing kit? A fair percentage, based on my recent North American experiences.
I get that paternal feeling again looking around the room. Do they have old men's bars this side of the Atlantic? Maybe hidden away out of sight somewhere.
We eat some meat thingies and bread, served on a plank of wood. That wouldn't impress my son Andrew. He hates all the trendy modern food serving methods. "Can't they afford proper plates, dad?" is a typical comment. I'm more relaxed about this sort of thing. What's on it tastes pretty good.
Not sure what time I get back to my hotel. Midnighty-ish I think it is. I can afford to be fairly late. I haven't that early a start. My first event is all that's planned and that doesn't begin until the afternoon.
We'll be hearing all about that next time.
* Early CAMRA reference there.
I was in Canada and the USA to try to convince a few more suckers to buy my new book:
The Home Brewer's Guide to Vintage Beer.
Indie Ale House
2876 Dundas St West
3030 Dundas Street West,
124 Ossington Ave.
Toronto, ON M6J 2Z5
Birra verde - *We were in a hotel, pizzeria, bar, tobacconist, pool hall and discotheque complex on the shores of a man-made lake, high in Northern Tuscany's Apuan Alps....
6 hours ago