Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Culture: Doors Open and Beer

TORONTO, ONTARIO - One of the delightful things about living in a multicultural city that is a destination for tourists from all over the world is that one never knows what kind of interaction might be coming next in a public space. Doors Open has long been one of my favorite events, giving me an excuse to explore all over the city and see things that I wouldn't normally see.

I spent Saturday helping the Toronto Railway Historical Association shepherd people in and out of the John Street Roundhouse on board a train, including a brief stint operating the heritage turntable. One of my fellow volunteers was new to the organization, so there was plenty to talk with him about in the breaks between my task of positioning the turntable for the passenger moves.

With the first fourteen stalls of the roundhouse occupied by the Steam Whistle brewery, he turned the conversation at one point to beer. It turned out that one of joys of immigrating to Canada for this northern African had been the exposure to both domestic Canadian beer and the beers of the world available here. "I can't stand Moroccan beer," he stated, "It's so much better here." I told him I had a similar experience--except that I was visiting Konstanz, Germany, and comparing the beer there to common United States brews.

That wouldn't be last time I would end up discussing Steam Whistle during Doors Open. As I walked down Bay Street heading back to Union Station after touring the City Halls on Sunday, I was approached by a pair of Japanese students. It turned out they were going to school in Boston, were visiting Toronto for a weekend, and needed directions. Their requested destination? The Steam Whistle brewery.

As I was headed that direction anyway, I offered to lead the way, and decided to be a tour guide along the way, pointing out the significance of Bay Street to Canadian finance, the former status of the Fairmont Royal York Hotel as the tallest building in the British Empire, and some of the history of Union Station. They listened, but I think they really just wanted to get to the beer samples--only when I went into why it was called Steam Whistle and how they gave tours of the brewery did they start to ask questions.

The moral of the story? In Toronto, one can meet people from anywhere in the world. To have a conversation with them, start talking about the Steam Whistle brewery.

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