This article appears in the Vicki New Times - coming to a mailbox near you!
Kingston is a pioneer in micro-brewing. Indeed, the city boasted a craft brewery before the term was invented.
The Brew Pub (formally, the Kingston Brewing Company) got started in 1986 and is Ontario's oldest brew pub. Its bright red KB3 International truck is a downtown fixture. The "Dragon Wagon" was built in Hamilton in 1947. And, like the pub's Dragon Breath Ale, is a tribute to making things close to home.
“When we buy local food – or drink local beer – we’re supporting local business people,” explains mayoralty candidate Vicki Schmolka. “This makes our economy more resilient. Money spent on products made here is money that’s more likely to stay here in Kingston.”
The dramatic growth of the craft beer industry mirrors the rapid rise of the local food movement. Good for the economy and the environment. This was key to the successful restoration of the local prison farms, with many Kingstonians – including this writer and Ms. Schmolka – buying shares in the Pen Farm Co-op.
These days, people are keen on food and drink that’s less travelled. Indeed, Family Farms, a Verona business, uses the “food-less-travelled” pitch in its successful promotional material.
Local support has fueled the success of craft producers like King’s Town Brewery and its tasting bar and shop on Arlington Park Place, where you can quaff an ale to live music. And Skelton Park Brewery’s marketing leans heavily on the nineteenth century burial ground.
And not just downtown: The Riverhead Brewing Company offers London Porter and Tropical IPA – along with pub fare -- at its Fortune Crescent location. Spearhead Brewing Company runs a taproom and retail store on Development Drive. It’s even fashioned a network of customers across southern Ontario.
“We’ve forged relationships with some of the local breweries,” says Mara Shaw of Loving Spoonful, the expanding outfit that supports sustainable eating and food security. “We’ve worked with Riverhead, Spearhead, MacKinnon, and Stone City. They’ve been phenomenal supporters”
Stone City Ales on mid-town Princess Street employs some 30 people, serving food that departs from traditional pub fare. “I believe the craft beer movement is a part of building a more locally-based, democratic economy,” says owner Ron Shore. “We’re embracing the roots of where things come from — the brewers who make the beer, the local farms who feed us, the kitchen staff.”
Mr. Shore’s optimism epitomizes the spirit of the small business operator. He believes that Stone City is helping to rejuvenate Kingston’s mid-town area: fewer empty storefronts, more independent businesses where people meet friends and socialize.
For Vicki Schmolka, the craft brewing trend makes this type of enterprise part of a broader movement. “Consumers have a choice. Why not give local beer a chance?”
“The more connections we have, the healthier our communities,” adds Ron Shore. “If people want to live more ecologically, and if they truly want to invest in our local economy, your local craft brewery is the place to go.”