The bright, towering Barbara Frum Atrium was packed with beer enthusiasts and big hearts on the eve of April 17th, as the 5th installment of The Brewer’s Plate Toronto came to life. Local artists and musicians set a jovial tone and spirits were high as hundreds gathered to support local charity Not Far From The Tree, a collection of volunteers who gather fruit from urban fruit trees to be redistributed to local food banks and shelters.
The Brewer’s Plate started out with just six breweries and six chefs in 2008, and now plays host to over 20 of Ontario’s finest ale makers. Teaming up with a collection of more than 40 locavore chefs, artisans and food producers, founders Jamie Kennedy and Chris Lowry couldn’t be more pleased with how The Brewer’s Plate has evolved.
“After the first year we started getting calls from more brewers saying they wanted in, so we said, ‘OK, why don’t we just open it up,’” Chris tells me. “We’ve kept the size down to a level where it can still be intimate so that guests can feel that it’s sort of horizontal. They have access to chat with the brewmasters and the chefs. There’s that vibe of being involved with something that’s almost like a gathering of the local food tribe.”
Though the room was vast and the crowd came hungry, there was certainly no denying the intimacy and excitement that enveloped the audience. With over 200 organizations and individuals donating all or part of what they’re bringing to the event, The Brewer’s Plate has become a celebration of the talent and the tenacity that it takes to be a local producer. With often crippling competition from international suppliers and less costly import goods, events like this allow business owners to connect with their patrons on a more symbiotic level.
“[The Brewer’s Plate] helps initiate people into the values of sourcing local and thinking about where your food comes from. It’s about the whole spectrum of being a conscious consumer and essentially a partner with the producers,” says Chris.
As most of the chefs paired up with a brewery to infuse beer within their dishes, the camaraderie and collaboration was contagious. And with champions of local eating on hand such as Chef Lora Kirk of Ruby Watchco, Chef Brad Long of Café Belong, and Chef Dan Sanders of Globe Bistro and Earth Restaurants, amongst many other culinary talents, the edibles fit the theme of the affair.
For Chris Lowry, and many of the participants on hand, their attendance is more than a name on a card, it’s the ascription to a mantra. “It’s a simple message about growing the local food economy by making choices about who you buy from and celebrating that.”