Craft Beer in Ontario
I’d been looking out my window at the seemingly limitless expanse of Ontario for 36 hours. The 2,700-mile train trip from Toronto to Vancouver takes four days and nights, approximately half of which is occupied by trying to get the hell out of Ontario.
Winter may have been receding down in the civilized part of the province,
but up in the north, temperatures remained well below freezing. I’d been treated to an Arthur Lismer vista of frozen lakes and snowy pines for long enough to forget what century it was.
Needing a change, I climbed into the observation car just before sunset, around 4 p.m. Three guys were sitting around one of the tiny, 1950s bridge tables at the front of the car, laughing rather more politely than you’d expect from three unsupervised boys.
I’d met Josh, an Australian, earlier, and he gestured me over to join them.
“Rusty, meet Waleed and Joe,” Josh said, indicating a curly-haired youth and a heavyset guy around my age, mid-30s.
“Want a beer?”
I acquiesced with thanks, accepting a can of Ontario craft beer, and squeezed into the booth beside Josh. Joe and Josh had been smart enough to pack a good selection of beers into their bags before boarding the train; the commissary downstairs only offered bland Molson Canadian.
We all cheers’d and made a round of introductions.
Four strangers on a train in the middle of nowhere have a lot of good stories to tell, and we each took a turn explaining why we’d opted for the train over a much more practical flight.
The backpack beers lasted another round or two, after which I went downstairs to buy up the train’s stock of Molson. Joe got drunk.
“I think this is the first time I’ve ever been drunk,” he told us unsteadily. We were incredulous. Here was a bearded Canadian in his 30s with a backpack full of beer, who claimed to never have been drunk.
“I used to be a preacher.”
Oh. That shut us up briefly while we considered it, before sparking an explosion of teasing that only fueled further beer consumption.
Joe eventually told a story about the joys of becoming a father, including a very detailed hand-gesture-wiggle-dance about the moment he first caught sight of his son emerging from the birth canal. We made him reenact it multiple times just to be sure we understood exactly what it was he was attempting to convey. There could be no mistake. Birth canal. My face hurt from laughing.
The next afternoon, Joe passed by my seat carrying his bags.
“This is my stop,” he said, holding out a hand to shake.
“It was good to meet you. When I recover from my first hangover and come to grips with our discussion last night, I think it’ll be very cathartic for me.”
I nodded solemnly and made the birth-canal hand gesture, then gave him a thumbs-up. He snorted coffee out of his nose and had to retreat to the washroom before the train pulled into his station.