I got a call recently, it was difficult to hear the voice at first, lots of static.
“Yes, they call me that sometimes”.
“My name is Max, I was given your name by someone we know in Celeste”.
“Celeste, I don’t know that city, where is that?”
“It’s far from Canada, but right now I hope you can help us. We haven’t had any connections with Toronto for a long time and have some business to attend to there”.
“Okay, I do corporate law, some other areas, I’m sure I can help.
“No, it’s not a matter of law, it’s about beer”.
“I know about that too”.
“Yes, we heard. With my associate, Robert, we are planning a journey to Toronto, of an investigative nature. We are technical men who advise the brewing occupations, and wish to meet someone in Toronto with pertinent knowledge of local conditions and customs in the field”.
“Oh I can chat with you, sure”. I’m thinking, this guy must be very aged, he talks a little funny, but people do live and work longer these days… Could be a good contact, why not?
“We will arrive by Pullman and take another train, partly subterranean, to the Eglinton station. Can you join us for supper in that ward? By all means suggest a fine establishment, and be assured you are our guest”.
“Okay, how about Wings & Slosh, and don’t let the name scare you, they have a great selection of beers”.
“What an odd name for a licensed establishment. It’s not a low-down dive is it? We can’t abide standing at the bar in any city, that’s not how to drink beer you know. And we don’t like whisky”.
“Oh it’s a cool place, we’ll sit down and I can walk you through the beer scene here”.
“‘Cool place’ … ‘walk through’… the Canadians do speak differently don’t they. Very good, thank you Mr. Beeretseq, we will see you next Wednesday at Wings & Slosh at the stroke of 7. It will be excellent to visit the Queen City again”.
I showed up at the appointed time and immediately noticed two gentlemen in rather odd clothing in the corner. Kind of like what some people wore around 1970 when granny glasses and foppish suits were in. I waved to them and came over. “I’m Beeretseq, hi, how was your trip?”
Max stood to greet me: “I’m Max. Oh the journey was very good, the subway is very much like in our first home, Chicago. Similar signal system to the ‘L’ line. We were impressed by the telephonic device which declares each station on public address in the cars, quite an advance. And the use of lady conductors is novel and salutary. I must post my friends in transportation immediately on return”.
Max again: “Meet my associate, Robert”.
“Hello Robert. Good to meet you gents. Hope you like the city”.
Robert: “Oh, we do. We are staying at the hotel across from the station, the Royal York. It is much as we remember from a brewers congress there a long time ago. The railroad station is quite the same as well. But those incandescent notebooks with wires everyone carries! I’ve never seen such a thing and need to learn all about this. My doctorate was in electricity, I knew Edison you see”.
Max: “Many of the ladies seem to wear beach attire in public though, why is that?”
“Oh, it’s been a crazy hot summer. Who did you say knew me in Ce-lest-a, is it, how do you spell that?”
Robert: “Mr. Beeretseq, there is imperative business, can you summon for us a representative selection of your beers available in this quarter? Include any ale or porter which may still be offered”.
“Yes, no problem. Hey Miss, can you get us three halves each of Canadian, Boneshaker, and Sidelaunch Lager? Bring them together”.
Server: “Coming right up”. Whispers to me: “Your friends are a little strange, I gotta say, but we get a mixed crowd in here”.
The beers duly arrive. I start to explain: “Okay this is Molson Canadian, a lager from Molson-Coors. Very popular here, what do you think?” Each takes a sip.
Max: “Mr. Beeretseq, don’t confound two establishments, the Coors concern is in the far west and your fine John Molson Brewery in Montreal. (Gazes at Robert with furrowed brow). But we are glad to taste Molson’s lager, bottom fermentation must be quite new for them. I suppose the kegs come west on refrigerated cars?”
“Um, yeah … so tell me what you think”.
Max: “Very much like our best lager at home, less satiating and the hop blend is singular, but very good, with excellent yeast savour. The house is clearly committed to pure yeast culture, I am much taken with this production”.
Robert: “I concur with Max, let’s broach the next one. A beer without one to follow is not an outing we always say”.
“Yeah, me too. Okay this is Boneshaker, an India Pale Ale, about 7% abv”.
Max: “Now this is very good, it’s got the zestful aroma and taste of the best Oregons and Pacific Clusters and there is no stinting on them either. It’s present-use of course. We like beer that way, it hasn’t the chance to absorb foreign organisms in the cellar. And 7% is a traditional stimulant level for bitter beer. It comes less bright than we are accustomed to, but we get it. Totally”.
“Hey that’s not how you have been talking so far!”
Max: “Yes well you see, before your arrival I had a palaver with the server girl here, Freja. We are both from the same town in the old country. She was explaining some of your local expressions”.
Robert: “In passing I must tell you we much admire the quality of building in your city, and so tall! Louis Sullivan must have associates here of the very first class, and the materials being employed are revolutionary in my estimation”.
“Another beer gents? Try this lager, made in Collingwood up north”.
Max: “Another beer of topmost grade. I never had better even in Bavaria where the pilsener type is all the go”.
Robert: “Mr. Beeretseq, can we purchase Canadian Club in this saloon?”
“Ya think? But I thought you said you didn’t like whisky”.
Max: “As a firm rule we eschew whisky but when on business distant from Celeste we sometimes indulge for professional reasons. We want to consider if the stability is affected by the long shipment, there is first the water-voyage, then different atmospheres, temperatures, pressures.
“Here’s two shooters, tell me what you think”. Each downs them bob’s your uncle.
Robert: “Excellent! Exactly like in bottle at home, clean and rich with no empyreuma or other improper properties. Their QC rocks, dude!” (Max nods enthusiastically).
“Glad you like it”.
Max: “Mr. Beeretseq, our visit with you has been much too brief, but most instructive. Thank you. We must now depart, we have other business early tomorrow, a scientific station to visit in Galt. An Uber is out front to carry us to the Royal York Hotel. We have taken care of the saloon’s bill, don’t sweat it”.
“Wait a minute, I want to talk more to you!”. But they straighten out their odd black clothes and march with walking sticks toward the exit. A noisy bus goes by raising a huge cloud of dust and I see them half-obscured in the haze with arms raised to get their cab. Then they’re gone.
I ask Freja, the server: “Is it true you are from Europe?”.
Freja: “Yes I am, I lost the accent a while ago. Your friends are hilarious, at first Max spoke like my oldest grandparent when I was a kid, but then they kind of fit in. Bring them back any time, dude”. (Laughing).
Note re images: the first image above is in the public domain, and was sourced from the Wikipedia entry on Union Station in Toronto, here. The second image, of the Royal York Hotel in Toronto, was sourced from the hotel’s website, here. Both are believed available for educational or historical use. All trademarks or other intellectual property therein belong to their lawful owners or authorized licensees. All feedback welcomed.