What a summer it's shaping up to be! First there's the garbage strike (click here for tips on how to survive). Now LCBO workers are poised to go on strike. We could have, as Toronto writer Carl Wilson phrased it, "the stink without the drink."
For those of you unfamiliar with Ontario's arcane liquor distributions rules, the LCBO has a near monopoly. Because it has almost exclusive rights to sell booze to the province's 13 million residents (well, the ones over 19, at any rate), it's one of the world's biggest buyers.
Fret not, oh thirsty Ontarians, for the monopoly is not complete! Here are ways to slake your thirst during an LCBO strike. Oh, and as an added bonus, most of them work on a locavore diet!
- Drink Beer
The strike will not affect Beer Stores (we have such creative names in this province), so domestic beer will be almost as easy to get as it usually is. The fine imported beers that the LCBO carries, however, will not be available.
- Visit a brewpub
Many Beer Stores do stock very good Canadian (and some imported) beers. But if your tastes are, like mine, a bit on the snobbish side, then go to a local brewpub or microbrewery. Bartowel has some great suggestions, and they're not all in Toronto. In Toronto, my favourites (so far) are the Mill Street in the Distillery District, and C'est What? on Front Street. Please add your own suggestions in the comments. I'm always on the lookout for a good pint of ale!
- Go grocery shopping
Thanks to another part of Ontario's arcane liquor laws, some winemakers have their own stores, often set up in grocery stores. These stores, such as the Wine Rack stores, will not be affected by the strike. However, they have a limited selection from one company. You'll notice that Wine Rack also allows online ordering.
- Visit a winery
A generation ago, an LCBO strike would have been unbearable. Back then, local wine was awful! But today, the province isn't only producing drinkable wines, it's producing some very good ones. The best I've tasted have not been available at the LCBO stores, so it's always worth going to a winery. There are great wines to be found in batches too small for the province's liquor stores.
I've toured quite a few on the Niagara Peninsula, and have always enjoyed the outing. There are excellent suggestions in Linda Bramble's guidebook, Touring Niagara's Wine Country (disclaimer: I worked on one edition of the book). There's also a directory of Ontario wineries to help you find one near you.
- Seek out the hard stuff
The biggest problem during the strike will be getting hard liquor. Most of the major distilleries do not have their own stores. However, there are small ones that do. Kittling Ridge is probably the main one. They have seven stores in Barrie, London, the Toronto area and at their main facility in Grimsby. While I'm not a big fan of their wines, I have found some of their harder products, such as vodka, rye and rum, suitable for my highball needs.
- Order a Canatini
Many apartment-dwellers, including me, are living the car-free lifestyle. While this is usually great, it does limit one's ability to traipse about from winery to winery. The solution is the home-grown martini, or Canatini as I'm calling it. Magnotta, which makes some very good wines, also produces beer, grappa, vodka, gin and vermouth. And they deliver using Canada Post.
Yes, you read that correctly: You can get a martini delivered by mail. Well, some assembly required.
- Go visit Uncle Jim
If things get really bad, you might have to dip into the dandelion wine that some strange relative makes. Or, if you want to try something really different, Downey's Farm northwest of Toronto makes all sorts of berry wines. Not my taste, but it could be a fun change for some, and it's a nice place to visit in the countryside. As always, you can make your own beer and wine (let's hope the strike doesn't last that long!), but home distilling isn't legal here...yet.
There are bizarre laws in Canada about transporting booze across provincial boundaries. Folks in provincial border towns, such as Ottawa, can perhaps fill us in on how much policing there is during the strike. You can buy booze in the States (or elsewhere) and bring it back. You will have to pay duty on anything over the rather paltry limit, though.
- Hit the border?
There's a rumour afoot that some of the Duty Free stores may be open for business during the strike. However, we're not sure at this point whether they will be open to the general public or just border-hoppers, as usual. This item will be updated when more information becomes available. This could be good news for folks in areas around Windsor, Niagara Falls and Fort Erie, Cornwall and Thunder Bay or Rainy Lake (is there a duty-free store at the Rainy Lake crossing?)
- Go on vacation
This is especially true for folks in Toronto and Windsor, where garbage strikes continue. Go to Barcelona, pick up a case of cheap Cava, head down to a beach somewhere and ride out the strike season in style.