The food and drink scene here in Ottawa has improved immeasurably over the past decade or so. We've seen scores of good restaurants and food shops open and the region has become a popular culinary travel destination.
But one of the biggest developments of late has been the establishment of a solid local craft brewing industry. Ontario is actually now recognized as a world leader in the craft beer realm, and a number of the important players call the Ottawa area home.
It was with great excitement that I attended a festive event at City Hall recently - the media launch for the 1st annual National Capital Craft Beer Week, to be held Aug. 10-18, 2012.
National Capital Craft Beer Week's founder and president, J.P. Fournier, was beaming as he unveiled the event, which will feature nine days of craft-brewing related activities at a variety of venues across the region.
He reminded us that Ottawa has actually had a craft brewing industry since 1813 (which, of course, makes me think we'll have even more to celebrate next year) and that craft beer has played an important role in our region's culture, heritage and commerce.
Capping off the speeches that preceded a very jovial meet and greet (given that most of the players in this industry are good friends and extremely supportive of each other) was an official proclamation by Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, declaring Aug. 10-18 as Craft Beer Week.
Craft Beer Week will include beer and food pairing dinners, brewmasters' receptions and educational activities, all designed to offer a wide range of opportunities to learn about, sample, appreciate, and enjoy craft beer.
The final weekend will feature a two-day outdoor craft beer and culinary festival at Marion Dewar Plaza by City Hall. The food being showcased will highlight local artisans who apply the same ethic to their work as the craft brewers do to theirs.
Representing the food industry at the launch event was Michael McKenzie, featured in the June edition of Ottawa at Home magazine and whose Seed to Sausage charcuterie is taking restaurants and food fans by storm. His sampling table was a popular gathering spot after the speechmaking concluded.
The region's nine major craft brewers - Beau's, Broadhead, Kitchesippi, Mill St., Clocktower, Hogsback, Big Rig, Ashton and soon-to-be-launched Cassell - will all be participating, as well as several non-local members of the Ontario Craft Brewing Association, including Muskoka and Flying Monkeys.
National Capital Craft Beer week is a great addition to Ottawa's thriving summer festival circuit. Passports go on sale July 2nd and a two-day festival pass for the closing weekend is a bargain at only $20, but there will only be a limited number available.
The line-up for the week is still being finalized, so check in at http://nationalcapitalbeerweek.com/ for all the details. Cheers!