Saloon League Toronto

The Saloon League brings illicit beer to Toronto

The Saloon League is Toronto's take on this century's speakeasy. Held once a month, the Saloon League (named as the antithesis of the prohibition-era Anti-Saloon League) gathers at private residences around the city to bask in enjoyment of "prohibited" draft beer. Prohibited is a loose term, in this case, as Ontario has sticky laws about pouring draft beers made out of province.

"The laws are complicated," according to a Saloon League organizer, who goes by the name Hyde. "Essentially, legalities prevent the flow of draft beer into the province."

"The good news," he continues, is that if you bring a keg across the border--well, that's completely legal."

Hyde explains that he was on a trip to California a few months ago when he decided to bring back a keg. That's when he got the idea of getting a few friends together to enjoy a foreign brew. The idea morphed into a regular event featuring two to four kegs of beers you can't find on tap in Toronto — brands such as New Glarus, Hopfenstark, AleSmith, and Founders.

"It's sort of like the beer connoisseurs' version of the keg party," Hyde explains. Which, I take to mean, doesn't include keg stands. Members personally import the beer and host the league parties, spreading the word via email, Twitter, and word of mouth. There is no cover, obviously, since that wouldn't exactly be legal. "It's a little bit underground," Hyde says, "and not highly publicized."

Though the bits and pieces are totally legal, there are enough grey areas to make Hyde cautious enough to use an alias. "If you're willing to pay the tax," he explains, "you can bring in up to 45 litres of beer. It might be another $20, but in the grand scheme of things, that's not very much."

The next saloon league meetup is scheduled for December 10, though full details can be had by signing up for its mailing list. Among other things, it will feature Founders beer from Michigan, and possibly pimped out suits and passwords.

Photo by Lyndsay Jobe in the blogTO Flickr pool


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