Taking part in Riverside’s fifth annual Wine & Craft Beer Fest, hundreds of Torontonians ventured into the Queen Street East neighborhood and found a small-town community atmosphere with a view of downtown.
This year’s Thursday night event brought community members into shops of all kinds to sample wine and craft beer. Businesses ranging from bike and glasses shops, wall framing, salons and flower stores all took part. From shop to shop and glass to glass, attendees got to know the community by sipping and strolling.
“We think it’s a great neighbourhood. I used to live in this neighbourhood and we still have a home here,” said Micheline Kuepfer, co-owner of Broken Stone Winery, while hosting a tasting at Barefoot Beauty nail salon.
“We still like to connect with the people of this community.”
Hosted by the Riverside Business Improvement Area (BIA) team, the festival began in 2015 to help showcase the neighbourhood’s sights and culture. It expanded to include wine and craft beer in 2017.
“Riverside is a much smaller community than the Danforth. We like to have this small-town feel even though we’re so close to downtown Toronto,” said Lais Fabricio, executive director of Riverside BIA.
“The Riverside Wine & Craft Beer Fest has this characteristic of many different events happening at different locations. It’s about drawing a closer relationship between the people and the businesses.”
People drawn to the festival embraced that philosophy.
“What I found really interesting was having wine vendors in a variety of local businesses,” said Gillian Maharaj.
“I thought it would be all in restaurants. So it was unique to be inside a flower shop, a bike shop and a nail salon.”
“I’m originally from Halifax. So, I’ve been craving more character in my life, rather than the core, which I find a bit sterile,” said Nathaniel Marshall, another attendee.
Marshall had once lived in the neighbourhood and wanted to show it off to Maharaj.
“It’s way better to showcase the neighbourhood and its products when you combine the two and not just on their own, because it gives you more of an experience and something unique to come see.”
The year’s festival ran from April 2 to 6. The Thursday night walk through of Queen Street East’s 12 participating businesses showcased eight tastings from wineries and breweries including:
- Saulter Street Brewery
- 13th Street Winery
- Three Dog Winery
- Trail Estate Winery
- Brickworks Ciderhouse
- Broken Stone Winery
- Black Prince Winery
- Eastbound Brewing Co.