Early this past Monday morning, all across this great Canadian province of Ontario, people from all walks of life—crossing all socio-economic, political, gender, and racial boundaries—breathed a huge sigh of relief and gratitude as the beer vat convoy finally reached its destination, safe and sound and ready to be put into service.
There are few things so deeply Canadian, guaranteed to bring tears to the eyes or to rouse the national spirit as our love of beer.
The Molson Coors brewery near Pearson Airport, Toronto had purchased six giant beer vats. These came to Canada from that other great beer-loving nation—Germany—by boat, arriving in Hamilton Harbor and off-loaded on January 7 2011.
Once ashore, and utilizing complex logistics that would make any army general proud, the six enormous vats began their journey to their final destination.
How big are these vats, you ask? Each one will hold approximately 1.4 million bottles of beer.
Yes, that’s right. 1.4 million bottles of beer.
To drive from the harbour in Hamilton to the brewery outside of Toronto using what we call the 400-series highways, would for you or me be a journey of about 66 kilometres, or 41 miles. However, these vats were so large, they had to be delivered via a different route, as they were too big to go under any highway overpasses. This is why the vats arrived at Hamilton harbour instead of the much closer Toronto harbour in the first place.
The trucking company, which planned (a six month long endeavour) and executed what is being called the most complicated moving job in Ontario’s history, used forty vehicles to make the move—twenty of which were off duty police vehicles, at the expense of the brewery, of course. The convoy also included a mechanic, a welder, and a food truck.
The first major hurdle the convoy had to overcome was the uphill slog to the top of the Niagara Escarpment, along a section of Highway 6 called the Clappison Cut. Each flatbed needed two diesel trucks to accomplish that feat.
In the course of the actual distance traveled—108 kilometres (67 miles)—there were 1600 overhead wires that needed to be moved, involving 8 different hydro-electric companies. The wires were either raised ahead of time, or cut and then repaired after the convoy passed. Yes, this meant that people all along the route were without electricity for anywhere from a half hour to two hours. But honestly, I have not heard of one single solitary complaint about the inconvenience.
After all, this is Canada, and the cause was beer.
Also along the route, some 250 traffic lights needed to be dismantled and then reassembled as the one kilometre long convoy passed through those controlled intersections.
The convoy moved only at night, and only on secondary roads. The journey was to have taken five days. But cold temperatures and an unexpected snow storm stretched that time line considerably.
Each day as I drove my beloved to work and we listened to the local news on the car radio, we received an update on the convoy. The fact that it was the first item on the news every day just underscored for me how serious we Canadians can be about our beer. As for those of us who are of German-Canadian descent...well, serious is such a paltry word, isn’t it?
But finally, in the wee hours of Monday morning, those enormous vats—that visually resemble jumbo jet engines—arrived at the brewery amid cheers and applause and the honking of horns.
And you thought the use of the word “eh” was our most noteworthy affectation!