It’s a difficult question to answer, but in the end, I usually tell people it was a trade-off. I opted for a quieter life with a lot of cool outdoorsy opportunities while giving up the luxuries of the Ontario beer scene.
For those that need a bit of background, the last time I saw Ontario was the morning of March 19th, a little more than three months ago. With a huge backpack on my shoulders and a Guinness hat on my head (damn, I love that hat), I said “farewell” to my parents and brother at Pearson International Airport and soon after boarded a plane for Edmonton — my layover point on the way to a remote wilderness town at the end of the highway called Fort Smith in the Northwest Territories.
Fort Smith is formerly the capital of the Northwest Territories and is still a strong hub for government employees. With fewer than 2,500 people living in town, Smith lies on the south bank of the Slave River, which is considered by many to be the best whitewater kayaking spot in North America. To the south and west of the city is Wood Buffalo National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its significance as a boreal forest in Northern Canada. The town is so small that I could walk or do a short paddle to get to crown land for some camping or hiking. For an outdoors-minded person like myself, the NWT is, as the territory’s marketing suggests, spectacular.
As beautiful as Smith is, it is at the end of the road. Smith is not a stopover point; it’s a destination. The one liquor store in town has a better beer selection than I expected, but many of my favourites from “back home” haven’t made it out of Ontario, let alone this far west. The shelves are filled with the typical macro-lagers, but also several imports and craft beers from the likes of Big Rock Brewery, Alley Kat Brewing and, for some reason, Quebec’s Dieu du Ciel. Nothing to complain about, for sure, but it’s no LCBO.
Like many Canadians from the southern parts of the country, I grew up fascinated by the North. I read the stories of Jack London and the poetry of Robert Service; and I longed to see the territories. What better way to see at least one of the territories than to live in it for a couple of years? Originally, I came here to work for a newspaper, but after three months of trying to fit back into the culture of office life, I’ve returned to the freelance work/life balance.
That’s where the second most asked question I get comes in: Am I returning to Ontario? Not for now, beer lovers. For now, Beer In Canada HQ will remain just a tad North of 60.