Crokinole: Canada’s contribution to brewery good times

Great Lakes in Etobicoke is one of the many Ontario taprooms with a crokinole board.

Beer writers hear quite often from people about their own local breweries. This is a wonderful view of how important the buildings have become as homes for more than just beer-making equipment.

New parents love the Wednesday afternoons with playtime and pilsner. Yoga classes augmented by the aroma of stewing barley seem universally popular. And, of course, the list also includes painting workshops and introductory succulents seminars.

Personally, I’d rather spend my time locked in competition with a few friends (old or newfound) while working my way through a tasting flight of sample glasses. Games go with taprooms because they play to all the strengths of the space. Compared to bars, they are quieter, better-lit and generally have fresher beer.

My first visit to Sawdust City’s home in Gravenhurst inspired the thought that this is the kind of place I could comfortably spend an afternoon in. The chairs look like someone’s (talented) grandfather built them, there is a rack of personalized mugs behind the bar and—most of all—plenty of the quiet wood-on-wood “thwack” that can only mean one thing: crokinole.

In the race to be the most Canadian game, crokinole has a very long lead. Its history dates back to just after Confederation. And according to the Wikipedia page, the first crafted board was given as a fifth birthday gift around 1870. Tavistock, Ontario hometown of Eckhardt Wettlaufer, the builder of that early board, is still home to the Crokinole World Championship.

There are a few characteristics of the game that make it so well-suited for taproom play. From picnic tables to barrels, it can balance on a wide variety of tables. Unlike pool or darts it takes up less room and offers less risk of drunken injury.

At home, Helles Island from People’s Pint goes very well with a marathon session.

And like all great cultural keepsakes, crokinole brings us together by setting us apart. I’ve played it at Brothers in Guelph, Anderson Craft Ales in London and at Great Lakes in Etobicoke, amongst others. But never outside Ontario.

And, games are to breweries as magazines are to doctors’ offices—they need to be relevant and kept up-to-date. So, let’s put crokinole in the spotlight!

I’d love to see Ontario craft breweries give it the attention it deserves. Why not crokinole leagues instead of euchre? Or let’s see more tutorials on refining the flicking technique.

If you haven’t tried crokinole, join friends at a taproom near you and give it a shot. If you’re a seasoned pro, maybe it’s time to try your hand at building your own board?

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