Eating-up Stratford
Bite by Byte

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Spooky Stratford: Pubs, Pilsners and Spirits

For Savour Stratford Culinary Week, I was honoured to be asked to lead a group on the 'Pubs, Pilsners and Spirits' tour. The sold-out event was a pub crawl visiting six Stratford watering holes, and featuring Ontario craft-brewed beers at every stop. But the 'Spirits' weren't shots of liquor: they were ghosts!


Eerily enough, a figure from blogs past appeared out of nowhere and proceeded to take the amazing pics that are featured on this post: many thanks to photographer David Charlesworth for letting me use these shots. Check out his amazing farm photos at his Agri-Moments site, and check out his own blog where he showcases many of his other diverse subjects and shoots.

There is a strong historical relationship in Stratford between drinking and haunting. Stratford broke away from the governance of Perth County to preserve its drinking heritage during the days of the Temperance Movements, and the result was that a lot of people came here to get tipsy (to learn more, check out the historical plaque outside the liquor store, pictured above). Many liked the pubs of Stratford so much they never left.... even after they died.

The first haunted pub we visited was The Parlour. As we downed our pints of Buzz Hemp Beer and delighted in some gorgeous cornish pasties, I shared with the group tales of the hotel's famous ghost: a beautiful woman who whispers men's names in dark places in the basement and chases out female competitors by disturbing furniture and paintings on the wall. No kidding, I got the willies just talking about it.

Our next spooky stop was at Foster's Inn, where we learned about the resident ghost George. Hotel guests and employees report never feeling that they're ever truly alone. Two of my tour group members (bloggers from Spotlight Toronto) were staying at Foster's that very night... and I could tell they were  starting to get the creeps! Don't worry - George is one of those good ghosts!

At The Queen's Inn/Boar's Head we were treated with a lovely spread of finger snacks to nibble on while manager Sally told us a few strange and unexplainable stories she'd experienced in just the last couple of weeks.

Next, it was off to Pazzo's, where we all sensed the presence of the kindred spirit of novelist Timothy Findley, who had once lived upstairs.


At Down the Street we all got freaked-out by tales of a little girl who plays in the basement and leaves 1920s hairpins lying on freshly-swept floors. Another pint (this time of the Stratford Brewing Company's 'Common') soothed our nerves.

Finally, our tour finished in the basement of my personal gardening store of choice, Anything Grows.

Little did we know, the otherworldly underground basement of the seemingly innocent garden store was once the keg room for Stratford's original brewery, which the building was originally built for. The brewer died from... well, from being a bit of a pisstank apparently. They say his spirit still haunts the arched basement. That might explain where all those beers went...

If you missed the Pubs, Pilsners and Spirits tour this time around, have no fear: it is being revised for Stratford Heritage Weekend (October 15-17), just in time for Halloween! I have a strong feeling that the ghost of tour-guides-past will return in the form of the ever-thirsty Local Come Lately.

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