We Talk with Dan Grant From Bossanova Wine & Beer.
During our travels of the fantastic world of beer (with Not Your Child Co. breathalysers at hand just in case), we’ve encountered so many friendly faces, but easily one of the friendliest is Dan Grant, an award-winning beer personality, writer, runner, and co-owner of Toronto’s hottest new bottle shop, Bossanova Wine & Beer at 103 Roncesvalles Avenue in Toronto.
Before he was captivated by the world of beer, Dan was an accomplished writer known as the authority on the Canadian modelling industry. His work appeared in multiple publications and through his own, now defunct, site. The job allowed him to travel extensively and that afforded him the opportunity to visit the brewpubs and drinking establishments of Canada where the craft beer scene along with the sense of community and constantly growing innovation that comes with it captivated him and he was compelled to write about it.
In 2013 Dan started a beer column for The Toronto Standard and kicked off his own site Brew Scout, where he would write about the ever-changing craft beer scene and offer new angles and scopes to view it from. As a writer his work has appeared in countless publications including NOW Magazine, TAPS Magazine, The Scandinavian Brewers Review, and The Opinion, where he has offered valuable insight to the industry and has shined a light on the untold stories of some of the world’s best breweries.
In 2014 a chance meeting with Tej Sandhu (now the co-owner of MERIT Brewing in Hamilton) led the pair to merge their love of beer and running to form RUNTOBEER, which grew to be one of the world’s most popular running series. Since its founding RUNTOBEER has grown substantially, with constant events happening and an ever-growing community of more than 5,000 that supports each other.
Most recently Dan joined forces with longtime friend and wine expert Ben Plisky-Somers to start up Bossanova Wine & Beer, named after the third studio album of The Pixies. With Dan handling the beer side of the bottleshop’s selection as Beer Steward, Bossanova aims to bring a quality customer experience while offering a selection of wine and beer that you just can’t get anywhere else. This includes hard to get offerings from other regions, limited releases, and even Bossanova-exclusive collaborations.
We sat down with Dan Grant to ask him about his love of beer, the rise of RUNTOBEER, and the origin of Bossanova!
What is it about beer that has captivated you over the years?
I guess it’s that beer never fails to surprise me. I’ve tried thousands of different ones and still keep finding something new. Last week it was a Cold IPA (a new style brewers are really embracing this year). Before that it was a Lambic with blackcurrants, from Belgium. In my shop I have a Red Ale with Sansho peppers, from a brewery north of Tokyo. It’s next to an Egyptian spiced ale from Northern Italy. It’s all just so fun!
Can you tell us a bit about how RUNTOBEER came to be and how it’s grown since then?
Yeah, ha ha. I used to be a modelling agent and one of my models knew my love of beer and desire to be more active. She saw a coaster for something called the New York Beer Run and brought it back to Toronto, to inspire me. A few months later I quit the fashion industry, then organised the first RUNTOBEER event a couple weeks after that.
Eight years later we have more than 5,000 members, almost entirely in the GTA. We’ve visited scores of Ontario breweries from London to Uxbridge and Cottage Country, organised road trips from Montreal to Philadelphia, relays from Toronto to Hamilton, and tonnes of other fun events.
Starting up a bottle shop was no small feat. What prompted the creation of Bossanova and what were some of the obstacles on the road to opening?
Bossanova was created out of a desire to create a customer-focused space where consumers can find reliably excellent products (not just the best marketed or “hype” brands) and learn about them, before purchasing. I’m the guy that orders the beer, and I’m also in the shop, chatting with my customers and helping them find the right bottle for their meal, gift, park hang, whatever…
Like any new business, we definitely had our share of obstacles. We couldn’t afford designers or consultants so we had to research the hell out of everything and hope we were being given correct information from the powers responsible for licensing. Probably our biggest obstacle was paying rent, insurance, utilities, web fees, etc, while waiting for paperwork to be processed. Our opening budget was decimated by months of completely unnecessary delays. If it had gone another month I’m not sure we would have opened at all.
Are there any special products you’re excited about getting in the shop and any events you’d like us to know about?
I’m thrilled every time new imports arrive. Our best sellers will always be Ontario craft beer, so I’m more than happy to give them the most space in our fridges, but when bottles of Gueuze or Trappist styles show up I’m a kid at Christmas, tearing through the wrapping paper.
Since Bossanova’s name came from a Pixies album, I gotta ask, what’s your favourite Pixies song?
I was managing a record store when that album came out, and was invited to a record release party at a (licensed) indoor mini-golf course. Velouria was the first single I heard and it’s been my favourite ever since.
Dan Grant can be found on Twitter at @BrewScout
103 Roncesvalles Avenue, Toronto, Ontario
Robin LeBlanc is an award-winning drinks columnist, author, and beer judge. Since first starting her blog The Thirsty Wench in 2011, she has gone on to write for numerous publications, has co-written two editions of The Ontario Craft Beer Guide, a book detailing the many breweries of the province, and is co-host and organizer of the very successful podcast The Ontario Craft Beer Guide the Podcast, where she regularly provides news and insights into the goings-on of the Ontario and international beer world.
You can follow her on Twitter at @thethirstywench