Juno-award-winning, platinum-selling artist Serena Ryder is used to wearing several hats (including cool, flat-brimmed ones we're very envious of). She's a singer, songwriter, guitarist, rockstar performer, mental health advocate — and now, Libra non-alcoholic craft beer's balance ambassador. The light beer is produced by Upstreet Brewing out of P.E.I.
For Ryder, an alcohol-free lifestyle isn't anything new. She's been sober for half a decade, and has sung about her journey with alcohol in her single "Better Now" off her latest record, The Art of Falling Apart. Ryder has teamed up with Libra to shed light on the importance of being social on your terms, without alcohol if you choose. She even helped develop the floral, booze-free Libra Lavender Sage cream ale. One per cent of profits from Libra go to Ryder's music incubator, ArtHaus.
Interest in cutting back on booze has been seeing some exponential growth in recent years. Some of the best bars in Toronto and the best restaurants in Toronto have introduced excellent non-alcoholic programs, and with new non-alcoholic beer, wine and spirits hitting the shelves every year, shaking up tasty mocktail recipes at home has never been easier.
I sat down with Ryder to learn more about her partnership with Libra and find out what it means to be social on her terms. Of course, I had to ask about Ryder's favourite spots to dine in the city and where to get the best cup of joe — and in my opinion, her picks certify her as a bonafide Toronto foodie.
What excites you most about your partnership with Libra Beverage Co.?
"My partnership with Libra is kind of amazing. I'm so proud to be a part of the Libra team. When they reached out to me, it was perfect timing because I stopped drinking alcohol myself about five years ago. At the time, I had not been drinking for a few years, and finding an amazing non-alcoholic beer was hard. They're not in most places.
I've had different people reach out to me in the past and it just didn't align with my values. Libra as a company, and the people that work there are unbelievable. They're all about balance and mental wellness. That's something that I'm all about as well. So it just felt aligned for me, and they gave me a cool title, too — balance ambassador.
And I have a Libra moon. So that's where all my emotions are, in Libra. For me, life is all about balance and the choices that I make are going towards that balance. When I got the first beer from Libra, I was looking at the edge of the can, and it said 'Find your balance.' I was like, 'Wow, this is happening.'"
What does it mean to “be social on your terms”?
"One of the things that I realized when I became sober, was there were a lot of things that I believed about myself that weren't true. I thought, 'Oh, I love to be out really, really late. I love being around gigantic groups of people.' And it's like, well, actually, I just drank a little too much. I'm more of an introvert than I realized.
I still love being out for a certain amount of time. I love to go see music, I love to dance and I love to be around my friends. Finding your balance is all about finding that middle ground. And I think if you go out and you have a couple of drinks, that's great. But 10 drinks, 15 drinks... people can go overboard. And then the next day is completely shit. They're hungover and maybe they talk to people they wouldn't normally talk to or do things they normally wouldn't do.
With Libra, it's the opportunity to go out, to have a couple of drinks; if your friends keep drinking, or people keep staying out, then have a Libra. Nobody's going to know the difference. It's about finding that middle ground."
How do you like to enjoy Libra?
"I enjoy it in the same way that I used to enjoy a drink. It's the same thing, except Libra tastes better to me. I'll have it when I come home from the studio or work, or around a campfire. A lot of the time I'd love to have a fire in my backyard and be able to sit with Libra with friends. If I offer my friends a drink, I can have a drink there with them.
My favourite is the pale ale. It goes with everything. It's amazing. It's delicious. I love the stout as well, especially around this time of year. The stout is really beautiful."
With the holidays coming up, how do you host a festive gathering without alcohol?
"It's pretty easy to make homemade mocktails. They're really fun to do.
Libra Lavender Sage cream ale tastes more like a cocktail than a beer sometimes, too. It tastes like this time of year as well, because it's got lavender and sage. Delicious. It's so yummy and goes well if you want to have a cocktail and one of those. It's a nice pairing. It's not a weird thing to swap back and forth."
How will you be celebrating this year?
"Being able to do this tour is exciting for me. That's kind of my celebration time of this year because I've always been super into the mythology behind Christmas. And the stories behind it, where they came from, which is pagan parties really, which is cool. And I released a single called, 'I Saw Daddy Kissing Santa Claus.' It came out on Friday, November 16, which I'm really excited about."
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What's your favourite place in the city to perform?
"The best place to perform in the world is Massey Hall. And to go see a show, too. I just want to live there. I don't know how many shows I've done at Massey Hall in the last, even, four years. But it's been a lot. It's been pretty exciting to be able to play there. Yeah, I basically want to move into Massey Hall."
What are some of your favourite things to do when you’re in Toronto?
"One of my newest favourite things to do is play shuffleboard at The Two Twenty Two on Ossington. It's so fun, I love it.
I love going to The Skyline and having a good old-fashioned burger and fries. Beautiful. They have great nights there."
Do you have any favourite coffee shops?
"I have two. Extra Butter on Roncesvalles has the best coffee. The. Best. Then — I'm sticking to Roncesvalles here — I love Reunion [Coffee Roasters] on Roncesvalles too because of the Gold Standard breakfast sandwich. Also, I just discovered — and I'm so late to the party — The Federal for breakfast. Like, what? It's great! The scrambled eggs breakfast? So reasonable and so delicious. Oh my gosh, I'm dying. I love it so much."
Libra's Pale Ale and IPA are now available in Sobeys & Safeway retail stores nationwide.