Two years ago I went to my very first beer festival at Hart House, part of the University of Toronto campus. It featured, if I recall correctly, somewhere around 50 casks, mostly from Ontario, and the reception was impressive with several hundred people showing up. This was the first time the festival had expanded from the patio of barVolo, where they started it all in 2005 and things were looking promising.
Fast forward to last weekend and Cask Days 2013 boasted 4,500 attendees and 230 casks from 124 different breweries from all over the country with a highlight of the UK as well. All spread out over 2 days and three sessions at the MASSIVE and beautiful Evergreen Brickworks.
I think I have whiplash from how fast things have developed and grown in only two years.
The Morana family have really done amazingly in bringing forth events that continue to welcome new members in to the world of craft beer while still making the beer geek’s cynical heart beat a little faster with anticipation. This event was huge, amazing and was filled with some incredible larger representation from other provinces, which highlighted the evergrowing popularity of beer.
The 230 casks allowed for more diversity than ever this year, featuring an eclectic selection of mild and strong of all different styles. There were Sours, English Browns, ESBs, Chocolate Stouts, and even Ciders all at the ready. It should be noted that this year’s glass design was certainley unique in that it was well…a mason jar. It no doubt appealed to younger festival goers and brought on a bit of nostalgia for the older folks who drank out of mason jars before it became so popular in the Williamsburg Era we currently live in. It served as a lovely sample glass and very unique souvenir that stands out among the many festival glasses one gets. I for one am looking forward to getting a lid for it and doing some beer-based pickling!
Moranas, you’ve done it again. That was truly an unforgettable festival experience.
And now on to my selected highlights:
Arran Dark Brown Ale – Isle of Arran Brewery – United Kingdom – This…this really took me to my happy place. Whenever I try a Brown Ale I expect a certain flavour. Rich, mild, warming, slight fruit taste with a dry finish at the end. This beer had it all and was a wonderful experience. I could honestly have had that all day and be perfectly content.
Storm Imperial Flanders Red – Storm Brewing – British Columbia – This ended up being the talk of Session 1. A bit on the acidic side, but wonderful tart notes and a sweet finish with a beautiful, complex aroma,
Grand River Beetified Bohemian Beet Beer – Grand River Brewing – Ontario – A unique beer that I really enjoyed and was a surprise coming from Grand River, who normally make some pretty standard beers. Of course the colour was a nice, deep red, but the aroma was nice and earthy and the taste was a whole whack of beets with a nice hoppy finish that made it a comfortable treat.
Jaffa Cake Brown Ale – Hockley Brewing – Ontario – While I do hesitate to put it in the highlights, as it was pretty watered down and light on flavour, I have to give points for originality and actually getting down the taste of a delicious Jaffa Cake. I would have liked to have tasted more though, instead of a whisp of Jaffa Cake and a quick exit.
Proper Job Export IPA – St. Austell Brewery– United Kingdom – Really glad I tried this one. A simple, but warm and inviting IPA that hugged me like an old relative I hadn’t seen in a while. Slight notes of caramel malts with hints of citrus and pine.
El Jaguar Imperial Stout with Chocolate & Chilies – Amsterdam Brewery – Ontario – While an absolute beast at 14% ABV, it had lots of amazing chocolate flavours along with a really nice, ever so slight heat at the back with the chilies that crept up on you after a sip. Definitely a good winter warmer.
And that was only a few of a much larger list.
An incredible event that just seems to get better each year. I already can’t wait to see what next year will be like.