Tag Archives: festival

Cask Days 2013

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.

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Field Trips

Toronto Beer Week 2013

Man, even though my Toronto Beer Week ended a bit early and I didn’t go to nearly as many events as some people did, I find myself still wiped out a week later.

For those not involved, Toronto Beer Week is similar along the lines of Canadian Music Week, Fashion Week or the little known but no less important Llama Enthusiast Week. Many bars, breweries and beer groups put on some really fun events for the week in an effort to raise the awareness of local craft beer as well as showcase a sense of community and some incredible beers.

And it really does do that. Most events were practically a who’s who of the Ontario beer industry and the beers, a combination of one-offs and staples from well over 31 breweries, were pouring freely. Homebrewers tap takeover? Yep. All-ladies dessert and beer pairing? Yep. Wonderful award show? Well, of course.

Barley’s Angels, Sweets ‘n Suds: This was the first event I went to and was a LOT of fun. Black Oak Brewing beers paired with desserts from The Sassy Lamb and Jillian’s Simple Sweets at the lovely Only Cafe. It was also great to see so many women show up to a Barley’s Angels event for the first time. Stay tuned for other events by the Angels coming up…

Great Lakes Brewery Canadian Brewery of the Year Party: Held at The Loose Moose with an astonishing 20 taps, this was definitely a highlight party that gave me the chance to try a few Great Lakes beers I’ve never had before as well as FINALLY meeting the wonderful Renee from Great Lakes.

The Golden Tap Awards: What a frenzy that was. Held at Beer Bistro, the evening at the Golden Tap Awards was spent sampling some of Ontario’s finest and trying to move in the crowd of people. Was really a treat to finally meet The Beer Gypsy and see all the wonderful movers and shakers throughout the industry. Congrats to all the winners!

Canadian Beer News/Rhino screening of Beer Hunter: This event is what capped off my Toronto Beer Week experience and was such a wonderful end to it. The screening, introduced by Canadian Beer News‘ Greg Clow and author/columnist/dapper gent Stephen Beaumont, was a lovely snapshot of the life of celebrated beer writer Michael Jackson. The evening also featured wonderful food, special one-off beers made just for the event and a signing of Stephen Beaumont and Timm Webb’s latest book The Pocket Beer Guide, which I happily purchased and look forward to consulting on my travels. I have to say, this event did a wonderful job of invigorating my passion for beer. Truly unforgettable. Afterwards I went on a long walk down Queen Street West and was practically glowing.

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that that was all I ended up going to for the week, but there you have it. Also, a final special thanks to The Only Cafe for being my hiding place.

And now, to keep recovering…

Actually, that’s not true. Another post will be popping up this week and next week is promising to have some fun stuff up soon, including a guest post.

2 Comments

Filed under Field Trips, Uncategorized

Toronto Festival of Beer

A lot of times when I don’t like something, I tend to say “it’s not for me”. Although I do slip in to it now and then, I believe that as a writer I should inform, rather than set a standard. “What might be right for you might not be right for some”, as the song goes. We’re all individuals with individual tastes and I like to embrace that.

So with that in mind, the Toronto Festival of Beer is not for me.

I was invited to stop by for a “Home brewing 101” panel, put on by Toronto home brewing group Brauhaus and part of Niagara College’s Brewmaster Series, a series of tented events within the festival to educate people about beer.

The panel was wonderful. Led by Doug Appledoorn, co-founder of Brauhaus, my learned fellow panelists (Erin Broadfoot and Pietro Caira) and I talked about our good and bad experiences with home brewing, answered questions, and handed out samples of our own brews. I supplied my Manor House Intrigue Chamomile Brown Ale, which I made back in February with the help of the Brauhaus mentorship program. The whole thing went really well and we got a good amount of applause from the packed tent. Hopefully Brauhaus will get some members out of that!

The rest of the festival was…not too great. If it wasn’t for the marvelous company of my longtime friend Cheryl, I probably would have left soon after the panel. A few one-off beers stuck out, but everything else was stuff that was available at the LCBO. It wasn’t that unique and, well, I can’t say that I wasn’t warned.

But I do believe it has its place. It’s a chance for smaller breweries to win over the affections of the coveted Bro Market, the group of people for whom beer shots, competitive vomiting and dancing to dubstep is a way of life. And don’t get me wrong, it is a popular market. In an effort to get drunk these folks buy 24 packs like there’s some kind of shortage and they need to stock up. I recognize why a business would want that. It should be noted, however, that the smaller breweries are still competing with the bigger ones. Budweiser, Coors and Smirnoff Ice tents were present and huge, with their own dance floors and booth babes handing out stickers and various other bits of swag.

And while I don’t know how successful the festival is at converting the Bro Market to craft beer, I can’t deny it has an effect. “I normally drink Molson Canadian,” an attendee told us. “But then I go to a festival like this and drink a Molson and anything here after that tastes so much better.” And really folks…that’s all I hope for. I don’t really care if a person likes Bud Light Lime Mojito or beer that, to me, tastes like water. As long as they know that there’s something else out there.

My biggest problem with the festival was the way it was run. I really got the impression that the festival encouraged drunkenness, which didn’t appeal to me. Tokens were $20 minimum, which gets you 20 tokens. 5oz samples were around 1-2 tokens each, which doesn’t sound like much, but take a group of people who are used to 4% abv beer and put them in a festival of 6-9% abv beers, well…you see how it can get out of hand. Oh sure, you could use those tokens for food, but I didn’t get the impression that people were doing that. Visions of festival-goers nearly falling down getting more beer poured in to their glasses were pretty frequent and the security guards, god bless them, were kept very busy breaking up fights and carrying people to water stations.

And guys, maybe double up on security to lead people to the bus stop? There were waaaaay too many drunk people roaming in to oncoming traffic. Unacceptable.

So that’s my thoughts on Toronto Festival of Beer. It’s not for me. Aside from a few things that I can’t forgive, I can acknowledge it as a festival that works for some people. I’m just not one of them. Unless I’m invited to another panel, I don’t think I’ll be going again in the future.

But really though, thank you to Brauhaus, Niagara College and my kick-ass friend Cheryl for being the bright stars in this event.

1 Comment

Filed under homebrewing, Local

Cask Days 2012

Have to say, that was one enjoyable Cask Days.

Some quirks were expected, as the festival moved from the smaller Hart House to the bigger and better Evergreen Brick Works and added on an extra third session. The biggest problem was that nearly half of the 100 or so casks went empty at the third and final session, but the festival made up for it by bringing in new casks and offering $10 in cash or beer tokens to people attending.

I wasn’t around for that one, though. I went to the first session which went as smoothly as possible. The Brick Works offered amazing shelter from the rain, the delicious food was ready to go (the cured meat plate was my saviour), all the beers advertised were available (though some went quicker than others because of word of mouth) and I ended up having a lot of fun by trying new and weird beers, talking to brewers and other beer writers (some of which I’ve previously only spoken with on twitter) and chatting with strangers by comparing notes, making suggestions and in one case singing along with them to Wu-Tang’s C.R.E.A.M. Definitely a different experience from my time last year and I think, tiny tweaks to be made aside, BarVolo, the organizers of Cask Days, have matched the festival with the expectations and growing popularity of craft beer.

And now on to some of the highlight beers from the 25 or so that I sampled…

FAVOURITES:

Flying Monkeys Mark Henry Sexual Chocolate Triple Take Down Stout – Yes, that’s what they called it. This was quite a dangerous drink, as it tasted like the best chocolate milk I’ve ever had and at about 12% ABV…damn. Amazing.

R&B Brewing Cucumber & Mint American IPA – An incredibly refreshing IPA that I hope becomes available in the summer. The Cucumber offered a really nice crispness to the drink while the mint, though subtle, added a nice bite. And of course the hoppiness brought it all together.

Amsterdam Brewing Full City Tempest – Imperial Russian Stout with coffee. “Have you tried the Tempest yet? Do it now.” was pretty much all I heard for my first ten minutes at Cask Days from the brewers I ran in to and I’m glad I took their advice. Went down very smoothly and the coffee was a powerful and amazing presence.

Black Oak Call of Brewty Black Chipotle Schwarzbier – This…I really enjoyed it. This was the first beer I had that cleared my sinuses, burned away anything hanging around in my throat and warmed me up for the rest of the day. I went back to the cask for seconds. To give an idea of how much chipotle was in it, I’m pulling this from Alan Brown, the brewer of this beer’s, web site:

I brought a small container of perhaps 125 mL of pulverized smoked chipotle, courtesy of Chef Michael Olson of Niagara College. The question was, how much chipotle to add to 40 litres of schwarzbier? The assistant brewmaster looked at the container of chipotle, then at me, then at the container.

“Add it all,” he suggested.

“All?” I gulped.

“Sure.”

So I added it all.

Amazing. Hope to see something like that again very soon.

THE NOT-SO-FAVOURITES:

Microbrasserie Charlevoix “Chicory” Strong Porter – Just missed the mark for me. The chicory flavours was pretty minimal and the whole thing tasted rather thin.

Parallel 49 Ugly Sweater Milk Stout – A bit too thin for me (I like my stouts as thick as sludge) and WAY too sweet.

F&M Wurst Idea Ever – Sour Ale brewed with Brussel Sprouts and Smoked Meat. I know it sounds weird, but I thought the use of those two ingredients was fun. But as much as I hate sounding like a judge for Iron Chef, I felt that the beer didn’t celebrate the two ingredients, especially the brussel sprouts, well. In the end it smelled horribly and left a really bad taste in my mouth. I ended up dumping it.

2 Comments

Filed under Field Trips, Innovations