Monday, October 27, 2014

Cask Days: The Good, The Bad, and The Beer

I'll start out by saying the beer selection was the best I've ever seen in Toronto. Ever.
Hands down, the varietals of American and Canadian specialty casks was worth the almost $50 tickets (after fees).

But before i go into my fav's, here's the good, and the bad, about this year's Cask Days, the 7pm event, on Saturday October 25th.

The Good
Setup and food: The Evergreen Brickworks was well set up. Food was lining the beer and the food selection was impressive. The food also matched what one would expect at a beer event- pretzels, pork sandwiches, charcuterie plates, and lots of mustard. There was even coffee stand with delicious mochas for the end of the night.

Tokens and volunteers: there were multiple token booths around the venue which kept the lines regulated  (something else kept the lines short, but I'll go into that in "The Bad"). There were loads of volunteers, and some familiar faces from the last Cask Days at the Hart House that I volunteered at. This was great because there was never really a wait to get a beer.

The Bad
Cost: $2.50 per token? Tokens only got you 5oz of beer, and you needed two tokens for 5oz of the good stuff.
I was paying $5 for 5oz of beer all night. And after the $50 tickets, it was far more expensive than I'd planned for. And it's not like that was common knowledge going in or when buying the tickets. 

So, ok, I get it. Toronto's annual summer Beerfest doesn't have the same breweries available at this year's Cask Days, and it doesn't have the one-off casks. But the markup comparing $1 at Beerfest for 5oz was jarring.

Go ahead, give me the shpeal about how the venue costs more and the beer was coming from farther. The Bier Bistro imports American beer and charges the same amount. But that's OK, cuz they're a restaurant. They aren't putting on a festival where the idea is to sample many beers.

That's the key.

Festivals are meant to allow you the opportunity to sample multiple beers at a reduced rate, else you could just order up from the lcbo.

Anyways, I'll stop there. I did really enjoy my night and all of the beer that I'm going to talk about now. I'm just disappointed in how much it cost me.

The Beer
I won't go into the entire selection I sampled, but here are the highlights:

I stuck mainly to the UK and California booths because it's far too rare to pass up, but I started with the Pumphouse 4 Alarm IPA from New Brunswick. Initially I wanted this one because the cask was directly under the Nova Scotia sign... but NB works for me too. I really liked it - there's nothing like starting a night of drinking off with a proper IPA.

Next up is Innocente - everything was great. Everything. I'd never heard of this Waterloo brewery, and when I'd asked some of the volunteers no one really knew where they were from either. Sampling such fantastic beer from a new brewery is always a fun surprise at these festivals.

And now, California! One of my favourite places for good, craft beer. 
I did it, I finally did it! I got my hands on a Sierra Nevada Northern Hemisphere fresh hop IPA. (I've had the Southern Hemisphere, and was dyin to try the Northern. I also had the Torpedo - their Extra IPA. Both were delicious on cask, and the lower carbonation really brought out the flavour of the Centennial hops (one of my two fav hops - Cascade being the other.)

Another great find was the Pizza Port brewery, also from California. I had an absolutely delicious cascade and orange sample that blew my mind.

Stone is one of the best breweries in the States IMO. The casks they had at this festival were REALLY specialty. They were infused with so many flavours that I felt that they would be best at an event that paired them with food, to make sure they were really appreciated.

Last but not least, Coronado. Another brewery from California that I've never had the opportunity to try before this event, but always kept an eye out for it. I had the Idiot, and enjoyed it. It was a basic IPA but nice to mix things up between the infusions that Stone was offering.

I ended the night off with one of my fav American Pale Ale's: Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale. It sometimes has a place at the Bier Bistro, and always has a place in my heart.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Roundhouse beerfest.. the SUMMER one, right? YES!

I've had the pleasure of going to the Summer 2012, and winter 2013 Roundhouse Craft Beer Festivals put on by the Ontario Craft Brewers right in Steamwhistle's backyard.

In two weeks, on Saturday August 9 and Sunday August 10 2014, the next in the Roundhouse beer fest series is coming back (hooray!).

You can't beat Summer day drinking, in the glorious outdoors at the Roundhouse. It will be nothing like these shots from the Winter festival:

Anyhoo, here's who I'm excited to see:

Steamwhistle - The lovely hosts. They really have the best swag a brewery can offer, eh?

Flying Monkey - If they have even a portion of the offerings they had at Beer Fest this year, I'll be a happy lady!!

Oast House Brewers - I got to try the Barn Raiser Country Ale at the Liberty Village Summer Beer Fest a couple weeks ago and I'm VERY stoked to get more. It was so fresh and flavourful, that I felt like I was on a hay ride, drinking the latest batch

Beau's - I hope they have the Tom Green Milk Stout. Mmmilk stouts

Great Lakes Brewery- I'm current obsessed with their Canuck Pale Ale

Mill Street Brewery - I'm 50/50 with the 100th meridian, so having it outside in the sun will definitely be an easy way to get on board!

Railway City - I always love seeing them at festivals. The Iron Spike is such a sessionable blonde

Lake of Bays - Just love them. There's nothing else to it.

Cameron's - I won a keg of their beer so I'm happy to re-sample the stock to decide what to get

King BreweryBlack OakWellingtonGrand RiverNiagara CollegeNeustadt Springs BreweryAmsterdam

I'm yet to try these, so it's always a treat to go to one of these events and get something brand new!

Big Rig (Ottawa)
Highlander Brew Co (Algonquin park area!)
Side Launch (Collingwood)
Grand River (Cambridge)
Publican House Brewery (Peterborough)

How great is it that every other weekend in the Summer there's a giant Toronto Craft Beer Fest?

(It's super great)

Saturday, July 26, 2014


Toronto's Festival of BEER is this weekend - HOORAY! The weekend that all little boys and girls of the young professional-type look forward to every summer. It's full of special seasonals, hard-to-get-imports, and all of the local favourites we like to session.

This year I took a different approach to my consumption. I stayed away from my regular sessionables and went only for the beer that I normally wouldn't be able to get my hands on very often. This included some of Flying Monkey's ginormous list of specialties including the:

- Orange Mungus, a radler that tasted like an orange creamsicle, seriously. And it was 4% - not that like 2% Steigl grapefruit radler that's delicious, but really at 2% it's just not beer.

- Takes 2 to Mango - Mango Hefeweizen, a 5.5%, 8IBU mango coconut beer that should really be called "Drink-This-Every-Day-In-The-Summer-Beer"

- Genius of Suburbia - a 3.8% 52IBU sessionable ale (super delicious and very sessionable)

And to no surprise, Spearhead Brewing surpassed all expectations and tagged up with none other than Milagro, the Mexican restaurant that I've recently become re-obsessed with (no kidding, try their antojitos, they are like Mexico in your mouth). I always get the Hawaiian style pale ale when I'm there, so it just came together too perfectly!

Quick food note - Pizzeria Libretto, you always make my day. We bought both the margarita and pepperoni again this year... next year, think you can have the Nduja sausage? MMMMY fav.

Some of the unique beers I got to try were from the East Coast and USA booth (see the photos of the beer lists at the end of this post). I tried a cream ale from PEI and a bitter from New Brunswick. They were all out of the PEI blueberry ale at 6PM already (!!!) so whoever gets there early Saturday or Sunday, please try it for me.

I had to get a couple of standards (I know...) at this booth. Brooklyn Lager and Southern Tier's IPA. Come on, you can't put those in front of me and tell me not to touch.

A huge difference this year was the amount of cider at the festival. My forever favourite is the one and only Pommies Dry Cider. No other cider can beat it, and it's just as perfect as a glass of pinot gris or a pale ale on a hot summer day. As I was looking for them on the map, two fellows behind me were doing the same thing - smart dudes.

A super surprise was how knowledgeable the Pilsner Urquell hostess was. She taught be about the 3 different ways to pour the pilsner (crisp, smooth, and milky) and convinced me that the brewery is definitely a stop I should be taking the next time I'm in Europe.

Finally, I tried the Blegh Brasse Blonde Abbey Mons. It deserves all of the awards that were prominently displayed at the booth. The 7% blonde was so utterly smooth, that it combined the flavours of a fruity-caramel-white ale into one mind-blowing beer.

Thanks again for another great beer fest, @TOBeerFestival, and I wish luck to all of the bartenders there for the rest of the weekend - it's going to be a rowdy one with all of those high percentage'rs!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

For Liberty, and Justi...Beer!

Normally I stay away from mid-week beer-fests, but heading over to Liberty Village this past Thursday July 10th was a good decision.

The festival was held in the Liberty Village Market alleyway that's normally only home to specialty cake and chocolate shops, the delicious RAAW sushi restaurant, and other trendy deliciousness. Stands from Liberty Village Brewing Co, Junction Craft Brewing, Double Tree Brewing, Beau's, and more local breweries seemed to fit in seamlessly.

After brilliantly finding a promo code for 5 free beer tokens online, I purchased 5 more when I got there, (seeing as it was a school night).

10 beers did me well enough. I sampled both of Spearhead's offerings:
Sam Roberts - 33.3 IBU's representing the band.
India White Ale - a 60IBU delicious. My favourite from the evening.

And a few others: Niagara's Oast Barn Raiser Country Ale (my second fav of the evening), standards from Granite, Junction, and Beau's.

Tickets were a bit steep at $40, and the food discounts were from one restaurant offering sliders.... not as impressive as I'd have expected from a Liberty Village summary craft beer festival. But with no festival food, I opted for RAAW, one of the best sushi places in Toronto IMO.

It was a fun couple of hours, and a great excuse to go to Liberty Village, but I cant say it was worth the ticket price. I hope it's bigger and better next time.

P.S. Happily, Toronto's Festival of Beer and the Roundhouse Craft Beer Fest are coming up soon!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Ginger is for Flavoured Fringers

Say that title 10 times fast.

Another rich flavour graced Ontario's LCBO's last year - Innis & Gunn's owned brewery Melville's. Check out Melville's home page announcing it's launch in Canada.

I received the ginger beer as a gift in January and finally decided to crack it open, since it's expiry date was coming up in August.

This is one of only 3 or 4 ginger beers I've had the opportunity to try, and I'm still yet to truly enjoy one. Most have been thick, syrupy, low in carbonation, and very spicy.

Now, the spiciness I don't mind -I actually quite like it- but similar to many flavoured beers (and similar to Innis & Gunn's oak-aged/rum/whiskey styles) the flavour is too potent for me. This beer in particular is MUCH too sweet. It kind of tastes like the ingredients might be....

- sugar
- soda water
- agave necter
- ginger

There's a slight malty taste, but nothing to bl-lager about.

Overall, if you're not really a beer drinker, and you want a sweet 4% drink that's kinda of like a long island ice tea, but without the booze, give this one a go.

I think I'm gingered out... alas, I have a few more brands in my fridge!