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.

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