Sunday, July 30, 2017

Drinking from coast to coast at Toronto’s Festival of Beer

Toronto’s Festival of Beer celebrated a milestone birthday for Canada with its Canada 150 Pavilion, which is where I spent much of my time on July 29.

Four shipping containers converted into bars served 48 beers from across the country, several of which I had never had and was interested in. While none of them blew my mind, a lot of them were satisfyingly solid and enjoyable.

My favourite was the Killer Cucumber Ale from Vancouver’s Steamworks Brewing Co. It’s dry-hopped with cucumbers in the conditioning vessel, resulting in a lovely aroma and flavour accented by the long green vegetable. It pours medium gold with little head and seems more like a lager than an ale. The 4.7-per cent alcohol beer is light, refreshing and finishes easy.

New England Style Pale Ale from Lacombe, Alta.’s Blindman Brewing lives up to its name. It only rates a 35 IBU on the bitterness scale, but has a mildly hoppy aroma and very rich flavour with a nice finish that makes this cloudy gold, 5.5-per cent beer a nice summer ale.

The other beers I sampled from the Canada 150 Pavilion, in the order of how much I enjoyed them, were:
  • Garrison Brewing Co.’s Juicy IPA, a well-crafted ale from Halifax;
  • Brasserie Dunham’s Le Quence Du Soif, a collaborative brett IPA made in conjunction with Port Moody, B.C.’s Twin Sails Brewing;
  • Brasserie Dunham’s Saison Rustique, a Belgian farmhouse saison from the Dunham, Que. brewery;
  • Boxing Rock Brewing Co.’s Vicars Cross, an eight-per cent ale from Shelburne, N.S.;
  • Les Trois Mousquetaires Saison Brett, a farmhouse saison from Brossard, Que.;
  • and Blood Brothers Brewing’s Paradise Lost White Lies, a golden sour ale brewed with sauvignon blanc grape juice by the Toronto brewery.
I made my way around to several other tents to try new-to-me beers from other Canadian breweries. The one I enjoyed most from those was Rainhard Brewing Co.’s Jaywalker Vermont Style Session IPA. It’s pleasantly hoppy with an IBU of 35, and with an alcohol content of just 3.8 per cent it's a good option for all-day drinking.

My second favourite was Sawdust City Brewing Co.’s Death & Taxes Raspberry Radler, a 4.3-per cent beer that’s somewhat reminiscent of KLB Raspberry Wheat Ale. The raspberry comes through in a big way to your nose and on your tongue.

The third beer that I quite liked was Flying Monkeys’ 12 Minutes to Destiny Hibiscus Pale Lager. It’s a rich red colour with a strong hibiscus aroma and offers a nice combination of tart and sweet. And with an alcohol content of just 4.1 per cent, it’s a nice, light summer refresher.

Other beers I tried, again ranked in order of preference, were:

  • Hop City Brewing Co.’s Payday Saison, an easy-drinking 6.2-per cent, 40 IBU saison from the Brampton, Ont. brewery;
  • Beau’s Full Time IPA, a 6.7-per cent, 60 IBU west coast-style ale;
  • Sawdust City’s B.A. Johnston’s Finest Malt Liquor, a straight-up, eight-per cent beer that was better than I expected from the Gravenhurst, Ont. brewery;
  • Brock St. Brewing Co.’s West Coast IPA, a 5.1-per cent beer that has more hop in its aroma than in its flavour, but could be a decent introduction for those just getting into west coast IPAs who aren’t yet ready to get too adventurous;
  • and Great Lakes Brewery’s Watermelon Ale, a 4.5-per cent beer from the Etobicoke, Ont. brewery that didn’t offer as much of the fruit as I was hoping for.
Beer and Sloan have always mixed well for me, and seeing the Toronto via Halifax power pop band from the stage while drinking quality craft beer made the combination even better. I timed finishing all of my beer tokens with the conclusion of the group’s set, which left me upbeat and ready to hear more music — which I did when I crossed Lakeshore Boulevard to Echo Beach to continue the festivities by watching the Dropkick Murphys and Rancid.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Close out your July at Toronto’s Festival of Beer

Fittingly, for Toronto’s largest and longest running celebration of beer, there will be 416 brews available to sample at this year’s Toronto’s Festival of Beer.

The late wrestling legend Andre the Giant was a prodigious drinker, but even he would be hard-pressed to quaff an amount of beer equal to Toronto’s area code at the July 28 to 30 event at Bandshell Park at Exhibition Place. Quality over quantity is what I’m most interested in, however, and there should be lots of that to go around.

“We want to give our patrons a chance to discover a whole new world of the tasty golden beverage and I'm confident we've accomplished that,” said Les Murray, the president of Beerlicious and Intelivents, which is responsible for presenting Toronto’s Festival of Beer in conjunction with the Beer Store.

Ontario House will feature 17 breweries while the New Brews Tent will showcase five breweries that are participating in the event for the first time.

While I’ll no doubt drop in on those sites, for the past few years I’ve spent the majority of my time at the World of Beer Pavilion. That will likely be the case again, as this year it will be named the Canada 150 Pavilion in honour of our country’s landmark birthday.

The 20,000-square-foot area will feature 48 brands from breweries from across the country — from Phillips Brewing & Malting Co. from Victoria in the west to Nine Locks Brewing Co. and Spindrift Brewing Co. from Dartmouth in the east. It will feature winners from both the Canadian Brewing Awards and Ontario Brewing Awards along with collaboration brews. Food will be prepared by Matty’s Seafood and Barcue.

Fifteen other food vendors will be on site and the Grilling Tent will showcase different chefs demonstrating their skills in making food with beer each day.

If you want some rhythm and booze, there will be lots of music to accompany all of that drinking and eating. New York hip-hop duo Method Man and Redman will end Friday night’s proceedings, while Toronto via Halifax power pop band Sloan will headline on Saturday and Great Big Sea member Alan Doyle will do likewise with his band The Beautiful Gypsies on Sunday.

Writing this has worked up my thirst. I think it’s time for a beer.