This was my fifth Cask Days. I knew no one when I went to my first one. I was solo and anxious like only an introvert can be in a new social situation. I didn’t know what to expect, what to drink, what to say.
I spent the money for a guided tasting of the British casks with Stephen Beaumont, then spent a few hours getting drunk with actors. I ran into Andy, a former teaching colleague. I drank lots of great beer, and talked to so many people my voice was hoarse. It became my favourite beer festival.
Unlike the first one I went to, I did not make extensive lists or highlight cask printouts. I didn’t plan what to drink in advance. I did not go with any plans or notions.
I went with the big plan to see my friends, and have a beer or two. I may have had more than “or two” but I certainly got a chance to hang out with a lot of my brewer friends. Other than the ongoing gastro-intestinal issue, it was pretty close to a perfect day. The sun was shining (I think), and the casks I tried were pretty spot on; there was one exception, but isn’t there always? I stayed away from sours because my body told me to, but it said nothing about abstaining from stouts! My faves were made by two of my favourite people: Jen at DDC with Aphrodisiaque and Aaron at Merit with a Chai imperial stout that was good enough to have seconds.
There was a sad note however. Every Cask Days, I had a chance to catch up with Andy over a beer. He had proudly been to every Cask Days celebration, and I always looked forward to the chance to sit and talk music, beer and politics with him. He was one of my biggest champions when the school and I parted ways, and he did a send-off speech at the staff end-of-year lunch that made me laugh and cry. But cancer won this year, and even though we only talked once a year, I miss him. It does not seem the same without him.
I was helping to judge the Ontario Brewing Awards last month when someone asked me, “Whatever happened to HopKat?”
That’s a very good question.
I could say I’ve been busy; I have been. Since the Cask Days post, I travelled to China and Australia where I drank some very good beer, came back to a new brewing job at Side Launch in Collingwood that went so well that my beloved and I abandoned Toronto and bought a house in the country. The move went well (I managed to miss some of it while at the Canadian Brewing Awards in Halifax), but the settling in is still ongoing. I now have a beer cellar, that is actually a cellar, spiders and all.
I’ve done some judging, done some home brewing, drank a lot of good beer and some meh to crappy beer. I’ve decided to pursue National level BJCP certification, changed my mind and then changed it back again. I’ve done some pilot recipes, learned how to force-carbonate a keg, made beer I can be publicly proud of.
It’s been a good year. I’ve had two acquaintances on separate occasions remark on how happy I look. And I am happy. I seem to be in the place that suits me best. Here’s to holding on to it for as long as I can.