Cask Days 2018

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.

Dennis, Robin and Sarah. I see them every Cask Days,
and we catch up like there wasn’t a year since our last conversation.

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.

Still here, mostly

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.

I love this place!

Cask Days 2017 by the numbers

Amsterdam’s El Jaguar tasted so good I had 2.

This year I bought the Baller Pass, which got me into all the sessions. The 12-hour shifts at Brunswick were such that I missed every beer festival I wanted to go to, so I decided to splurge. I couldn’t make it to all of the sessions; I was getting sick and went home just before the end of the Saturday afternoon session. There was way too much going on for a full write up, so here are the basic numbers:

  • Number of sessions attended: 3
  • Favourite session: 1
  • Number of tokens bought: 36
  • Number of tokens left at the end: 0. This does not include the 5 leftover from last year. I only found them today, 3 days after the event. Sigh.
  • Number of beers tried: 51, +/- 5
  • Number of ciders tried: 3
  • Number of IPA/DIPA tried: 0
  • Number of pour-outs: 2. 1 was super oxidized and the other was just bad.
  • Number of seconds: 2
    • El Jaguar by Amsterdam was incredible this year
    • Cassis 2017 by Culmination in Oregon was a lovely sour with black currants.
  • Number of glasses water drank: not enough
  • Number of brewers and friends hugged: too many to count
  • Number of days until the next one: 350-ish

Lost of dead casks by the time I left on Saturday.


On giving offense

Some days I can’t help but fall down the Instagram rabbit hole. I don’t know how I got there, alick on someone who just followed me, a hashtag that seems intriguing, a place that looks lovely, whatever. And whammo, there I am looking at something that makes me angry.

I get that there are still troglodytes who post pictures of scantily clad women, and beer dudes who use sexism to generate likes. I don’t like it and I really cant wait for people to evolve already, but I get it. What I don’t get is that someone using a brewery’s official account would add to those likes. I can only assume/hope that they had a temporary madness that made them forget who/what the represent.

I took the advice of a twitter follower, took some screenshots and showed them to someone from the brewery. To his credit, he immediatly sent off an email to the powers-that-be who remedied the situation.

That’s the good part.

The not so good part is the email the powers-that-be sent back, that started with “I’m sorry you were offended….”

Way to put the blame ball in my court. I got angry all over again.

Instead of making it sound like I’m the one with the problem, like I’m the thin-skinned one, how about saying, “I’m sorry, that was inappropriate/offensive/disrespectful”?

Or am I just splitting hairs? The thought was there, right?


Clearing out the homebrew

I took stock of my cellar* the other day, and found a few old orphan bottles of homebrew. I haven’t been drinking much at home lately other than some shower beer lagers from work, so have been bringing them to friends’ places for testing.

Blood Orange Saison

I made this back in March 2016. I was quite proud of it when I made it – it had no discernible off-flavours, was quite effervescent, and the blood orange flavour was subtle but present. I was fully expecting it to be oxidized and awful after almost a year and a half, but was surprised to find it delicious. The orange had faded to just a slight orange blossom aroma with none in the flavour. The colour had deepened somewhat, and the beer had an amazing honey and jasmine flavour to it.

Lychee Gose

I had made this in September 2016 for the GTA Brews Brew Slam competition. The taste was exactly what I wanted when it was fresh. After almost a year, the lychee aroma had faded significantly. The salt was quite dominant at first taste, but quickly faded leaving a slight lychee candy-like aftertaste.

Wild Thing Blonde

I made this in February, using a Magnotta Blonde Ale kit with Escarpment Labs Wild Thing yeast that they had isolated from an apple orchard in the Niagara region. It started at 1.048 OG, and fermented down to 1.002. I was expecting it to be dry, but it still had a good mouthfeel. The yeast gave it a marked apple taste, like a semi-dry cider. Quite delicious!

Double Oatmeal Stout with Toasted Cocoa Nibs and Niagara Cherry Juice

I am the least happy with this one. There was a bit of oxidation in both bottles we tried, and one of them was a gusher. The cocoa nibs lent a really smooth chocolate aroma and flavour to the DOS kit from Magnotta, but the sour cherry finish seemed off to me. My friends who tried it quite liked it, so it could be just me. Still, I’m going to make it again and use the whole cherry not just the juice left over from making a pie.

*and by cellar, I mean hall closet where we keep the vacuum and old crap.