Cask Days 2013

Cask Days 2013 is the first beer event I’ve gone to in about 8 years. The last one was at the Toronto Beer Festival when it was still at Old Fort York. I’d gone one year and had a great time with some friends tasting beer and enjoying the sunshine. The next year it should have been called Frat Boy Fest. I spent most of my time dodging drunken 20-somethings with 6-packs reconfigured as hats and avoiding the increasing puddles of sick as the afternoon went on.

I didn’t go again. To quote Danny Glover’s character in Lethal Weapon, I am too old for that shit.

Fast forward to now. I’d heard good things about Cask Days, and decided to try the casks on Saturday and volunteer on Sunday. I asked my beer-drinking friends if they wanted to join me for Session 1, but they all had plans. I’ll be honest, I was a bit uncomfortable at the thought of going on my own (yes, I’m a introvert with hermit-like tendencies), but I forced myself to go. I can only learn so much by sitting at home reading blogs on the internet. I printed out my tickets and a list of all the casks, highlighting those that  sounded interesting.

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I signed up for the First Access and Tasting session with Stephen Beaumont so I could get some guidance around the British casks that were on hand. It was worth every penny. I would have likely not tried any of these lovelies:

I didn’t take any notes at the Cask Days, a mistake I won’t make again. Middle-age memory is fickle. I enjoyed them all, but I do remember thinking that I enjoyed the Wells & Young Courage the most. Which is more than I thought I’d remember. You see, two of the cast members from my TV guilty pleasure, Lost Girl, were in the session as well. I found it hard to concentrate on the beer when I was busy trying not to act like a dorky fangirl in front of Kris Holden-Reid and Paul Amos.

I set out on my own after the session. I was quite happy to be on my own, as it allowed me to go where I wanted and be more open to random conversations. I talked to a Viking for a while, and ran into the Thirsty Wench who then introduced me to Nate Ferguson from the Brewmaster program at Niagara College. They introduced me to sour beers, and encouraged me to try the Storm Imperial Flanders, for which I will always be grateful. So delicious.

I found that asking people, “what’s the best beer you’ve tried so far?” was a perfect conversation starter. I soon abandoned my highlighted list, and tried many of the recommendations. I tasted a lot of novelty beers; Liberty Village’s Gummi Beer,  Grand River’s Beetifide Bohemian and Hockley’s Jaffa Cake all had interesting flavours at first sip but palled by the third or fourth. I met Cheezweezl and her husband by chance, and they directed me to the coffee goodness of Amsterdam’s Full City Double Tempest and its neighbour, Amsterdam’s El Jaguar, a chocolate chili stout that was so good I tweeted that I would marry it if I weren’t already married.

I ran into Andy, a former colleague, who has the same love of beer and punk rock as I do. Of course we would run into each other there. We compared notes and wondered what we would have to do to get the DJ to play more Clash.

Andy and I joking with the guys at the Quebec casks. Photo Credit: Connie Tsang (http://connietsangphotos.com)

The next day I volunteered and was working the Manitoba and Alberta casks. The day was still cold, but the rain held off, and the brief bursts of sunshine made the day wonderful. I had a chance to meet Ralph Morana of BarVolo and learn a bit about the proper care of a cask, and had a great time pouring the beer and talking to people.

I finished the weekend very impressed by the work and dedication of the Cask Days organizational team and the volunteers – it takes a lot of work to make these many pieces fall together effortlessly.

I can’t wait for next year.

A selection of beer tshirts that caught my eye.

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Found these in my pocket when I did laundry. Hopefully, I’ll remember where I stashed them when I head to Cask Days 2014.

The legend is black

You know what it’s like; I can’t be the only one to have experienced this. I was sitting in front of my computer, checking blogs or news stories, and I clicked a link to a YouTube video. I saw another related video in the sidebar that looks interesting, then another, and next thing I know, I’ve fallen down the YouTube Rabbit Hole.

And that’s when I saw this gem:

Man, that took me back. Black Label was my brand of beer from the time I started drinking beer at *cough* years old until sometime 1995 when I stopped drinking for a year.

It occurs to me now that I decided to drink Black Label not for what it was, but for what it wasn’t. And what it wasn’t was popular. Not at all.

I’d been going to parties and bringing Canadian or Blue, because that seemed to be the beer to bring to parties; the ads said so. However, I quickly got tired of bringing a twelve-pack, drinking two or three, and then finding the rest gone when I went for another, stolen by people who either never brought their own beer  or didn’t bring enough.

I switched to Black Label because I could bring a twelve-pack, drink five and still find seven in the fridge at the end of the night. I developed a taste for it. I got teased for drinking the “old man beer”, and responded that no, not even my dad would drink it.

Then I moved to Toronto, and partied in the punk/alternative scene where drinking Black Label was de rigueur. Whoever edited the Wikipedia page said it best:

… the tendency for people in alternative music bars on Queen Street West in Toronto to drink Black Label because it was cheap and as a way to dissociate themselves from mainstream people drinking mainstream beer.

It was short leap to cashing in on this. Advertisers created a series of print and tv ads with the slogan The Legend is Black. Everything was in black and white, with the only splash of colour being the red stripe in the label. It was successful ad campaign, but I’m not sure it helped them in the long run. Many of my friends stopped drinking it. Once something cool is marketed to the uncool, it becomes uncool by association. And so it goes.

I’d forgotten all about Black Label until I saw the YouTube video. When I re-introduced alcohol back into my life, it was with the motto drink less, but better. I started drinking different beers and cocktails. It became about the taste, not the inebriation.

I’d certainly forgotten about the ad campaign. I sat at my computer and watched them all. The Rooftop. The Beatnik. The Motorcycle, Flower Power and Forbidden Planet. While the Catacombs was closest to the scene I was in at the time, I think I liked the Forbidden Planet ad the best with all it’s 50’s pulp sci-fi silliness.

I should try Black Label again. Someday.

In my fridge

I have a good/bad habit of picking up single bottles of beer whenever I am around a Beer Store or LCBO. Good in that I have a interesting selection of different beers in fridge to quench any thirst. Bad in that there is very little room in our fridge for actual food.

I tend to stash the beer in the crispers, aka the drawers of despair (fruit and vegetables go in, we forget we’ve put them there, goo comes out). However, the stash has overflowed to the top shelf to the point where it’s in my way. Time to figure out what’s even in there.

Actually, I think it’s time to stop buying the beer, and start drinking the beer.

In my fridge, August 2013

  • Mill Street: Coffee Porter, Belgian Wit  and Tankhouse Ale. Left from a sampler pack bought a while ago. Not super keen on any of them right now, but keeping them in case that changes.
  • Black Sheep Brewery: Monty Python’s Holy Grail. Had to buy this as I am a huge fan of the movie. Cannot bring myself to open it for some reason. I think I’m secretly afraid it might be awful.
  • Sleeman: Honey Brown Lager. Part of a mixed lot bought by my friend Karen to help further my beer tasting. She’s a good friend to have!
  • St. Ambroise: Pale Ale, Apricot Wheat and Raspberry Ale. Another sampler pack, as I like the fruit beers in the summer. Finding the Apricot Wheat a bit more cloying than usual, but perhaps that’s just me.
  • Grapefruit Stiegl Radler. Impulse buy. Seems like a good beer for sitting on the dock on a hot summer day.
  • Amsterdam: Mid Summer Saison, 416. Amsterdam’s brewing facility has moved into my neighbourhood, making it far too easy to stop in to see what’s in their fridge. I keep coming back to the 416 after trying it during one of their tastings, the Mid Summer Saison was bought because I wanted to try a saison.
  • Wychwood, Hobgoblin. Another beer bought by Karen. She liked the label. This seems like something more suitable for cooler weather and Halloween.
  • Lake of Bays:  Spring Maple. Another impulse buy.
  • Stella Artois. Part of the Karen Mixed Bag. I’ve had Stella before, so know what to expect.
  • Niagara College Teaching Brewery: Butler’s Bitter. When I found out there was a teaching brewery where you could buy the beer made by students, I had to go see.
  • Creemore Springs: Sunny and Share Citrus Saison. Bought in Killarney because it looked summery, something I might want to drink on the dock while watching the sun set. It rained, so the beer came home with me.
  • Hacker-Pschorr: Weiss and Munich Gold. Bought because I wanted the bottles for my home brewing experiment. According to the research I did, I could buy empty swing-top bottles at a brewing store for a bit more than buying them full of beer at The Beer Store. It was like buy the bottle, get the beer for free! Yes, I know there are other options, but this gave me a valid reason to go to The Beer Store.

So there it is, what I am starting this (adventure? journey? misguided attempt at reality-avoidance?) off with.