Hart House Beer Festival

Finally, the event I waited for all year arrived: the Hart House Beer Festival.

I took my friend Katherine (aka That Damned Canasian), and we wandered around the venue (what is that open spot in the middle of Hart House called? do they call it a quad? a square?), sipping good beer, eating some great food and listening to great beats courtesy of CIUT’s Higher Ground.

There were more breweries than last year, but not a lot of brews I couldn’t find at the LCBO or Beer Store, which was a bit disappointing. I got to try Mill Street’s Ginger Cat, a ginger wit that I was curious about, but only comes as part of their seasonal sampler. I will freely admit to being a ginger-holic, and so was underwhelmed by the ginger in it. I tried Double Trouble’s Revenge of the Ginger next, which had a nice ginger heat balanced by the hop/citrus finish.

Standouts for me were Oast House’s cherry Berliner Weisse and Amsterdam’s Shape Shifter, a lovely barrel aged strong ale that made it all better.

When I remembered to take photos of what I drank
Nice space, and they didn’t pack us in like sardines.
Obligatory arty-ish night shot.




A week of beer

I didn’t plan on attending three beer events in one week, really I didn’t. Or at least that’s what I keep telling my liver, who knows me better than to believe this.

If it’s Friday, it must be the Society of Beer Drinking Ladies

I met Caroline early in the evening, and we added a few stamps to our passport before heading to the Artspace on Shaw Street for the seventh SOBDL Bevvy.

The beer: The trouble with waiting so long to write a post is forgetting what I drank. Unlike other events, I took no pictures to act as virtual memory. I remember there was one I really liked, one that was dead awful, and a few others that fell somewhere in the middle. Not especially helpful, I know.

The vibe: An odd mix of high school dance and girls night out. As well as running into some derby girls, I spent some time talking with Kait, who I know from the Prud’homme classes, and her friend Jacqui, who is one of the most kick-ass women I have met in a long while. Caroline introduced me to Tina from Junction Craft Brewing, and I spent some time talking with her about her Seibel experience. I was glad to get some time to chat with Jenn S., and left pretty happy to have spent some time among like-minded women.

SOBDL swag
SOBDL swag

Toronto Festival of Beer on Sunday.

I swore I wasn’t going to go another Toronto Festival of Beer after my last experience at the Fort York location. Not that there was anything particular horrible about the last one, just that it’s not me. But the price was right (free) and my beer-lovin’ friend Katherine and her husband were around, so off we went.

The beer: I went with the view to see what offerings were available from the East Coast and Ommegang, and to try the new Gose Buster from Liberty Village. I have to admit to being disappointed by the selection in the international & East Coast tent; I don’t think it was anything I can’t find at the LCBO.

But the Gose Buster, oh man that was delicious! I was glad I got a full glass at the beginning, because they were sold out of it when I went back for seconds later in the afternoon. I’m going to be watching their twitter feed to find out where they’re going to be distributing it in Toronto.

Other high notes was the Noo Broo by Beaus, the beer made in collaboration with Margaret Atwood, and Flying Monkey’s Brimstone, a porter made with roasted fennel that I enjoyed more than I thought I would.

The vibe: Still not me. It was amusing for a while to observe drunk white frat boys in their natural environment, but there’s only so many stupid cardboard hats and and only so much commercial beer marketing silliness one can take. When it got to the point where we are planning our routes on going where it doesn’t smell like puke and it’s harder to thread our way between the stumbling, staggering twenty-somethings, then it’s time to go.

And even though the venue is nicer than how I remember Fort York (nice to have shade and a breeze!), I won’t be back. In the words of Danny Glover in the Lethal Weapon franchise, I am too old for this shit.

Should be called the Festival of Silly Hats
The detritus at the exit.
The detritus at the exit.

Hart House on Thursday

This was a refreshing change after the TFOB; imagine, a beer event for grown ups!

The beer: I only used the eight tokens given with my ticket. I tried six, and went back for seconds of Oast House’s barrel-aged hefeweizen and Amsterdam’s Travesty. Wellington’s Rhubarb saison was very refreshing and went well with the barbecue. The ginger lemonade hop vodka cocktail was…interesting. And the ginger beer from Mill Street was a bit of a misstep, not enough ginger for my taste.

Five of six tried.
Five of six tried.

The vibe: perfect chill. The setting sun reflecting off the old stone bricks of Hart House, the great mix of acid jazz and chill house spun by the dj from CIUT, the great food, the conversations – it could not have been more up my alley. As my friend Danette says, so far up my alley, I should have brought my bowling shoes. Loved it, and will definitely make it to next year’s.

Inside the Hart House quad.
Inside the Hart House quad.

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.


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

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.