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.
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
Three sessions (one as volunteer, two as drinker).
I tried 43 different casks according to my notes.
the white chocolate stout and blueberry sour by Blood Brothers in Toronto. I might have to venture to the west end more often.
Hanlan’s Point, a bourbon barrel porter with coconut and coffee, a collab between Great Lakes and Bar Hop
Trou de Diable’s Ze Blend on whiskey oak chips, a most delicious sour.
Dieu de Ciel’s Tamarind Gose and Solstice D’Hiver barleywine. Sweet merciful heaven, both were so good.
So many awesome conversations!
I was so damned happy to see Amsterdam had El Jaguar back that I didn’t notice that it was minus the chilis this time. It turned out to be way too thick and sweet for my taste without the heat to balance it out and give it some dimension.
Speaking of thick and sweet – Bellwood’s 3 Minutes to Midnight. I still wish I’d got a few bottles to age as I think it would mellow nicely after a year or two.
Saturday afternoon session in general. All the casks are now tapped Friday afternoon, and many of the good ones had already run out through word of mouth by mid-session. The weather pushed everyone under cover, which made it hard to get around.
So, I actually thought trying to live blog Cask Days was doable. Silly me. That idea lasted up until my friend Katherine and I were standing by the California casks with our first samples in our glass, talking to Sarah and Dennis who I had met at last year’s event. At that point I decided it was going to be far more fun to drink and talk to people rather than peck away at my phone-sized keyboard.
I won’t say that the day went pear-shaped, but it got busy. We talked to so many people, running into Robin The Beer Wench, Erica from Black Oak and the rest of the ladies from SOBDL, George from F & M, and Jeff from Indie Ale House. I was happily waylaid by Hollisha from McAuslan who bade me try more of the ciders than I was planning on. Glad she did, as the three I tried were delicious! I’d have to say that the Schoolyard Crab by West Avenue was my favourite, tart without being overly sour and with a nice apple flavour.
I tried to keep track of the beer that I sampled, but as with all beer festivals, it kind of falls apart near the end as the area of the brain in charge of taking pictures and notes starts to get a bit wobbly around the edges.
Not surprisingly, they all seemed to fall into the sour or dark categories. Of those above, I only really count two as a complete miss: the Monkish Crux had an aftertaste like the cough drops our German neighbour used to give me when I was a kid, and the vanilla stout by Beer Academy just had way too much vanilla going on. The R&B oatmeal stout with figs had a great nose and initial taste, but there was an odd dusty/powdery aftertaste that spoiled my enjoyment of it. The beers my tastebuds loved the most was the Gose Strikes Back by Beavertown and Flying Monkey’s Drunk by Chocolate. I also really enjoyed the St. John’s Wort Helliwell, and not just because of the historical provenance or the fact it was made by the NC Teaching Brewery.
There were others that I tried on the insistence of people I met, sipping from glasses and comparing thoughts:
#13, Barrel-Aged Derailleur biere de garde by Ladyface Ale
#85, Smoked Apple Lager by R&B. I would have missed this tasty brew if not for Robin!
Dubbel Trouble, a collaboration between Central City and Parallel 49
Black Currant Brown Ale by Big Rock (not enough black currant IMHO, but I like them more than most people do)
Dawson Kreik by Sawdust City
Apparently that’s all my liver could stand in a 5 hour period.
Huge thanks and congratulations to the Moranas for putting on such a great event, what my friend called “Christmas for beer nerds”. It felt a bit less crowded than last year, which this introvert appreciates. The sun made an appearance for most of the afternoon, and the temperature was nice enough that I didn’t need to break out my knitted beer knit.