What happens when you get 600-ish women together to drink beer?


What happens is a very chill and relaxed event. No drama. No fights, no shrieking, no shenanigans.

Just some lovely and wonderful women enjoying and talking about beer, far from the male gaze.

Some of the participants.

The beer at this event was pretty delicious. My favourite was the Bonfire Porter from Muddy York – their regular porter with cocoa nibs, cinnamon and vanilla beans. Jenn Reinhart’s coconut porter was very good as well, and I was intrigued by the flavours the spent gin botanicals gave to Revel’s Spirit of the Woods cider.

As usual, I forgot to keep taking pictures after the first 5 tasted.

Days 23 & 24

Was is the lack of sleep? The overindulgence in bad food and candy (which might account for the lack of sleep)? The stress of over- booking an up to now very disorganized life? A slight hormonal imbalance?

What ever the cause, Thursday and Friday were not good days. My brain blew small nuggets out of proportion, and I spent way too much of time obsessing over what my classmates thought of me, possibly imagining things and over-reacting. The phrase, what the fuck am I doing here? drifted across my mind a few times.

I think what it comes down to is that after 12 years of working with women in a highly feminist environment, it’s a bit of a culture shock to turn 180 degrees and be around men and men only, some of whom will argue there’s no gender bias in using the word “he” in a sentence that is meant to convey both genders. Throw in teachers who ignore the duality of the class, and talk about things like distractions of “crop tops and shortie shorts” as if that applies to all of us.


Luckily there were two events that stopped my brain from spiralling. The first was a great presentation given by Laurie Craig of Clear Valley Hops. She and her husband John, started Clear Valley Hops in 2010, and her presentation went through all of the trials and tribulations they encountered as they built their business. After, we all went out and took at look at Niagara College’s new hop yard, and it was clear that the woman knew her stuff after four years in the industry.

After two days thinking about gender biases, it was amusing to go to Sensory Evaluation class and talk about more bias, this time of the sensory kind. Notes were taken furiously by everyone. Apparently some biases are believable; others not so much.

I left as soon as class was over and made my way home to Toronto, stopping close to home to visit the Society of Beer Drinking Ladies. I could feel some of the stress lift off me as I walked up the stairs of the Jam Factory and into the hum of women drinking beer and having a great time. I was back among my tribe.

The environment wasn’t all that conducive to long conversations (hey, there was beer drinkin’ to be done!), but I managed to get hugs from my pals Erica and Jenn, and have some very good chats with Robin LeBlanc, Ren Navarro and Kristen MacDonald from Muskoka Brewery.

Just what I needed. I was finally able to quell the self doubt, put a damper on the emotions and realize that the only way I am going to make it through the next 15 months of school is to just be the my own weird, feminist self. Once more I had made the mistake of worrying about what people thought about me; that way lies madness as I well know.

And has change ever come from people trying to fit in?

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.

Session Toronto

Once again, I waffled until the last minute to buy a ticket to a beer event that I pretty much knew I was going to go to anyway. I let the price point change my mind every time I went to buy a ticket online but finally sucked it up when I read of the beer collaborations that would be presented there.

I had a great time. It wasn’t as busy as I’d expected it to be, nor as hot. There were no crowds to weave through and while Dundas Square is in a bit of a concrete fishbowl, it becomes nicely shaded once the sun dips below the skyline.

I ran into Jenn Shute, who was there manning the SOBDL booth, and stayed to say hello. We ended up running into each other pretty often, comparing beers and trying new ones. I went around and introduced myself to any of the Toronto brewmasters who had responded to my survey to say a personal thank-you and talked with many of them extensively. I got a chance to talk to Nate Ferguson a bit about the Brewmaster program and to Paul from Flying Monkeys about how tasty Chocolate Manifesto is at the end of a night. I ran into a few people that I’d met at during the Prud’homme classes.

And I got to drink some great beer.

Once again, I forgot to write down or otherwise note everything I drank, but a few of the standouts for me were the Indie Ale House/Indie 88 cherry saison collaboration and Snowy Howell, a white IPA by Muskoka. There were a lot of other ones that were notable, and I know that I liked them, but alas, drunken middle-age brain failed me again.

Taken while I still remembered to take photos.