So, my second day at the Toronto Festival of Beer was actually the last day of the festival (the Sunday). As a whole, it went very well. The weather held up – aside from a light mist on the way down and when we got there – but otherwise, the sun was out and it was a good day for beer.
I started out my day going to visit a few people I needed to see. First stop was the McAuslan booth to visit my buddy Barry. Sure enough he was there dispensing samples to a fair sized crowd but still took a moment to say hello and tell me what he thought of the festival so far before filling my cup with St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout and telling me to stop by anytime throughout the day. Next stop Mill Street.
Now, I am not lying when I say that Mill St. and their larger than life tent was by far the busiest of the day. After making my way through the crowd and finally finding some Mill St. personnel I learned that the guy I was looking for was not there today. Oh well. I grabbed a surprisingly delicious ESB, which I think I have had before but I can’t be sure of. In any event, it was a near perfect depiction of the classic British-style bitter: a rich malty sweetness backed by a well-structured bitterness, a nice deep copper colour with about one finger of head that laced quite well on the thick plastic tasting cup and was mild on the palate but quite refreshing.
The next stop was Flying Monkeys, a personal favorite of mine. On the way there we stopped at the Old Credit Brewery tent – a brewery that I have only tried one beer from – and got a sample of their Pale Pilsner. This was a standout beer for me because, to be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from it. It surprised me with a clean grassy bitterness that stuck to your cheeks and held on forever. It looked near perfect with its golden straw colour and thick white head and smelled of a pleasant and earthy citrus. Really well made local pilsner that could have easily been crafted in the Czech Republic.
Back to Flying Monkeys (sorry for getting off topic). Earlier in the week I had spoken to Patty, the owner of the brewery, and she told me to come by the booth while I was at the festival. Since I missed her Thursday and I knew she wouldn’t be there Sunday she told me to find her brother Peter who would be running the show on Sunday. I have to say that Peter was one of the coolest guys I have ever met in my life. He was super nice and approachable and we (my friend Blair and me) sat and talked to him about Flying Monkeys, American craft ales, his homebrew setup and the festival the past few days.
With the good conversation came good beer in the form of Hoptical Illusion, probably my favorite year round Ontario craft brew. Before we left, Peter invited us to stop by his house/brewery sometime to come and have some drinks and some food and to teach me how to brew. As an aspiring (I use that term loosely) home brewer this is monumental news. Having someone teach you how to brew instead of fumbling around your first few tries is good – having someone who is responsible for the masterfully crafted, citra hopped Smashbomb IPA teaching you how to brew is fantastic.
Next we decided to get a bite to eat, because if you want to be able to taste fine beers all day you (of course) need food and water. We decided on St.Louis partly due to the fact that we had a craving for some wings and fries and partly because it was close (right in front of us). Now, somehow it was cheaper at the festival than at the restaurant itself, in any event no complaints here.
After lunch we headed over to CASKapalooza to see what the cask offerings were today. Much better selection than Thursday I have to say. From what I tried there were some hits and some misses. Lets start with the hits. First My Bitterer Wife Double IPA, was a big, generously hopped DIPA. It had a great deep amber colour that was quite pale and gave a slight bubbly head, due to the cask conditioning of course. It was full of citra (and possibly cascade) hops and at an impressive 100 IBU’s had a pull no punches bitterness that was very drinkable as well as refreshing, even with a bolder alcohol content. Another hit from the Great Lakes Brewery casks was Does this Muumuu make me look Hefe? What a name this beer has. Aside from that, this imperial hefe- weissen did not disappoint. A nice cloudy, pale straw colour with a nice touch of head, it gave off strong breaddy and citrus notes in the nose with a yeasty, slight milky palate that was easy drinking, and with its imperial status, masked the taste of alcohol almost entirely.
Now I have to say I was much more impressed with Great Lakes Brewery today than I was on Thursday. However there were a couple of misses. The Windy City IPA, fell short of my expectations: it was bland and syrupy and did not make the most of the Chinook hops that went into it and overall had a rather unbalanced character. The last cask I tried was Satans Choice… I am almost positive that this is just Devil’s Pale Ale with a different name and cask conditioned. Either way it was lackluster and unpleasant. To be fair I love Devil’s Pale Ale when it’s freshly canned or on tap, I just feel like this fell short of its intended purpose. The other beer I tried from Great Lakes Brewery was the Blonde Jagerbomb which is essentially Golden Horseshoe spiced with the same herbs found in Jagermeister. Not great, certainly different but I would definitely give it another try.
Now, I realized that it might seem that from this post as well as my last one that I am totally ragging on Great Lakes Brewery. Let me just say that I am not. For the most part I like what they do, especially the seasonal ales, its just that I tried more beers by Great Lakes Brewery at the beer festival than any other brewery so its only natural that I’m not going to like all of them. I DO NOT DISLIKE GREAT LAKES BREWERY….just saying.
Another beer that made an impression on me was the Scottish Ale from Nickelbrook. This impressed me because I’m not the biggest fan of scotch ales (sorry Green) or Nickelbrook, but this was a solid offering with a tasty cedar-pine malt character that I would buy on a frequent basis. I also took in a few old favorites during the day from Black Oak, Flying Monkeys, Hop City and of course Dogfish Head (even though all they had from DFH was the 60 Minute IPA…you cant go wrong with that.)
So that was it. A successful festival filled with great beer, delicious food, a surprise appearance by JoLo, a few new contacts and thousands of people wearing ridiculous looking Steam Whistle box hats (which included me for about 30 seconds after I was given a rocket shaped hat by a some guy who was a rocket scientist (or not)….but he then took his hat back after I was photographed in it – obviously looking super cool….but I didn’t care.)