So the first day of the Festival of Beer went well aside from it starting about 45 minutes late. It was quite nice because it wasn't too busy and you could walk around freely and lines for beer were short if there was even a line up at all. Now I will mention some of the bad before moving on to the good. I was disappointed with the Great Lakes CASKapalooza most of the casks I wanted to try either weren't going to be tapped for a while or weren't there at all on Thursday. Now this is not the first time I've had a weird experience with Great Lakes and tapping a cask. At the Session festival they were waiting for the right time to tap "My Bitter Wife" but seriously just tap it your at a beer festival for fuck sake. Anyway the two casks that I did try were the "Armadillo IPA" and the "Morning Glory Breakfast Stout" and both were mediocre. Nothing special about either of these so that was quite disappointing because I'm a huge fan of cask conditioned ales. Among the other misses for the day was the Samuel Adams Summer Ale. I am a fan of Samuel Adams and The Boston Beer Company and most of the things I've tried from them have been really good, however their take on a summer wheat ale fell short of what it could have been. There was too much citrus and sour notes coming through this. You could have told me this was Keith's White or something made by some other lowest common denominator brewery that turns out batch after batch of fizzy yellow beer but not Sam Adams. Thats it for the bad portion of the day the only other disappointment was the Hop City Braking Squirrel Lager. It's not that it was bad it just wasn't memorable at all. I mean its better than a Coors Light or whatever but thats not saying much though.
Before I get to the good I'm going to talk about a beer that I found interesting. It was the Trafalgar Critical Mass. Now let me say that I don't particularly like anything that I've tried by Trafalgar just because it tastes very amateur like. Also their labels and packaging look like they were photocopied and stuck on a bottle. Now normally I only care about what is inside the bottle but these look extra bad. But back to "Critical Mass" this is not for your average weekend warrior in board shorts and flip flops. This beer is huge in flavour, has a thick sweet caramel scent, pours a syrupy light brown colour and clocks in at an enormous 17% alcohol content. Now thankfully I only had a (very liberal) 4oz. serving of this because anything more would put you on your ass. This is definitely one to share with a buddy and to sip on slowly. I didn't love it but I didn't hate it and I would certainly have it again. Now this is by no means something completely different in the beer world. Dogfish Head has their "World Wide Stout" and "120 Minute IPA" that come in at 18% alcohol and Hair Of The Dog has "Dave" that come in at 22% and Brewdog has "Sink The Bismarck" thats in the upper 20's (and now "The End Of History" at 55%. I'll give this its own post one day) but no other brewery would dare bring something this big to a festival that is not geared toward craft beer and is dominated by Molson, Budweiser and other billion dollar breweries. Not only did they bring "Critical Mass" but they brought "Korruptor" their barley wine that comes in at 17% alcohol so I have to respect the chance they took in bringing something that most people will hate or not even try to event like this even if it does nothing but let people know that beers like this exist out there.
Now moving on to the good. Earlier in this post I mentioned my disappointment with Great Lakes but I really did enjoy "Up In Smoke" this was a really good North American take on the German style of rauchbier. Nicely smoked lots of bbq smoke and cedar in the nose with a clean smoked taste. This is not the best example of the style but was a really really good take on it. Beaus "Festivale" was another highlight so was the "Summer Saisson" and "Double Chocolate Cherry Stout" from Black Oak. Hop City that didn't wow me with their "Barking Squirrel Lager" won me over with their "Lawnchair Wheat Ale".
By far the best part of the day was meeting Michael Duggan (Duggan's Brewery, founder of Mill St.) and shaking his hand and telling him how much I appreciate what he has done in terms of brewing in Toronto. He also told me to drop by their both on Sunday to at least say hello while I am there if I see him. I also met Ralph Morana the owner of Bar Volo in Toronto and we talked about some rare beers and the release of the "Cocoa Milk Stout" that they are brewing on premises. I also mentioned to him that he has a great establishment and that I would be by in the near future.
So that was my experience from the first day of the Festival Of Beer in a nut shell....a very long and quite possibly boring nutshell. So I hope as many people make it out to the festival and try some new things as well as some old favorites that are available. Oh and if you do go drop by the Camerons Brewing booth they have some amazing stickers available.