This coming weekend the Toronto Festival of Beer will be taking place at the CNE Bandshell Park. Like every year before, thousands of people will descend upon the festival to enjoy beer, food, music and an assortment of entertainment provided by the vendors in attendance. This is without question the largest and most commercial beer festival of the summer, bringing in a mixed crowd of everyone from puritan beer geeks to beer funnelling party animals and everything in between. Don't let the commercial aspects of this festival fool you - in recent years, the craft beer presence has been growing like crazy, leaving the tents of Molson, Labatt and Budweiser scarcely populated. Even though these giant brewers put tons of money behind this festival and have without question the biggest and most elaborate tents and give out the most free swag, more and more people are spending their tokens on craft and specialty beers. I think this is largely due to the fact that people know what Labatt and Coors taste like and when they are confronted with such a large selection of new and interesting beers, combined with the laid back festival atmosphere, they are more inclined to take a chance on a new brew. This is great for craft brewers because, while some people might not want to spend 12 or 13 dollars on an unknown 6 pack at the liquor store, a one dollar sample token can open people up to a whole new world of what else is out there.
Some of the highlights this year include CASKapalooza from Great Lakes Brewery, Mill St. Brewery's brand experience and local collaborations from Great Lakes, Beau's, Flying Monkeys, Black Oak, Amsterdam, F&M and Nicklebrook. I'm sure that many craft brewers will bring out some off the wall and interesting one off brews made just for the festival. Tickets for Friday and Sunday are still available while Saturday has been sold out for weeks.