Roundhouse Craft Beer Fest might be Toronto's best
Because the Roundhouse Craft Beer Festival is only in its second year, it might be a little early to call it the city's best beer festival, but if this year's event, held Saturday August 10 and Sunday August 11, is anything like last year's, it's a title that the event will certainly have rights to soon.
At first glance, the event doesn't seem all that different from any number of summer beer events in the city: craft beer, samples, food trucks, etc.; however, subtle differences have made this event a fast favourite for beer folks in the know.
First, there's the location. Held at Roundhouse Park just outside of — duh — the Roundhouse that houses Steam Whistle brewery, the Roundhouse Craft Beer Festival embraces one of the best parts about being at an outdoor beer festival, namely the fact that you're outside. For this event, picnic blankets are welcome and people are encouraged to sit around and relax, as opposed to queuing up in massive lines for a sample of beer or fighting for a lone picnic table — there's grass!
Then of course there's the beer.
Every beer poured at the Roundhouse Craft Beer Festival will be a member of the Ontario Craft Brewers. For me, it's an added bonus to attend an event that I know benefits and promotes local craft breweries as opposed to putting a little more money in the already full pockets of internationally owned, billion-dollar companies who just brew easy-to-drink-lagers. The Roundhouse Festival proudly boasts beer of "independent ownership, smaller batches, artisanal styles, and quality ingredients, [that's] all-natural and undiluted."
I'm not crying; it's just dusty in here.
Among the local brewers present will be Amsterdam Brewery, Beau's All Natural Brewing, Black Oak Brewing, Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery, Great Lakes Brewery, King Brewery, Lake of Bays Brewing, Left Field Brewery, Mill St. Brewery, Neustadt Springs Brewery, Nickel Brook Brewing, Steam Whistle, and Wellington Brewery.
But it's not just about the beer (OK, it mostly is, but let's pretend). The Roundhouse Craft Beer Festival is also a fundraising event. In fact, proceeds go to support the Toronto Railway Heritage Museum, which serves to promote the history of train travel in the city. So they got that going for them, which is nice.
Also, the festival has a token system that seems less likely to promote drunkenness than some other festivals. Sample tokens are sold in batches of five so you won't feel compelled to get wasted and, even better, the event organizers will buy back any unused tokens at the end of the festival so no one will be chugging beer at the end of the day in an effort to get their money's worth.
(FYI, what you get for a token may vary. Brewers are allowed to determine for themselves how much they will charge for samples. Steam Whistle, for example, will charge one token for half a seven-ounce glass or two tokens for a full sample).
Lastly, and possibly most importantly, is the cost.
The Roundhouse Craft Beer festival costs a measly $10 to get in (provided you buy your tickets in advance online--it's $15 at the door) and drink samples tickets are just $1.
And that's not even the best part: the $10 entrance fee gets you your sampling glass and that glass acts as your ticket to the event. If you come back with your glass on Sunday, you don't need to pay again, meaning for $10 you can spend Saturday from noon-7pm AND Sunday from noon-7pm in the park drinking Ontario craft beer.
You see why I like this event?
Admittedly, part of the reason I like the Roundhouse Craft Beer Festival is also that last year's event was really laid back. It's conceivable that, as the event grows, so too will the amount of attendees and the laid-back vibe might vanish. I guess beer fans will just have to hope that no well-read Toronto-based websites preview the Roundhouse Craft Beer Festival so that it can remain under the radar for a while.
Ben Johnson also writes about beer over on Ben's Beer Blog.