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10 things to know about the Toronto Festival of Beer

Posted by Ben Johnson / July 23, 2014

Toronto beer festivalThe Toronto Festival of Beer is this weekend and, at this point, it's quite frankly impossible to deny that this is the biggest and most comprehensive beer festival in Ontario. There's more beer than you can conceivably hope to consume in one sitting, live music, and droves of Toronto beer drinkers looking to have a good time in the sun. In short, this is the big one.

The Saturday session of the three day event is already sold out but if you're looking to attend on Friday or Sunday or you already have your ticket, here's ten things you need to know before you slather on the sunscreen and iron your drinking pants to head to Exhibition Place.

There will be corporate overlords.
First and foremost, I feel it's important to note that Toronto's Festival of Beer is now "brought to you by The Beer Store." So, as with all things related to beer, I'd like to encourage you to enjoy your beer-drinking experience, but do so with a healthy dose of cynicism as you acknowledge that the multi-national, soulless overlords who own the only private retail beer outlet in Ontario have now also used their considerable wealth to muscle in on this increasingly corporate and commercialized beer event too.

Sure, event organizers have bills to pay and it's probably hard to turn down such a big sponsor, but just keep things in perspective and try not to get so excited just because there's beer involved, OK? Now that we have that out the way, on to other important matters.

There will be beer
A lot of it. With over 65 brewers in attendance pouring over 300 different brands of beer, you can expect that roughly 120,000 litres of beer will be poured over the weekend--roughly enough to fill the cargo area of Rob Ford's Escalade 250 times over. And unlike other festivals and events that tend to focus on regionalized brands (i.e. Ontario Craft Beer Week) or a certain type of beer (e.g. Funk Night), TFOB has something of a "come-one-come-all" philosophy.

While you'll find great local beers like Liberty Village's 504 Pale Ale and their new Gosebuster, beers from 2014 Canadian Brewery of The Year Great Lakes Brewery, along with Junction Craft Brewery, Collective Arts, Steam Whistle, and Left Field Brewery, you're also going to see plenty of watery corporate shit like Molson Canadian and Budweiser. Some say the indiscriminate plethora of beer available is precisely what makes this event great, while others disagree.

There will be bros
With such a selection of beer on hand, the festival brings in roughly 30,000 people over its three day run, The crowd tends less toward the bearded "I-enjoy-lactobacilicus-fermented-beverages" sect that's common at craft beer events and more toward the "yes-guy-let's-smash-brewskis " type of crowd. Prepare yourself mentally for the sight of male tank tops and some fairly harmless douchebaggery.

There will be tunes
This year the festival has seemingly departed from their "hey- I-remember-them" approach to musical acts (previous musical guests included The Spin Doctors and Salt-N-Pepa) and instead has opted for a formidable lineup of Canadian acts including K-OS, The Trews, Matthew Good, and Wide Mouth Mason. K-Os will kick things off on Friday with The Planet Smashers, a Montreal ska punk band, opening, The Trews will rock the Exhibition place bandshell on the soldout Saturday and on Sunday Matthew Good and Wide Mouth Mason will close the event out.

There will be lines
Sadly, this is just a fact of life at TFOB. When you pack that many people over three days into one place, there are bound to be wait times for the few places that everyone wants to and needs to visit (i.e. the ATM, Left Field Brewery's tank top sales area, and the shitter). Come as prepared as you can for this. Pack cash, patience, and, if at all possible, adult diapers.

There will be cider
Cider is the LCBO's fastest growing category of beverage alcohol so you can bet the organizers of Toronto's Festival of Beer have taken notice. That's good news for the gluten-intolerant drinkers among us (given that gluten free beer generally runs the gamut from pee pee to urine) but also good news for those who might want a brief respite from all that beer. There will be some "international" brands on hand like Boston Beer import Angry Orchard and Savannah Dry (because Africa is presumably known for its apples), but thankfully there will also be some local options like Brickworks Ciderhouse and Pommies.

There will be gluten free beer
Speaking of gluten free beers and how terrible they usually are, the lone locally available option for decent GF beer will be in attendance at TFOB. Snowman Brewing Company, who have released their beer into the Toronto market at a painfully slow pace over the past couple years, will offer festival goers some gluten free beer that actually tastes like beer so that GF intolerant drinkers can sip and continue to wonder when the company will finally launch more widespread distribution so no one has to call New Grist "pretty good, I guess," ever again.

There will be learning
In addition to just pouring brews in your suckhole, TFOB will offer a variety of beer-related activities so that you might conceivably pretend you didn't just go there to gorge on sweet, sweet alcohol. The Brewmaster Sessions with brewmasters and experts from across the world offers you an opportunity to learn why beer is better than wine, get recipes for beer cocktails, hear tips on hosting your very own tasting, and talk about the important points of homebrewing. Class up your alcoholism to the status of "hobbyist " and maybe your parents will stop judging you!

There will be East Coasters
Launched in 2012, the "World of Beer Pavilion at TFOB focuses on beer from one specific region and has previous played host to brews from Quebec and North America's West Coast. This year, the focus will be on the East Coast and there will be beers on hand from Nova Scotia's Propeller Brewing and Garrison Brewing, New York's Brooklyn Brewing, Southern Tier Brewing and Brewery Ommegang, as well as Cigar City Brewing from Florida, among others.

There will be food
This year the festival touts food from over 20 different local vendors including
Rock Lobster, Smoke's Poutinerie, Oyster Boy, La Brea, and The Pie Commission, among others. As a bonus, lookout for local heartthrob Mitchell Stern of Hot Bunzz, the man for whom the company has rumoured to named.

Ben Johnson also writes about beer over on Ben's Beer Blog. Follow him on twitter @Ben_T_Johnson.

Discussion

35 Comments

1 / July 23, 2014 at 10:00 am
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That list of Brewers looks almost as sad as the selection at the beer jailer.
Johnny Pancakes / July 23, 2014 at 10:42 am
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Will they also be selling wine? or liquor? Serious question!
James / July 23, 2014 at 10:46 am
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Bar none, this was THE WORST beer event in the city in 2013. And that was BEFORE The Beer Store sponsorship. Small scale events, small scale breweries, please. Let the corporate shills sell their swill at the amphitheatre during Korn and Kenny Chesney shows.
freddiestarfish / July 23, 2014 at 10:50 am
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Boycott this and support small scale, indie Ontario craft beer. This event has been ruined by the big brewers.
eat a dik replying to a comment from James / July 23, 2014 at 10:51 am
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I will cut you if you badmouth Kenny Chesney again.

His shows are off the charts awesome.
usedtoloveit / July 23, 2014 at 10:56 am
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loutish behaviour all around.
great concept and they are bringing in decent musical acts but overall it's attended by a genuinely shite demographic
Rich replying to a comment from usedtoloveit / July 23, 2014 at 11:02 am
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Brofest, now with beer
BeerMe / July 23, 2014 at 11:34 am
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I stopped going after they stopped booking acts like Little Feat.... and once the beer giants started to outnumber the small craft breweries.
La Brea Food TO / July 23, 2014 at 11:37 am
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Be sure to swing by Booth 9 in the Food Alley for our crazy #MexicAsian #FlavourSlaps. We will be serving up Cerveza Bulgogi Sushi Pogos, Seoul Brotha Nacho Libre and some Tijuana Cali Rolls!
Kate / July 23, 2014 at 11:47 am
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$50 for a ticket (grumble, grumble tax, grumble grumble fees) + the cost of beer and food? No thanks.
Rusty / July 23, 2014 at 12:10 pm
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Ah, the usual negative roll call of BlogTo comments. I'm actually surprised no one complained that the festival isn't east of Yonge Street.
Kiko / July 23, 2014 at 12:38 pm
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Boycott? Worst Beer event? +the cost of beer and food?
You will never have this many beer selections, this many food options from Toronto's best Resto's/foodtrucks and good LIVE music combine from any other Fest!
Craft beerfest at Steam whistle is great! The others would are great too! But there's a reason this sells out every year! Saturday and Friday are sold out! Don't hate on this, please, it's a great tradition and Cheers! See you this Weekend!
KD / July 23, 2014 at 12:45 pm
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This article made me laugh, thank you.

I will admit that I love beerfest, guilty pleasure I guess. Yah there are bros, yah it is sponsored by the beer store, but there are plenty of smaller local craft breweries and food from local restaurants. No one is forcing you to drink bud or eat pizza pizza. I am completely in agreement with above commenters about supporting local and small scale breweries, and I hate the beer store too, but seriously you guys need to lighten up a bit. How can you complain about drinking beer and eating good food outside on a beautiful July day. Why do Torontonians hate on EVERYTHING?

Kate - the ticket price includes sample tokens, glass, AND music.
toocheap / July 23, 2014 at 01:14 pm
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FYI - Friday is sold out too.
Clayton / July 23, 2014 at 01:44 pm
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Ugh. These Comments... Internet, can we all agree that beer is fun? And Festivals too? Well this is literally a FESTIVAL of BEER (It's right there in the name). Find me another outdoor festival in Toronto for under $50 where you won't be paying upwards of $12 for a drink. I'm actually amazed every year by the almost complete LACK of douchbaggery I see compared to any other event where alcohol is served.

If you prefer to drink your beer in single bottle batches in a silent, dimly lit room, that's your prerogative (Actually, that still sounds kinda fun.). But better yet, come out, pretend no one's watching (they aren't) crack a beer, and maybe, just maybe, a smile. And don't pay for full cups. Just halfies. (Full cups is how they gets ya.)
dipset / July 23, 2014 at 02:55 pm
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Can someone explain the word douchebag?
Robyn / July 23, 2014 at 03:19 pm
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ohhh Mitchell Stern. Now THAT is something I'm looking forward to.
1 / July 23, 2014 at 03:32 pm
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Oregon Brewers Festival circa 2006 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCGETdi-rLw&;list=UUN64Pd6gQAC5o7xu3nJoh3g

8 years ago and still a lot of catching up to do.
eff you / July 23, 2014 at 04:12 pm
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Awwe hipsters hating :( cry me a river and go get a tattoo of a triangle or an arrow or something. This is a great event! Lots of variety and lots of fun. Ignore the bros. Don't want big brewery beer? Don't drink it.
Ben (aka honorary Canadian) / July 23, 2014 at 04:39 pm
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You have no idea how fortunate you are to have this event available to you. Having spent considerable time in the Toronto area, as an American, I can tell you I wish I were present for this - Beer Store and all.

Yep, it would be really cool to see a 'real' micro/artisan beer event showcasing up-and-comers, but like many have observed, it's July, it's beer, and it's fun. Like our Benjamin Franklin said, "Beer if proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy!"
James replying to a comment from Ben (aka honorary Canadian) / July 23, 2014 at 05:09 pm
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There are plenty of other beer events in Toronto. They're happening at least once a month now. They may not be as big and loud and filled with drunks as TFOB, but that's exactly what makes them so awesome.
Ben replying to a comment from James / July 23, 2014 at 05:19 pm
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I'm sure it's going to be a 'lively' environment. One thing I learned whilst living among you is that Canadian REALLY appreciate their beer. Moreso, I believe, than Americans. I think that's what endeared you guys to me!
Ron replying to a comment from James / July 23, 2014 at 06:58 pm
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If memory serves the Grilled Cheez festival was the absolute worst most embarrassing event. I don't remember nearly as big an uprising over the beer festival.
Jason / July 23, 2014 at 07:07 pm
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The Mondial in Montreal is 10 times better than all Toronto festivals put together. Runs 5 days, no entry fee, and no Coors Light, Bud, Canadian etc. This thing is garbage and I can't believe that people actually pay to get in.
Ron replying to a comment from Pants Go Brown / July 23, 2014 at 07:27 pm
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It's the 'go to' pic whenever festival of beer is mentioned.

http://www.blogto.com/eat_drink/2012/07/highlights_from_the_2012_toronto_festival_of_beer/
None / July 23, 2014 at 07:44 pm
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I'm going just for mitch's buns.
Jay / July 24, 2014 at 07:17 am
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I'd rather be around "bros" than annoying hipsters.
itslunchtimeca / July 24, 2014 at 10:20 am
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Hey cut South Africa some slack! It produces more apples (16th) than Canada (29th). Some of the points/warnings you make are precisely the reason why I don't attend.

This is a good list to consider whenever attending a beer (or any event). Thanks.
Beer-Enjoying Individual / July 25, 2014 at 08:06 am
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I've yet to see a hipster drink anything but PBR, Old Style or Labatt 50.
PBR / July 25, 2014 at 07:16 pm
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Beerfest was amazing when it was at Fort York. Once they moved Venues and all that other corporate non sense, it's never been the same :(
Talentscout / July 26, 2014 at 12:04 pm
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I will pass....Ticket for $39.00 per person with $10 parking ticket...Ridiculous..I would rather visit the individual brewers......like Amsterdam at Leaside...
Mar / July 27, 2014 at 07:39 am
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When the sacks are whining and everyone is negging it? That's when it gets good. I've always avoided this event like the plague but it sounds like the liberty village idiots have tired of this event and so today I am ready for it ;)
Mar / July 27, 2014 at 07:46 am
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Weaklings who cry about hipsters or even use the term hipster are the best
Nancy Dell'Osso / July 27, 2014 at 10:59 am
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Too long to wait to buy tickets get use of the bathroom and get on. Will not be back too unorganized. You know how many tickets sold so you know how many toilet s you need. Do the math.
Dan / July 27, 2014 at 10:46 pm
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I attended TFOB this past Saturday and it was excellent, definitely one of Toronto's best events and the biggest party of the summer. Very well ran, excellent venue, food venders were all top shelf and easily accessible, never a wait for a beer including tiny craft brewers to the big boys, something for everyone, which is what makes for a World Class Festival. Best part was the music, every band that played was great and made for a whole bunch of happy people.

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