Highlights from the 2012 Toronto Festival of Beer
Toronto's Festival of Beer is showing signs of maturity in its 18th year, taking on the tastes of a gourmet fest for both food and beer. The first hint of this direction was easy enough to spot at the entrance â gone are the plastic sampling cups, replaced by hardy glass steins with a $20 replacement fee listed on the side.
Beer samples varied in cost from one to four tokens, each token priced at $1, and varied in size from 4 oz to 8 oz, though the amount one received for each token was left to the discretion of each brewery. Needless to say, I tried not to drop my glass.
The festival's foodie leanings could be seen in the form of food truck favourites such as Caplansky's and Fidel Gastro's, and downtown mainstays WVRST and Oyster Boy.
Attendees with a thirst for knowledge could sit in on the Grill Experience to learn BBQ secrets from local celebrity chefs like Cowbell's Mark Cutrara, or in the Brewmaster's Series Pavilion hosted by Niagara Brewing College, featuring discussions with legitimate beer experts.
More significantly, the festival continues to show a growing appreciation for craft beer. The new World of Beer Pavilion is intended to expand the horizons of attendees beyond the confines of the LCBO. This year's featured region is Quebec, not a stretch in terms of distance, but, a solid purveyor of great beers.
Flying Monkey craft brewery is always a welcome sight at beer festivals with their one-off experiments. The Barrie-based craft brewer expected a receptive crowd, and brought multiple limited-run beers, though a contingent (Fruits R Us, Strawberry Pi, Sweet Georgia Peach, Grape Ape, Mango Tango) were so sweet as to be indistinguishable from juice.
Still, old habits die hard. Labatt and Coors remained popular with attendees, even without the price advantage the companies usually enjoy in local retail and restaurants.
Inhibitions ran low in the midst of go-go dancers on a hearse and a fire truck, and giveaways like carnival bead necklaces and silly hats were on the tacky side (though the Steamwhistle box hats, each an original design, were admittedly impressive). The crowd was largely in their 20s, loud but well-behaved, and like the festival, easing their way into more refined tastes.
Beer highlights from this weekend:
Microbrasserie Charlevoix brought, at least, two solid offerings: Dominus Vobiscum Blanche, a refreshing wheat beer with hints of nutmeg and apricot, and La Vache Folle Imperial Milk Stout, rich and black with a roasted coffee flavour.
Le Trou du Diable's La Buteuse Belgian Triple - Starts fresh and fruity, but ends with a kick of complex spice.
Railway City's Platform 12 - When 250 lbs of local beets are combined with 125 lbs of local honey and lots of hops, the hops win out, but with a clean taste and a beautiful red colour.
Spearhead Hawaiian Style Pale Ale - A balanced blend of citrus notes and hops. All in all, a perfect amber summer beer.
Toronto's Beer Festival concludes today, and will be running from 1:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Writing by Denise Ing / Photos by Natta Summerky
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