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Toronto beer festival

10 things to know about the Toronto Festival of Beer

The 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.

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