Sunday, July 30, 2017

Drinking from coast to coast at Toronto’s Festival of Beer

Toronto’s Festival of Beer celebrated a milestone birthday for Canada with its Canada 150 Pavilion, which is where I spent much of my time on July 29.

Four shipping containers converted into bars served 48 beers from across the country, several of which I had never had and was interested in. While none of them blew my mind, a lot of them were satisfyingly solid and enjoyable.

My favourite was the Killer Cucumber Ale from Vancouver’s Steamworks Brewing Co. It’s dry-hopped with cucumbers in the conditioning vessel, resulting in a lovely aroma and flavour accented by the long green vegetable. It pours medium gold with little head and seems more like a lager than an ale. The 4.7-per cent alcohol beer is light, refreshing and finishes easy.

New England Style Pale Ale from Lacombe, Alta.’s Blindman Brewing lives up to its name. It only rates a 35 IBU on the bitterness scale, but has a mildly hoppy aroma and very rich flavour with a nice finish that makes this cloudy gold, 5.5-per cent beer a nice summer ale.

The other beers I sampled from the Canada 150 Pavilion, in the order of how much I enjoyed them, were:
  • Garrison Brewing Co.’s Juicy IPA, a well-crafted ale from Halifax;
  • Brasserie Dunham’s Le Quence Du Soif, a collaborative brett IPA made in conjunction with Port Moody, B.C.’s Twin Sails Brewing;
  • Brasserie Dunham’s Saison Rustique, a Belgian farmhouse saison from the Dunham, Que. brewery;
  • Boxing Rock Brewing Co.’s Vicars Cross, an eight-per cent ale from Shelburne, N.S.;
  • Les Trois Mousquetaires Saison Brett, a farmhouse saison from Brossard, Que.;
  • and Blood Brothers Brewing’s Paradise Lost White Lies, a golden sour ale brewed with sauvignon blanc grape juice by the Toronto brewery.
I made my way around to several other tents to try new-to-me beers from other Canadian breweries. The one I enjoyed most from those was Rainhard Brewing Co.’s Jaywalker Vermont Style Session IPA. It’s pleasantly hoppy with an IBU of 35, and with an alcohol content of just 3.8 per cent it's a good option for all-day drinking.

My second favourite was Sawdust City Brewing Co.’s Death & Taxes Raspberry Radler, a 4.3-per cent beer that’s somewhat reminiscent of KLB Raspberry Wheat Ale. The raspberry comes through in a big way to your nose and on your tongue.

The third beer that I quite liked was Flying Monkeys’ 12 Minutes to Destiny Hibiscus Pale Lager. It’s a rich red colour with a strong hibiscus aroma and offers a nice combination of tart and sweet. And with an alcohol content of just 4.1 per cent, it’s a nice, light summer refresher.

Other beers I tried, again ranked in order of preference, were:

  • Hop City Brewing Co.’s Payday Saison, an easy-drinking 6.2-per cent, 40 IBU saison from the Brampton, Ont. brewery;
  • Beau’s Full Time IPA, a 6.7-per cent, 60 IBU west coast-style ale;
  • Sawdust City’s B.A. Johnston’s Finest Malt Liquor, a straight-up, eight-per cent beer that was better than I expected from the Gravenhurst, Ont. brewery;
  • Brock St. Brewing Co.’s West Coast IPA, a 5.1-per cent beer that has more hop in its aroma than in its flavour, but could be a decent introduction for those just getting into west coast IPAs who aren’t yet ready to get too adventurous;
  • and Great Lakes Brewery’s Watermelon Ale, a 4.5-per cent beer from the Etobicoke, Ont. brewery that didn’t offer as much of the fruit as I was hoping for.
Beer and Sloan have always mixed well for me, and seeing the Toronto via Halifax power pop band from the stage while drinking quality craft beer made the combination even better. I timed finishing all of my beer tokens with the conclusion of the group’s set, which left me upbeat and ready to hear more music — which I did when I crossed Lakeshore Boulevard to Echo Beach to continue the festivities by watching the Dropkick Murphys and Rancid.

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