Saturday, March 02, 2019

March roared in like a lion at Toronto Winter Brewfest

The fourth annual Toronto Winter Brewfest moved east from the Enercare Centre to Evergreen Brick Works, which also hosts the Cask Days festival every fall, and I was invited to check out what was on tap on opening night.

With approximately 40 breweries offering almost 100 beverages, there was a lot to choose from. I narrowed my selections to 14 and, while I definitely enjoyed some more than others, I’m pleased to report that I didn’t have a bad beer.

I started with a Pixies-themed Here Comes Your Mango IPA from Brew Revolution. The mango flavour wasn’t as strong as the aroma, but it poured with a nice white head and was both robust and crisp. It registers a 52 on the International Bitterness Units (IBU) scale, and it had a pleasant happiness and clean finish, which isn’t always the case with a seven per cent alcohol by volume (ABV) beer.

I hadn’t heard of Brew Revolution, and that’s because I learned that the Stittsville, Ont. brewery won’t officially open until April or May. The folks behind the bar were friendly and told me about their plans, and I was enticed to try the two other beers they were offering.

The 6.7 per cent ABV, 38 IBU Lemon Daze Lemongrass IPA had a very evident and pleasant lemongrass flavour. I would have liked more body in the five per cent ABV, 39 IBU Smoke On The Porter porter, but it had all of the other elements I look for in a smoky porter.

Muskoka Brewery’s Pair of Wise Guys Weizenbock was my favourite beer at November’s Gourmet Food & Wine Expo, and the brewery came through again with my two favourite beers of this festival.

Black Raspberry Thunder was created in collaboration with Kawartha Dairy, and the six per cent ABV milkshake IPA looks like what you’d expect from the first two words in the name. It has a powerful bouquet and lovely raspberry and vanilla flavours, while the lactose infusion provides a rich mouth feel. I was happy to find out that it will be canned and served in LCBO and select grocery stores.

Like Pair of Wise Guys, Lunar Haze is  part of Muskoka’s Moonlight Kettle Series, which spawns a new recipe every month. The 8.5 per cent ABV, 75 IBU double IPA is made with lupulin powder, a purified concentration of all the resin compounds and essential oils that create hop flavours and aromas in a beer. It has an intense, fruit-forward hop flavour and bouquet, without being too bitter, and that high alcohol content is dangerously unnoticeable.

Ranking just behind those two beers was my last one of the evening: Side Launch Getaway. The 6.3 per cent ABV, 55 IBU IPA is just available in the brewery’s Collingwood, Ont. tap room at the moment, but I’m hoping it comes to stores at some point. It’s medium-bodied and has a solid, though not overpowering, hop bite that complements a citrus aroma. It’s bright, easy-drinking and has a clean finish.

There were also a few booths offering spirits, wines and ciders, and a handful of food vendors provided more solid sustenance. Judging by the way my notes became more scrawled as the night went on, perhaps I should have eaten something.

But I go to beer festivals for beer, and these are the other ones I drank, ranked in rough approximation from most to least favourite:

Charlevoix Dominus Vobiscum Lupulus Belgian Strong Golden Ale - 10 per cent ABV, 70 IBU
The Exchange Brewery New England IPA - Seven per cent ABV, 71 IBU
Orleans Brewing Co. Sid’s Vicious Imperial IPA - 9.3 per cent ABV, 110 IBU
Prince Eddy’s Dawn Patrol Raspberry Gose - 3.5 per cent ABV, 4 IBU
Prince Eddy’s So Many Friends IPA - Five per cent ABV
Double Trouble Brewing Co. Hops & Robbers Sucker Punch IPA - 6.5 per cent ABV, 38 IBU
A la Fut Matawin Brett Pale Ale - Five per cent ABV
Lowertown Big Wood American IPA - 6.9 per cent ABV, 42 IBU