This year's Canadian National Exhibition has Craft beer offerings on top. On maps it's marked as "The Wine Garden" (there is a wide range of VQA product available to sample or buy by the bottle) but it's the beer that really attracted my attention.
The tap list is mostly Ontario craft beer including Beau's, Kensington, Lake of Bays, Mill Street, Nicklebrook, Sawdust City, Spearhead, and Wellington. BC's Granville joins their owners the Six Pints division of Molson Coors and the beer they brew at Toronto's Beer Academy.
The menu is more difficult to navigate than the one at "The Royal Brewhouse" in the same-ish space at last year's Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. Tasting cards would really help the customers who want to dive into the details of the offered beers. (For the two beers I sampled the well-meaning staff missed a detail on one and got the wrong brewery for the other.)
But there are a few noteworthy gems on the tap list curated by the guys behind the Griffin Gastropub that would be difficult to find elsewhere. Down at the far left end of the bar I found a tap for what turned out to be The Beer Academy's black lager. It's black as tar and full of roasted coffee flavours but also carries an interesting gravelly note in the background. As well, for the second year in a row Sawdust City brewed their Great Weiss North with ingredients from all of Canada's provinces especially for the Ex. The lager's a great option for those chilly, rainy days that portend the end of summer while the weiss is perfect for the hotter days that we all hope make up the greater balance of the two-week run.
There are also taps for craft standbys like Lugtread from Beau's and Spearhead's Hawaiian-Style Pale Ale. For $6 you can buy two drink tickets that will get you a full 16-oz. or two samples half that size.
Leslieville Cheesemarket has a table set up near the entrance from which they're selling cheese and charcuterie plates. This year there is also a full list of easy-listening live music in the Wine Garden.
The Wine Garden is open from 10 AM to 10 PM every day of the CNE. It's located behind the Garden Show in the Direct Energy Centre.
Written by David Ort
As one of Spotlight’s contributing editors, David enjoys turning his mind (and keyboard) to a wide variety of topics ranging from recipes to restaurants to craft beer. When he’s not writing for Spotlight Toronto, David shares his thoughts on new restaurants and beer at PostCity.com and all things food and drink on his own site, Food With Legs.