The Toronto Festival of Beer has come a long way from its early days at Old Fort York. Now in Bandshell Park on the Ex grounds and moved from mid-August to late-July so as not to conflict with that harbinger of summer's end it has matured into quite the production.
From giant, concert-lit, macrobrewery tents with their flaxen, hired-gun servers to an impressive collection of craft brewers offering special offerings from the rarely-seen corners of their arsenal there is seemingly something for everyone.
Food has not been neglected and as well as three food trucks–Blue Donkey, Caplansky, and Rome'n Chariot–there are a number of noteworthy booth vendors like Hey Meatball, and The Feasting Room.
Below we have our picks from the huge selection of beer that we think are worth seeking out.
Les Trois Mousquetaires's Weizenbock
Beers from Quebec are a feature of this year's Festival so it's no suprrise that Mike and I both focussed on them for our picks. This cross between German styles features the spicy coriander of a wheat beer and the roasted coffee notes of a bock. Sweet, bozzy flavours that remind me of rum predominate.
Wellington's Rosebud Cask
The opportunity to try one-offs from are one of a beer festival's strongest points. The inherent balancing act is that as a beer warms strong, bitter flavours become more pronounced and can overwhelm their subtle partners. Wellington has embraced the cask programme again for this year's TFOB and when I dropped by their tent on Friday evening the Rosebud they were serving did a good job of allowing subtle, floral notes to come through.
Great Lakes Brewery's Miama Weiss
This product, developed in the living laboratory that is project x, is an innovative spin on the weiss style. From the traditional side it takes its cloudy dark gold colour and refreshing, sessionable qualities but to that they've added North American hops that now familiar zing or orange peel and grapefruit zest. This beer can be found with the rest of GLB's festival lineup in the Caskapalooza section in the southeast corner of the park.
Le Trou Du Diable's La Buteuse
This Belgian style triple from a great Shawinigan based microbrewery is worth seeking out if you're looking for a beer that provides big flavour without relying on a ton of hops to deliver it. It's full of tropical fruit notes like mango, papaya and pineapple along with that signature golden candi sugar and slightly funky Belgian yeast favour. This one packs a punch at 10% ABV but it balances it very well with a nice creamy feel.
Microbrasserie Charlevoix's La Vache Folle
When it gets a little cooler in the evening it's nice to end things with a rich but not too heavy beer. For me that beer was La Vache Folle, a milk Stout from Microbrasserie Charlevoix in Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec. It's full of rich mocha, roasted coffee bean, molasses and dark toffee flavours with hints of vanilla, dried fruit and malted milkshake. Those dark roasted malts provide a pleasant, slightly bitter balance for those sweeter milk and chocolate flavours. It also has nice creamy satisfying feel like a perfectly poured latte.
Railway City Brewery Company's Off the Beet'n Track
This is an interesting beer from the St. Thomas microbrewery made with a heck of a lot of local beets, honey and hops. It's got an interesting honey aroma with a slightly earthy undertone that has you thinking you might be in for something a little on the sweet side. But after the initial honey, the bitter beet flavours and hops hit you hard mid taste and linger long on the finish. It's an interesting experimental beer if you're looking for something out of the ordinary with the quenching bitterness of digestif.