The first thing I noticed upon arriving at Toronto’s Festival of Beer was the astonishing number of people who were wearing Steam Whistle boxes as hats–and my second thought was my surprise at just how complicated they were.
All reflections on hats aside, though, our stint at TFOB 2017 was a glorious time full of sunshine, music, and–of course, BEER! Held at the grounds near Exhibition Place, it’s one of Toronto’s only day-drinking festivals, and is probably the largest (other than Caribana).
And who is “we”? To the right is Emily, photographer extraordinaire and IPA lover, and me (Tatiana), writer and wheat beer amateur. Our mission: sample as many beers as we could before falling over. Read on to find if we succeeded…
We started off strong, by stopping at the Rickard’s Radler tent–starting off nice and light and sweet. For the most part, the crowd was as you’d expect at an event like this–lots of white guys wearing baseball caps and tanktops, sometimes both at once if we were lucky. On our way over to the Sleeman’s tent, we also saw a guy simultaneously smoking a cigar and drinking a margarita–truly living his best life.
Thankfully, it didn’t turn me off my Sleeman’s 5514 filtered wheat ale, which I drank while watching the bean bag games taking place beside us and the crowd. It was mildly hoppy and light, providing a good transition after my radler.
Next, we headed over to Lost Craft, where we both sampled the English Red Ale. It was deliciously sweet, with hints of English toffee and apple. Their booth was also closer to the stage, meaning that we got a chance to listen to the band that was playing: The Blue Stones. Their bluesy rock sound suited the beer and cigarettes atmosphere, and we nodded along while sipping. I also got to watch the photographer hard at work.
Next, we headed over to All Or Nothing Brewhouse, where Emily took a well-deserved break and I admired their bright yellow vintage fridges (as well as their fancy token holder: each beer sample cost one token, or $1, for half a cup, and two tokens for a full cup).
Their chai mead was also one of my favourite drinks at the event: strong, sweet, and spicy, with strong overtones of honey. (This also marked the point in the day when I realized I was probably one of the worst people possible to write about a beer festival, since I was already getting tipsy.)
Next, it was on to High Park Brewery, to grab one last drink before it was time to go see Sloan, Canadian rock legends over at the main stage.
Emily tried the Off The Leash, a hoppy, citrusy IPA, and I sampled Against The Grain, a crisp, clean golden lager with a smooth, slightly malty aftertaste. We then had the opportunity to see the most quintessentially Canadian shirts at the event…
We also saw multiple people (okay, multiple guys) wearing sports jerseys, and concluded that it would be a perfect spot to pick up men if you had little discrimination. (Given that Emily cut someone off and was thanked for it, we decided it wouldn’t be hard.)
Check out the festival’s “Save The Date 2017” video
The beginning of Sloan put an end to these meditations. A large crowd had gathered around the stage, and people were jamming along to the classic Canadiana. From their classic “Who Taught You To Live Like That?” to my personal favourite, “Underwhelmed”, they dominated the stage and provided both a great show and great music for those who were just browsing the beer selection.
While they played, I sampled a Port Credit Amber Ale: it was smooth and crisp, and nicely refreshing in the midst of the crowd. I then tried the Northern Maverick Fake News ale, which I mostly enjoyed for the name.
After the show, it was time to take a break from our intensive drinking schedule and enjoy the sunlight. We sat down in the grass nearby, and said hi to Chewbacca, who was hanging out at the Jack Links jerky booth.
I drank some water, for a change, and felt extremely responsible. I also almost get stepped on by a gorgeous girl, but I did not mind, because she was gorgeous. Emily and I exchanged lots of meditations on life and love; she decided she should be a beer promo girl, because she was “cute and knew about beer” and we vowed to continue drinking together for the rest of our lives (true friendship).
This made us realize we were out of beer, so it was on to the next tent for a Shocktop Radler. Although the majority of the beer tents had between 2-5 varieties to sample, some of the larger, more recognizable brands were sticking with one to promote it.
Check out the festival’s “Thank You #BeerFam” wrap up video
The opportunity to showcase beer vendors who own their beer and want to showcase them, as opposed to other beer festivals where all the beers are together under one umbrella, provided a great opportunity for each tent to have unique branding and personality, which we appreciated. However, all these beers were starting to make me hungry, so it was time to sample something else TFOB did well: their food trucks.
As you can see, I was extremely happy about this mac and cheese from Chimneys–and not just because I’d had a lot of beer, either. (Note that the corn on a stick was also delicious. As the amazingly detailed notes I took for this article said, “I love corn”.) There was a good variety of food for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike, scattered throughout the grounds so that drunken attendees didn’t have far to go to try something new.
But all this cheese made me thirsty, so on to the next beer! I tried the Brock Street Irish Red next, which was a woodsy, malty Irish Ale, before moving on to the Flying Monkeys stand to try a beer whose name was indistinguishable in my notes (sorry all) but that tasted like a mimosa (so, being a white girl who loves brunch, I liked it).
Next, we tried the Six Bridges Saison from Bobcaygeon Brewing Company (very Canadian) which was a little hoppy and a little fruity, providing a slightly more bitter contrast to the radler I’d just sampled.
I very much enjoyed Beau’s Tyrannosaurus Gruit, my last beer of the evening at 7:30, which had a strong hibiscus flavour as well as a gorgeous red colour. (However, according to Emily, the people who asked for Beau’s main beer when she was a barista were jerks… so if you’re one of those people, watch out.)
Finally, it came time for the festival to wrap up around 8 pm. The wide selection of beer that we hadn’t tried made us wish we had arrived earlier to have a chance to try even more of them (although our livers certainly wouldn’t have thanked us). All in all, it was a splendid day, and we certainly hope to come back next year.