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Jul 30, 2011 05:55 AM

Toronto Festival of Beer 2011

Scheduled for next weekend at the Ex, is this worth attending or just a beer blowout ? Can anyone recommend "must try" foods or beers (preferably CASK) ?

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  1. Well I think the complaint in the past has been that they only have featured beers that are readily available at the LCBO or Beer Store. However, I heard a quick interview on the radio tonight with the organizer and they mentioned that some of the breweries were brewing special brews for the event. I am not sure if this is new or not because I have never been to the event in the past so I was just going from memory on the criticism part.

    I will be going on both the Friday and Sunday this year thanks to some tickets which were part of an auction item I bid on. I will try to post my "likes" after the Friday outing and I hope others do as well.

    EDIT: BTW, I was checking their twitter feed to find schedule for concerts (Dragonette on Friday/ Trews on Sunday, Danny Michel on Saturday but Sat is sold out) and I came across a discount code. Enter "Jon" for $5 off for Sunday tickets online.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ylsf

      Thanks ylsf, good info. Please let us know about anything special after your Friday visit. An event like this could be great (like a good German Fest), if the food selection and quality are up there too.

      I worry about "special brews" though. Throwing blueberry and ginger into beer only ruins an otherwise good beverage. However, if it's an extra bitter CASK beer, now that would be special.

      1. re: PoppiYYZ

        Based on past years, I doubt there will be much traditional cask ale at this festival. Most breweries pour from kegs or bottles.

        The one exception was a booth called Caskapalooza that Great Lakes Brewery did for the past couple of years, which featured a bunch of different cask beers that were rotated over the course of the festival. However, there's been no mention of them doing it this year - at least not on the same scale - and many of them were non-traditional styles, so they may not have been what you're looking for anyway.

        If you have your heart set on drinking cask ales, wait until October and go to Cask Days. It used to be held over the course of several days and several sessions at Volo, but this year it will be a single day event on October 30th at Hart House. Tickets go on sale tomorrow at

    2. So I went down tonight. I don't know how the line up was to get into the event (had access through VIP entrance as it was a pass I got through a charity event) but the line ups to the bathrooms/porta potties were pretty long :) There were a LOT of people there. I can't imagine so many people were spending full ticket price. For me, this will probably be a one time thing for me (well, 2 time thing, also have tickets for Sunday). I enjoyed it overall but I don't think I can justify spending the $35+ for a ticket normally plus the sampling tickets when so much is available in the LCBO.

      Having said that, Great Lake Brewery was indeed doing the Caskapaloza again this year. I tried a bit of my friend's "Smoke" beer and ordered the spruce/fir beer myself. It was definitely an interesting flavour but I don't think I could finish a whole bottle of that. There were some other flavours there too that I think were one offs. There was also a section called "Mash Up" where 2 breweries joined forces to make a beer. One was a "framboise" beer by Flying Monkey and I think Black Oak. It was pretty good, I would recommend that one. I didn't try the other 3 beers.

      I was shocked how many people were at the Molson's booth and the other big names. Maybe they were giving out cash or something and I missed it?? :) Or maybe just the drunk guys attracted to the girls working there. Oh, Great Lakes Brewery also had Go Go dancers.. kind of weird

      Re: Food - Caplansky's was back with his truck (same pricing as at Jazz Fest - $10 for a sandwich, etc), I also saw Hey Meatball ($4 for a slider size meatball sandwich... I wanted to try it but I couldn't justify it at the time, maybe when I go back). Oysters from Oyster Boy were $2 a piece or I think 6 for $11 (passed.. used to better deals at other events like Luminato for those). Shanghai Cow Girl were doing grilled cheese. There was a Mac and Cheese booth too. What I really wanted to try was the Ted Reader BBQ but I didn't get around to it (wasn't hungry enough to stand in the line). If anyone did have the BBQ please let me know if it is worth it for Sunday (I think it was $15 for half a rack with slaw... $8 for a brisket sandwich?).

      Oh, and the samples themselves were mostly a $1 each and most of the time they filled up the beer past the fill line. A full glass (of 255ml I think the cup was) would cost you 2 tokens (i.e. 2$) but you were better off getting a half glass as usually it wasn't much more for the full glass and if you really liked something get a second half glass and you would end up with more than just a single full glass, or just try something else :)

      11 Replies
      1. re: ylsf

        Thanks so much for the detailed report ylsf.

        I won't be able to make it but I hope others will benefit from your fine reconnaissance. If you can, let us know how the Sunday edition turns out. Thanks again.

        1. re: ylsf

          Toronto suffers from too many beer "festivals" that end up drawing frat boys, not beer connoisseurs.

          As someone stated above, Cask Days in October is pretty much the only beer festival worth going to. Its for those who enjoy good tasting beer, not go-go dancers

          1. re: atomeyes

            Thats TO tho, kitsch over quality and people lap it up.

            1. re: atomeyes

              Agreed (pity though), thanks, and see you in October.

              1. re: atomeyes

                As much as I love Cask Days, it's hardly Toronto's "only beer festival worth going to".

                There's The Session, Hart House Craft Beer & BBQ Fest, the C'est What Spring & Fall Festivals, the Golden Tap Awards, plenty of events during Ontario Craft Beer Week and Toronto Beer Week...

                When it comes to beer events, things are better in Toronto than they've even been.

                C'est What
                67 Front St E, Toronto, ON M5E1B5, CA

                1. re: gregclow

                  the bar's been set very low :)

                  Hart House was ok. Nothing special. You can find that beer at Volo and at the LCBO.
                  C'est What is good. I forgot about that one.
                  Golden Taps - never been.

                  Tell you what, tho: I'm looking at the list of the top 100 Beer and Canada's top 100 beer. When you can't find those beer at a beer festival or at a Toronto bar, then we're making headway.

                  As an aside, the Cask Day 2 years ago was amazing. Last year? Beers weren't so hot. Still hoping that this year will be great. I also know there's going to be a surprise or 3, which people should be very excited about.

                  C'est What
                  67 Front St E, Toronto, ON M5E1B5, CA

                  1. re: atomeyes

                    atomeyes, do you know anything about the food at Cask Days?
                    I bought tickets thanks to your post, and I see that food is not included. I do need to eat substantially if I hope to sample a lot of beer, but I am wondering if I should be saving room for tasty treats or eating a full meal beforehand to avoid Hart House catering (which may be fine but nothing special I presume).

                    1. re: julesrules

                      I was under the impression that it was outside people bringing food in and selling sample tickets/etc... Guess atomeyes will have a better answer when this message is seen

                      EDIT - OK, I am totally wrong... I looked at the website and it does say Hart House will be selling the food.... Seems like an opportunity there to get some restaurants selling food...
                      but I guess the focus is the beer

                      1. re: julesrules

                        i can ask Tom. from what i remember in the past, they've had some finger foods for sale. i would suggest that you plan on eating first.

                          1. re: julesrules

                            They have posted a menu. Limited selection, reasonable pricing.

                            CASK DAYS 2011 Food Stand
                            Provided and prepared by Hart House

                            Miss Vicki’s Chips ($1.00)
                            Pulled Pork Sandwiches ($3.00)
                            Mini Hart house Sliders with choice of Blue Cheese,
                            Aged Cheddar or Bacon ($2.50)
                            Grilled Corn with Chili Lime Butter ($1.00)
                            Sausage on a Bun ($2.50)
                            Grilled Veggie Tower ($2.50)