I was extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to attend Cask Days 2012 this weekend. It was my first time going to Cask Days and didn’t really know what to expect (I did however prep a bit by reading some blogs A Year Of Beer! & BeerWithMeTO both were suggested by the Cask Days Guide.) I decided to attend Session #2 simply because we were driving from Kemptville which is approximately a 4 hour drive away from Toronto, I needed to make sure I’d have time to make the drive up and just planned to spend the night in Toronto (although that plan changed last minute.) Alyssa came with me, I had asked her because I knew she would love the chance to go to Toronto and was pretty open on trying out the different beers.
We started our trip Saturday morning around 11:00am, on the way there I found out that I had to be back to work for 9am the next day (Total buzz kill.) With some strategic planning Alyssa and I decided we’d leave later that night, taking turns driving so that it was fair. On the way up I was exhausted from the night before (We had our Halloween party at Lock at I bartended until 2:00am) so Alyssa took one for the team and drove up. When we got to Toronto we stopped at her friends place and got ready to go out. Session #2 was from 7:00pm to 12:00am so we had decided to stay for a max of two hours with only having a small amount of samples and drinking plenty of water and filling up on the food that was there. We went for dinner then waved down a cab to head off to Cask Days.
For those of you who don’t know, Cask Days is a Cask Beer Festival that focus’ around Craft Beer, Food, Art, and Music. Cask Days was founded by barVolo in 2005 and has remained family run the past eight years. Breweries from across Canada participate in the event, this year having the most to date with 74. With that many breweries your question is probably how many cask ales are there to try? well, this year it’s a whopping 115. With a handleful of carefully selected food vendors and a unique style of art, Cask Days is definitely one it’s way to being known as a unmatched urban beer event. This year they were also raising money for The Remix Project.
This year Cask Days was held at Evergreen Brick Works, which is an old factory that has been turned into a community environmental centre that encourages visitors to live, work, and play more sustainably. The place has a real urban feel to it with a pure focus on green design. It was honestly one of the nicest event places I have seen, unique and defiantly a perfect place to have a cask beer festival. We arrived a little before 7:00pm only to be at the end of a very long line of people all patiently awaiting to get into the festival. I was really surprised on how we probably only waited about fifteen minutes to get in, the volunteers did a great job of getting everyone in quickly. During our time in line we started talking about the beers we were planning on trying, I had already had a general idea of what I wanted to try but wanted to make sure I went over all of my options again because I knew I wouldn’t be aloud to drink a lot since I was eventually driving back at some point.
We got registered, picked up our glassware and maps and made our way over to the Casks. I was in heaven, there was so much going on. Wicked art on the walls, food vendors, Dj’s, and obviously the absurd amount of beer. I decided that I was going to limit myself to four samples, which was a slightly disappointing number but it was better then none. I also got away with tasting some of Alyssa’s. I stuck with a lot of Ontario products mainly because I was also tasting to see brands to have at the restaurant, but I also branched out a bit for my personal interest.
Crabapple Cider by Spirit Tree Cidery (Ontario): I’m not a huge fan of ciders to begin with but I’m trying to broaden my outlook so I tried it anyway. It gave off a great aroma and I was really hoping it was going to change my mind on ciders, but unfortunately it didn’t do it for me. I just found it a bit too sour for my taste. I can see how a lot of people would enjoy it though. Definitely more of a summer drink in my opinion.
County IPA by Barley Days Brewery (Ontario): I really like Barley Days products, so I was really excited to try the County IPA. With the first sip I was more then pleasantly surprised with what a nice IPA it was. It has a subtle malt sweetness but was balanced with a good amount of hop. Definitely a product I’d consider bringing into the restaurant.
Wild Card by Broadhead (Ontario): I have only recently heard of Broadhead and because it is from Ottawa I did want to rep local and try it. I really fell in love with this beer. I love a bitter beer with a good amount of hops and this was just that. I’m hoping to go to the brewery now in the near future.
The Chai Wallah Has A Moustache by Granite Brewery (Ontario): Stouts are something I’m learning to appreciate, it’s taken some time but I’m learning at the right time and place I really do enjoy them. This stout particular stood out to me because of the fact it has Chai. I’m a big fan of Chai, I knew if any stout was going to win me over at Cask Days it was going to be this one. It falls into my good books.
#217 by Alexander Keiths (Nova Scotia): As much as I try to stay clear of larger companies, the fact that Keiths was there stood out. That being said I tried it, it wasn’t bad but I prefer stronger beers. I didn’t have enough ‘hop’ for me.
When it came to food I had a big dinner so kept my eye out for something small. I ended up going with the Funnel Cake with Bellwoods Brewery Malt & Centennial Hops Syrup by Guy Rawlings. I’m a sucker for sweets, and it definitely hit the spot. Walking around I noticed all of the different vendors. Robbie & Chris has Oktoberfest Sausages that smelt absolutely delicious, while my sweet tooth was kicking in again when i saw the Aztec Blood Hot Chocolate by Chocosol.
The art was another big reason why I wanted to attend Cask Days, displaying one of my personal favourite Mike Del Mundo and others including Adrien Alphona and Yannick Brosseau. It was nicely curated along the wall with great flow for the different styles. I only wish there were more pieces.
I’m already counting down the days for next years Cask Days. For next year I’m definitely going to make it a weekend trip so I can enjoy the Pre and After parties that barVolo put on. I’ve already got some people asking to come with me which is always fun, the more people learning to appreciate craft beer, the better! I do know for sure though, I will for sure be purchasing a Session #1 ticket next year as soon as I can.
– The Beer Gypsy