Written & Photographed A�by Paul Amos
The 9th annual Cask Days festival was held once again over two days in the perfectly fitting surroundings of the Evergreen Brick Works.
The sight of a few hundred steel casks lined up against the backdrop of brick, iron and autumnal skies would make any beer aficionado excited at the scene. The event is largely put on by the good folks at Barvolo–the pioneers of the Ontario craft brew surge this city’s been seeing over the past few years–and their efforts in putting in featuring Ontario beer hugely at this event must be applauded!
We arrived bright and breezy with empty stomachs as we prepared ourselves for the Brewers Breakfast ($20), a great way of mingling with the 75 brewers. A�Setting up a defensive wall of Parks & Labour chicken and waffles prior to the oncoming ale onslaught isn’t a bad plan!
Seeing how it was also 10am, we made sure to knock back a couple wonderful espressos from the professional roasters at Pig Iron Coffee–offering up an expertly roasted Guatemalan variety.
The day is all about beer education. A�We started our learning with Ontario beer writer Stephen Beaumont, who would be leading us on a six beer tasting ($20) of some of the UK finest cask ales. Stephen is a very dry character, who looks like he should be seen perptually nestled at the bar, and his font of beer tasting knowledge match’s this look. From the light golden mildly hoppy Magic Rock’s high wire to the beautifully chocolate malt coffee replacement Tiny Rebel’s Dirty Stop Out Stout to the fiercely liquorish out pouring of Wells and Youngs Imperial Russian Stout. The tasting was a wonderful way in which to get ones mind focused on the different styles and varieties with one of Ontario’s finest aficionados and in my mind worth every penny–sorry, cent!
Then, it was every beer for himself! With over a 150 different beers to choose from, with different brews appearing at each of the three sessions, it is always difficult to know where to begin. With the strongest presence being from Ontario, with over 40 ales to choose from, we thought it best to stick local and see what the boys had put out for us to try.
We were not at all disappointed! With so many fantastic breweries showcasing their ware, we kicked off with super local Ossington outfit Bellwoods Brewery. Starting with the unique and not often done sour mash Blitzen–a beast of a beer with a lemon zing. We then ploughed into one of the breweries usual offerings Bellwoods, the dark rich imperial stout that’s would sit in our glass for quite a few minutes, slowly sipping it’s 10% ABV.
We then moved on the the psychedelic boys from Barrie, Flying Monkeys! who had the best and most current cultural offering in their beautifully brown Ale ‘Breaking Bad’, a 6% pour that was a nice step down from the beer before. We then moved left past the awesome DJ booth to make our way through a brewery that has been impressing me of late: the Gravenhurst lads Sawdust City. Their Milk Stout was definitely the highlight A�of the event for me.
You can’t spen your day drinking without indulging in a little solid food. A�Cask Days does not disappoint with their culinary offerings either. A�We sampled some edibles from Bar Isabel, Parts & Labour, Tracy Winkworth and Hogtown Charcuterie. The highlights for us as we tried to ward of the effects of strong ale were: Matty Matheson–the man himself–who was serving up a beef brisket roll with hot peppers and Tracy Winkworth’s longhorn meatballs with polenta, the perfect beer meal!
We finished off the afternoon with beer from several other Canadian provinces with BC’s Parallel 49 Scotch Salted Caramel Ale being a stand, Quebec’s Brassierie Du Monde’s Chipotle Porter and NB’s Uncle Leo’s smoked Porter also standing out in our minds.
Cask Days is an annual (and fundamentally unmissable) event for beer lovers in Toronto. A�They turn 10 next season, and we can’t wait to see what they’ve got in store for us then!