Friday, 25 October 2013

Cask Days - Fresh Beer, Beautiful Venue

A post by Scott F

Toronto has no shortage of beer festivals. Not at all a bad thing if you’re like me and enjoy the chance to try a wide variety of beer amidst a crowd of like-minded, opinionated enthusiasts. Each festival has its own vibe – factors that differentiate each and overcome the ever-present risk of monotony for the regular crowd. Real Man Contributor Ed Arsenault and I got a chance to experience one of Toronto’s most unique festivals, Cask Days, in mid-October.

Cask Days, now in its ninth year, is a true showcasing event for ale brewers. Every brewmaster I’ve met enjoys the chance to experiment, but rarely are they offered a chance to have their creations sampled. Cask Days provides that opportunity. This year’s festival featured 230 beers from 124 breweries. The variety was immense and included everything from the ultra-traditional to the downright weird (such as the Drunken Bunny chocolate milk stout by Half-Pints Brewing Co., pictured below).

Cask-conditioned ales are the earliest form of draft beer. “Conditioning” refers to the final fermentation, which for cask ales occurs in the cask and completes only days or hours before the beer is consumed. The result is a less carbonated, slightly cloudy brew that is as fresh as a beer can be without coming straight from the brewery tap. Cask beers are unfiltered, unpasteurized and about as natural as beer can be.

Cask conditioning of beer is not a common practice in the age of beer gas (CO2 and nitrogen) tanks and consistent refrigeration; which is why an event like Cask Days is so unique. It is a tribute a passionate industry that still respects its roots and wants to offer customers a truly unique experience.

One of the festival’s clear advantages is the truly eclectic venue. Hosted at the Evergreen Brick Works, a series of deteriorating heritage buildings converted into a community environmental hub, the heavily industrial location provides an inspiring atmosphere for the event.

The festival also featured fantastic food, including kangaroo sloppy “joeys” (surprisingly good) and fresh oysters from Ceili Cottage of Leslieville. Other vendors included Bar Isabel, Parts & Labour, Hog Town Charcuterie, Tracy Winkworth and Pig Iron Coffee Roasters.

Other unique elements included a blind IPA tasting competition featuring four finalist beers from a selection of 32, vintage arcade video games, solid music and a good selection of ciders.

Two beers from small Quebec micro breweries stole the show for our palettes at the event. Le Trou Du Diable (makers of the humorously named Shawinigan Handshake Weizen Bock) brought a solid Belgian table beer called Petite Buteuse, while Les Brasseurs Du Temp’s Diable Au Corps (translated: Devil in the Flesh) was an amazingly balanced imperial pale ale considering its IBU 100 and ABV 10.

For those beer enthusiasts travelling to Toronto, consider Cask Days a must-attend for your fall schedule. Word to the wise, go on Sunday. We hear Saturday was a little busy for the taste of some. 


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