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Monday, September 29, 2008

Canadian Brewing Awards Gala Wrap-Up

I wrote this in a hurry as my weekend was packed with adventure (bachelor party) and hockey pools, so forgive me if this post jumps around a bit.

Over the last 2 1/2 weeks I have been part of a team that spent many hours trying to put together a terrific gala that would recognize the best in the Canadian brewing industry. All that tireless work paid off on September 25th, as TAPS: Canada's Beer Magazine hosted a posh celebration at 'The Richmond' in front of a packed house of brewers, brewery representatives, media personnel and other members of the industry like LCBO and Beer Store managers.

The doors opened to the invite only guests shortly before 6:30 just after all the finishing touches were completed. Each invitee received a sampling glass and a program detailing the schedule for the night ahead. Beers from the winning breweries were shipped earlier in the week and had been chilling on ice for a couple of house. Excited guests were eager to step up to the serving area for a taste of some of the best beers Canada has to offer. Hits of the night belonged to Alberta's Wild Rose brewery for their Barley Wine, and Garrison's Imperial Pale Ale, which won a gold medal (tap handle) in the IPA category as well as winning the distinction of Canada's Beer of the Year (also won last year).

With many of the guests present, the Esplanade's Fionn MacCool's pub, who had donated food, started delivering platters of tuna sliders, beef taco wraps, french fries, veggie and cheese trays and more snacks to various tables, keeping everyone's stomach satisfied.

There was also a silent auction taking place for a handful of pricey wares. Toronto Maple Leaf tickets, dvd players, phones, hockey memorabilia and OCB materials were part of the auction and proceeds were ear-marked for the Dreams Take Flight Foundation. This silent auction was new to the beer scene and one that people could appreciate.

Stephen Beaumont was the MC for the night and he took the mic at 8pm to officially start announcing the winners, who up until then still had no idea what they were winning. They only knew that their product had medaled. Introductions were made and after a brief technical mishap Beaumont welcomed the first set of winners to the make-shift stage. Beaumont was brief, to the point and ensured the progression of the award winners was timely and efficient. The crowd seemed loose, yet you could feel the curiosity in the air.

After getting through 12 categories in rapid succession, Beaumont broke for a short intermission and people went back to mingling. It was great to see so many east and west coast brewers/owners in attendance chatting with their counterparts from Ontario and Alberta. Greg Nash from New Brunswick's Pump House brewery discussed the LCBO standards with a number of the provincially run beer retail employees, a colourful member of Phillips Brewery from BC was making friends with the crowd of Ontario brewers and the large group of Mill Street employees and supporters occupied the upper mezzanine and watched their products clean up, going on to win Brewery of the Year again. More and more support flowed in from breweries all over the nation, both large and small. However, the absence of many notable Ontario and Quebec breweries was noticed and plans are too attract them early in the 2009 year to plant to seed for next years awards.

It was great to see people like Michael Hancock of Denison's win an award. Hancock has previously mentioned that he doesn't like to enter his beer into awards, but this year he took a chance, bottled his Weissbier into a 500ml bottle and came out with a silver medal. Grand River's silver medal and Picaroon's two medals were both great to hear announced and listening to Brian Titus's speech for Beer of the Year was uplifting.

With the awards all handed out and photographs taken, a group of us decided to head over to Smokeless Joe's for a couple of pints. A number of east coast brewing representatives made the short walk down Richmond street and were joined by some folks from Cameron's, Great Lakes and Phillips. Cameron's Dark Lager flowed from the TAPS as we celebrated its Gold medal and Joe was still around to provide us with a good time. After a while I made (staggered) my way to the door and headed home. As I rode the streetcar to my abode, I looked back over the previous hours and realized that we had in fact pulled off a great night to which we can all be proud of.

Congratulations to all of the winners! It was great seeing you all and thanks for coming.

To read more about the judging, pick up the latest issue of TAPS at your local Chapters/Indigo or select magazine retailer.

Photo Credits from top to bottom: Gold, Silver, Bronze tap handle trophies, Denison's Michael Hancock and Stephen Beaumont, Garrison's Brian Titus with his Beer of the Year tap handle and Beer Store manager.

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