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Monday, February 2, 2009

When the Beer Runneth Dry: Victory Winter Cask Festival

The folks at the Victory Cafe pulled off another coup on Saturday as they hosted their second consecutive successful cask festival, so successful in fact that they ran out of the 13 casks by 5pm.

I arrived to the event shortly after 12:30pm, hurting head from the night before and all, and was surprised to find both the bottom and top levels of the Victory to be full of early cask drinkers. "There was actually a line-up that formed just after 11am," stated Maz Brereton, co-owner of the Victory and member of the CASK! group. "We are absolutely thrilled to see this many people interested in cask beer."

George Eagleson, brewer at F&M, was one of the first people I encountered when I walked thru the door so we headed over to his cask of Coffee Oatmeal Stout for the half pint sample. We stood at the bar and talked about some things that F&M have in their sights (nothing that can be mentioned yet), but he did inform me that the stout has sold exceedingly well, so well that places were running out of it very fast. "We debated brewing another batch, but we decided that it was a good run and we'll take that into account next year."

Tim Blakeley from Best Bitters Brewing Co. (Nickelbrook) arrived just in time for a round of his 2008 Cuvee. Weighing in at over 7%, the spiced ale had some peppery notes and burnt sugars blended with some fruitiness that masked the alcohol pretty well. I found it to be a little more balanced than the 2007 version and quite nice. So did other people as the Cuvee was the first beer to be emptied.

My cell phone rang, it was a friend who was waiting in the line-up outside - it was roughly 3pm. I peered outside and was astonished to see such a line. Nicholas Pashley, the witty beer drinking novelist, was working the door and commented that the place was at capacity; something they didn't expect. "What is really interesting is the mix of people here," Pashley said. "There are lots of females and young people, which is very encouraging to see."

Back at the bar Brereton stated that the summer cask festival that was held in-conjunction with the CASK! group attracted 86 people over the seven hour event, so they were expecting numbers along those lines. This was not the case though. Due to all the eager drinkers, the casks started running dry shortly after 4pm and by five the last one was drained. However, people were still milling about, helping drink some of the Maclean's Pale Ale on cask at the bar.

It was a great event, very well put together. The weather wasn't to bad outside, a few snow flurries here and there, but the warmth of the pub on a winter afternoon was all anybody could ask for. The beers, 13 in total, and of the ten I sampled - were terrific. Granite's Hopping Mad was magnificent and the Neustadt Lager (with Japanese Hops) was interesting.

1 comment:

Paul Henman said...

Hopping Mad was my favourite too. The Neustadt 180 was a surprising choice for a Winter festival given how light it was - much more of a Summer beer, I thought, but interesting nonetheless.

The fact all the beer had gone long before the end was a great sign of the popularity of the event, and I was impressed when they announced they'd honour the remaining tickets over the bar.

I've posted a few photos on Flickr.

Can't wait for the next one! :)

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