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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

1st Annual Muskoka Beer Festival

When I first heard about Jed Corbeil's (in white shirt) plans to organize an Ontario craft brewery only festival in Bracebridge I was thrilled. Corbeil is one of the owners and operators of the Griffin Gastropub in the small town 2 hours north of Toronto, and it was during a visit to his pub back in the spring that he first informed me of his ideas.

We have a family cottage not far away and the thought of heading there for the weekend and taking part in a beer festival, a craft beer festival, was something that I had my heart set on. The idea of getting a bus and filling it with Toronto beer drinkers immediately popped into my mind and unfortunately it didn't pan out. Then I was double booked with wedding details and the Golden Tap Awards, which in the end prevented me from attending the first annual festival.

Thankfully Sam Corbeil (in red hat), Jed' brother, a brewer with Mill Street, and a TAPS contributing writer, was nice enough to provide a re-cap for all you readers that couldn't make it.

This past Saturday, the first annual Muskoka Beer Festival was held in Bracebridge, Ontario. Situated on the shores of the winding Muskoka River within the confines of the lovely and picturesque Annie Williams Park, the festival was the first of its kind for the growing Northern Ontario town.

Hosted by the owners of
The Griffin pub, Jed Corbeil and Curt Dunlop and with a lot of help from event co-ordinator Alison “The Huntress” Hunter (and of course, a countless number of volunteers) the Muskoka Beer Festival was a further attempt by the two beer lovers to bring a growing beer culture north of the “Big City”.

After getting the green light from the town back in early May, the three have been working tirelessly to get the festival off the ground and running. With such a small window, they definitely had their work cut out for them. But within those three short months they made the best of their time and put together a solid event.

Having already established a good relationship with many of the breweries across the province, through their pub and its staunch stance on only selling Ontario Craft Beers, they were able to get
16 breweries, 1 cidery and 1 Cooler producer on board for the event. Quite an accomplishment for an inaugural event held 2 hours north of Toronto, the center of Ontario’s beer culture.

Along for the ride with those 18 producers, were no less than 60 different beers, ciders and coolers. Certainly enough to keep any amount of festival goers busy and sated for the 8 hours the festival was scheduled to run; from noon until 8pm that night.

And if beer, cider or coolers weren’t your thing, there was also a full line up of local bands playing on the main stage throughout the day, a wakeboard show on the river, a volley ball net and last but not least a giant slip and slide set up along the park’s lone hill. A long, wet plastic runway sending drenched and scantily clad fun seekers over a short jump and into an inflatable could that not be a hit?

Not bad for only three months planning. The only thing they couldn’t plan for was the weather. And Mother Nature.... did not co-operate. Monsoon-esque rain poured down for most of the morning, finally subsiding just before the gates opened at noon. For the most part, the rain was held at bay, only showering down for a few short minutes early in the afternoon. But it was the sun everyone was hoping to see and unfortunately it only popped its head out from behind the gloomy clouds briefly and the cool, damp air hung around all day. Not the kind of sunny-sit-on-the-dock-and-drink-beer, cottage weather they were hoping for.

But the rain and cool temperatures couldn’t dampen the festival goers’ spirits. At final count some 1,200 people came through the gates that day hoping to enjoy some of Ontario’s finest beers. And they weren’t disappointed. With breweries coming from all over the province, from as far East as Ottawa (
Scotch Irish Brewing Co.) to as far West as Neustadt (Neustadt Brewing Co.) there was something there for everyone.

With many people sticking around for the better part of the day, the general consensus from the crowd was that the festival was a success. And having attended a few festivals myself, I can honestly say that this is a welcomed event to this province’s growing line-up.

And now that they have a full year to plan, and one successful festival under their belts, here’s hoping that next year’s event will be even bigger and better.

1 comment:

Mike Laba said...

It was a great festival and hats off to the Griffin lads - they unearthed a really cool event that will no doubt grow into a top provincial festival.

Plus...they have one of the coolest bars of all time.


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