Follow beer writer, Troy Burtch, as he explores the wonderful world of craft beer and the pubs that serve it. Great Canadian Beer is a place to come to catch up on beer news, read tasting notes, check out event listings, and for pub previews and reviews.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

21st Annual Fall Festival of Craft Breweries: C'est What Wrap-Up

The following was written by guest writer and friend Rob Symes, as I couldn't lift my head on Sunday after a long night of pub crawling.

Earlier this year I wrote a piece on C’est What’s Spring Festival of Craft Breweries. Either it wasn’t too shabby or Troy is still recovering from his bachelor party because he’s asked me to do a report on the Fall edition.

As always, C’est What? Does a great job of holding these events, and the ability to sample for $1 or $2 really gives the punters the opportunity to broaden their horizons, try new styles and become introduced to new breweries. This year showcased 46 beers from 33 breweries, and most notably of all saw 11 casks on offer, which is a new high water benchmark for the pub. Attendance was high, seats were at a premium and the servers did the place a credit with their endless pouring.

A definite highlight for me was Great Lakes Redneck IPA, one of the hoppiest and tastiest beers I’ve had from them yet. Full on citrus greets the palate, but has just enough malt to keep things balanced. If you’ve not had a Great Lakes one off yet then you’ve been missing out. The brewery has taken a new direction in recent years with the addition of interesting seasonals, and has continued to accelerate with the installation of a pilot system that they are using to make experimental cask beers. You’ll find the occasional offering popping up at the usual places, but where its really at is their regular Project X event, on the second Thursday of the month.

Experimentation was to be found elsewhere, but with more mixed results. The last C’est What festival saw the debut of Flying Monkeys’ Hoptical Illusion, which has been a nice addition to the LCBO’s shelves with its sessionable character and gentle Amarillo hopping. For the fall edition the brewery brought down the Hoppopatamonkey, a device which allows the beer to filter through fresh hops as its poured. This has been tried before, most notably by Dogfish Head of Delaware, but Flying monkey’s still have a few kinks to work out. While the aroma of the hopped up Hoptical Illusion was delicious and enticing, the flavour erred towards the antiseptic. Though I finished my sample, several around me did not. I believe this was the Hoppopatamonkey’s public debut, and I’m sure with some refinements it will prove to be an interesting and worthwhile twist, so watch this space.

Another unique sight at the festival was a huge wooden barrel sat at the end of one of the bars. This offering was a porter from Black Creek Brewery, who are trying to brew beer the old fashioned way in the pioneer village tourist attraction. I say trying because I don’t know how well they are doing. If this beer is reflective of how things used to be then I’m glad we’ve moved on. If you didn’t get a chance to try it, but a cheap bottle of red wine, pour a glass and have it for breakfast the next day. I like what they are doing up there (I’m a history grad so I dig this), but I can’t see this beer winning over many admirers.

My beer of the fest? Step up Black Oak Brewing to receive congratulations on your new fall seasonal! Black Oak Oaktoberfest will be available at the brewery shop in a couple of weeks. Big toasted malt flavour with hints of caramel and smoke come on top of a great appearance and smooth cask pour. Ken and Adrian know how to do a great cask, but I think this one will also transition well into bottle.

Other new beers on show at the fest included a vienna lager from Grand River, a smoked beer from C’est What and a brown ale from Charles MacLean. Grand River’s cask Vienna was vanilla heavy and easy drinking, so it should appeal to a broad market. C’est What’s Big Butt brings a smooth smoky flavour and the opportunity for some rather obvious jokes (most people seem to like Big Butt), and I believe it is now a regular addition to their lineup. Finally MacLean’s brown ale hit the style spot on. He does some great English cask beers that have subtle flavours but great potential for sessionability.

All things considered, I didn’t find the quality of this fall’s offerings to be as good as previous events, most likely because previous incarnations had set the bar so high. What I did so, though, was our brewers making huge steps in the right direction. Black Oak’s new seasonal was spectacular, Great Lakes continue to surprise, and experimentation has increased. Best of all, cask is becoming more of a preferred format, driven in part by the enthusiasm of our brewers, partly by the market, and partly by bar owners, like George, who are shaping that market.

No comments:

Web Analytics

Winter Ale