It’s no secret that Ontario beer drinkers complain a lot about the state of things in our province. A quick scan of the Bar Towel forums will reveal numerous threads bitching about something or other, with the LCBO and Beer Store being especially popular (and sometimes deserving) punching bags.
But even amongst that negative noise, there’s developed a realization that while our craft beer scene may not be perfect, it’s still pretty damn good. Our local breweries are getting more adventurous with their offerings; our selection of great imports continues to improve; an increasing number of bars and restaurants are stocking better beer; and the events focussed on good beer have become more and more frequent.
One of the best examples of the latter is Ontario Craft Beer Week, an initiative launched last year by the Ontario Craft Brewers, and which returns for this year starting tomorrow, running June 19th to 25th (although unofficial pre-week events such as the Cask Ale Crawl and the Beach BBQ and Brews Festival have already started happening). Not to be confused with Toronto Beer Week, which also debuted last year and will be back in September, OCB Week encompasses a wide variety of events across the province, ranging from brewery open houses and casual tastings to formal dinners and festivals.
There are over 100 events to choose from, and they’re all worth supporting, but here are a half-dozen happening in Toronto that are especially worthy of attention…
Bryden’s Best of the West
Bryden’s Pub, 2455 Bloor St. W.
While a lot of the action will be happening downtown, this neighbourhood pub on the furthest edge of Bloor West Village may be the place that you’ll be most likely to find off-duty brewers and other industry folk, especially those from west-end breweries Great Lakes and Black Oak. The taps and casks for the week will feature plenty of beers from those breweries, including some rarities and a couple of collaborative brews, and few other favourites.
Beer Cocktail Soirée
Burger Bar, 319 Augusta Ave.
Monday June 20th – 5:00 to 7:00 PM
You’d be hard pressed to find two other women (or two men, for that matter) who know more about beer and cocktails than Mirella Amato and Christine Sismondo respectively. So with the two of them teamed up to create and present a quartet of beer cocktails, this is bound to be a great night.
Brewing Under the Stars
Stout Irish Pub, 221 Carlton St.
Monday, June 20th – 7:00 PM
A lot of people don’t know much about how the beer in their glass was made, so this will be a great opportunity to find out, as brewers from Great Lakes, Cameron’s, F&M and homebrew club Biergotter will be collaborating on a beer using a pilot brewing system set up on the pub’s patio. Attendees will be able to watch the process from start to finish, while enjoying a special one-off cask beer brewed previously.
Summer Festival of Craft Breweries
C’est What, 67 Front St. E.
Tuesday June 21st to Saturday June 25th
Previously held on a single night in May for many years running, C’est What’s popular Spring Festival has been shifted a month later and extended into a four night event (Tuesday to Friday), featuring a rotating selection of craft beers from Ontario and beyond, all available for a buck a sample. On Saturday, all the leftovers will be available for $6 a pint or $4 a glass while supplies last.
Beer vs. Wine Dinner
Great Cooks On Eight, 8th Floor, 401 Bay St.
Friday June 24th – 7:00 PM
At $125, this is the biggest ticket event of the week, but it promises to be worth every dollar, as chef Andrea Nicholson (a competitor on Top Chef Canada) will be crafting a six-course menu paired with beer from Muskoka Brewery and wine from Chateau des Charmes, with diners asked to pick their favourite pairing for each course.
Session Craft Beer Festival
99 Sudbury, 99 Sudbury St.
Saturday June 25th – 12:00 noon to 9:00 PM
Last year’s edition of this week-ending festival had the misfortune of being held on the same day as the worst of the G20 rioting, and also had to deal with some pretty lousy weather, so attendance was much lower than organizers had hoped. But they’re taking another shot this year, at a new venue with lots of indoor space in case of inclement weather, a fantastic line-up of breweries from Ontario and elsewhere, plus food and music and other festival-ish stuff. They’ve even managed to get Garrett Oliver, renowned brewmaster from the Brooklyn Brewery, to come up for an appearance and festival opening toast.
And that’s just scratching the surface of what should be a fantastic week of beery fun in Toronto and throughout the province. Check out the full list of events on the OCB website, and get out there to enjoy some of Ontario’s finest.