Is there anything better on a warm summer day than an icy-cold bottle of beer? What if you had the chance to choose from more than 200 brews, ranging from local microbrews to classics from major, well-known breweries?
If you attend Toronto’s Festival of the Beer, you’ll have just that — and much more. From Friday 26 July through Sunday 28 July 2013, Bandshell Park in Toronto will come alive with displays and tasting tents from hundreds of breweries, live music and barbecue, all in celebration of the golden beverage loved the world over.
Gourmet Beer Club of Canada
2013 marks the 17th year of Toronto’s Festival of the Beer, the brainchild of Greg Cosway, the owner and president of the festival. As a student at Carleton University in the 1990s, Cosway became enamoured with beer and the brewing process, and started an organisation known as The Gourmet Beer Club of Canada. As the organisation grew along with interest in craft brews, Cosway and crew founded the festival to showcase the best that Canadian breweries have to offer. What started as a small event in Fort York with a few hundred people has grown into Canada’s largest beer-centric event, attracting more than 30,000 people every year. In fact, the festival is now known as one of the largest “beer and barbecue lifestyle” events in the world.
While each brewery that participates in the festival has its own tent in which visitors can find samples of old favourites and new offerings, the festival is much more than that. Special showcases, educational programs and gourmet food are as much a part of the festival as tastings.
One of the highlights, for example, is the World of Beer Pavilion. Introduced in 2012, the World of Beer Pavilion plays host to a particular region, highlighting offerings from producers in that area. In 2012 the Pavilion highlighted beers from Quebec, and the guest of honour for 2013 will be the West Coast of North America. Within the pavilion, visitors can expect to find the best beers from breweries located along the coast from British Columbia to southern California.
For those who want to know more than just how a beer tastes, the Brewmaster’s Pavilion series serves as the center of the festival’s educational offerings. At various times throughout the three-day festival, attendees can visit the pavilion to learn about everything from cooking with beer to how to choose the right glasses for serving.
For the last five years, women attending Toronto’s Festival of the Beer have had a unique opportunity to learn about beer on a special tour. The Girl’s Guided Beer Tour, held on each day of the festival, offers a guided tasting tour along with education about the brewing process and women in the beer industry.
When you’ve had enough beer, or just want something tasty to go with your suds, don’t forget that this festival is all about grilling too — and the Grilling Tent is often the highlight for many people. Some of the best grilling and barbecuing experts from around Canada serve up their specialties while providing tips, tricks and instructions for the perfect outdoor meal.
The entertainment lineup for the 2013 event is sure to send attendees back in time. On Friday evening, contemporary disco band Escort will bring their signature sound to the festival, while on Saturday, 90s hip-hop sensation De La Soul takes the stage. The festival will close out on Sunday with a performance by the Spin Doctors.
Important Things to Know
Tickets for the festival go on sale in March, and admissions for the Saturday events tend to sell out quickly. Tickets include admission, five tasting tokens and a commemorative tasting cup. The festival is only open to those age 19 and up (legal drinking age in Canada is 19) and children and dogs are prohibited. And while it’s easy to access the festival from downtown Toronto hotels, several hotels near the festival site offer specials and package deals for festival goers.
For beer lovers — or even those who haven’t discovered a brew to call their favorite yet — the Toronto Festival of Beer is the ideal place to explore big names and up-and-coming craft brews. New exhibitors and events are being added every week, so check the festival’s web site for updated information.
About the Author: As a long-time member of the “Beer of the Month Club,” Vic Cray makes it a point to visit the Toronto Festival of Beer every summer. While he enjoys a tasty microbrew every now and then, his favourite is a good old Moosehead.