Cask Days Lineup

The Cask Days Lineup at Evergreen Brickworks.

As I sit in my kitchen, in the doldrums of a cold and biting late Toronto Winter day (Confused with the snowstorms and warm day after in March!), I think of warmer days.  And beer.  Well, there’s always beer.  Not-so-much with the warmer days.  Beer and warmer days leads me to think back.  Way back.  How far back?


In 2013 I attended three beer events.  Three very different events, with three very different target markets.  Well, aside from them all appealing to people who are interested in drinking beer.  All three involved drinking beer and eating food.  All three involved music.  All three involved three groups of very different beer drinkers.

The three events in question, Beau’s It’s A Beer World After All, Cask Days and The Festival of Beer.

On occasion I’m asked what kind of people attend beer events.  Do they like beer the way you do?  Which is a question that ranks up there with the great riddles of all time.  Who did you see?  In some cases I can name names.  In some cases naming names of people associated with beer is akin to the teacher on “Charlie Brown/Peanuts”.  “Wah wah wah.  Wah wah.  Wah wah wah wah.”

The crowd at Beau’s It’s A Beer World After All had a good solid contingent of (fellow) middle-aged beer fans.

A Beau’s fan, who obviously came for the music, and couldn’t just “drop” his fatherly responsibilities. Good on ya!

Generally speaking older than the crowd at the Festival of Beer, and not as rowdy.  As fans of Beau’s, the people there wanted the beer.  It was in an industrial plaza in Etobicoke and participants arrived on school bus shuttles.  FUN!

Steve Beauchesne, co-founder of Beau’s Brewery, doing a pretty solid Seth Rogan impersonation.

Steve was more-than-happy to share the Oktoberfest spirit with all.  For a great beer event, check out Beau's Oktoberfest in Van Kleek Hill!

Steve was more-than-happy to share the Oktoberfest spirit with all. For a great beer event, check out Beau’s Oktoberfest in Van Kleek Hill!

And music.  The music at Cask Days, in the moody Brick Works, was DJ sets, and evident, but not always in-your-face.  Conversation was possible at all the events, but Cask Days was most chat-friendly.  The night I was at the Festival of Beer, De La Soul was the featured act.  I was psyched for that.  The sound wasn’t great, and they didn’t play a lot of the older songs, which I know, AND my lower back was killing me from walking and standing for a few hours before that.  The music at It’s A Beer World After All was evident and front-and-centre, as was the food.


Fish heads, roly poly fish heads…..

Food.  The Festival of Beer had some tasty food.  Really tasty food.  A definite highlight for me.  There was variety.  From the crappy to the very good.  The over-grown frat boy kinda vibe that was relatively persistent throughout the Festival of Beer, was least evident by the better tasting food.   At Cask Days it seemed that there was more effort put in to make the food more high brow.  But the food totally worked with the beer.

I didn’t try the nut sauce.

The food at It’s a Beer World After All was fantastic, and cheeky and chef-made and presented simply.  And perhaps most importantly, included with admission.  As many daycare workers are overheard saying, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.”

Not that I was looking for it, but being a vegetarian at It’s a Beer World After All may have been problematic.  I seem to remember lots of meat.  There were some vegetarian options at Cask Days, and not as an after-thought, but that goes hand-in-hand with knowing what the customer wants, or anticipating the desire.  The Festival of Beer seemed to have a couple of veggie options, but only the fried pickle stands out in my mind.

One thing is for certain, if you’re lining up in the rain and cold of October to get in to Cask Days, you really care about beer and the opportunity to sample beer from breweries local and afar, and one-offs of collaborations or casks of beers that don’t normally get casked.

An AWESOME dude! Dieu du Ciel’s Jean Francois is a pleasure to spend time with. Captured at Cask Days.

At It’s a Beer World After All, Beau’s released information about their collaboration B-Side brewing label that will make other breweries’ beer at Beau’s.  They launched with the Kissmeyer Nordic Pale Ale, and also had Tom Green Milk Stout on hand.  These are two awesome beer, that fans of Beau’s had the chance to sample.  Something special, taking care of their fans.  Beau’s does a really good job of making beer fans happy.

Beau’s brought in Anders Kissmeyer for the launch of the Nordic Pale Ale, and B Sides Brewing, where they will replicate recipes from other breweries, in Van Kleek Hill.

Beer fans.  Beer fans come in all shapes and sizes.  Sometimes the “frat boy” knows more about beer than anyone else.  So, there’s something for him/her (these beer events tend to be male heavy, but there are more women at the Festival of Beer than any of the others.) at all the events, and most of the friends can go to the Festival of Beer.  There is beer that is easily recognizable and the ones that I’m least likely to drink.  Coors Light, Canadian, Blue, Bud Light, Bud Light Lime…..big breweries. You don’t find them at Cask Days.  You certainly don’t find them at a Beau’s event.

New beer from Beau’s! Jordan Bamforth really does some great work on the Beau’s visual presentation.

Cask Days Crowd

Cask Days was packed, but everyone was there on a similar kind of vibe. Enjoy the scene. Enjoy the day. Enjoy the beer. Enjoy the people. Talk about beer. Talk about other stuff. Listen to the music. Chill.

So, the Festival of Beer is for people looking to have a good time, and drink some beer.  Eat some food and listen to some music.  Drink some really awesome beer from Flying Monkeys, Beau’s, Great Lakes and several other local breweries.  Drink some known beer, or something from a known brewery, and then step outside the comfort zone to sample something new.  The crowd tends to be young, loud and often obnoxious, often out to get wasted/loaded/trashed/drunk and vomiting while sitting on the curb on the C.N.E. Grounds, and looking to have fun.

Raffaele Morana, a beautiful man, who has started a great event in Cask Days, and has a lovely house of beer worship, Bar Volo.

Arguably the finest beer produced in the GTA. I love Bellwoods. I love Flying Monkeys. This is up there with them. For me.

Cask Days is more low-key, and all about beer.  Beer is of primary importance at Cask Days.  Tomas Morana has really done a fabulous job of fostering an event started by his dad, Raffaele (Ralph) Morana at Bar Volo.  For almost a decade the Moranas have been putting on an event to celebrate casked beer, and that has really taken on charity, art and food.  Simultaneously.  Cask Days raised funds for Unity Charity, which works with school and community groups, using hip-hop as the medium.  The art was evident, with beer label prints and artwork, Unity Charity clothing and the graffiti-heavy Brick Works location.

Location, location, location.  None of these event was simple to get to.  The shuttle from Kipling station was a nice touch by Beau’s, as they were acutely aware that it would be difficult to get there by public transit any other way.  The Brick Works is a great place to go, but if you’re drinking a fair bit of beer you’ll want to leave the car at home and you’re going to want to take advantage of the shuttle from the Castle Frank station.  The C.N.E. Grounds are accessible by public transit.

But, how much do these events cost?  None of them are cheap.  Unless you get in for free, and all your food and beer is comped, be prepared to spend money.  For that reason alone I’m least likely to go to the Festival of Beer.  Unless I’m going to help a friend who is trying to learn more about beer, and knows the big names and isn’t ready to be too adventurous with beer just yet.  Even if they are ready, there’s something for them at the Festival of Beer.

The weather.  As mentioned, if you’re a fair weather fan of beer, you’ll want to steer clear of Cask Days.  It’s Fall.  Often cold.  Many bearded hipster-looking dudes, in a hipster let loose in a hipster candy store kinda way, stand huddle around their beer.  Talking about their beer.   Kinda sucked that it was raining at Cask Days, but it was very atmospheric around the England tent.  At Cask Days there aren’t many women in tank tops or tight shirts to point out, as there are at the Festival of Beer, at the end of July.  There also aren’t “beer girls”.  Or cooking demonstrations.  Or free giveaways, like a beer cozy or a bottle opener.

That’s the commercial aspect of The Festival of Beer.  For Beau’s it’s all about the beer, and the people who drink it.  Everything else just falls into place.  With Cask Days, I suspect that there’s more passion than profit in the bottom-line for Bar Volo.  But, it’s always been about a labour of love for Ralph, and this seems to continue today with his sons.

I don’t have to go back to The Festival of Beer.  I want to go back to Cask Days, and will continue to seek out Beau’s Beer events in the future.

David KrugerDavid Kruger is a kindergarten teacher in Parkdale, after a decade teaching in Regent Park.  He’s an active advocate for social justice and food security.  He lives in Toronto with his superstar wife and awesome daughter, and never ceases to stop being amazed at the process of creating and/or eating tasty dining experiences. And he likes baking stuff.