The craft beer scene in Toronto is one that is ever welcoming to the newcomer. However, for many ladies it still seems to be an intimidating bro-party and scares off those that might otherwise be interested in broadening their beverage horizons. Enter the Society of Beer Drinking Ladies (SOBDL) with one simple goal – bring ladies that drink craft beer together with other lady craft beer drinkers. They host their Bevy events once a month, but last year they began an ambitious new venture – the All Ladies Craft Beer Festival!
Well, I’m a lady, and I drink beer, so count me in! $40 (incl tax) gets you entrance, an adorable sample glass, 5 tickets to start, and a Morning After grab bag (designed to pick you up after what you can assume will be a long fun night). Brickworks is a slog to get to, but we had shelled out the extra $5 for the shuttle and saved ourselves the cost of an Uber.
Upon entering you receive your glass, buy your tickets, and could stop by the mini van photo booth for free group pictures.
Next up were the food stalls, with kettle chips, loaded corn dogs, brisket sliders and (of course) chocolate.
New (to me) this time were the craft vendors. Local artisans displayed their works, such as cute cross-stitching, soaps, hops-themed jewelry, and amazing beer jellies. Next time I’ll know to bring more cash!
And finally, the beer! The selection was solid, pulling in the city’s best known brands. To keep things fresh, a lot of the vendors were pouring special one-offs, designed with this very specific audience in mind. We sampled classic lagers and some farmhouse ales, add well as a wealth of flavored stouts and fruity sours. My personal favorites were Nicklebrook’s Raspberry Uber and the SOBDL/Sweetgrass collaboration. I wasn’t sure about “maple butter tart”, since a lot of flavored beers taste super artificial. But my god, was it ever delicious. I went back for it at least twice, and was overjoyed to find it in my Morning After surprise bag.
The venue can be hit or miss, depending on the weather – it was a very dreary, rainy day, and there were puddles everywhere. However I have fond feelings for Brickworks, and if you dress accordingly it’s not bad. It’s a gorgeous space, with plenty of room for everyone. Warming stations set up all around actually allowed for some nice moments of camaraderie with other chilly guests.
Finally, a “brief” note on the social politics of the event. As we’re still striving for equality in 2017, I do understand the complaint that organizing a women-only event seems to swing too far the other way, and is exclusionary. However I don’t personally agree. Beer, as with restaurants, is still a very male-dominated industry. Yes, ladies are breaking in and making their mark, but it still feels like they are anomalies to be celebrated instead of (in a perfect world), taken for granted. Even more so the female beer drinker. I go to beer events for my own enjoyment, but I think the assumption that most people would make if you were to view the average beer festival is that the women present are attending with their male partners. As well, there are the women who might enjoy beer more if they were given a judgement-free area in which to try everything and discard what they don’t like, without getting flack for being too girly about it. I love the SOBDL events because they make me feel validated in my personal enjoyment of craft beer. And I love the ladies-only festival because rather than seeing it as exclusionary and female-chauvinistic, I instead see it is a celebration of the women in Toronto that know what they like, and want a comfortable space in which to like it.