Summer has faded, and we’ve said good bye to backyard barbecues and late nights on the local patio. But while some may see the fall as time to start hibernating, I know that it’s the best time of year for beer! Thanks to Cask Days, the fun doesn’t have to end.
Toronto’s Cask Days is now in its 13th year, and going as strong as ever. Breweries from all over the world gather to present their wares and the local beer lovers gather to try the rare and unusual. Ciders and sours, lagers and ales – all are represented. Offerings are sorted by region, and this year the special spotlight was on New York breweries.
This is truly a unique event, as all of these beers are limited editions. Cask conditioning allows for some interesting changes, as the beers are unfiltered and unpasteurized, which can radically alter the taste. They are also naturally carbonated instead of having CO2 or nitrogen injected, so they can appear to be a bit flatter, but are always rich in flavour. So even if a beverage was made from a tried and true recipe, there will always be variations in taste. Make no assumptions about what you will experience!
Dillons Distillery was also present to offer some unique cocktails, for anyone needing to try something new, or take a break from beer.
Toronto chefs got the opportunity to show off their skills as well, providing mouth-watering, elevated food options in the Farmer’s Market. Giant pretzels and sausages were the tasty go-to, but I went right for the Montfort Dairy display of local cheeses.
I saw jalapeno grilled cheese, and pate, but the biggest attraction was the chicken. Since Volo moved in next to PG Clucks, the two have been a match made in heaven. The only problem is that word of how phenomenal their fried chicken is has spread, and it was undeniably the longest lineup all night. Worth it though!
With such a large space and so many people milling about, the event could easily feel chaotic. But a skilled DJ kept the vibe fun and chill, and people soon started dancing the night away.
Observing the other attendees, you can see the it’s not only a popular event, but an annual tradition for many. Cask Days t-shirts from previous years abound, and some people have even devised special accoutrements for their glasses. It’s a fantastic time for people to come together for their shared love of beer.
My only criticism is that the event felt oversold – even arriving early, the place felt packed. Jockeying into position to get a rare sample brought to mind images of stock traders. If you’re claustrophobic or hate big crowds, then your time won’t be nearly as enjoyable. At the end of the day though, it’s all about the attitude that you bring.
My advice for the newcomer:
- Layer up: Depending on the weather, Brickworks can be quite chilly.
- Wear comfortable shoes: Tables and chairs are hot property, so expect to be standing all night.
- Plan ahead: This year the cask lineup was online only, so if you want to hunt down certain items, definitely make a list beforehand.
- Have pockets: This might seem like a no-brainer, but you’re going to have pockets full of tokens (they buy both food and drink), and you’ll need some place to keep them that’s handy.
- Be a pro: While the casks generally have quirky names, they are also all numbered, and you order by number. Have the number ready to go, and your token in your hand to keep things moving for everyone else.
- Set your expectations: Casks run out, and naturally the most popular ones go first. Don’t be too disappointed if you miss out on some – just move on to the next.
- Try something new: You might be a beer expert, or charting new territory. Either way, be sure to step out of your comfort zone. You might discover a new favorite that you wouldn’t have tried otherwise.And above all… Have fun!