Spring has finally sprung in Toronto. We all welcome the longer, warmer days and the patios popping open all around the city as quickly as the blossoms on the trees. We've shelved the bold red wines we favour on cold winter days and can now only think about enjoying a crisp, refreshing beer with friends. It’s been a long winter, so to brush up on our knowledge of what craft beers we’d like to drink, Chew Street headed out to the inaugural North American Craft Beer Experience.
Over 200 people breezed through the Berkeley Church in Toronto’s east end to sip craft beers from companies of the North American Craft’s (NAC) portfolio. The NAC represents craft breweries from Ontario, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and the USA.
Upon entering the room, there was no indication of what order attendees should sample beers, or in what order to travel around the room. So, sticking with our wine-rule intuition, we started with ‘light and fruit’ then proceeded to zig zagging around the room to make our way to the ‘darker’ side.
Double Trouble Brewing Co. was well represented with over 5 of its craft brews for attendees to sample. Grow A Pear, its answer to the increasingly popular cider, was an obvious starting point to wet our palates. Silly as it’s name was, this beer was delightfully fruity and had a playful, bubbly carbonation that seem to dance on the tongue. The pear flavour was not overpowering to the delicious blend of barley, malt and hops that accompanied it. Best of all, it’s made from 100 per cent Ontario pears!
Moving down a long row of Double Trouble sample tables lining the large open room, we had to check out Revenge Of The Ginger, Kickin’ Ginger Red IPA. At first we liked it because of its silly name and label, but quickly realized this beer is no joke. The unique red IPA is actually infused with organic ginger during the brewing process giving it a spicy aftertaste. The beer itself was pleasantly creamy and had that tell-tale IPA bitterness. It’s great on its own, or when enjoyed with Spicy food. You can find it where Double Trouble is sold this summer.
Next up we discovered a lovely gluten-free beer that wasn’t a cider! This is huge for beer lovers who abstain because of the havoc gluten wreaks on their gut. Bard's is the brewing company from upstate New York producing the lighter beer made from sorgan malt. It was crisp, clean, slightly on the sweet side with a lovely caramel taste to it. One of our favourites for the event!
We then moved on to Arch Brewing Co.’s Dinner Jacket O’Red IPA. This craft beer is brewed in Wellington, ON. If you like hops, this one’s for you! It was slightly spicy, which made that IPA bitter taste a little more palatable for someone who tends not to enjoy it as much.
Sticking to IPAs, we jumped to the table next door to taste Propeller’s Ale, a classic take on an English-style IPA. This beer has won many awards in the short time it’s been around including the Gold World Beer Championships (Chicago) in 2006, 2007 and 2008! We knew Nova Scotian’s liked their beer, but we were impressed to find out how many international accolades this brew has won. The sample table had a steady line up so this beer is clearly a fan favorite. Definitely worth sipping what all the fuss is about!
Upon first impression all the craft breweries and beers represented have such clever names and catchy labeling you can’t help but be draw in to take a closer look. None of the labels and packaging looked commercial or too corporate like mainstream beers we’re used to seeing at the beer store. What was most pleasing of all was how much character each of the beers had packed in each brew. Sampling craft beer one after the other like that really was like stepping into another world, like hearing a language for the first time, or discovering a new place you’ve never been. You can taste the passion and care that comes from perfecting unique and thoughtfully planned out blends of the would-be average barley, malt, hops and water.
Craft beer is no longer just for hipsters ;-) As the ‘buy local’ move sweeps its way through our grocery stores and farmers markets, craft beer is definitely not being left behind. Craft brewers are making their mark on the scene and beer fans couldn’t be more pleased with fresh, new selections. Discover what awesome craft beers are offered in your neighbourhood beer retail outlets, or at your favourite local watering hole.
Ruth Buder is in love with food, people & Toronto. You can follow her shenanigans on Twitter at @ruthlesspr