Toronto Winter Brewfest

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It’s a long, dry winter for beer drinking festivals in Toronto. From Cask Days in October to the Toronto Festival of Beer Spring Session in May those of us who love the variety and exploration that comes with mass beer events have to find solace in their local craft bars and slightly adequate beer and liquor purveyors. Our wallets become lighter for paying full price and our kidneys and liver are taxed from full size servings.

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Luckily the great people of Ottawa have bestowed on us their amazing sensibilities and have brought to the city the Inaugural Toronto Winter Brew Fest. Running the weekend of February 19th and 20th at the Enercare Centre this event brings together everything beer connoisseurs want;  new and exciting brews, on cask beers, great music and delicious eats from popular food trucks. And it’s all roof covered and temperature controlled.  Oh and did I mention the indoor plumbing.

Tickets are still available but are sure to sell out soon.  In the meantime I reached out to some of the breweries heading into town for that weekend and I got a sneak peek at what they will be pouring.

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Ottawa and Area Brewers

Given that this festival originated in our nation’s capital it’s only fitting that some of that city’s greatest beers will be  making an appearance.

Big Rig Brewery is bringing two new pours to the show; the Alpha Bomb, a new double dry IPA and the Hoppin’  Maibock a zippy take on a traditional spring beer.  The Maibock will be hitting the LCBO very soon so Brewfest is a great first look.

Bicycle Craft Brewery will be serving their flagship hop heavy bitter Velocipede IPA and Crimson Cascade; an dark reddish copper American Amber while Cartwright Springs Brewery will delight with a delectable sounding Bourbon Vanilla Brown and the crushable SMASH, all brewed using their natural spring water.

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Central and Northern Ontario Brewers

Cottagers may already be familiar with a handful of these brands found North off highway 400.

Sawdust City Brewery (Gravenhurst) is pouring a brilliantly titled,  rich, chocolaty Stout; “Long Dark Voyage to Uranus” aa well as the  “Winding Road for 7km” a rye saison.  For anyone wanting to really try something different try a saison. I have never had a bad saison.

Collingwood Brewery is featuring their ESB (extra special bitter) Fireside with its taste bud grabbing IBU of 40 with hints of caramel and toffee.

Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery,  from my hometown of Barrie, always brings their A game to these festivals. They are pouring a Netherworld Cascadian Dark Ale and previewing the Juicy Ass IPA which won’t be available in the store till late summer. All the more reason to come try it.

The always steady Creemore Springs will be offering a wide selection of their beers but make sure you come by their booth, say hi to Brodie and enjoy a great beer and conversation especially their Lot 9 Pilsner.

And on tap over at Muskoka Brewery (Bracebridge) is their Twice as Mad Tom; an Imperial IPA, Winterweisse; a spicy dunkelweizen and their hoppy Detour IPA.

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Southwestern Ontario Brewers

The Guelph and Waterloo area is chock full of great microbreweries and brew pubs and this weekend many of them will be sharing their amazing beers with us.

Stouts are a popular winter choice and Guelph’s own StoneHammer Brewing adds a Oatmeal Coffee Stout along with their signature Pale Ale to the mix.

Brick Brewery, well known for their Waterloo brands will be offering up Traditional IPA as well as a citrusy and refreshing Grapefruit Radler.

Wellington  Brewery will also be sharing a popular stout, their Imperial Russian. It’s a bold full bodied beer with chocolate and caramel aromas.

Recently I got to attend a taps takeover from the talented brewers from Royal City Brewing Company and couldn’t decide from the six beers which one I liked the best. They were all superb.  At this year’s festival they have a tea infused Hibiscus Saison and hoppy Exhibition Session IPA.

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Toronto Brewers

Some well known local breweries as well as a few new ones will be serving tasty suds this weekend as well.

Pitsch Fork  is a Toronto based small batch craft brewing company “the product of equal parts passion and procrastination, topped with more than a bit of blind faith.” They are serving a crisp, clean, refreshing German Style pilsner, the Pitsch Perfect Pilsner.

Left Field Brewery plans to blow minds with Sweet Jesus, a mocha marshmallow stout. Roasted and crushed cocoa nibs, Sweet Jesus coffee beans and the creaminess from added lactose, this blend of chocolate, caramel and sweet orange flavours will leave a lasting impression.

 Another local Junction Craft Brewing plans on bringing many of their popular brands including Conductor’s Craft Ale, Brakeman’s Session Ale or Stationmaster’s Stout. Plus a few surprises.

No beer festival would be complete without some Mill Street on tap. Don Valley Bench is one of their new seasonals . A crisp and palate cleansing, slightly cloudy straw-gold beer, this flavour is currently available only in their summer sampler at your local beer and liquor store.

Black Oak Brewing Company, out in Etobicoke, is offering guests my current favorite their awarding winning Nut Brown Ale and 10 Bitter Years IPA.

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B.C Brewers

Ontario isn’t the only game in town. Head over to the Okanagan Spring booth and give their hoppy and fruity Pale Ale and crisp Bavarian Lager a taste.

Whatever your palate prefers there is no doubt many beers in attendance at the Winter Brew Fest to appeal to everyone’s tastes even beyond those mentioned here.  And with beer events such as these being the perfect opportunity to sample many beers at a time  a few new favorites will be found.

The Toronto Cider Festival: The Top 10 Ciders You should Be Drinking Right Now

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Photo credit Tied Photography – Kristie Woods

This year marks the first ever Toronto Cider Festival and it all happen Saturday September 26 as everything boozy apple converges on Yonge-Dundas Square. Now all those beer drinkers who scoff at their slightly more delicate cider preferring friends should take heed, this isn’t your grandmothers apple juice.  With some ciders so dry they make your lips smack and others sweet and spicy there is a flavour for everyone.  Get your tickets to one of two sessions before it’s too late and let my following choices be your guide.

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1,Angry Orchard Hard Cider

Launched in 2011, Angry Orchard is the number 1 selling brand of hard cider in the United States.  Lucky for us they have crossed the border to let us sample their crisp apple sip made from blends of sweet and bittersweet European Apples. Varieties of their cider included flavour infused, apple specific and hops and apple combinations.

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2.Waupoos Cider/Country Cider Company

The mighty town of Picton produces this robust artisanal cider made with fruit that is 100% locally sourced.  Those who don’t like apples can definitely get on board with County Ciders pear, peach and blood orange flavours. Their flagship cider is a dry sparkling apple.

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3.Okanagan Premium Cider

Our friends on the other side of the country will be making their first time visit to Ontario at this year’s Cider Festival. Local B.C apples are the perfect choice for their hard cider while other flavours like white grape, pear, peach and summer berries take advantage of the west coast’s bounty.

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4.Ironwood Hard Cider

This regional cider comes up the QEW from Sunnybrook Farm Estate Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake.  Offering small batched one offs and seasonals this cidery is a perfect diversion from all the wine drinking.

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5.Magnotta Small Batch Cider

Recently launched this month in the LCBO Magnotta Small Batch Cider is the newbie of the group.  Using 100% Ontario McIntosh Apples this hard cider is crisp and refreshing.

Photo credit Tied Photography - Kristie Woods

Photo credit Tied Photography – Kristie Woods

6.The Duxbury Cider Company

Unfortunately you can only currently get Duxbury Cider at local restaurants and pubs so plan a date soon to Wvsrt or Bar Hop. Fortunately at the Toronto Cider Fest you can try their small batch vintages made from heritage and organic apples from Georgian Bay.

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7.Coffin Ridge Forbidden Dry Cider

Don’t let the name spook you, Coffin Ridge Boutique Winery has created a robust and refreshing hard cider also using local Ontario apples.

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8.Revel Cider

Thanks to the brain of one young Guelph entrepreneur and his love of fermented apples, Revel Cider uses the finest local ingredients to create a lighter dryer liquid that will appear to the reluctant beer drinker. These are also only available in select Toronto restaurants and bars.

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9.Spirit Tree Estate Cidery

Using apples from their own orchard and sourcing other local ingredients Spirit Tree is one of the few brands that offer both a sweet, non alcoholic cider and a hard cider.  Those concerned can rest assured, the  one with kick will be present at the festival.

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10.Brickworks Cider House

Last but certainly not least is Toronto’s own contribution to the cider world. Sourcing their apples no further than 300 miles the folks at Brickworks believe in supporting their community with 5% of all profits being donate to Evergreen, an organization focusing on environmental issues. If you haven’t seen them in the LCBO or on tap at any Toronto establishment you haven’t been getting out much.

Rose Festival 2010

Head on over to the Royal Botanical Gardens for the beginning of the month long Rose Festival. Beginning this weekend and continuing until July 3rd and 4th enjoy live entertainment, kids activities and more among 2 acres of these fragrant and exquisite flowers.  Click on the link for more information.

Iris and Peony Festival

Beginning May 29th and 30th and continuing on June 5th and 6th the Laking Gardens of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton will be celebrating the explosion of colour and smell of their hundreds of iris and peony plants. There will be live classical music, guided tours, kids activities and an art sale to also enjoy.
The show runs May 29th,30th and June 5th, 6th from 10 am to 5 pm. Visit their website www.rbg.ca for directions and further details.