Toronto’s Festival of Beer 2013 Guide: tasting tours, barrel-aged brews and a chance for free admission for life

Toronto’s Festival of Beer 2013 Guide: tasting tours, barrel-aged brews and a chance for free admission for life

Toronto's Festival of Beer
(Image: Toronto’s Festival of Beer)

Toronto’s 19th annual Festival of Beer brings 60 brewers to Bandshell Park at the Ex for a three-day, beer-powered blowout, so coveted among enthusiasts that tickets for the Saturday session have been sold out since March. Among the festivities: concerts on the main stage, including acts like hip hop trio De la Soul, blues rockers Big Sugar and 90s alt-rock band Spin Doctors, educational tasting tours, an entire tent devoted to grilling and over 200 craft and big-name beers. Here, our roundup of the top tastings, seminars and other booze-fuelled events.

The World of Beer Pavilion
This year the annual showcase of regional beers is focusing on the West Coast. British Columbian brewers Central City and Philips, as well as American brewers Elysian from Washington, Rogue from Oregon and Green Flash and Sierra Nevada from California, will be serving samples of their best brews.

Barrel Brews
A tribute to the newest trend in craft beer: barrel aging. These beers are jacked to new levels of complexity after marinating in whiskey, rum or wine barrels. Participating brewers include Beau’s, Flying Monkeys, Great Lakes, Sawdust City and Nickel Brook, whose bourbon barrel–aged Old Kentucky Bastard imperial stout has notes of coffee, chocolate, vanilla and oak.

Brewmaster’s Series
An event that’s likely to inspire fantasies of leaving the office to become a backyard brewer among the festival’s biggest beer geeks: the seminar series hosted by Canada’s first Teaching Brewery at Niagara College. Workshops range from Beer 101 to more advanced subjects, like hops-identification, home brewing and booze-and-glass pairings (titled “Glassware Aware”).

Grilling Tent
A whole tent just for beer’s natural culinary accomplice: barbecue. Chefs like Lisa Marie’s Matt Basile, Pizzeria Libretto’s Rocco Agostino and Rock Lobster’s Matt Dean Pettit help festivalgoers sop up all that booze with burgers, dogs and other chargrilled dishes.

There’s an app for that
This year, Android and iPhone apps replace the usual pocket guide, meaning no more riffling through sticky, beer-soaked pages to locate the next tasting opportunity. The apps include an interactive map, a schedule of events and even a note-taking feature for recording impressions and reviews.  Added bonus: downloading lets you enter to win a lifetime supply of passes to the festival.

Toronto Festival of Beer, $39.50 (general), $75 (VIP), July 26–28, Bandshell Park, Exhibition Place, Tickets available online here.