I had the pleasure of attending this years Cask Days at the Evergreen Brickworks. I have been to previous years and despite a few small organizational hiccups, felt that this was an excellent showcase of experimental beers and truly inspired one-off creations.
I was lucky enough to have an all access pass to the festival, thanks to Neustadt Springs (who I rep for in Toronto), so I was able to attend the brewers breakfast prior to the first session. My only real criticism of the breakfast was the lack of hot food and coffee (the coffee eventually came out about an hour later). But those minor things aside, it was an amazing venue and event. It had an incredible vibe and I felt that the open space was a welcome change from the close confines of the previous Hart House venue. More people were there to enjoy the beer and I never ran out of choices of great beers to choose from. Mostly because of the large number of casks available (100+). I do remember in previous years thinking that the first session was probably the best because everything would still be available. The later sessions always ran out of the most popular beers before you could get a chance to try them. I attended session one this year and felt it was the time and place to be. From what I heard from others, this was a good choice because casks did run out in the second and third sessions.
I tried a number of very interesting brews, and I know this is very strange, but I enjoyed the weird ones most. I tried the “Wurst Idea Ever” a brussel sprout and smoked meat sour ale from F & M and I think despite the fart-like aroma, it was one of the most talked about beers at the festival. I personally like the flavour and thought it was a brave choice. Cask days for me is about experimental beers and interesting one-offs that you’ll probably never really see commercially available.
My other off-the-wall favourites were the Curried Pumpkin from Great Lakes and Toronto Brewing (pro-am collaboration) and the Chipotle Schwarzbier from Black Oak. They were favourites of mine not because I would ever really want to drink them again, but because they really stood out as unique and interesting beers. These weird beers symbolize for me why Cask Days (and really brewing in general) is so great. You can take chances with beer and really make something completely wild and people will still try it. You probably couldn’t really bottle either of these beers and sell them, but I don’t think that is the point. These strange brews allow brewers to really brew outside the box and can lead to really exceptional beers.
Some of those very exceptional beers could be found at this festival. I loved pretty much all the pumpkin beers I tried (a great seasonal offering in October), specifically the Howe Sound Pumpkin Eater and the Half Pints Punk n Fest. Both of these are out of province breweries (BC and Manitoba respectively) that I don’t often get a chance to try. Festivals like Caskdays give Torontonians a chance to try beers that the LCBO and Beer Store seldom carry. You get to appreciate some of the wonderful brews offered in other parts of the country.
Specifically beers from Quebec (which Bar Volo/Keep 6 really specializes in) were my favourites. I only had one beer at Cask Days more than once and that was Le Trou de Diable’s Belgian Tripel “La Butuse”. It was absolutely amazing and I really could have drank more of them than I did. Their “MacTavish in the Memorium” a pale ale was also truly extraordinary.
There were others that I tried and really enjoyed, but those were the ones that really stuck out in my mind, out of the 30 or so beers out of over 100 that I was able to try. Kudos to the Morana Family for putting on an excellent event, I really cannot wait to do it again next year!