Only in Canada can you find a craft beer festival in the middle of winter. Throw in some free tuques and some poutine, and the Steam Whistle Roundhouse Winter Craft Beer Festival is about as Canadian as you can get.
With a windchill of -38, it was one of the coldest days of the year so far and yet there, outside Steam Whistle Brewery, was a lineup of people waiting to sample some of the GTA’s finest craft beer. There were about 15 beer vendors set up around the roundhouse including big names Mill St, Amsterdam, King’s, Flying Monkey and smaller breweries like Niagara College’s Teaching Brewery.
Tickets were $20 and included a free festival pint mug as well as a free tuque for the first 500 people to arrive. Tokens were being sold to sample the beer – a hand crafted wooden token specially made for the event – 1 token for half a mug, 2 tokens for a full mug (mind you the mugs were only half pints to begin with). I was amazed at the turnout – within an hour, the roundhouse was a sea of red tuques. Clearly the weather was not going to stop us canucks from enjoying our beer. Amsterdam/416 and Steam Whistle took the winter theme to the next level by having their beer taps connected to ice sculptures. On top of that, 416’s ice sculpture even had a funnel running through it. Unfortunately, I didn’t stay long enough to witness anyone testing it out, but I was definitely impressed. For those wishing to take a break from the beer and warm up a little, there were coffee stands and Smoke’s Poutinerie, Gorilla Cheese and Beavertail Food trucks.
Although I loved the idea of an outdoor winter beer fest, I felt like there needed to be some more activities – something to distract ourselves from the cold. Yes the beer was flowing, and yes there were outdoor heaters, but it just couldn’t conceal the bitter cold. They had also set up fire pits but when I asked when they would light them, I was told it was a safety hazard and they were strictly for decoration. What a tease! It could have been so much better if there was a skating rink with some pick up hockey, or a band for some musical entertainment, or a big bonfire with smores to bring people together and warm up. Something to improve on for next year for sure.
Regardless, it was an amazing turnout, and everyone was genuinely excited to be apart of an authentic Canadian experience. Steam Whistle proves once again that they know how to throw an awesome event, and I can’t wait until their next one.
Article by Celia Schepp