This past weekend was one of the greatest weekends I’ve ever had. You might ask what made it so awesome and let me tell you it was all thanks to this year’s Toronto’s Festival of Beer: Spring Sessions. Both Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, I got out of work early and headed over to Evergreen Brickworks to snag samples of Toronto and the GTA’s best craft beer. Now, for those of you who have read some of my other reviews, I frequent these types of events and seem to have hit up my fair share of craft beer festivals, but this one was different. Between the energy of the event, the “slightly” warmer weather, the awesome food, and amazing beer, Spring Sessions stood out immensely. The set up was similar to most other beer festivals, line up, show your ticket, get your beer mug and go crazy. For $30, you got access to the event and your beer mug – not a bad deal. But wait! What set Spring Sessions apart from the rest? Their tokens. Typically, the tokens run 5 or 10 for $20, but here it was 20 tokens for $20! WHAT A DEAL! I was so excited when I found out that not only were we getting an awesome deal on tokens, but that most beer samples would only cost us 1-2 tokens for a pretty heavy pour. Let me break it down for you: for twenty dollars, you got about 20 beers (some of them as strong as 10% alcohol level). Needless to say, I got hammered, and it was awesome.
Most of the breweries at Spring Sessions had been featured at other beer festivals and I was familiar with a lot of the different beers they were sampling. The cool thing about this festival was that because we could get so many tokens for so cheap, our options for sampling seemed endless. At these kinds of events, I tend to stick to lighter lagers to help pace myself, but I was feeling adventurous and was pretty much down for anything. My favourite by far was last year’s Session Toronto Craft Beerfest’s winner Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co’s Tom Green Beer. I’m not usually a porter drinker at all. Maybe it was the briskness of the weather that just made me want a heavier, richer beer, but no doubt I was loving it. Flying Monkey, another favourite, had at least 10 draught beers on rotation with a wide variety of flavours, hoppiness, and styles (lagers, ales and porters). Alexander Keith’s, King Brewery, Waterloo Brewery, Big Rig Brewery, Steam Whistle Brewery, Left Field Brewery and Brickwork’s Ciderhouse were just a few of the breweries offering up delicious samples.
What really made this event come together was the option to use tokens for food. Rather than having beer and food separate, it was all under one pay system. If you had some leftover tokens or just couldn’t handle any more booze, you could take your leftover tokens and use them at any of the multiple food stands/trucks. Because I had the privilege of attending both days of the festival, I managed to taste almost all of the food offered, making me a very happy panda. I would have to say my favourite was Hot Bunzz (yes with two Zs) – a gourmet take on the pizza pocket with 3 options for fillings; Buddha’s Butter Chicken, Texas Smoked Pulled Pork or Seoul City Beef Short Rib. It was heaven in my mouth. I could have eaten those things every day for the rest of my life. No joke. The organizers of Spring Sessions really seemed to know what they were doing when they booked the food vendors. The pairing of heavier, richer food options with the cold, damp weather was on point. Other food options were Oyster Boy, The Pie Commission, Rashers, Rock Lobster, Pizza Libretto, Tiny Tom Donuts, and of course Smoke’s Poutinerie (which I made sure to grab for my TTC ride home).
Overall, I have to say Toronto’s Festival of Beer: Spring Sessions was one of the best beer festivals I’ve been to. It was extremely well executed, and well thought out – even down to the amount of outdoor heaters. I think the longest line I waited in was to use the outhouses set up at the venue, until we realized we could access the INDOOR washrooms of Brickworks, also giving us some time to warm up. Although Evergreen Brickworks is a bit of a trek to get to, it was well worth it, and almost felt like you were escaping the city and going on a field trip of sorts (the school bus shuttles from Broadview station definitely added to that atmosphere). The beer was flowing, the smell of all the savoury food was filling the air, and the music of bands like Ill Scarlett and the Satellites just made the whole weekend one to remember (even if somewhat foggy). Kudos to you Toronto’s Festival of Beer and I REALLY can’t wait until this summer’s edition.
Article by Celia Schepp