Toronto’s Festival of Beer is underway for another year, and your friendly neighbourhood news editor was there first thing on Friday to scope the scene for new beers and news from the brewers. Here’s what I dug up…
As announced a couple of days ago, Great Lakes Brewing used the festival as a launch pad for their newest offering, Devil’s Pale Ale. Weighing in at 6.6% abv with a fairly robust aroma and flavour profile, this beer is quite a departure from a brewery that is known for their mainstream lagers. They hope to soon have it available on tap at a few bars around town, and depending on the response to this first batch, it may turn up in bottles at some point as well.
The other new Pale Ale at the festival comes from Doug Pengelly of Ste. Andre who tapped his Great Eastern India Pale Ale for the first time this weekend. This is the first in a planned series of seasonal releases from Ste. Andre which Doug hopes to make available in bomber bottles via selected LCBO outlets, similar to the series of seasonals being offered in that format by Ottawa’s Heritage Brewing. In fact, it was during a chat about this idea that Heritage offered Doug the use of their facilities for the brewing of this beer, which is produced using Tettnanger, Cascade and Goldings hops, and Maris Otter and Weyermann malts sourced from Gilbertson & Page in Fergus, Ontario. The result is a flavourful and well-balanced take in the IPA style which will be available soon at Volo and other locations.
Over at the Church-Key booth, owner John Graham had his hair dyed blue and cut into a mohawk for a recent Red Cross fundraiser, and was serving up samples of his new Purple Loosestrife Mead. As the name suggests, this mead is made with purple loosestrife honey sourced from a honey farm just one concession over from the brewery, plus a bit of hops “just for fun”. Graham isn’t sure where the mead will be available and in what format, but at the very least, it should show up at some point in bottles sold at the brewery.
Also from out East, the folks from Glenora Springs Brewery were on hand with a large display and stacks of promotional material announcing their impending name change. With a new brewer, new equipment, better quality control and an upcoming move to a new brewing facility, new owners Christopher and Norah Rogers are understandably eager to move away from the stigma attached to the Glenora Springs name due to the infection issues suffered under the brewery’s previous ownership. So this fall, the brewery will be relaunched as Barley Days Brewery, named for the era in the late 1800’s when Prince Edward County was renowned for the quality of the barley and hops grown in the area. All of the beers will be rebranded as well, with the new names being Harvest Gold (formerly Red Coat) Pale Ale , Wind & Sail (formerly Triple Chin Irish) Dark Ale, Loyalist (formerly White Cap) Lager, and Yuletide (formerly Black Scarf) Cherry Porter, and they will now be available in 341 ml bottles with new labels featuring vintage artwork by Prince Edward County artist Manly MacDonald (1889-1971).
It was hard to miss Trafalgar‘s tent, as they had hoisted a banner pronouncing them as the home of “Canada’s Strongest Beers!”. Their set-up was minimal and effective, with their previously available Critical Mass and brand new Korruptor – both of them potent Belgian-influenced brews at 15% abv – being served from kegs housed in hazardous waste drums by guys wearing face masks. As with Critical Mass, Korruptor should be available soon in 200 ml bottles at the brewery and selected licensed establishments.
On the other end of the scale is Niagara’s Best Beer, who were serving their new Lager alongside their flagship Blonde Ale. With its 24-for-$24 price point, the Lager is aimed at the discount suds crowd, a move that co-owner Kent Kraemer chalks up to the nature of the market in the Niagara region. Thankfully, they haven’t used the low price as an excuse to crank out an adjunct-laden macro-style lager. It may be a little simple for serious craft beer drinkers, but it’s very pleasant pale lager that is certainly tastier and more appealing than the usual “buck-a-beer” options.
If you come across any other news or new beer releases at the Festival, please let us know!