Follow beer writer, Troy Burtch, as he explores the wonderful world of craft beer and the pubs that serve it. Great Canadian Beer is a place to come to catch up on beer news, read tasting notes, check out event listings, and for pub previews and reviews.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Hart House Craft Beer & Pig Roast Re-Cap

On July 31st, I was off to attend the first ever Craft Beer Festival and Pig Roast at the Hart House until I got sidetracked. My night actually started at Volo where I stopped in for a pre-event cask conditioned Hop Head. Ralph (owner) was there working in the beer fridge until a steady stream of brewery representatives decided to drop in. Rob Creighton from Grand River , Peter from Nickelbrook (we shared some good stories, but unfortunately they are un-postable) and finally Ken Woods from Black Oak all made appearances. Woods wanted to kill some time before the event so we sat and talked about his new brewery over a couple of pints. Before we knew it, it was time to go, so we hopped in the Black Oak mobile and headed off to the University of Toronto where craft beer and pig awaited.

The Hart House is located on the University of Toronto campus at 7 Hart House circle and is a beautiful old large stone building that surrounds a marvelous grassy courtyard. This is where the event was held. It was a beautiful night with lots of sun, but the location of the courtyard and the high stone walls prevented to much sun from frying everyone and even provided some much needed shade. It was a terrific venue to hold a small beer festival, attractive and quaint, easy accessible and offered many places to sit.

Things got going around 7pm with the slicing of the pig and the line-up grew long. The breweries who had arrived early to set up where now in full serve mode and ready for the onslaught of thirsty customers. Many breweries were offering at least two brands from their repertoire.

U of T’s Jeff Cameron, a craft beer drinker in charge of public relations and marketing for the event, stated that ticket sales were strong leading up to the festival but he was hoping for a large turnout at the doors. He got more than he expected as the people kept coming and coming. I think it was the aroma of bbq’d pig wafting through the campus. It was my understanding that the event sold out – not bad for its first ever!

It was refreshing to see so many new faces in the crowd as opposed to the same faces at ever beer event (nothing wrong with that), just good to see so many other’s enjoying craft beer. The venue helped tremendously as many appeared to be or were U of T students and many were trying craft beer for the first time. I spoke with a number of people at various booths to gauge their ‘craft beer awareness’ and I’d say a good 90% of the people spoken to were unaware of Ontario’s small breweries. One ticket holder who was celebrating his 22nd birthday mentioned he had never heard of Creemore or Wellington before! Needless to say, his palate was awakened this night.

There were 9 Ontario small breweries in attendance and 1 from Alberta who helped ticket holders beat the heat with some cold delicious beers. Grand River, represented by brew master Rob Creighton, were so busy that by 9:30 they ran out of beer. Many others weren’t far behind. Creemore, Black Oak, Wellington, Cameron’s and Cool were all running low and by 11pm they were starting to pack up. People started flocking over to F&M’s booth who was represented by the colourful and charismatic George Eagleson and Toronto sales rep Jeff. F&M were pouring their pilsner and their 2007 Canadian Brewing Awards Gold medal winner Stonehammer Dark Ale. Both were big hits.

Hockley Valley was pouring their 3 offerings: Hockley Dark, Hockley Stout and their newest creation – Georgian Bay Dipper. It was nice to see Hockley Valley and their brew master Andrew Kohnen out at an event as they only get to 4 a year, which are mostly closer to their home base.

It wasn’t all bbq and beer though. Beerology creator and craft beer educator Mirella Amato was on hand to provide information to any interested people, which she did in informal presentations at the back of the courtyard, much to the pleasure of new craft beer drinkers. Amato, who has worked with the Hart House on a previous beer event, hopes to make this a regular festival, and judging by the turnout and how smoothly things went, it would be a shame not too.

The music was excellent as bands took to the makeshift stage and performed in the background. Their silhouettes from the flood lights hung high above on the fabulous stone walls, which was an amazing sight with a nice sample of Black Oak Pale Ale in your hand.

Everything was great about the first ever craft beer fest and pig roast and here’s one person (see pic) who’s hoping it returns for years to come.

**Congratulations to fellow beer enthusiasts Jeremy and Karen for their recent engagement!!

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