As Toronto's interest in craft beer intensifies, so does its ever-growing event calendar. Toronto Beer Week celebrates all things hops and barley, reaching beyond the local trend to include breweries big and small - 26 of them officially, but in practice many, many more - and bars and pubs from all corners of the city.
It's a big enough event that the word "week" has to be used loosely; Beer Week, running September 14 to 22, is actually nine days long. But you'd need at least double that time and twice the alcohol tolerance to experience the wealth of award ceremonies, dinners, pub crawls, concerts, festivals, classes, historical tours and recitals with any semblance of comprehensiveness. So we offer here some sudsy, yeasty highlights. More info at torontobeerweek.com.
C'est What's 24th Annual Festival of Craft Breweries
67 Front East, Friday and Saturday (September 14 and 15)
This long-running annual fete will change the mind of anyone who thinks of craft beer as a small, localized movement. Over two nights, thirsty tipplers can taste 56 beers from 35 brewers, including 22 new flavours from breweries like Wellington, Flying Monkey, Beau's, Spearhead, Black Oak and many, many more. Most samples sell for a loonie.
GOB at Sneaky Dee's
431 College, Friday (September 14)
It's really just fortuitous timing that places Sneaky Dee's 25th anniversary celebrations square within Beer Week - Vancouver pop-punk vets GOB have always been more of a soda band - but the quintessential Toronto dive is happy to take advantage of the 4 am last call bestowed by its participatory status. Catch some 90s punk nostalgia, then head downstairs for the bar's famous beer-and-nachos combo.
The Samley Cup Final Judging
BierMarkt, 58 the Esplanade, Monday (September 17)
Homebrewing is no longer the exclusive terrain of bathtub bootleggers and part-time hobbyists. The craft beer movement has opened the field to small-batch precision, quirky themes and risk-taking recipes, and the amateur DIYers are reaping the benefits. The Samley Cup allows homebrewers to compete for prizes and bragging rights in a variety of categories including, new for this year, a bicentennial-themed 1812 beer. Entrance is closed, but come out and join the judging contingent.
Hopera at Habits
Gastro Pub 928 College, Wednesday (September 19)
Proof positive that you can pair beer with anything, Hopera links six craft brews with six arias, duos and trios. Opera and beer may be an unexpected combo, but the sommeliers and singers at this recital are counting on the doubt-erasing power of a tenor belting an aria into a frosty mug of IPA.
Toronto Beer Week
Pub Crawl Various venues, September 21
The best way to cram as much Beer Week into a single day as possible, this official pub crawl, sponsored by Spearhead, takes drinking mobile. Pick a side, north or south, and enjoy stops at five pubs across the city. Whichever side you choose, you can expect to meet up in the middle for a blurry direction-uniting after-party at Stout Irish Pub. Head to torontobeerweek. com for the list of venues.
Oktoberfest at WVRST
609 King West, September 22
It seems like it's never not Oktoberfest at WVRST, King West's beer and sausage hall, but at this time of year they jump the gun, kicking off the suds-soaked festivities before the calendar actually hits October. WVRST's mayor (yes, there's a mayor) has the honour of tapping the cask, and drinkers can celebrate with 1-litre beer steins.
10th Annual Golden Tap Awards
Beerbistro, 18 King East, September 22
The folks at Bar Towel have been shining the spotlight on the key players in Ontario's craft brew industry for the past decade. This year's Golden Tap Awards celebrate their 10th anniversary by once again picking favourites in cask ales, seasonal beers, brew pubs and breweries, all from within the province's rich, celebrated craft scene.
Niagara College Tap Takeover
The Only Café, 972 Danforth, September 22 (plus different takeovers all week)
The Only Café donates its taps to a variety of breweries throughout the week. Each offers its own distinct pleasures, but perhaps the most interesting is Niagara College, Ontario's teaching brewery that offers students the chance to learn on the job, on September 22. And for Only customers, it's a chance to sip a tasty brew that doubles as a midterm.
Exploring The Brewing Process
Beer Academy, 75 Victoria, events all week
As the official event description reads, "Brewers do not make beer; yeast makes beer." Yeast is just one of the elements put under the microscope at the Beer Academy, which now stands in the place of the dearly departed Duggan's on Victoria. Throughout Beer Week, the educational venue gets diminutively specific, breaking down beer into its ingredients: yeast, hops, malt and water.