Getting drafted

Rating: NNNNNYou could tell that the mood of the Toronto Festival Of Beer had changed from calm sipping to full-throttle.

Rating: NNNNN

You could tell that the mood of the Toronto Festival Of Beer had changed from calm sipping to full-throttle piss-up when the giant Planters Peanut strolled into the washroom.

Bad move. The poor sap in the costume just had to go to the can. Once inside, though, he was so abused, you could have excused him for walking out and finding a secluded bush. Wisely, he’d brought a security guard with him to prevent anyone from leaving with his shell.

Best intentions

Sure, people might have headed down to Fort York midway through a blistering hot Saturday with the best of intentions, hoping to sample some micro-brewery ale, stout or pilsner that doesn’t normally make it into their local Beer Store.

And for a few select hours, we did just that.

Dark amber ale was followed by a glass of Old Peculiar, chased by some Dublin Stout and a sweet slug of Southern Ontario porter, with an occasional garlic pickle chomped down in between for nutritional value.

It was all very sophisticated, a few thousand beer connoisseurs drinking in the sun and enjoying the more enlightened aspects of a quarter-pint.

Somewhere around 5 pm, however, things slipped out of control.

Maybe it was the lack of any real shade on the site that drove people to start tearing off their clothes, pouring beer on each other and plowing into whoever walked by. More likely, though, it was the booze.

It sounds almost criminal, but whoever decided to shut the beer festival down at the relatively early hour of 8 pm is a genius.

Any later and someone could have been killed. Hour-long lineups for beer tickets didn’t discourage folks from taking a stab at the event’s main purpose — an excuse to act like Homer Simpson at a chili cook-off.

While a terrible Pearl Jam-imitation band droned on in the background, folks hunted for the scalper who was apparently lurking around the ticket booths selling arm-lengths of tickets for five bucks above list price. Sixty tickets might not be enough for the whole afternoon — better get an even 100.

It was like being penned in a seething, shadeless football-field-sized beer tent with some of the most insane behaviour you could imagine.

Cigar-smoking clowns stripped to the waist suddenly had to yell at each other to make the simplest point, often concerning how tanked they were, while women ditched the long bathroom lines and made for the shrub by the stairs.

All of this, of course, while Toronto’s Finest kept a close eye on the scene.

Controlled chaos

By 6:30 pm, it was controlled chaos, like being in a live version of one of those I Am Canadian commercials — which might explain why the Molson Canadian booth was one of the busiest. This at a festival where the taste of the beer you were drinking, not the image it projects, was paramount.

Eventually, as the lager took hold, people gave up any noble intentions of civilized tasting and simply parked themselves by their brewer of choice, trying to run through their absurd collections of beer tickets before the folks in charge shut down the taps.

Oh, it’s a struggle. Pace yourself properly, though, and no one gets hurt. Home by 9 pm, sleeping peacefully on the couch by 9:10.

Can’t wait until next year.

mattg@nowtoronto.comGetting drafted

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