I don't know if I was expecting something unique (this was my first…), but after waiting in one hell of a long line at one in the afternoon down at Fort York and being surrounded by people wearing "funny" beer hats, beer-shaped sunglasses (get it – BEER GOGGLES?!) and wearing shirts with slogans like "save a tree, eat a beaver," it became pretty clear that this wasn't gonna be about anything other than what everyone looked like they were there to do: get moderately to shit-faced drunk outdoors on a sunny afternoon.
Which was great.
If you've never been, the Beer Festival is set up on an expansive grassy area where different breweries and their reps set up tents and pour out small amounts of beer into a ridiculously small cup that everyone got upon entry. You get five tokens with your ticket, which translates into five 4oz drinks, but of course everyone buys more tokens which go for $1 each.
And while the idea of being surrounded by every kind of beer you've ever seen at the Beer Store and the LCBO sounds promising, often the whole serving of the beer looked like a serious cop-out with many, many breweries opting to just pour servings straight out of bottles and cans as opposed to doing the classy thing and setting up a tap.
This may seem like a petty thing, but if I'm paying $25 for the privilege of drinking your beer, act like you give a shit and don't make me feel like I could do it myself in my kitchen. Anyhow, that rant aside, there was also some food – typical outdoor summer stuff like pizza and whatever, although Albert's Jamaican food was set up in the Red Stripe tent, and some other place did deep-fried pickles which were surprisingly good – as well as a few vendors that I guess you could say catered to the "beer lifestyle (?)" like Black Line tattoo and piercing studio which was doing on-sight piercing. It seemed a bit odd that people would be into getting pierced on the spot after hours of drinking, but I asked Scott from the shop who told me that they'd already done something like between 30 and 60 piercings – nipples, bellybuttons, ears and noses. I was excited to see somebody get their genitals pierced, unfortunately Scott told me that it hadn't happened yet, but "if somebody was coherent and interested, sure." Sadly I didn't see it happen. It actually just would have been funny to see some dude in a shitty, funny-looking hat and wrap-around shades whip out his dick and be all "what can you do with this bad boy?!"
Obviously the highlights of the day were with the smaller breweries that bothered bringing out kegs and taps, and even old-fashioned pumps like Ottawa-Hull's Scotch Irish Brewing Company and Heritage Brewing who had these really neat craft beers like a vanilla bean stout and a maple syrup lager. Tasty stuff. I asked them how busy things can get for a small brewery like them, and one guy told me they'd poured about 35 gallons, which sounds like a lot, I'm sure.
As fun as the whole thing turned out to be, it's – and I never thought I'd have to complain about this – fucking exhausting standing around in the hot sun drinking beer for six hours. It really is. But it's also fun knowing that everyone else there is just as drunk, if not more so than you are. And aside from the two pieces of human garbage trying to start fist fights with strangers at the exit, the festival was a day well spent. O, and shirts with funny slogans on them are stupid.