Celebrating its 8th year, Cask Days took place this past weekend in Toronto, Ontario at the Evergreen Brick Works and celebrated the best of Canadian cask-conditioned ale. With over 100 different casks from 70 breweries it was hard not to find something (several somethings?) you didn't enjoy or at least found interesting. Although I didn't get anywhere close to sampling the full range of beers available, I did have fun attempting and sharing samples with new friends.
From my count (and who knows how accurate that is) I tasted over 20 different beers. Below, are five beers that I thought were highlights of the festival if not for the overall taste, for the idea behind it.
Central City Brewing's Red Racer Extra Special Bitter (ESB) was one of the best tasting beers I had at the festival. Not new to the cask savvy crowd in Toronto, it was new to me and I loved how this delicate BC brew tasted so balanced with hints of biscuit-y caramel malts and bitter grapefruit West Coast hops.
Whereas previous milk stouts I've enjoyed have felt slightly thick, Parallel 49's Ugly Sweater Milk Stout was light, smooth and extremely drinkable. At 4.2% ABV this lactose sweetened stout was delicious and something I'd feel comfortable drinking even when I wasn't wearing an ugly sweater.
Le Trou du Diable from Shawinigan, Quebec was the feature brewery this year and cask #2 of 5 (La Buteuse) was the cask to grab a sample from, lean on a graffitied wall and savour. This Belgian-style Triple was incredibly well balanced with caramel sugar, fruit flavours, slight spiciness and a not too noticeable alcohol burn. At 10% ABV it was a dangerous beer to discover.
The Great Lakes and Toronto Brewing collaboration, Curried Spice Pumpkin Ale, was very popular at the collaboration table stuck outside in the rain. The aroma of big warming curry and ginger spices were intoxicating however, taste-wise it left a long burn on your palate that was hard to shake.
I discovered I wasn't a fan of rauchbiers at the American Craft Beer Festival but I bravely decided to try another and I'm happy I did! Half-Pints Smoketoberfest has a delicate smoke flavour which pairs well with the almost apple-y sweetness. It was a nice beer to enjoy huddled inside the main festival area, hiding from the rain.
With a festival this amazing it's hard to believe I haven't attended before. I've already decided to attend next year's festivities and if you're looking at these photos wishing you had gone then make your plans now for next year. Many thanks to Bar Volo, the breweries and the cask pouring volunteers who helped make this such a fantastic festival. I can't wait to see what year nine brings!