Tuesday, 17 April 2012

The Only Cafe-Winter Beer Fest

The Only Cafe is a well-loved beer bar in Toronto's east side.  It's a great place to grab a pint--they have a tremendous beer selection and it's a nice, pleasant space.  This past February, Partner and I attended their Winter Beer Fest.  The Fest had reps from a number of premier craft breweries from in and around Ontario, including Beau's, Black Oak, Flying Monkeys, Railway City, and McAuslan.  The brewers and their representatives were set up at the Only's back patio, so it was fortunate that the weather was mild.  Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your politics) it was incredibly crowded.  While this was encouraging--showing an increasing enthusiasm for quality brews--it was too crowded to make the experience leisurely or relaxing.  Each trip to pick up sample cups was fraught with spilling risks and it was impractical to chat with the reps in an effort to learn much about their suds.  This was fine though, since there was lots of enthusiasm and a solid beer-love vibe.  However, as someone who likes to taste beer, the biggest hurdle was the amount of cigarette smoke that pervaded the patio--this made actual reviewing very difficult.

The system was pretty simple.  For a dollar, you could purchase a ticket that entitled you to a small sample cup.  Then, you wandered around the patio, deciding whose wares were worth your valuable tickets.  There was lots to choose from, and the colours and hues of the beer rainbow were well represented.
For me, the highlights of the Winter Beer Fest were sampling brews from the Sawdust City Brewing Co., a newly-opened brewery that will eventually be located in Gravenhurst, Ontario, trying McAuslan's excellent Scotch Ale, and spending an evening with my wonderful partner.  This was a great event, particularly as it affirmed that Torontonians of many ages and backgrounds are interested in supporting great beer.  Definitely an event worth checking out in the future.

I was only able to do one review:

Wellington Brewery had a table at the Only Cafe's Winter Beer Fest.  They were offering tiny 5oz samples of an IPA that they put together for the season.  Their IPA was an orange-brown colour and had very little head or carbonation.

It had a wonderfully fruity and sweet initial taste--unexpectedly sweet for an IPA.  It had notes of berries and a cider-like consistency.  The aftertaste was hoppy and bitter.

It was really quite good.  Well worth a try, if you can find some.  I'd love to see Wellington do another batch of this.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

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