Friday, July 3, 2015

Food for Thought with Alex Bielak-Taste report and a Year’s Worth of Beer in Two Weeks

Taste report and a Year’s Worth of Beer in Two Weeks 

Beer-lovers have the opportunity to swamp any sorrows they might have over the coming two weekends this July.

Before I give details of how you too can sample over 52 beers or ciders in just two weeks, a short note about the recent Taste of Burlington launch event. In a nutshell it was a terrific showcase of what’ll be on prix-fix lunch and dinner offer at the 23 participating restaurants, July 19 – August 2, 2015.

Though I had my favourites (see photos), there were many fine dishes on offer and it was clear many

of the chefs had upped their game this time around. The judges courageously picked a very simple, but refreshing, watermelon and mint salad from Persian restaurant Rayhoon as the “Best Taste” winner.

It won over a splendid, more complex offering, from three-time champ, Chef Mitchell Lamb from

Stone House Restaurant. The People’s choice went to Ivy Bar & Kitchen for a generous, hard-to-compete with, lobster roll. A special mention also to Burlington Green, who did a superb job reducing the ecological footprint (should that be foodprint?) of the event. I’d like to feature them in a future column.

So, back to Suds. Because Beer is slated for July 10-11 at Pier 4 Park in Hamilton while the Burlington Summer Beer Festival takes place in Spencer Smith Park July 17-19. Both feature music, food, seminars, and many, many breweries. Check the websites for details of admission costs and the full slate of offerings. Incidentally the Burlington event is seeking volunteers aged 18 or over and is offering some neat perks!

Because Beer features 30 of Ontario’s top craft brewers and cider makers, a 50% increase over the festival’s first year. That is perhaps not surprising, since new breweries have been springing up all over Ontario, like spring weeds. Event Publicist, David Young told me “If last year's event was any indication, it should be a splendid summer weekend and a wonderful showcase for the city.”

Because Beer perhaps has the more diverse offering of the two festivals: They include a homebrew competition that attracted 450 participants from Canada and the U.S. last year, a cask ale session and a limited-ticket food and beer pairing session by Chef Bruce Wood, Executive Chef at Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company. Rounding things out is an exclusive Arts & Science Brewery Tour — the first public glimpse inside the new brewery housed in the historic building that was purpose-built by brewer Andrew Peller in 1947 and which was the first Canadian brewery built after Prohibition.

The following companies will be at the Hamilton event: Amsterdam Brewery, Bayside Brewing Co., Beau's All Natural Brewing Company, Bell City Brewing, Black Oak Brewery, Brimstone Brewing Company, Cameron's Brewing Company, Clifford Brewing Co., Collective Arts Brewing, Descendants Beer, Double Trouble Brewing Co., Duggan's Brewing Co., Flying Monkeys, Garden Brewers, Grand River Brewing, Great Lakes Brewery, The Hamilton Brewery, Highlander Brew Co., Ironwood Hard Cider, Junction Craft Brewing Company, MacLean's Ales, Mill St. Brewery, Muddy York Brewing Co., Niagara College Teaching Brewery, Nickel Brook Brewing Co., Rainhard Brewing Co., Sawdust City Brewing Co., Waterloo Brewing Co., Wellington Brewery, and West Avenue Cider.

Five of these (Clifford, Collective Arts, Garden, The Hamilton, and West Avenue Cider,) hail from Hamilton while Nickel Brook is Burlington-based. The Hamilton contingent were showcased during a teaser event held in June that Young described as “great night” adding “It's always a joy to see people discovering their city, and never more so than when they're forging a connection to a local maker. The breweries were all very busy, patrons made a point of tasting the full spectrum of wares, and the room was full until the end…”

It’s fair to say there is not a great deal of overlap between the two events, with the Burlington Festival offerings including national or international brands as well as local: only ten breweries (Beau’s, Cameron’s, Highlander, Mill Street, Bayside, Double Trouble, Flying Monkeys, Sawdust City, and Nickel Brook) overlap both gatherings.

Since the Burlington event has 32 breweries and cideries (plus one winery) that means a serious enthusiast could sample the offerings of no less than 52 establishments over the course of just two - instead of 52 - weekends!

That could add up to a prodigious sampling, so there is sensibly a Designated Driver pass available for Because Beer, and a beer-less “Park Pass” for the Burlington festival. As an alternative, use a service like Driverseat (289-812-5945) who assure me they’ll get you, and your vehicle, home safely from either of the events.

To see more pictures, click here.

To see all past columns please see (and “like”) the Food for Thought Archives

Alex (Alex can be reached at fft@thehamiltonian.info or on twitter @AlexBielak)

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