The Roundhouse Winter Craft Beer Festival took place on Saturday, January 31, 2015 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Roundhouse Park (outside Steam Whistle Brewery) in Toronto, Ontario. Since it was an outdoor event, the festival encouraged Torontonians to bundle up and embrace winter: “Don your stompin’ boots, pull on a toque and wear your puffiest parka,” the website warned, and “dare to join us for this crazy Canuck fun!” And fun it was.
Hundreds of people embraced the negative temperatures on Saturday afternoon: a testament to Toronto’s growing craft beer scene. The festival showcased beers from Ontario Craft Brewers, and over 25 breweries were in attendance. This included larger, more well known brewers like local giants Mill Street Brewery and Amsterdam Brewery. Steam Whistle Brewing, as hosts of the event, were also present in full force.
However, the Roundhouse Winter Craft Beer Festival also gave the chance for smaller, more independent breweries to shine: I tasted a variety of beer samples from Great Lakes Brewery, Beau’s Brewing, Side Launch Brewing and MacLean’s Ales and I was impressed with the knowledge of the vendors working at each booth, pouring pint after pint. Everyone was extremely knowledgeable and happy to answer questions about taste and the quality of different brews.
Most of the brewers had more than one type of beer available to sample (usually a light and dark variety) and glass half pint beer mugs were provided to all attendees upon entering the festival. Beer tokens could then be purchased for $1 each: one token would get you a half mug, and two tokens a full mug, making it easy to taste a variety of different brews as the afternoon wore on. As a fan of darker beers, the Dark Lager from Side Launch Brewing turned out to be one of my favourites. The vendor described the beer as a little sweet to start, followed by a malty flavor. As a non-beer expert myself, I have to agree!
The Roundhouse also had fun games and competitions taking place all afternoon, including a “retro ski gear” contest and a life-sized Jenga game. The latter was a huge hit amongst the crowds, as people were happy to participate as they sipped their beer. There were also many large groups of people huddled around fire pits and overhead heaters for warmth. It was a bit cold – but there was a fantastic vibe throughout the festival as friends passionately embraced the winter weather, enjoying one of Canadians’ most popular pastimes: drinking a pint of locally brewed beer.
The first 500 attendees through the gate also received an awesome blue toque with the words “Roundhouse Winter Craft Beer Festival” stitched around the rim: a fitting take away for a truly unique event. I had a blast – and can’t wait to do it again (hopefully in the summer next time!)