Culture & Entertainment

Drinking up at Toronto's Festival of Beer

By: Day Helesic
Canadian Living
Culture & Entertainment

Drinking up at Toronto's Festival of Beer

By: Day Helesic

Toronto Festival of Beer Guest post by Leah Morrison Last week I attended Toronto's Festival of Beer, a three-day exhibition of major and local breweries. I registered and was escorted to the media lounge with my little beer-tasting mug in hand. Although the mug was the perfect size for sampling beers, I had imagined tasting brews in their proper glasses. Based on the number of booths at the festival, however, I realized the sampling mug was the only way to go. Drinking beer out of the right glass can make a big difference in taste. Glasses are designed for the beer to hit the area of the tongue (sweet, salty, sour or bitter) that will enhance its flavour, says Robert Flatt, chief operating officer at the Grizzly Paw Brewing Company in Canmore, Alta. That means a specific style of beer should be paired with a specific style of glass. For example, an IPA is served in a glass shaped to direct the beer onto the sweet section of the tongue, in order to fully experience its taste. Beer glassware includes tulips, mugs, Weizens and chalices, amongst others. I was delighted to find local breweries showcased at the festival. Flatt explains that small breweries play an important role in the community. “It can be the base of the economy,” he says, especially in a small town. Owned and operated by Canmore residents, Grizzly Paw only employs locals. The company has been around for years and has left its mark on the town. “Grizzly Paw is well known in Canmore, and we are increasingly involved in the small community.” The company supports the annual folk festival, sponsors town events, and even has a float in the Canada Day parade. I noticed that the festival had few beers from other parts of Canada. That’s because, if breweries want to distribute their product in another province, they must follow that province’s set of government regulations. “It’s very tough for small breweries to get their beer out of the province,” Flatt says, noting that Grizzly Paw beers are distributed mainly in Alberta, with a small amount available in Saskatchewan. “But in Alberta, I can enjoy a beer from almost anywhere in Canada,” says Flatt. Alberta’s regulations aren’t as stringent as other provinces, which is why about 2000 beers can be found there, as opposed to the 900 in Ontario or the 800 in B.C. I wandered around the festival, thinking that my dad and I will have to attend together next year. Beer has a surprising number of health factors that my (youthful-looking) sixty-five-year-old father could benefit from—not that he would need much persuasion to attend. Not only does beer contain antioxidants and high levels of silicon (which is great for bones, hair and skin), but drinking it in moderation has been linked to preventing Parkinson’s disease, dementia and atherosclerosis. Drinking craft beer can even minimize a hangover. Hangovers are a result of factors such as dehydration (causing lightheadedness), and increased production of stomach acids (causing nausea). Commercial beers, made for mass appeal rather than distinction and flavour, are often made with rice, a cheaper alternative. Other artificial additives may also be used in a commercial product, contributing to your morning hangover. Many craft beers, however, are made with natural grains and are easier for the body to digest. “Grizzly Paw makes fresh beer,” says Flatt. “We use 99 percent fresh and local ingredients in the brewing process.” This includes raspberries, citrus, and natural honey, depending on the beer. There are many kinds of beers available in Canada, some more popular than others. Ales, lagers and stouts are some of the most well known. Usually served on the warm side, ales are often aromatic and have a pronounced taste. Because the yeast used to make them ferments quickly, ales are somewhat sweet, with a colour ranging from light gold to shady red. Lagers are lighter, with a clean and balanced taste and coloured in varying shades of yellow and gold. Carbonated and crisp, lagers are best served chilled. Conversely, stout or porter beers are dark in colour, ranging from tan to black. They have a rich, full flavour with a texture that should be creamy and silken, definitely not watery. Canada has many independent breweries, giving Canadians the chance to try new and different styles of beer while travelling the country. If you find yourself on the West Coast, head to the Tree Brewing Company in Kelowna, B.C. for a Beach Blonde, a delicious lager with honey notes. Visitors to Saskatchewan can stop by the Bushwakker Brewing Company in Regina for a rich and buttery Irish Red. The Propeller Brewing Company in Halifax, N.S. offers visitors Propeller Porter with hints of chocolate malt. Now past my university days of just wanting to drink because I could, I’ve learned to have a better appreciation of Canadian beers and what they can bring to the table. “It’s not just about the beer, it’s about the experience,” sums up Grizzly Paw’s Robert Flatt. So remember to enjoy the experience when you can. Try a beer-inspired dish at your next dinner party with this Canadian Living  Beer and Bacon Steamed Mussels recipe. And check out our story on other summer beer festivals in Canada. Photo courtesy of Flickr/CC Maya83  
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Drinking up at Toronto's Festival of Beer

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