The weather cooperated, especially at the Saturday afternoon session that Barrie Beer Brother Hago and myself attended. And believe me, I have been at many Beer Fests that weren't so fortunate. Nothing but blue sky and sunshine for us that day.
The collection of breweries from around the world was phenomenal. I tried beers from all over America and Europe, some of which I'll get to eventually in this space.
The two bands we saw on Saturday afternoon, Toronto's Twist and Philadelphia's Mt. Joy were talented, lively and professional, particularly the latter.
And the art - the part of the event I honestly didn't think I'd pay much attention to - man, it was absolutely captivating me. Watching countless artists, all using spray-paint, turn various gray, boring, humongous walls into eye-popping art. No lie, I just kept pausing just to watch. These guys were up on these huge industrial cranes... it was too cool.
I'll be honest here. Going in, I figured, hey man, 51 breweries from around the world, including Japan and Iceland, in one setting, that's the big draw for me. Who gives a damn about music and art? Turns out in the end, I did, very much to my surprise.
Again, to play off my opening line, I knew it was gonna be good but I don't think either Hago or I were anticipating it was going to be this damn good.
But before I wade in too deep, a quick word about my buddy, Hago. As you may know, I take a lot of trips to Las Vegas, the last five times solo. I will happily talk to anyone and everyone while there. And I do. I'm not shy in the least. But next to Hago, I honestly look like a frikkin' introvert. Put this man into any social setting and he's off and running. He works a crowd better than Oprah.
Not that I was sitting on my thumbs, mind you, because, well, who actually does that? Sounds like a good way to break them, frankly.
I got a chance to introduce Hago to Joe and Lindsey Mrav, the husband and wife team that opened up Grain & Grit Small Batch Beer in an old auto garage on Ewan Road in East Hamilton late last year. Numerous trips there, including ones with Beer Bro Glenn and my son, David, have made me fairly easy-to-spot for the amiable couple. (David got to regale Joe with a story about how cool the movie, Black Panther, was. That was Joe's mistake because he asked David what he had done that day. That's all it takes. But bless him, Joe smiled and took it all in.) My first question to them was basically who's at the brewery since I've only ever seen Joe, Lindsey and one other person working there. Like, every single time. They assured me they had covered it off. Well... okay, then.
They, in turn, got to talk to us about one of the two beers they brought - Max's Big Ride, a 5.5%, 57 IBU Milkshake IPA with peach and vanilla. Turns out Max's Big Ride is a charity-event in the name of a seven-year-old local youngster named Max who has a rare genetic disorder called Duchenne muscular dystrophy that halts any muscle growth. So for the past two years, his parents have organized three events to help fund-raise for a cure.
|Lindsey and Joe Mrav, owners of Hamilton's Grain & Grit|
Small Batch Beer, explained to Hago and myself how Max's
Big Ride Milkshake IPA came about and how some of the
proceeds go directly to a specific charity. Just a great job!
But we also met some familiar Twitter friends while there. While Hago and I were basking in the beer-filled atmosphere, Jen Heaslip (@crftbeernkittns) and well-known Toronto beer writer Mike Burton (@beermostly) spotted us and came over to say hey. Like us, both were having a fantastic day in the sun. Mike confessed the only complaint he had was the people who complained online about the Friday night session. It seems everyone and their mothers' basement where they live knows how they would have done it better. News Flash: No, you wouldn't, not even close so go troll your local Dairy Queen or something. It's funny because on Sunday, I posted on Twitter about how great everything was at the Liquid Art Festival with a picture of the event glass.
|When a pretty lady from Toronto radio station, Indie88, offered up free|
high fives, Hago was onboard! Hell, so was I. The Price Was Right, eh?
But the fact is I know what Collective Arts spent on this event and while I won't say how much, it's a fargin' huge chunk of cash. I could retire easily on it. They won't make money. In fact, they'll lose it. A shit-ton. But to them, what the brewery is trying to build here is important. Think about it. Bringing in breweries from around the world costs a little more than pocket change. So - what's the diplomatic way to say this? - take your complaints and shove them up your ass. Because 99.99% of us had a blast. Keep your chirps among the 0.01% of you. (Sorry, that's a downer. But I'm weary of online keyboard warriors griping about everything good. I'll stop now.)
|Brewer Paulie from Thin Man Brewing in Buffalo|
offers me up their Burning Money IPA, a dandy 6.6%
New England style with a big citrus and melon aroma.
And it was great to meet Jen who I tag in a lot of beer photos because I dig her enthusiasm. Hell, I've used her pictures in this. She was wearing her Society of Beer Drinking Ladies ball-cap so I had to ask her how those Beer Fest events they hold were because man, they look like a blast. They were exactly that, she told me. She said while she sometimes doesn't get along with other women in social settings, the comradery at the SOBDL events was completely the opposite. "I can walk in there without knowing a single person and walk out with 25 new friends," she smiled. Very cool.
But it was Mike who did me a huge solid when he steered me towards the Twin Sails Brewing booth out of Port Moody, BC, suggesting I would love their Diamonds Are For Never Honey Oat Double IPA, assuring me, "You'll really like it. And the brewer is there and happy to talk." (My one complaint? That I forgot to get a picture of Jen and Mike when they were standing right there in front of me!!! Bloody rookie move.) Diamonds ended up being one of my favourites of the day. Mike seems to know the styles I favour the most. (So IPAs... following by other IPAs.)
Okay, by the end of the three-and-a-half hour session, I had enjoyed nine beers from around the world and I gotta be frank, every single one was solid. I've already told you about Max's Big Ride and Diamonds (again, great call, Mike) so let's see what else was on the play-list?
There was Magic Rock Brewing's (Huddersfield, UK) Damn Son!, a 6.5% Sour Damson IPA (tasty pucker-face), Two Roads Brewing's 8.2% (Stratford, Connecticut) Two Juicy New England IPA (juicy was bang on the money), Brewski Brewing's (Heisenberg, Sweden) 6% Dolph Double Dry-Hopped IPA (Sweden's onboard with the hops and doing it right), Left Field Brewing (Toronto - local so try this one - a Hago recommendation and he totally called it) 6% Whip Smoothie IPA with passionfruit, orange and guava, Thin Man Brewing's (Buffalo) Burning Money NEIPA (mentioned above).
|Again, another picture I plunked directly from the|
Facebook account of Collective Arts. What can I
say? I liked it. For starters, I now want to try the
beer that's in that glass because I like the colour.
On a final note, when I was watching Philly's Mt. Joy play in the bandshell, I noticed something. While the four guys were doing their kick-ass rock dudes thing, the serene keyboardist and back-up singer Jackie Miclau was gazing out at the happy crowd while she played. Flashing smiles or nodding to whomever she locked eyes with. Like us, she was soaking in the off-stage vibe (as I'm sure the guys were in their own way) but I think she may have been connecting to what the rest of us were, as well. An environment beyond music. An environment that had three prongs just like Aquaman's sick-ass spectre - great music plus really top-flight craft beer aided and abetted by a healthy dollop of wild free-form art. So Collective Arts, you know what you can do better next year? Nothing. Just match this year's Liquid Art Festival because this guy's got plenty more time for that. Hago, my brother, next year, the weekend pass. There was over 120 beers there... and I had nine. I need more! Okay, Scooby Doo Gang, that's it, that's all and I am outta here! Until next time, I remain...