Real Canadian Craft Beer Festival – Niagara Falls

11 Apr

IMG_20140405_152259_hdrThe promise of Ontario’s best craft brews, food trucks and live music crammed into a convention centre space was almost all we needed to hear to head to Niagara for the weekend! When we arrived, it was apparent that we weren’t the only ones who felt that way. TONS of people showed up for the inaugural festival.

After waiting a bit in a quick moving line, we walked onto a huge floor space already filled with beer enthusiasts and well-known as well as smaller independent breweries. It was a bit overwhelming to move through the crowds in order to survey what was available because beer tends to be a social drink and people were milling about around the lines and different vendors. The music was a cool idea (even though the acoustics weren’t great) because what evokes summers at the cottage more than a crisp delicious beer and listening to a Blue Rodeo cover?IMG_20140405_151541_hdr

Drinks and food were purchased with $1 tokens. Samples generally cost 3 tokens each and food ranged from 4-10 tokens.

The food options included: Smoke’s Poutinerie, El Gastronomo Vagabundo, a vendor selling pulled pork sandwiches, as well as pizzas baked in a wood-fired pizza oven, and a truck from the Canadian Food and Wine Institute. We were disappointed to see a vendor offering generic “tube steaks.” The selection, to be honest, was all over the place probably to cater to all tastes. We would welcome more adventurous food pairings at future events! Our winner was El Gastronomo Vagabundo’s fried chicken cutter (no picture … because we shovelled it too quickly into our faces …) and we were intrigued by the options on the CFWI truck as well, which we would have tried if we had bottomless pits for stomachs.

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el gastronomo vagabundo!

At a show that advertises “craft beer,” we made sure to steer clear from mainstream and widely accessible beers. Our top three:

Brickworks Ciderhouse: Toronto will have its first craft cider this Summer! It’s an English style cider that has a sharp and crisp quality. We found it refreshing without any of the cloying sweetness in the bigger brands available at the LCBO. They currently operate out of North Toronto but they’re moving into Evergreen Brickworks. What we loved on top of the taste: a portion of their sales goes to supporting Evergreen Brickworks!

Dakota Pearl Ale (Ramblin’ Road Brewery Farm): A beer made from potatoes?  A beer made from potatoes! Whereas the Brickworks Cider seemed to channel cool urban sophistication, this beer, brewed at what claims to be Ontario’s only brewery farm, had rural charm. We were happy to find that this beer was not simply a gimmick and actually tasted great! We can’t wait to have this beer again, perhaps with some kettle chips Ramblin’ Road makes with the very same spuds! Potatoes go with potatoes, right?

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Hops n’ Robbers IPA (Double Trouble Brewery): We are suckers for a playful name and, having never heard of this brewery, we knew we had to give it a shot.  In recent years, it seems that brewing increasingly bitter IPAs has become something of a you-know-what measuring contest between breweries. This more modestly bitter beer was a refreshing change of pace. It was the kind of beer we could see ourselves enjoying while listening to a Jays game on the radio. (It should be noted such a beer will not be enjoyed AT a Jays game since the team has unfortunately decided to spurn Canada’s craft breweries in favour of the big money of the big breweries.)

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Honourable Mention: One brewery had brilliant idea for a food pairing: ale and oysters.  Sampling this duo reminded us of afternoons spent exploring ancient pubs in London, England. We’d love to see more of these adventurous pairings at next year’s show because it’s such a fun way to highlight the complex flavours in artisan grade beer. (Samuel Adams, for example, partnered with Rock Lobster to offer lobster at the Delicious Food Show!)

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The RCCBF is not about the beer you had at university dorm room parties. The beers are not meant to be funneled or “shotgunned,” ingested as quickly a possible, bypassing the taste buds. Rather, they are meant to be drank slowly and thoughtfully (perhaps enjoyed on a patio), savouring the complex flavours much like one would for a glass of wine. It is perhaps fitting, then, that this festival was held in the heart of Ontario’s wine country.

Despite some minor organizational kinks (line-ups that were split for some reason, the lack of ATMs in the space, and only one booth inside the convention space that sold tickets), the RCCBF was an exciting event that will no doubt develop into something really spectacular in coming years.

We want to thank RCCBF for providing our writers with passes to the event! We happily purchased food and drink tokens in order to try the tasty offerings. 

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One Response to “Real Canadian Craft Beer Festival – Niagara Falls”

  1. Karina April 15, 2014 at 2:27 pm #

    This is on our list of events to attend next year. Thanks for giving us a glimpse into the craft beer scene! You’ve given us some ideas for new breweries to check out!

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