Oh beer, where would we be without your delightful burst on our palates and how would the English language function without such magical expressions such as “wobbly-pop”, “pea-eyed”, and the ever popular “%$#@-faced?” Well, I don’t know… but I do know that I enjoy beer. I enjoy beer so much that when Edmonton hosted its inaugural Craft Beer Festival in June 2013, my heart was a tingle with anticipatory delight. Let me tell you, this event rocks and if you are in the area and have a day to completely throw away (well… you’re probably throwing away the next day as well), this event is more than worth a visit.
Entry tickets were extremely cheap last year; less than $20 and an extra $5 gave you VIP access, which allowed patrons to head in to the Northlands Pavilion an hour earlier than those Non-VIPers. They hand you a little four ounce mug, advise you to buy 100 drink tickets (each sample is about 4 tickets), you buy 800, and then you go sample from the over 100 breweries stationed there and choose between the six hundred varieties available to you.
I can’t begin to tell you how successful my little entourage was at using up tickets that afternoon because it was gratuitous, shameful, and awesome. The truth is that this event was legitimately a lot of fun and there are beers there that you will never hear of again. Some are surprisingly excellent and some are wonderfully awful, but the sheer number of provinces, states, and countries represented is astonishing.
Beyond just massive amounts of ales, stouts, lagers, there was an excellent choice of food throughout the pavilion (also using drink tickets) and tutorials ranged from beer-making to beer history to cooking with beer.
The event isn’t just catered to idiots like myself either. Restauranteurs and bar managers are given an excellent opportunity to come from both days of the event and are invited to see whether one of these breweries offer a product that fits its business. A restaurant in Edmonton can meet a brewery from Idaho and together they can make beer fireworks.
There were some unique opportunities while I was there. I tried some 30-year-old bamboo whisky, as well as Rosemary infused pale ale; the strawberry hefeweizen appealed to my palate, whereas one of the pumpkin spice stouts was truly the nadir of the pavilion. To this day that stout haunts my dreams.
I ate tenderloin stuffed Yorkshire pudding, butter chicken, gourmet sausages, mango cheesecake, habenero poutine, and some of the best dry ribs I’ve ever had. By four in the afternoon, Xbox360 hockey provided by one brewery became embarrassing to watch (though our 57 round shootout became strikingly well-attended), and the pace slowed down dramatically.
My day at the Craft Beer Festival was one of the most fun days I’ve had in a long time and is highly recommended for connoisseurs of beer. The event was clean, safe, well-attended, and jovial. Definitely worth a visit if you are in the Edmonton area in early June.