At the beginning of August, I attended my first Session Muskoka craft beer festival. Given that it was held in Bracebridge, Ontario, just 20 or so minutes drive from my cottage, it’d be remiss of me not to… 🙂
Given that there are so many fantastic craft brewers up in cottage country, as well as the guest brewers that were advertised as attending the event, this was the perfect way to start winding down the summer craft beer events.
Session Muskoka did not disappoint. Well, not entirely – there were no wash stations for the glasses, which always seems to be a basic requirement – for me, at least – of any craft beer festival.
There were some brewers who had planned ahead, and brought cases of water bottles to wash the glasses with, but dedicated wash stations would have been much better.
That aside, though, the beer was flowing, with over 100 for sampling, the food was good, and the weather beautiful. Below are some of the best beers that I tried.
Brave New World IPA from Town Brewery
I may as well start with – for me – the beer of the event. Brave New World IPA, from Town Brewery in Whitby, Ontario, was a phenomenal pour.
A veritable hop bomb of a beer, the mix of citrus from grapefruit and orange, along with the bitterness provided by the malt, made this a beer I went back to for more.
Sitting at just 6% ABV, it’s not as powerful as some IPAs can be, but that just allowed the flavour in Brave New World to shine more. Highly recommended.
Pobody’s Nerfect Summer IPA from Sawdust City Brewing Co.
I won’t lie – Sawdust City Brewing Co., from Gravenhurst, ON, remains one of my go-to brewers when it comes to delivering outstanding craft beer.
From IPAs to stouts, lagers to session ales, and everything in-between, especially their limited run beers, they just seem to be unable to make anything but great beer.
Pobody’s Nerfect Summer IPA is another release that continues the quality.
Mixing up Galaxy, Vic Secret, Idaho 7 Hop Hash, and Azacca Hop Hash results in a fruit-laden, citrus aromas, and a beautiful orange pour that was perfect for the heat of the day.
The 7% ABV put this at the stronger side of a standard IPA, and you could tell. If it wasn’t for the greatness that was Brave New World, this would have been my beer of the event.
Canvas Kolsch from Canvas Brewing Co.
As small batch as you can get, Canvas Brewing Co. from Huntsville, Ontario, just has one beer in production at the moment, their Canvas Kolsch.
Inspired by the German brewing process, this Kolsch was a refreshing and lighter fare than the IPAs I was mostly drinking at the event.
Mixing Magnum and Hallertauer hops, the result is a crisp lagered ale. With an ABV of 4.5%, and an IBU of just 18, this is a much lighter beer that still delivers a great pour, and perfect for a summer patio drink.
Although Canvas Brewing Co. is relatively new, they have plans to open their brewery and taproom later this year.
Summerweiss Tropical Wheat from Muskoka Brewery
Located in the same town where the Session Muskoka event was held, it was a given that Muskoka Brewery were going to be in attendance.
Another great cottage country brewer that seems to make many more hits than misses, Muskoka had their core beers on tap as well as the Summerwieiss Tropical Wheat seasonal pour.
Using a single hop, Mosaic, this pour is all about the fruit and wheat, with large doses of tropical mango and passion fruit hitting all your senses.
Another great beer for the heat, its 5.5% ABV and low IBU (just 13) means this is an easy-drinking, refreshing, and smooth summer pour.
Lady Friend IPA from Elora Brewing Co.
Located in the heart of downtown Elora, Ontario, Elora Brewing Co. has become one of my favourite craft brewers in the region, primarily because of their Lady Friend IPA.
Winner of multiple awards, including Silver Medal at the Ontario Brewing Awards in 2016, Lady Friend IPA is a smooth pour that keeps the bitterness light (50 IBU) while the hops shine through.
ABV sits at 6%, so again not one of the heavier IPAs around, but this really lets the tropical hops deliver a crisp, fruity pour that stays with you all the way to the end.
Now if only I can persuade them to bring out a double IPA… 🙂
Whistling Paddler ESA from Whitewater Brewing Co.
Having already tried Whitewater Brewing Co.’s Farmer’s Daughter Blonde Ale for a recent podcast, I decided to try Whistling Paddler, their English style ale.
Being a native of the UK before moving to Canada, this beer immediately took me back to afternoons sitting in the beer garden of a British pub, sipping on some local ale.
A malty base offers up a nice mix of caramel, while the local Cascade hops give just the right amount of smoothness to counter the malt. A 4.5% ABV keeps this an easy-going drink.
For a Canadian brewer to get that mix just so says a lot, and that’s two of Whitewater’s beers that I’ve tried and enjoyed now. I look forward to trying more soon.
Peel Out Double IPA from Redline Brewhouse
A recent find, thanks to my wife’s cousin who lives in Barrie, Ontario, where Redline Brewing can be found, this brewer makes some fantastic IPAs.
Knowing their quality for that style, there was no way I was going to bypass the chance to try their Peel Out Double IPA, and man, was it worth it.
A deep orange pour, this is a hop beast, with five different hops thrown into the mix: Azacca, El Dorado, Idaho 7, Equinox, and Cascade.
This mix, along with the 8.8% ABV and 72 IBU, means that this isn’t for the faint-hearted. But for fans of Double IPAs, this is one of the best around in this region.
Session Muskoka – A Qualified Success
With more than 100 beers to try, there was no way I was going to get through all of them! However, of the new ones I did get to try, every one of them delivered something new, and none were disappointing.
Heck, I even got to try a combination of an IPA and grapefruit radler, thanks to the creativity of the Waterloo Brewing folks, and it was much better than I expected!
The Session Muskoka event itself was fantastic. The location, the beautiful Ontario cottage country surroundings, the brewers, the food vendors, the entertainment… everything came together perfectly.
Like I said earlier, I’d love for them to add water stations to clean our glasses in-between samples, but that would be my only gripe.
This is a craft beer event for everyone to enjoy – it even turned my wife into an appreciator of good beer! Thanks to having a cottage in the area, I look forward to this becoming an annual event for me.