This was my first solo coverage of a beer festival (I tag teamed with Danny Brown this past spring with the Toronto Craft Beer Festival at Ontario Place).
Danny checked out the Hamilton I Heart Beer Holiday Festival last weekend. That looked to be a great line up of breweries.
Being in marketing and public relations, I appreciate what goes into running events and the I Heart Beer team know what they are doing when it comes to running craft beer festivals.
They chose the Queen Elizabeth Building on the Canadian National Exhibition grounds, which was close to both GO Train and multiple TTC streetcar lines.
They brought in some great food truck vendors to go along with the beer and had multiple glass rinsing stations situated all over the hall.
Tables and chairs were plentiful, and fun with a mix crayons and colouring books. There were also multiple Jenga games.
The attendance was a younger crowd – I’d say 50/50 men and women, and it was a good-natured crowd.
The Brewery line up was interesting. You had some stalwarts like Collective Arts from Hamilton showcasing their Stranger than Fiction Porter and Hazy Vermont Style IPA (worth the drive to Hamilton).
Lake of Bays Brewing Company from Baysville showed a really nice seasonal black IPA, while a lot of up and coming breweries like Market, Northern Maverick shared their latest line up.
What really struck me was the absence of a large number of Toronto craft breweries like Junction Craft Brewing, Amsterdam, Left Field, Black Oak, Muddy York, and more.
My guess, timing being closer to Christmas, promotional budgets are pretty much tapped out and craft breweries are doing more in-brewery events to save money.
The other challenge is timing – once you get into December; it gets busy for a lot of people.
Another thing that struck me with the breweries that did attend the I Heart Beer Toronto Holiday Festival is that they seemed to push more lagers and pilsners than the Hamilton show (look out for a report on that from Danny soon).
Again that can be chalked up to who wasn’t there as opposed to the companies that were, like Ace Hill whose Pilsner is their only beer.
I Heart Beer runs a tight ship. Who knows, if they run a spring event, then you’re not competing against the MLS championship across the street (congratulations to Toronto FC!).
If they can also get a few more diverse breweries involved, it would be a great beer festival, as opposed to a good one.