Torrential rains were predicted. A tremor had swept through Toronto earlier in the day. But none of that would stop a large group of beer drinkers from attending Cass and Troy’s First Annual Ontario Craft Beer Week Pub Crawl. Led by our two intrepid hosts, Cass Enright (founder of The Bar Towel and Free Our Beer) and Troy Burtch (Great Canadian Pubs & Beer and TAPS Media), the pub crawl took us to five bars/restaurants in the Kensington Market/Annex areas of Toronto. Armed with wristbands and raffle tickets (*spoiler alert* I didn’t win anything!), we proceeded to drink and get very, very sweaty.
The first stop, the Victory Cafe, was the only Annex spot on the crawl, but probably the bar known by most drinkers (and not just because I go there often). As the temperature was well over 30 degrees and my walk had made me quite parched, a Beau’s Lug Tread was called upon to quench my thirst. The tap version was extra grassy and was absolutely perfect for the heat (having a large group crammed in the side room of the Victory was not helping). Flanked by my friend Jen, it was time to get to meet some of fellow crawlers (and people who had heard of my because, you know, I’m a celebrity). Cass and Troy welcomed us, previewed what was to come (including some announcements from Cass) and gave away stuff (though you already know what happened there).
Then our group trekked down Markham and across College St to Caplansky’s Deli, which is Toronto’s smoked meat mecca. And what makes Caplansky’s even better is the nice selection of craft beer (Denison’s Dunkel, Mill Street Organic). My pint of Duggan’s #9 was in fine form – lots of malt, but a refreshing bitter finish. For the first time, I got some citrus coming through. Having already eaten, the worst part about Caplansky’s was being seated near the meat – that shit is just cruel. Soph and I made a trip to Schwartz’s in Montreal and the Caplansky’s sandwich looks quite different, with really thinly sliced meat instead of huge chunks that fall out everywhere. Just wanted to point that out for any smoked meat purists. Cass announced that the Golden Taps awards would be a two-day event. The awards will be handed out on Saturday, August 21st and there will be a seven-course dinner at beerbistro the night before. Each course will be paired with a beer form Ontario. As that will be ten days before the end of my blogging, I think I’ll be there.
The next stop was the back room of Ronnie’s Local 69. The sun (and humidity) were still going strong and we were starting to pray for a heavy downpour. It was my first time at Ronnie’s and I was quite surprised by the variety of taps (Delirium Tremens, Erdinger Weissbier, Great Lakes Devils Pale Ale and Stratford Pilsner and Common). I just needed something refreshing, so the Mill Street Lemon Tea Ale seemed the right choice. I don’t love the beer but I don’t hate it – it just feels incomplete. Still, it does the trick when your chatting and sweating through layers of clothing.
It seemed like we lost a large chunk of our group, but then suddenly everyone had rejoined at the Embassy, one of Kensingtons nicer spots that is tucked away, far enough from the main strips. The Black Oak Summer Saison was on tap and in fine form (ie. spicy and yeasty). Cass revealed the next Bar Towel private order would be for Picaroon’s. I got a chance to talk to Cass and he spilled the beans about a big announcement talking place Saturday at the Session festival (and no, I won’t tell – you’ll have to go and hear for yourself). By this point, the crawl had formed into a rather cohesive group, with everyone chatting with new friends, lots of people being brought together by a love for beer (for evidence I present the photo of Troy and I lusting over some Black Oak).
Even with work the next morning (guys, maybe you could make it on a Friday next time?), I had to complete the crawl, especially because a cask of Great Lakes Lackey’s Casky was awaiting us at the Cloak and Dagger. The sun had finally gone down, making the night much more bearable. The beer was tasting great – fruity and hoppy, with a nice malty backbone. I was sad when I had to cut the night short, but my bed was calling (especially after the last pint).
The night was obviously a huge success and it was surprising that it had only come to fruition within the last week. Cass and Troy were the perfect hosts – two guys who weren’t in the beer industry when they started out, but have made many contributions to the Ontario beer scene and given up a lot of their time for the greater good. It was great to meet so many people that spanned the beer industry, from the casual fan (my friend Jen) to beer geeks and all the way through to the people who find themselves knee deep in wort and hops every day (the lucky bastards!). Thanks again to Troy and Cass for putting on the crawl. I’ll see you at the next one!
Today: 2.75L. Year-to-date: 126.58L.