Let’s talk about Toronto Beer Week. In three weeks time, the city will be overrun will craft beer events that will help to celebrate Toronto as a premier beer destination. Running from September 20th-26th, TBW aims to transform the beer landscape by showing off quality beers and the excellent bars, breweries and agencies that support fine brews. The group behind Toronto Beer Week saw other beer weeks happening around North America and wanted to show that the Toronto craft beer scene was on par with these other cities.
Speaking with representatives of TBW last night, they emphasized that this week is not just for beer geeks but anyone looking for a beer experience that doesn’t involve a bland, mass-market lager. In my opinion, this is a much nobler goal as it is harder to achieve. Creating events designed to lure beer geeks is easy (ultra rare beers! one-offs!), but converting people, changing their mindsets and undoing the damage to palates is a challenge. That’s where the TBW passport comes in – the passport is really a map of craft beer establishments in Toronto with a description for each bar/restaurant/brewery/licensee on the back. Passports will be starting to appear around the city, so keep an eye out. They’ll be a handy year-round guide to craft beer in Toronto and I can pretty much guarantee everyone will find one new beer spot because of it. On the side of the passport is a list of eighteen bars that you can visit during TBW, get your passport stamped and have a chance to win prizes. Free stuff!
Toronto Beer Week is not just going around with a map and drinking beer, though an orienteering pub crawl would be an interesting night. There are also plenty of events happening in the bars and restaurants of the city that will highlight craft beer, fine food (especially sausages) and a wide range of other interests. Some are free, some are ticketed, but all show off the creativity and drive of these establishments. My recommendation is to get out to a variety of events – a pairing dinner, a talk, a sampling night – to get a wide and varied look at craft beer. More events are being listed daily so I’ll leave my final recommendations until later, but I suggest that everyone take a couple of vacation days for that week (my request went in yesterday).
The Monk’s Table was kind enough to have a beer dinner to promote Toronto Beer Week, complete with pairings and the supremely knowledgeable Bill White as host. Bill explained the deep and rich tradition of Belgian beer, highlighting Saint Arnold as the saint of beer (and, as someone else noted, hop picking). The first course was a cream of Belgian endive soup with a smoked mussel and paired with the Gouden Carolus Hopsinjoor. The mussel was fantastic, the endive was nice and light in the soup with the Hopsinjoor contrasting the sweetness quite nicely. As one would expect from the name, the Hopsinjoor is quite hoppy but doesn’t show the resinous qualities of a lot of American beers. It concentrates on being floral and dry, which matches the Belgian yeast quite nicely. A nice first course.
The main course really had me excited – rabbit braised in gueuze, gravy apple sauce and carrot mashed potatoes. The pairing was the Struise Pannepot, a beautiful ruby-brown Belgian strong ale. I spent more time simply enjoying it than analyzing the flavours, but it was complex – dark fruits, roasted/almost chocolately malts, bready. The rabbit was excellent but a little overpowered by the beer, though few foods would be able to stand up to the Pannepot.
Dessert was a strawberry cheesecake covered in Belgian chocolate and matched with the Gouden Carolus Noel. A heavily spiced beer, it cut through the dense, rich cheesecake and lingered nicely on the back of the tongue. Combined, it became a spiced winter dessert that was phenomenal.
And that is the sort of dinner you’ll find at The Monk’s Table, either this weekend during their Saint Arnold promotion, for Toronto Beer Week or on any given night. They have lots of great events and speakers lined up, including Bill White and Stephen Beaumont, plus they will have an Olympic athlete at each event with part of the proceeds going to support Olympic athletes. Make your reservations now. I was taking with Adam Grant, owner of The Monk’s Table, who is a huge supporter of TBW, as well as getting people out of chain-bars and into real pubs, bars and restaurants. The beer scene needs more people like him, who are willing to split some Gouden Carolus Cuvee Van De Keizer Rood and aged Easter Beer to help spread the love of good beer, people who strive to make a community rather than just be. And if you’re wondering like I was, there is no plan for a Monk’s Table website. They’re doing just fine without.
And after all that, a pint of Fuller’s ESB seemed like a good idea. Right now, that is debatable. This is probably the longest amount of time I have spent working on a post.
Today: 2.5L. Year-to-date: 157.15L.