Cask Days was not only an opportunity for me to try a lot of delicious beer, but also allowed me to pour a lot of delicious beer. I was one of the volunteers this year, which gave me a chance to see some of the inner-workings of Cask Days and experience what it like putting on such an event. The fact that I have secretly always wanted to try being a bartender was also a large part of the draw, especially when all I was doing was serving beer (making me more of a beertender). Having already given most of my thoughts about Cask Days in general, here are some quick notes about the view from the other side of the bar/table:
- It should be obvious, but a lot of work goes into Cask Days. Before the event, during and once everybody has gone home, the fine folks are Volo are working their asses off. A four-hour shift wasn’t too bad, but I couldn’t imagine how they felt after being there all weekend, standing in the cold. It’s something we should all remember before complaining about small annoyances.
- I was involved in/overheard some conversations about whether or not Cask Days furthers craft beer in Toronto/Ontario or is just the usual beer nerds and industry folks patting themselves on the back. While there is some truth to this statement, I definitely saw a lot of new faces and converts during my shift. There were people trying their first rauchbier or imperial IPA, then coming back for more. Seeing their enthusiasm over experiencing new flavours in beer was awesome. Having most of the casks outside also led to lots of stares from passersby, who will hopefully seek out Volo and/or cask beer during the year and then come to the next Cask Days.
- People expect you to be the expert when you’re serving them beer, which was fun at times and challenging at others. I was familiar with most of the beers in my section (either from having them previously or light sampling before my shift) and enjoyed the chance to expand people’s knowledge of beer, but not all of the questions were answerable. Why were the Duggan’s #12 Ontario Ale and Saint Andre Parkdale Harvest Ale named as such? No idea, but I liked to joke that the latter contained the tears of hipsters. It would be nice if the brewers could give a five-word description of their beer (example, “Ale with Ontario Hops”) to explain what made it special.
- Cask beer can really change from one pour to the next, especially at the beginning. My sample of the Great Lakes Tenish Anyone? was filled with green hops. The first couple of pours of the Amsterdam CJM Royal Brown Ale came out looking like a frothy chocolate milkshake, after which it just became muddy looking. Seeing the beers change throughout my shift gave me a true appreciation for how dynamic and changing cask beer can be.
The best part was being able to talk to so many people, find out what they thought of different beers and trying to recommend something based on their taste preferences (and if I can brag, I did a pretty good job of it as well. Someone even tipped my seventy-five cents). The only downside is that I had to hear about all these great beers, then wait another day before trying them. That was a planning failure on my part. Don’t be surprised if you see me behind the bar again next year!