When a beer festival reaches a certain size, it helps to be prepared. Some things hold true for any beer festival (eat lots before and while drinking, consume gallons of water), but each festival also poses unique challenges (see: Mondial de la Biere: A Drinker’s Guide). For those uninitiated to the Cask Days experience, here are my recommendations for surviving, having fun and not getting completely wasted:
- Dress in layers. Cask Days takes place outdoors at the end of October. The day may start sunny and warm, but as soon as the sun has gone down you’ll want some warm clothes (hat, scarf, gloves, long underwear – hopefully you’re already wearing the last one and not putting it on in the bathroom). The Brick Works is a real unknown this year – will it hide the sun and wind like Hart House did? Will there be enclosed areas to warm up if needed? Be prepared for all weather circumstances. (Gloves are recommended regardless of the weather – holding a cold glass for hours is uncomfortable when bare-handed. Or perhaps you just have a stronger constitution than I do.)
- Have a game plan. The full list of the 100+ beers has been released and it’s worth spending fifteen minutes to go through and figure out the beers you really want to try. It’ll be more efficient than wandering around trying to figure out the beer you want next. Unlike Mondial, the Cask Days list is very accurate and substitutions are rare. One or two beers may not make it or the cask will blow up, but hopefully they won’t be the ones you really wanted to try. The beer list does not include ABV though, so try to guess which ones will be lighter (English styles will be your best bet) and start with those. Avoid anything imperial until the end of the session. (With the small sizes served and the number of beers on offer, it’s unlikely that any beer will be finished by the end of the first session and maybe even the second.)
- Don’t drive. Mill Street has sponsored shuttle buses running from Broadview station. On the TTC side, the subway will be closed from Kipling to Keele stations and shuttle buses will be running instead, so give yourself some extra time if you’re coming from the west end.
- Bring lots of cash. Yes, ATMs will be on site, but you’ll still want to come prepared (especially if you’re like me and have an extreme distrust of random on-site ATMs). Between all the beer and food purchasing, having lots of cash is a must. No one said Cask Days was a cheap weekend.
- Be kind to the volunteers. Most of the people serving beers at Cask Days are volunteers. They’ve chosen to pour you beers instead of drinking, which is one of the noblest things I can think of. Thank them for their time. They can also be great sources of knowledge, leading you away from the bad beers.
- Be social. Not only will the Brickwork be filled with delicious cask beers, but also brewers, writers and beer lovers from across the province. Take the time to enjoy some cask beers with someone new and bond over the mutual love of craft beer. (On a side note, always make sure to find out what someone does before you talk about a beer you didn’t like. There’s a possibility you could be talking to a person involved in the making of that beer.) Bloggers also like it when you recognize us. Just saying.
- Try at least one really weird beer. F&M Wurst Idea Ever (a sour ale with brussel sprouts and smoked meat). Granite The Chai Wallah Has A Moustache (oatmeal stout with chai). The Great Lakes X Toronto Brewing Curried Spiced Pumpkin Ale. The Storm Brewing Masala India Pale Ale. These are a few of the wackier options. Remember, you’re only getting a quarter-pint. These are nice to try in a smaller size, because they might not be something you’d want a whole pint of. These are also fun to split with other people, especially with the experiments gone wrong. Spread the wealth, I always say.
- Eat a big breakfast/lunch/dinner. The exact meal depends on what session(s) you’re attending, but eating something big and greasy is always recommended before drinking. And may I suggest skipping the coffee with breakfast? Beer is already enough of a diuretic – adding coffee is just asking for problems.
Those are my suggestions to get the best of your Cask Days experience. For another fun Cask Days read, check out Jordan St. John’s Cask Days By The Numbers. See everyone at the Brick Works this weekend!