In the lovely little town of Bracebridge, ON the owners of the Griffin Gastropub were hosting the first ever Muskoka Beer Festival at Anne Williams Park that showcased a number of Ontario small brewers from all regions of the province while keeping the mega-breweries at home. They battled through rain in the early going but all reports indicated that the festival was a blast and the turnout was pretty good for the first such festival in the northern town.
Here in Toronto Cass Enright, president and founder of Bar Towel and Free Our Beer, presented the 7th annual Golden Tap Awards at beerbistro before a packed audience. There was a healthy turnout at last years event, a bit thin at times, but this year beerbistro was packed to capacity at certain times throughout the night, which created a line-up to gain entry and showed that the craft beer scene here in Toronto is starting to attract new customers and fans.
The GTA's got underway at 4pm and upon my arrival just shortly after 4:15 there was already a good amount of people sampling from the numerous draught and bottle selection put together by Enright with the help of the breweries (Click here for the entire list). There was a large number of brewers and brewery representatives in attendance this year, more so than in the past, as Mill Street's Joel Manning, Cameron's Jason Britton, F&M's George Eagleson, Great Lakes Peter Bulut Jr, Denison's Michael Hancock, Ron Keefe from Granite, Bruce Halstead from Durham County, Better Bitter's Tim Blakeley, Flying Monkey's Peter Chido, Ken Woods and Adrian Popowycz of Black Oak, Steve Beauchesne of Beau's, Grand River's Bob Hanenberg, Paul Dickey of Chesire Valley, Mike Duggan, OCB President John Hay and many more, all showed up to show their support. There was also a good number of pub and restaurant owners there, and seeing them interact with their clients and the people that deliver them the beer was nice to observe. There was some talk about new beers in the works, distribution updates, and ideas about some new events.
Jim Brickman, founder of Brick Brewing and the man considered amongst the Ontario brewing industry as a trailblazer, surprised a number of people upon his entrance. Brickman, who is no longer with the brewery he founded, was being awarded with an Editor's Circle award for his years of dedication in the craft brewing business.
As with every other GTA festival, individuals were encouraged to vote on their favourite beer in attendance and at 10pm Enright would tabulate the votes to name the Beer of the Festival. Last year Grand River's Bumbleberry Wheat won the award and Bob Hanenberg was on hand to receive the plaque this year. At the end of the night Enright announced that Beau's Lug-Tread Lagered Ale won by a small margin to claim the beer of the night.
Here are the other winners: Congratulations to all!
**The new cask awards were presented in partnership with CASK! Visit them at casktoronto.com.
Best micro/craft brewery in Ontario: Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company, Vankleek Hill
Best micro/craft brewery in Ontario for cask-conditioned ale: Granite Brewery, Toronto
Best bar in the Ontario in terms of draught beer selection: C’est What, Toronto
Best bar in the Ontario in terms of bottled beer selection : Bar Volo, Toronto
Best bar in the Ontario in terms of cask-conditioned ale: Bar Volo, Toronto
Best brewpub or tied house in Ontario: Mill Street Brewpub, Toronto
Best regularly-produced craft beer brewed in Ontario: Beau’s Lug-Tread Lagered Ale, Vankleek Hill
Best seasonally-produced craft beer brewed in Ontario : Black Oak Saison, Toronto
Best cask-conditioned ale brewed in Ontario: County Durham Hop Head, Pickering
Best of the Fest: Beau’s Lug-Tread Lagered Ale,
Four Editor’s Circle awards were also handed out, recognizing significant achievements in the Ontario beer industry. The Editor’s Circle awards were determined by a panel of Bar Towel members and associates. They went to:
Cask Ale Crawl, a weekend long event held in Toronto earlier this year that featured cask ale being served at 6 different bars across the city.
Rob Creighton & Grand River Brewing, for Rob's long participation on the Bar Towel forum and the brewery's quick rise to being one of the best in the province.
Derek Hyde & Amsterdam Brewing, for their Strong Spring Bock, the first high-profile collaboration between a homebrewer and a commercial brewer in Ontario.
Jim Brickman, founder of Brick Brewing, for his pioneering contribution to the Ontario craft brewing industry
There was also a special award handed out at the conclusion of Enright's presentation. John Hay, President of the Ontario Craft Breweries Association was brought forward by Stephen Beaumont who had provided a glowing tribute to Brickman and Hay then called up all the OCB members in the room to help present a plaque to Enright himself for his 10 years of hard work with Bar Towel and for all the work he has done promoting the virtues of craft beer. Enright was quite surprised when presented with the plaque and the loud applause he received from the crowd showed that the OCB aren't the only people who appreciate all he has done in for the industry over Bar Towel's 10 years in existence. It was a good way to cap off the already tremendous awards festival.
I personally find the Golden Tap Awards festival to be one of the best, and most organized, small awards/festival done here in Ontario. It always brings out the brewers, the sales reps, the bar owners, the craft beer fans, writers - really anyone who works in the industry or those that follow the craft market. Already looking forward to next year.