To those of us who attended the gathering in <a
it was quite possibly the best assembly of beers any of us have ever
experienced over one weekend. The
numbers who will claim to have been there will increase as the years pass, but
we will be able to say truthfully that we attended the first Ratebeer party.
Act I -- Friday
Kathy and I arrived in Toronto Friday afternoon, checked
into our place, and walked around a bit to take in the city before the
festivities began. After grabbing
dinner we headed to the Quality Inn Midtown, the headquarters for the weekend.
We arrived at the lobby and were soon joined by PsychProf
and his three children, and shortly thereafter, Hoppyman. Soon DougShoemaker came downstairs and told
us the evening was already underway in what we soon learned was the actual
headquarters for the weekend, Room 705, where Volgon was staying. Upstairs, <a
joined Volgon, <a
non-member Don Bible, and the newlyweds, <a
and Princess for an hour of <a
tasting. When we finally left
(hardly realizing we were starting an event-long standard of tardiness), we
headed for Granite Brewing, home to several fine beers available (at least for
now) only on tap.
At Granite, <a
sampled all eight of the beers they had available, before Ron Keefe gave us
a <a href=/images/features/Friday%20Night%20Tour%20of%20Granite.JPG>nice
tour of the brewing facilities. One
of the more interesting sights of the weekend was seeing <a
fermentation in action at Granite.
Next it was on to Denisonís, where we were joined by <a
href=/images/features/Daboskabouter%20at%20Denisons.jpg>Daboskabouter. Denisonís makes some great lagers, including
a <a hrefhttp://www.ratebeer.com/ShowBeer.asp?BeerID=6030>Weizen that
was among the groupís favorite beers of the weekend. Michael Hancock runs a top-notch facility and has a sparkling
brewery that he was kind enough to <a
Next, we headed to Cíest What, a Toronto brewpub and beer
bar that carries a very good selection of beers on tap. By then, my taste buds were shot, so I couldnít appreciate the St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout I ordered. Hell, it was on nitro anyway -- guess Iíll
have to try it another time. After that,
Kathy and I called it a night, but some of the group headed back to Volgonís to
open up a few of the beers. They tired,
but kept going into the night.
Apparently, after everyone else was ready to call it a night, Don opened
up a Fullerís Vintage Ale 2002 -- no one there was willing to let that one go
unconsumed. From what I understand, the
session went until 3:30am.
Act II -- Saturday
Saturday, we headed out to the Ďburbs, well behind schedule
(naturally), to visit <a href=/images/features/Black%20Oak.JPG>Black
Oak Brewing. Ken and George took
good care of us after the long haul there, as <a
were treated to some good beers as well as a <a
href=/images/features/Black%20Oak%20Tour.JPG>tour of their
burgeoning facilities. Black Oak
produces and bottles three regular beers: a Lager, a Nut Brown Ale and a Pale Ale. Theyíd like to make more seasonals, but with demand recently
increasing, theyíre having difficulty halting production of their mainstays
long enough to brew a batch of something else.
After Black Oak, we headed back into town to visit <a
certainly the bar with the best collection of beers in Toronto. There, we ate lunch (good mussels), quaffed
many beers, and engaged in lively conversation ("That beer tastes like
raisins." "No it doesnít, it tastes like raspberries"). At four, we called it an afternoon, leaving
us four hours before that nightís tasting session.
Act III -- Saturday
Have you ever seen one of those contests where someoneís put
in a chamber thatís blowing money, and the personís trying to grab as much of
the money as possible before running out of time? That was Saturday night, only <a
href="/images/features/Bathtub%20of%20Life.jpg">beer was involved
(and <a href="/images/features/Saturday%20Night%20Supplies.JPG">more
beer) and the limitations were time, tolerance and taste buds. <a
href="/images/features/Saturday%20Night.JPG">We gave it our best
shot. My notes indicate that I was
somehow able to try 17 beers that night, many of them quite high powered. I donít know how the others fared, but Iím
sure most of us cleared 10 and a couple might have hit 20. And what great beers they were -- by my
standards, 7 of them scored at least 4.0, and all but 3 were at least 3.4. Of course, not all the evening was spent in <a
tasting mode -- sure Hoppyman provided some fine cheese, but Princess went
out and brought back <a
as accompaniment. We made a dent in
the seeming endless supply of beer we had, but there was never any question of
our finishing it all.
I wasnít there at 8am when Volgon rolled out of bed to <a
the dregs of the Old Numbskull, but I heard all about it. If only they had let me know. As it was, we arrived when the morning
session was about over, after Volgon, Oakes and Daboskabouter had put to rest
10 more beers, though it seemed to <a
out of them. If nothing else, <a
was able to get a sampling of the Marin Old Dipsea Barleywine.
We went out to brunch at La Palette in Kensington Market for
some fine cuisine and some decent beers.
Curiously though, no one ordered more than one beer. The end of the weekend came all too quickly,
and after we all said our goodbyes, Daboskabouter
was kind enough to give Volgon, Kathy and me a ride to the airport on his way
back to Kitchener. DCís home, and we
were glad to be headed back. But damn
we wish we could have had another day to taste more of the wonderful beers we
had there. And maybe even a day or two
to actually check out a little more of the city of Toronto beyond Room 705.