We had the opportunity to attend the Second Annual Winter Brewfest here in Toronto this past weekend . Not knowing much about the event, we attended with no expectations and only what the website had advertised.
“For a second year, lovers of craft beer are invited to inside Enercare Centre’s Heritage Court at Exhibition Place to celebrate our brewing wealth. March 24-25th, come sample more than 150 beers crafted from brewers from across Ontario and Quebec. In a warm and festive setting, come and discover a wide range of local craft breweries and nibble on delicious gourmet food from Toronto’s best food trucks.”
We arrived around 6:15pm (shortly after opening) to a line up which was moving fairly well. After roughly about 15-20 minutes and someone moving up and down the line yelling “the event is sold out! no ticket? no entry!”, we were in the building and past security without any hassle. Looking on the crowd of people flooding the doors it may have seemed that this process would taken hours to enter, but it was very well managed and allowed the line to move fairly quickly. We received our wristband and recyclable cups to be then let into the festivities.
Wristbands and Beers
Like any major event there were wristbands, though the cool part about these wristbands were their tap feature which was something new to me. On your wristband was an electronic chip which was used to allow re-entry to the event and a token count system. You would simply go to a top-up station located at different points around the room to purchase and add tokens to your wristband. The event also promoted an online feature where creating an account for registering the wristband and attaching a credit card would offer a service to automatically load tokens. Unfortunately I met some technical difficulties when trying the auto top-up feature that tech support could not solve either. The website claimed i could register up to 3 wristbands on one account, but this was not the case providing a bit of an issue for us needing to use one credit-card.
Paying the Tab
How many tokens does it cost per beer? I found the cost of tokens (or as they call them, “brew bucks”) to be reasonable and expected. On average most booths were 2 tokens per 4 ounce of beer with the odd 3 or 4 token charge – beers were poured in either 4 ounce or 8 ounce. To top up your wristband, tokens cost $1 CAD each at a minimum of $10. So to do the math properly, a 4 oz pour would essentially cost guests $2 CAD – we also got the most brew for our buck with the generous pours they were giving guests.
Knowing the size and capacity of the Enercare Centre, I had expected a space so large to house a ridiculous amount of people and booths. Instead they used the smallest space in the building to cram roughly (my guess) 5000 people within its walls, which only felt smaller once capacity was met. I may be accustom to the Toronto Festival of Beer where the majority of the exhibition grounds is used to service an extremely large crown and multiple booths, but Winter Brewfest at its capacity, congested lines for beer having to wait roughly 15 minutes or more. In my observation and among my own group of friends, this lead to most people lining up at the end of the evening for a refund on remaining tokens.
What we came for!
Referring to the website list of breweries and beers it lists a pretty substantial number. All though there was quite a bit to taste, there were a few times throughout the evening where beertenders sadly informed me that either the keg was finished, unaware of the beer I was looking for, or was not pouring a specific beer even though it was listed. This was strictly my observation but I felt as though the list was misleading. Even with some momentary disappointment we still had a fantastic time and drank our dragons share of beer.
Overall Winter Brewfest wasn’t all that bad! The idea of having an indoor beer festival in the month of march during these cold Canadian winters gives us beer loving Torontonians something to look forward to. There are a few things that could use some fine tuning, but for only being the second year in operation we had a lot of fun and will defiantly be re-attending next year. Cheers!