When I woke up on the morning of the Duke Pubs Beer Fest, I have to say, I had my doubts. The air was damp and chilly, the sky grey and ominous. 6 Pubs? 6 Breweries? On a dreary day? No chance. Needless to say, I was happily mistaken.
When I arrived at the Duke of Devon, in the heart of Toronto’s Financial District I was happy to see a packed patio of beer lovers and weekend strollers enjoying samples of Creemore Springs Lager and their new addition Hops &Bolts under the Mad & Noisy brewery name. The Duke’s chefs were serving baby back ribs and Black and Blue Steak Salad, the perfect complement to the
beers being showcased. The sun was shining as beer expert extraordinaire Roger Mittag
explained how Creemore continues to impress craft beer lovers with their commitment to high quality brews.
After trying the Hops & Bolts, I sauntered up the street to the nearby Duke of Westminster, where the Keith’s Hop Series was being sampled. Guests were able to try both the Hallertauer Hop Ale & the Cascade Hop Ale, and were also encouraged to guess which hops were used for each beer. And what was the prize for guessing correctly? Keith’s own Cascade Hop Ale hot sauce. We were then taken for a tour of the Westminster’s keg fridge, as BetterBeer.com Founder and Certified Cicerone, Steve Riley, explained
what exactly goes in to serving up your perfect pint. While chatting in the fridge I was lucky enough to meet Keith’s super fan Tim Spears and wife Sharon Casey. I assumed that Spears must be from the East Coast but when I asked him he reported, “Nope. East York!” He went on to tell me he’s been a fan of the beer ever since he began serving it decades ago at the Royal Winter Fair. One sip and he never went back. I’m sure this isn’t the last time I’ll run into these two Keith’s fans.
The clouds had disappeared when I, along with a travelling crew of Duke Pub crawlers, arrived at the lively Duke of Richmond. The Doin’ Time Bluegrass Band had everyone hand clapping and foot stomping, while we sampled the flavourful, unfiltered SteamWhistle Pilsner. Inside, Mirella Amato, renowned Canadian Master Cicerone, educated the crowd on the history of Pilsner. I even managed to get a hold of my very own Steam Whistle whistle, much to the dismay of my companions.
With half the Dukes down, the travelling crowd continued to become more sociable and boisterous. My favourite beer Guinness was on special at the Duke of Somerset where guests were welcome to step up and try their hands on the tap. Guests were awarded with “Perfect Pint” certificates as proof of their “in-depth training.”
With two pubs left to go, and after delicious mini burgers and snacks, I’ll admit I was on the hunt for dessert. Luckily, the Duke of Kent was serving Fuller’s London Pride Ale and Fuller’s Black Cab Stout. I found nothing balances the bitterness of these two beers like a Sticky Toffee Pudding or a Chocolate Fudge Brownie. This made the venture up to Yonge and Eglinton more than worth it.
The Duke of York was my final destination. The patio was full but I managed to find a spot next to Moosehead Brand Manager, Deirdre McDonald. She recommended I try the Twisted Tea, which she informed me has been flying off the shelves at The Beer Store so far this summer. It was love at first sip. If you love iced tea and summer, you will love this beer. I sat there sipping my beer listening to Don Campbell cover Mumford and Sons and looked around the bustling patio and thought to myself, “Damn. This has been a good day.” It goes without saying, I was asleep before 10pm.