If you attended the first outing of Session last year, you might have been inclined to think it didn’t have a much of a future. Despite the quality of the beer and a thoughtful crowd, the location at Sunnyside was difficult to arrive at, the weather was tempermental and the G20 was a collective bummer in Toronto’s psyche.

Thankfully, Jared Corbeil and Curt Dunlop are back this year with a second iteration of the Session Craft Beer Festival, this Saturday (June 25) and desire to a expand on the possibilities of what a beer festival can be.

First up is the new location at 99 Sudbury, an events venue on Queen West known for hosting parties and the odd tasting. When asked about the switch, Corbeil says it just made sense.

“You can’t control the weather. There is outdoor access but we can be inside too. We definitely wanted to be closer to public transportation.”

Session was no slouch in the craft beer department last year with 21 breweries in attendance and this year, they’re upping that count to a grand total of 36. Local stalwarts like Mill Street and Black Oak are being joined by a contingent from Quebec with Dieu Du Ciel!, Microbrasserie Charlevoix and Trou Mousequetaires, amongst others. BC will be represented by Phillips, Howe Sound and Central City. With breweries from Halifax, New York and Oregon coming as well, be prepared to sample well over 100 craft brews.

There’s also a competition. Attendees can vote for their favorite beer and the winning brewery will have their beer featured in The Beer Boutique for 1 year, travel to the Halifax Seaport Festival to feature their beer and get shelf space with the liquor stores in Nova Scotia.

Most breweries will be bringing one-off casks as well. The one with the most votes gets sent to The Great Canadian Beer Festival in BC. What’s in it for you? If the brewery you vote for wins, your name goes into a draw to win free beer for a year!

Not content to simply feature great beer, Corbeil and Dunlop are giving the day’s entertainment equal billing. While Jason Collett, New Country Rehab and NQ Arbuckle will be performing acoustic sets during the day, the real show starts after 9pm with a full concert by all three that will go into the morning.

Don’t care for the bands? The Blue Mushroom Circus Sideshow will be on hand with burlesque dancers, sword swallowers and BonBon Bombay, notable for utilizing a bra that dispenses beer. (I’m surprised strip clubs aren’t all over this shit.)

For those looking to do a little learning with their drinking, Corbeil’s arranged for Garrett Oliver, brewmaster of Brooklyn Brewery to open the festival at 12PM and do a cooking show at 1:45 (only 50 seats available so get their early!). If you’re asking why you should care, watch the following video and then get back to me. Whatever he does will be interesting for sure.

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As Corbeil tells it, he and his wife were in New York City for their anniversary during a craft beer week. He bought tickets for a boat cruise around Liberty Island with Oliver.

“We had a great time chatting over some beers. I had brought him some bottles from Muskoka Brewery and he mentioned how much he loves Ontario and their craft beer. We’d all been drinking a bit so I wasn’t quite sure what kind of impression I’d made but later, he gave us a call and said that he was coming up for Ontario Craft Beer Week. This is the kind of guy who schedules his time by the hour; he’s incredibly busy and we’re extremely pleased to have him at Session.”

Mind you, he’s not the only attraction. Roger Mittag of Thirst For Knowledge will be leading a couple of seminars centered around weiss and dark beers, Mirella Amato of Beerology will be pairing beer and cheese and Mark Cutrara, the man behind Cowbell and a proponent of local food, will be talking about that movement.

He’ll also be joining Leslieville Cheese Market, Magic Oven, Oyster Boy and Burger Bar in offering enough food to keep the drunkenness at bay.

Admission to the beer festival will cost you $35. The concert that happens later will cost you another $30 or you can snag an all-access pass for $60. Drink tickets are $1 each and will get you a 4oz pour. Pay double and they will fill your stein with beer. Food will cost between $3-5 in tickets.

Session is this Saturday, July 25. The festivities kick off at 12PM and will go on until 2AM.

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