The Toronto Festival of Beer has gotten quite a bit of flack in years past for being a vehicle for all of the mainstream brands and this criticism isn’t entirely unwarranted.

I’ve only been going for a couple of years but both times featured plenty of tired brews being sexed up with “booth babes” and loud music, a real-life commercial.  Neither they nor the massive drunken hordes they were serving knew or cared much about beer; the modus operandi could very aptly be summed up as “if it feels good, do it”.

While it can be easy to dismiss this attitude as simplistic and stupid, it can also be a lot of fun with the right friends. I still have fond memories of Human Foosball from two years ago and while a crowd this size will always draw its fair share of idiots, I tend to remember the people I liked.

Bacchanalia notwithstanding, there is some other merit to the event. Great Lakes Caskapalooza!, featuring 20+ unique casks that encompass a wide range of beer styles, has been a consistent favorite ever since it started and I’d expect this year to be no different. Mill Street will have a “busker experience” which I imagine will pair music with their beers.

Last year, all of the Ontario craft beer was featured in the center of the grounds, giving them some much-deserved attention. This year’s attendees include Flying Monkeys, Railway City, Black Oak, Amsterdam, Spearhead and Granville Island, at least a third of which will be featuring seasonals.

Mirella Amato of Beerology will be offering guided tours of the festival on Sunday, at 2:30 and 3pm.

One interesting feature making its debut this year is Mash Up, where 8 breweries will collaborate on developing one-off beers for the festival. Pairings include Beau’s/Black Oak, Nickelbrook/Flying Monkeys, FM/Wellington and Amsterdam/Great Lakes. Expect to see these special brews at each of the brewery’s booths.

I really enjoyed the joint cask by Great Lakes, Amsterdam and Bar Volo that was featured at the Hart House Craft Beer Festival and am definitely looking forward to see what these guys bring to the table this time.

While those who don’t appreciate drunken crowds will stay away, those up for a bit of fun with their beer will probably manage to enjoy themselves. It’s not Session, it’s not even the Hart House Craft Beer Festival but it really shouldn’t be.

I’m just happy I’ve had four festivals to go to this year.

The festival runs from Thursday, Aug. 5 to Sunday, Aug. 7. Thursday and Friday will be evening hours from 4 till 10pm while Saturday and Sunday will be more of an all-day affair from 1 till 7pm.

Friday and Saturday are already sold out but you can still get tickets for Sunday (and avoid some of the weekend crush).

(Photo taken from the Toronto Festival of Beer website.)

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