It doesn’t matter where you live in this craft-beer loving country, chances are, there’s a beer festival near you. And guess what? They start in January. So buy some tickets, get ready, and hit a beer festival—or several.
Central City Winter Cask Festival
Surrey, January 24
It may be cold outside, but the Central City Winter Cask Festival has a whole bunch of casks that’ll warm you right up. And if you’re into giving your taste buds a workout, Central City will have a mystery cask from brewmaster Gary Lorin.
Robbie Burns Cask Festival
Victoria, January 25
Not content with celebrating the most famous Scot of them all with haggis, scotch eggs, and whisky? Well, the Robbie Burns Cask Festival will have Scottish inspired beers from eighteen breweries—and frankly, if there’s one thing Scots do well (aside from whisky, universal public education, capitalism, and other inventions that make the modern world modern), it’s beer.
Roundhouse Winter Craft Beer Festival
Toronto, January 31
Just can’t wait for beer festival season, which is mainly a summer thing? Steamwhistle has you covered with the Roundhouse Winter Craft Beer Festival. Snow’s falling, so pop on a toque and enjoy some delicious winter beer with your poutine and mini-donuts.
Calgary International Beer Festival
Calgary, May 1 – 2
They don’t do things small out west, that’s for sure. The Calgary International Beer Festival features over 700 beers from over 80 countries, and it takes up three halls of the BMO centre, which, for non-Calgarians, means that there’s 150,000 square feet of beer goodness.
Ontario Craft Beer Week
Over thirty craft brewers participate in over 150 events across Ontario, making Ontario Craft Beer Week and awesome celebration of the province’s fast-growing craft beer scene. And it doesn’t matter where you are—Kingston, Guelph, Essex, Orangeville, Woodstock, Niagara-on-the-Lake . . . sorry Toronto, you can’t keep everything fun to yourself.
Session is a true beer geek’s festival. The thirty-plus participating craft brewers aren’t just slinging their regular offerings—each makes a special session brew in partnership with a notable Canadian. Two years ago, Tom Green and Beau’s won with a milk stout, and last year Sam Roberts and Spearhead collaborated on a fantastic ale that we’re still enjoying. Of course, there are thirty other great beers you probably won’t get to try anywhere else, so be sure to head down and pace yourself.
Edmonton Craft Beer Festival
June 5 – 6
If the Edmonton Craft Beer Festival’s site looks a bit familiar, that’s because it’s put on by the same people who do the Calgary International Beer Festival, so if you missed out on some of the 700+ beers in Calgary, you can try and find them amongst the 700+ beers that’ll be in Edmonton. Man, Albertans are thirsty. No wonder they drink the province dry during Stampede.
Montreal Beer Festival
Montreal, June 10 – 14
No mater how hung over brewers are after Ontario Craft Beer Week and Session, they always make the trek to Montreal. Why? Without putting too much of a point on it, the Montreal Beer Festival is the most important beer event in North America, with sister festivals in Mulhouse and Rio de Janeiro. And if that doesn’t impress you, maybe the 500 beers will.
Toronto’s Festival of Beer
Toronto, July 24 – 26
300 brands take over the exhibition centre for Toronto’s Festival of Beer, offering something for everyone from recent converts to craft beer to seasoned beer geeks. Come for the World of Beer pavilion, stay for the Brewmaster Sessions.
Roundhouse Craft Beer Festival
Roundhouse is a cool, laid back beer festival. Imagine a picnic outside of Steamwhistle. Then add a bunch of visiting breweries, foot trucks, and live music—and not one ounce of pretension. It makes for a fantastic afternoon.
The Great Canadian Beer Festival
Victoria, September 11 – 12
Mild weather and beer—what’s not to love? Last year the Great Canadian Beer Festival hosted over fifty breweries, and they aim to be interesting. Better go for both days, just to get as much tasting in as possible.
Whistler Village Beer Festival
Whistler, September 17 – 20
Mountains and beer—what’s not to like? The Whistler Village Beer Festival features 150 beers from Canada, the Pacific Northwest, and the world—although, if you know your beer geography, it’s the Pacific Northwest part in which you’ll be especially interested. It’s best to plan to head into town a couple days before the festival or stay a couple days after, since you won’t want to miss out on Whistler’s extracurricular activities, but you also won’t want to miss a second of the beer festival.
Toronto Beer Week
Toronto, September 18 – 25
Toronto Beer Week isn’t’ one event, it’s about a hundred events, hosted by scores of bars and breweries across the city. Tasting flights, live music, food cooked with beer, brewery tours, sweet deals, cask nights, lobster boils, brew master Q&As, occasional free beer, special beer week only sampling . . . you can’t do it all, but goddam, you’ll try.
Toronto, Late October
Foodies have farm-to-table, beer drinkers have cask conditioning. Cask conditioned ale is unpasteurized, unfiltered, and carbonated without use of added CO2 or nitrogen, and you can celebrate it at Cask Days.
Dave Robson is the editor of DailyXY. He spends his time reading books, drinking Scotch, and smoking cigars.
Photo credit: Jeff Rogers.