By Mallory Clarkson/London Community News/Twitter: @MalloryClarkson
Local ale aficionados will be in for a frothy treat mid-August when a craft beer festival returns to downtown London.
Through a partnership with APK Live, event organizer Aaron Brown said the Forest City Beer Fest will have something for everyone.
“There’s 13 booths, some of them are Ontario, some of them are import agents that deal with foreign beers and beers from other parts of the country,” Brown said. He added a different craft brewer or agent will occupy each of the booths, offering samples of at least two brands of local, Canadian and international beer (with the exception of Steamwhistle).
Brewers will also be giving talks on subjects like how beer is made. Later in the day, DJs and bands will also be playing live music.
Brown began the preliminary legwork for the event around February or March of this year. He said he found some inspiration through a former — now defunct — beer festival that was held downtown London.
“I don’t know much about the original beer festival. I’ve heard mixed things about it, but very few negative things,” Brown said. “That’s what kind of got me started.”
After reading into liquor license laws with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario and crunching numbers since March, Brown was given final approval to hold the event at APK Live — only eight-and-a-half weeks before the Aug. 11 event date.
“It’s gone pretty well given the limited amount of time we’ve had to do it,” Brown said.
He explained he contacted every single agent and brewer he could and the first 13 that replied, will be at the event.
The participating brewers are Flying Monkeys, Great Lakes, Double Trouble, North American Craft, Lake of Bays, McClelland Premium Imports, Mill St., Muskoka, Nickel Brook, Railway City, Silversmith, Spearhead, Steamwhistle and Snowman.
The latter company produces a gluten-free beer, unlike any other, Brown said.
“They’re a really cool company, they’re really small and they’re just starting out, but they make really different gluten-free beer,” he said. “They’re using millet and buckwheat that they’ve turned from a seed into malt all on their own, there are very few people who malt their own grains.”
But, the gluten-free beer is just the beginning, as many robust ales, crisp lagers and rich stouts will also be available.
One of the more unique brews — that has beets on the ingredient list —be brought by the St. Thomas-based Railway City.
“There’s going to be a lot of stuff that isn’t always in the LCBO or maybe isn’t in your local bar and a lot of variety in one spot at one time,” Brown said.
With the broad selection available, Brown challenges people to try some suds that fall outside of their comfort zone or regular go-to beer.
“There’s something out there for you that you’ve never tried that you’ll also like and that’s part of the fun,” he said. “Beer has so many styles, they’re so distinct in colour, aroma, in texture.
“It’s fun to think outside the box and try new stuff.”
In total, there are 47 microbreweries in the province. Sales of Ontario’s craft beer reached $190 million in 2010, which represented a five per cent share of the provincial beer market.
On the national platform, nine per cent of the Canadian market is supplied by microbreweries. In total nearly 22 hectoliters of beer is produced annually, wetting the whistles of the approximately 10 million pint-drinking Canadians.
With numbers like that, it’s not surprising the brew the most popular alcoholic beverage in the country.
But, what makes the drink so popular, especially considering pub patios are open because of the warm weather?
Brown cracks that up to tradition (aside from the cooling effects of a chilly pint).
“It’s a ritual, we’ve been doing it for thousands of years, is making and drinking beer together,” he said. “If beer is the reason or the excuse you have to get your friends around the table in the nice weather, that’s its function. It brings people together.”
If you’re undecided about attending the event, Brown stressed you’ll miss out if you don’t.
“The whole idea is to have it so that everyone can be comfortable,” he said. “Some of the brewers are going to (talk about) how beer is made, then once it starts to get a little later, we’re going to put on some bands and DJs and things like that.
The Forest City Beer Fest will be taking place at APK Live on Aug. 11 from 4 p.m. until midnight.
Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online at www.forestcitybeerfest.com/tickets, at APK Live, the Artfusion Gallery, Grooves Records, Hot Dog Musique and Cinema, Osmap’s Grilled Cheeserie, and Jonathon’s Brewhaven Beer and Wine. A sampling glass and three beer tickets is included with admission.
For more information, brown can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.