I have a soft spot for my OG Hometown Craft beer heroes Collective Arts and when they asked if I'd like a pair of weekend passes to this years Liquid Arts fest, I couldn't really say anything but "Thank you" and "Can't wait to see you all". I haven't been writing about beer that long, not quite 4 years, but I haven't missed a CA release in the whole time either. So I come by that love quite honestly. I am enamoured with the community of craft beer lovers and with the closeness to my house, this fest seemed like we could at least go for 1 of the 3 sessions and then wander back to The Manor for a night cap. I joked that there was no way I could do all 3 Sessions without dying but in the end we did go to all 3 and had a blast at each one.
The vibe was super chill all weekend, little in the way of drunk and disorderly and anything untoward was addressed quickly by security and with no bullshit taken. A large concern for me going in was the "token less" nature of the festival, that is you only pay for your admission and then you drank what you wanted, no tokens or further money required. Rampant over consumption and rowdy drunks were not an issue as the volunteer staff was well versed and had no trouble cutting people off if necessary, not that I saw much of anything resembling that level of idiocy, although I am sure it existed. The upside to a non token festival is that you can get half pours, dump a beer you don't like and you don't feel like you've wasted your money. So many times I would take a few sips and feel like it wasn't for me and politely dispose of the contents and proceed to the next one. A green peppery tasting off flavoured Hefe met this fate along with a few stouts that rocked the smokey level too high for my style, but for the most part it was smooth sailing.
The layout of the festival this year was a solid plus as well. Spreading out over a larger footprint gave it a strolling component but not like you had to trek for miles for the next tent. It didn't feel overcrowded even when the place was jumping because you had room to move and sip. The grouping of breweries was easy to navigate and with little trouble we found styles to each of our liking every step of the way. Loads of IPAs, Double and Triple IPAs, NEIPAs, Imperial Stouts, Sours and even some Pilsners and Lagers for an old guy like me who just wanted a damn beer from time to time. Breweries from 14 countries meant we were getting stuff from all over, although I would have liked to see more locally or culturally significant to that particular country as opposed to another hazy IPA. But overall, there was literally a beer for everyone and any taste bud could find happiness in their afternoon or evening.
|Meeting my Beeroes|
I will admit the art and music were not a huge thing, but my tastes in both run a little more old school so it wasn't really something I was putting much stock in as the day went on. For the most part, it was just noise in the background as the festival crowd rose and the laughter and pints flowed along with it.
Running into fellow beer lovers you only know online is a big part of why we did all 3 sessions. So many friends coming in at different times and I couldn't help but want to hang out a little and chat while we drank. As someone who does very little to no socialising, it was a safe and beautiful way to experience the community and make people as part of my day. Lots of folks stopped me just to tell me they enjoy the videos or the writing and to be honest, I am stunned and humbled whenever anyone tells me that. A lot of hugs and handshakes, although as the night went on the latter became more prevalent. Craft beer isn't just better beer, it seems to create some very strong bonds between strangers who quickly become friends.
While I am no longer an UnTappd kind of guy, it was fun seeing people's excitement as the added to their running totals and got badges all day long, well over 200 different beers available and that included a dedicated Ontario Craft beer tent that was often staffed with the brewers themselves. Things sold out and although there was the occasional long line for certain beers, I didn't have to wait long when I wanted something. Literal strangers would strike up a conversation and within minutes we were enjoying beer tales of days gone by.
|Polk doing Polk Things|
For the most part, these things are the things happening every weekend at Beer festivals and breweries around the world. People like being part of something bigger than they are and this community is made up of a lot of regular working folks who just want a little tipple on the side of fun at the end of an often heavy and dreary work week. Family obligations, kids events and just plain old life are complicated and messy and if for a few hours we can escape that and just enjoy a couple of pints with like minded people, I think that is the biggest success of all.
Whether or not you enjoy yourself has a lot to do with what you expect going into the day and this year I think Collective Arts certainly took the things from last year that did not work (i.e. international bottle shop and a VIP that under delivered) and fixed them by keeping it simple. Getting in an hour ahead of everyone was worth a few extra buck for those with the Mothership Passes and with the other events, food trucks and even a complimentary Caesar/Gin Bar, hair cuts from Architect Hair design, Tattoo artists and more, the value was there for anyone who wanted it.
Thank you once again to Toni and the staff at Collective Arts for always including us in these events and for being open and accepting whenever I have a question or criticism of what they are doing. I do strive for honesty in all things and I can truly say Kat and I had a wonderful time that we will long remember.