During a recent conversation, I had with Stephen Beaumont about his new book Will Travel for Beer, he answered my question about beer festivals by saying that he’d like to see more specialized beer events in North America. As it happens, we’re getting one right here in Toronto this month.
Crystal and Tara Luxmore (The Beer Sisters) along with Erica Campbell (co-founder of the Society of Beer Drinking Ladies) are launching the Wild Things Fest on June 9 at Propeller Coffee. The two-session event will be more than just a beer-drinking adventure, as our favourite beverage is sharing the limelight with both cider and wine.
Frankly, we couldn’t be happier about that development. Around these parts, beer is pretty much a seven-days-a-week operation. It’s nice to get the chance to sample a bunch of wine and cider in one spot, especially when it all has a beer-fan-friendly bent to it. For all of the liquid offerings, there is an element of funk, spontaneity or wild fermentation—nothing is made with standard, pitched yeast.
Five of the biggest names in Ontario cider—The County Cider Company (Waupoos), Pommies Cider Co. (Caledon), West Avenue Cider at Somerset Orchards (Freelton), Revel Cider Co.(Guelph), Ernest Cider (Aurora)—are behind those creations.
“Folks can expect some really fruity and funky flavour profiles, from a wild-fermented Pina Collada inspired cider bursting with juicy pineapple and toasted coconut and finished with a touch of lactose by Ernest Cider Co. to a funky and acidic spontaneously fermented strawberry-rhubarb cider from West Avenue Cider Co,” Luxmore says.
On the wine side, we’re pumped to try the orange wine from Southbrook in Niagara, Eric Texier’s Chat Fou from France, and SP68 Bianco by Arianna Occhipinti in Sicily. All of the vino comes from the “natural wine” category that has really caught on like wildfire over the past couple years.
The brewery list is just as impressive with funk-heavy favourites like The Exchange Brewery (Niagara-on-the-Lake), Halcyon Barrel House (Vankleek Hill), Half Hours on Earth (Seaforth), Nickel Brook Brewing Co. (Burlington), Block Three Brewing (St.Jacobs) and several more.
Naturally, we save a beer-related preview for last: The Exchange Brewery made an elderflower saison and aged it in West Avenue Cider Barrels on lees for three months.
Also, and this will be an entirely new experience for us, they will be pouring wild-fermented rum and gin made with wild botanicals.
The afternoon session has sold out, but there are still tickets up for grabs. Apparently, they’re going quickly, so best to book now.