It’s the end of October, and while for your average pub-goer it’s an excuse to scrape together a last minute costume (“I’m a psychopath. We look just like everybody else.”) for beer nerds it can mean only one thing: Bar Volo’s Cask Days.
This is going to be sixth annual Cask Days, and I feel like this is as good an opportunity as any to talk a little bit about the history of the thing.
It started out fairly innocuously: A relatively small number of casks on Volo’s Yonge street patio. Over the years it has snowballed. Two years ago, it was a weekend long festival and they had something like fifty casks and I recall one of the highlights being a jury-rigged Randall made out of a cafetiere. Last year they had “Cask Week” which featured a selection of English style cask beer during the week, before launching into the main event. People camped out. I know of at least one Liverpudlian who managed to attend nearly every one of the eight sessions. People making decisions like “I know. I’ll drink a whole pint of Peche Mortel. Well, when am I ever going to get this chance again?” and then promptly falling asleep on their feet.
This year it has expanded even further. It was “CASK MONTH” and a steady stream of Moranas have been pouring cask across the province from Van Kleek Hill to Cambridge. This included the decision to pour English style cask all throughout the week prior to the main event. Cask Days is now mobile. If my projections are correct, next year, even if you live in Moosonee, you’re probably still going to be able to enjoy cask beers thanks to the efforts of Ralph Morana.
I worry about Ralph’s mental state sometimes. He takes a huge amount of pride in his pub, as well he should. It’s a fine place to enjoy a couple of beers. It’s just that as CASK MONTH has progressed, I have noticed a thousand yard stare developing and I wonder whether he has an ulterior motive. He has had sleepless nights putting this together and I begin to suspect this is all part of a larger plan to annex Scarborough and rename it The Independent Republic of Caskylvania. At the very least, there’s the possibility that he might start using casks as a weapon a la Donkey Kong. All I’m saying is that if this trend goes unchecked we may discover that the Mayan 2012 prediction actually references the beginning of CASK MILLENIUM.
The main benefit of Cask Days to your average beer nerd is that there are always things that you’ve never tried before. It’s also a good opportunity to re-evaluate breweries that you may have discounted in the past. Every brewer and their dog creates new and interesting beers for the general public to try. It’s a good indicator of which breweries are paying attention. Some of the established ones will release special dry-hopped versions of their staples. Some breweries that you have long since discounted as being uninteresting will attempt to change your mind. Generally, the people who have innovated continue to do so with potentially devastating results. Also, this will be the first year where Volo’s house cask is on offer. You don’t want to miss out on this.
STUFF YOU NEED TO KNOW:
1) The event is traditionally cash only. Bring money. Lots of money. Sample tickets are usually ten for twenty bucks and the regular casks are usually about two tickets for a half pint.
2) The premium casks imported from Quebec might be four tickets for a half pint.
3) Yes, that’s expensive. You know what, though? It’s worth it. Think of the effort that goes into this thing. Do you want to try getting a cask of Hopfenstark beer through the LCBO? No? Then shut up about it already.
THINGS TO LOOK FORWARD TO:
The best part about Cask Days is wandering around and trying stuff that looks interesting. Sure,you may regret ordering the “Jack and Coke” ale or the “Peanut Butter and Jelly” ale, but this is not a time for planning meticulously. If you don’t like it, you can pour it out and move on. They have conveniently located potted plants for just such an emergency (also rinse stations).
I won’t tell you what you should try. It removes the fun from it entirely.
I will, however, tell you what I’m looking forward to:
- Amsterdam CJM Royal Brown Ale. They’ve been going through some changes over at Amsterdam, and they’re now doing interesting things. This will be a chance to see whether it’s paying off.
- Dry Hopped Trois Mousquetaires Baltic Porter. Best Baltic Porter in Canada. Now with extra hops!
- Great Lakes Triple IPA! Maybe! I talked to Mike Lackey about it the other day. He’s conscientious enough to send something else if it’s not up to his exacting standards.
- Trafalgar Bert Well Pale Ale will be the absolute last chance I’m ever going to give Trafalgar and if it isn’t any good I am going to rain down fire and brimstone upon them with such intensity that it will raise the temperature of the blogosphere by several dozen degrees. They are already on double secret probation for Korruptor and I for one have very little difficulty seeing the benefit of hastening along Ontario beer Darwinism.
- Stuff from Quebec! Cuda! Pionniere! Greg!
This is going to be an interesting couple of days.