Although it has been a pretty forgiving winter, it would appear that spring is just around the corner. While that means that another fantastic summer festival season is getting closer, it also means that patio season is just a few short weeks away.  Canadian craft brews go with patio seasons the way peanut butter goes with jelly. If only there were a way to find exactly which beer is right for your patio season.

Over the weekend, the creators of the popular Ottawa winter Brewfest provided the perfect opportunity to find those beers with the inaugural Toronto Brewfest. 50 independent breweries from across Ontario and Quebec showcased their favourite brews in two sold-out sessions.

Sample Glass

I sampled five beers from breweries across Central Ontario. First up was Fireside ESB, from Collingwood Brewery. A reddish-tinged play on traditional English amber ale, it was cool with just a hint of almonds and strong notes of black currant.

Next up, Twice as Mad Tom from Muskoka Brewery. At 8.4% this India pale ale is a deadly kick in the pants. However, unlike most heavier alcohol level brews I’ve consumed over the years, Twice as Mad Tom is not overly hoppy and has a refreshing balance between notes of wheat and citrus. If you are drinking to get drunk quickly, but want something that doesn’t feel heavy, then this is the brew for you.

By round three, all of the selections of new brews to try had me feeling pretty burnt out. I solved this burn out by going with a personal favorite craft brew. Toronto’s own Mill Street Brewery’s Cobblestone Stout, is delightfully balanced dark ale that warms you up with its strong mix of chocolate and caramel.

Junction Brewery’s Winter Warmer, is the perfect brew for the chilly weather we had last weekend. True to its distinction as a porter Winter Warmer, coats your insides with a healthy dose of chocolate and honey.  Not exactly the best brew for patio season but I highly urge you to give it a try on a cold winter’s night.

Finally, I settled on the questionably named Long Dong, a typical pilsner that is light and tangyfrom Great Lakes Brewery.   It’s perfect for an afternoon on the patio with a tasty steak and potatoes.

Any criticism is directed at the entertainment provided. Perhaps it is only personal preference, but DJ’s spinning remixed top-40 tracks and craft beer goes together like peanut butter and hot sauce. It would have been nice to have a little variation or maybe a band or two playing real instruments. There is something ironic about drinking independent beer while listening to the overproduced hits of Justin Bieber and Adele.  Assigning “designated drinking areas” or something along those lines would have made navigating the booths much easier as well since the capacity crowd stood around and drank anywhere they could.

Criticisms aside, Toronto Winter Brewfest was a huge hit! Here’s raising a glass to the event returning again next year.

Review and main photo by Luke Williams.  Luke grew up a fan of punk and pop punk in a field of cows just outside of Barrie, Ontario. You can follow him on Twitter @musicwithluke