Monday, February 18, 2013

On WinterBrewed

Attention: residents of Ottawa and visitors.

If our city hosts a beer event—any beer event—and you want to go, do it early.

We Ottawans are a thirsty lot. We'll polish off the beer in good time and we'll go for the popular ones first.

A crowded Saturday
It's fair to say that the first WinterBrewed Festival on Sparks Street was an overwhelming success. Despite the frigid temperatures—Sunday saw wind chills in the minus 20s—the mall and booths were packed. On Saturday, unexpected crowds saw lots of long lineups at the ticket booths. One of my friends, who I saw on Saturday evening, told me it took her 40 minutes to get through the line and she had purchased advanced tickets.

More ticket booths were put in place on Sunday and lines were shorter. And the only challenge that the cold seemed to bring was freezing beer lines. The cold did not keep the beer fans away.

Pork Of Yore
There were some amazing foods and beers to try. Among my favourite dishes were the sausage from Pork of Yore and the ragout from Mill Street. And while I didn't try it, the Maple Floss (maple-flavoured candy floss) smelled extraordinary.

Maple was not only in the candy floss, but also at a sugar shack and in beer. My favourite beer of the show was the St-Ambroise Érable, a maple ale from McAuslin. The colour of light maple syrup, this special ale held strong flavours of maple sugar without the overpowering sweetness. It was about as Canadian as you can get at this time of year.

To have some of it, though, you had to be at the festival on Saturday. By that evening, it was gone.

Other favourite brews of the festival include (in no particular order) the following:
    Hot beer
  • from Muskoka Brewery—a cask-conditioned version of their Winter Beard Double-Chocolate Cranberry Stout; I even tried a hot version of this ale, which tasted like hot chocolate with a kick of rum.
  • from Beau's All Natural Brewing Company—Dubbel Koyt Oatmeal Gruit, The Bog Father Imperial Gruit, Burnt Rock Vanilla Porter, and a black IPA whose name escapes me; I also had another hot beer, Butter Beer, which blended their Winterbrewed coffee ale with a concoction from the festival's president, J.P. Fournier. The result was a creamy beverage that tasted like a caramelized egg nog: delicious!
  • from Cassel Brewery Company—a cask-conditioned IPA and their stout: wonderful.
  • from HogsBack Brewing Company—the Aporkalypse Now Oatmeal Bacon Stout (which sold out on Saturday) and their Full Monty English Brown Ale.
  • from Ashton Brewing Company—a beautiful coffee porter.
  • from Spearhead Brewing Company—a Belgian stout that I will review when I get my hands on it again.
Am I missing anybody? Probably. As the event's official photographer, I wandered up and down the blocks of Sparks Street between Elgin and O'Connor for more than eight hours on Saturday and about five or six hours on Sunday. I passed all the tents and stopped at practically every single one. But I took no notes; I only locked the ones that blew me away in my head.

J.P. can feel proud that he did Ottawa proud with this Winterlude event. Ottawans can rest assured that their city has a seemingly insatiable love for craft beer.

A love that shows that it pays to get to an event early. 

Just a friendly reminder: if any vendors are interested in using any of my photos, please contact me. The photos are my property and require permission to be used. Thanks.


  1. The BTP Make'r Dark was the highlight for me, I totally missed the little area that Spearhead and Big Rig were in and there was no hot beer during the two stints I was there. Aside from the ticket wait on Saturday and some frozen cask issues, everything turned out pretty well overall, just a bit disappointing for me as I missed out on the hot beers, which was the main selling point for me going. Good to finally meet you Ross :)

    1. It was great meeting you too, Brian. Sorry that you missed out on the hot beer: it seemed to flow more readily on Sunday.

      Funny: I stopped a couple of times at BTP but never actually had any of their beer. And I love those guys.


  2. I agree Brian - Beyond The Pale's Make'r Dark and Broadhead's Fruitcake Ale were totally unexpectedly great new discoveries!

    1. I forgot to mention the fruitcake ale. Thanks for reminding me, Jeff.

      I'm really glad it didn't taste like the clump of dried fruit I used to receive at Christmas. There were nice, fresh fruit flavours in that cup.

      Cheers, my friend!

  3. Hi Ross,

    We're doing our planning again for this festival and I'm wondering if you have any photos of the Beau's ice bar that I could keep for our records. Can you email me