Story by Hani Yassine
The Lance – Arts Editor
Photos by Chris Mailloux
The Lance – Staff Photographer
The tents were propped up and the taps were at the ready as 19 different local and provincial brewers were ready to provide a wide variety of homegrown flavours.
The fourth annual Windsor Craft Beer Festival was under full swing at Willistead Park by the early evening of Oct. 14, where over a hundred different works were ready to be tested and consumed throughout the weekend. With last year’s event selling out at 5000 people in overall attendance, the festival is beginning to mature according to co-organizer Adriano Ciotoli. With the numerous beers at disposal, each carrying unique flavours, he feels confident the festival will draw people from both sides of the fence.
“We call ourselves a boutique festival for beer connoisseurs,” Ciotoli said. “But we’re trying to cater to the new person who’s new to craft beer and willing to try something out. We have a lot of brewers on sight so you can actually talk to people because it’s more intimate.”
On top of flagship beers being provided, some outlets such as the Walkerville Brewery created some crafts specific to the festival. Serving as a way to test the waters on more creative works, Walkerville had a Chocolate Cherry Stout, Pumpkin Spice Lager and Hop-Tober Geronimo IPA part of their cask ale lineup, which in itself is a type of fermentation process which allows beer to be smoother and more exuberant in flavour.
“It really is a unique beer style, nothing like what we do on a regular basis. But we enjoy using these casks to experiment and come up with fun ideas,” said Walkerville Brewery sales representative and accounts manager Nicko Mammonas.
Despite the numerous breweries present during the festival, each of them trying their hand in experimentation, Mammonas ensures whatever competition at bay is a friendly one. He says said competitiveness is less between other independent brewers and more directed towards the heavily marketed macro-beer industry.
“We’re fighting for a very small slice of the pie, and if we really want to do well and grow in this community, we got to fight for the pie itself, not the slice,” Mammonas said.
Ciotoli says there essentially aren’t many key differences to last year’s event. With this being the second time the festival’s been held at Willistead Park, the space was slightly expanded, but for the sake of uniqueness the canvas was kept within close quarters to ensure an intimate experience, which is aided by the nuances of the park itself.
“It’s all about the feeling, the atmosphere itself is part of the experience and we really wanted to showcase that with our site selection,” Ciotoli said.
In the midst of taste testing and experimenting, the festival ultimately aimed to bring people together through craft beer and see people outside their normal environments.
Gene Myers attended the event with a group of friends, and through something as simple as comparing taste notes for certain brews, it leads to the event being something of a stapled social gathering.
“You’d see neighbours you probably haven’t seen in a couple years. They’re two or three blocks over, but you don’t connect in any other way and you bump into them here and get to reconnect with people,” Myers said. “We bumped into people we haven’t seen since high school.”