Why the Hart House Craft Beer Festival is Better than the Festival of Beer

Every year, I say the same thing; “I’m not gonna go.” And every year, for a variety of reasons I end up going. Last year it was because The English Beat were the featured band on the Thursday “VIP” night. This year, it was because Greg whined at me. But every single year, I come home from Toronto’s Festival of Beer, swearing to never return.

This time I really mean it.

Okay, I understand that corralling thousands of drunken frat boys is a logistical nightmare, but the event has just never seemed to be on the ball. Getting in as media has always been a hassle. In part because they’re hiring rent-a-cops for security and nobody really seems to know what they’re doing but also, logic just seems to escape everyone involved. I’m not asking for a lot here, I’m not pulling a “do you know who I am” thing, all I’m asking for is appropriate signage and for the entrance we’re told to go through to not be a locked gate only to then be told to walk all the way to the other end of the event area to come back through a maze of fencing to pass through security at a spot less than 50 feet from where we started out. You make me walk all the way back to Medieval Times just so I can end up almost back in this very spot, I’m  gonna keep heading north and go home.

And after all that hassle, once inside the event, it’s not even worth the energy of the hissy fit I had to pull to get there. Bud Girls dance (badly) to Guns and Roses while shaking their boobs at ogling losers. The pocket guide handed to everyone as they enter has tips for enjoying the festival that include a reminder to not be a “sloppy drinker or a spilly talker”; to not urinate in public; and “girls” are condescendingly reminded to “behave like ladies, stick together and look after one another” (subtext: because obviously if some puking, public-urinating douchbag tries to rape you, it’s your own fault for dressing sleazy and walking alone).

Over the years the event has lost many of the local craft breweries. Despite the larger (and to be fair, nicer) space this year, the place seemed empty and the corporate suds companies now rule the roost. The Festival of Beer never lived up to events like Mondial in Montreal but it was still the place where you could count on trying some new brews from local craft brewers. Great Lakes Brewery outdid themselves with their Caskapalooza promotion in which they tapped 20 different kinds of cask ale over the 4-day fest, but any of the other craft brewers still in attendance know that attendees are more of the “beer cold, drunk good!” variety rather than a demographic interested in the nuances of their products.

Compare this with last week’s Craft Beer and BBQ at Hart House. Hart House’s price was lower; it included really great food and water (extra at TFOB), and was an event that felt designed for people who could really appreciate the beer. Held in Hart House’s gorgeous courtyard, it was an event that was meant for grown-ups.

When I came home and ranted on Facebook about how terrible TFOB was this year, a bunch of people replied saying they weren’t going at all, that Hart House was a much better event and suited their interests (great beer and food, no drunken idiots) much better.

TFOB doesn’t need us really – neither the media or the craft beer drinkers matter to them one way or the other. The event is geared toward the yahoos; toward the type of people who urinate in public, or who drunkenly grab lone females because they can.

Next year – I’m not going.

10 Reasons why Hart House does a better Beer Festival than Toronto’s Festival of Beer

  1. No bouncy castles at Hart House. (Pity the poor sucker who has to clean the puke out of that thing each night.)
  2. No hats made out of Steamwhistle boxes.
  3. No skeezy C-rate “models” shilling for the mainstream beer companies.
  4. Food (local artisanal food, even) is included in the ticket price.
  5. That guy who gets up on stage and drinks a beer upside down?… not at Hart House.
  6. No roving gangs of people in matching hats (this year it was a straw cowboy hat that made everyone look 5 years old).
  7. No giant inflatable beer cans.
  8. Male attendees do not need to be reminded not to pee in public, female attendees do not have to stick together for their own safety.
  9. Organized in a logical, coherent manner (rock fingers to Hart House’s Arlene Stein and her crew).
  10. A focus on Ontario craft beer, not swill from the US.