Friday, June 5, 2015

Drink Up at Edmonton Craft Beer Festival

Moo sized beer mug
I have drunk so little beer in my life that the opportunity to try a variety of different beers in a single venue without having to commit to a whole pint was an opportunity too good to pass up! Having received media passes for the Edmonton Craft Beer Festival, I knew that going to a festival like this would help me to discover more beers that I liked or didn’t like, as there would more to sample from than I could likely handle.

Since I’m not much of a beer connoisseur, I won’t even attempt to review the beers I tried. I didn’t try very many by the way as I’m a light weight, and I’ve found in the past that too much beer equals a very painful head full of stuffing the next morning. I’ll just tell summarize what I liked about the Edmonton Craft Beer Festival and what I think could be improved upon to make it a better festival.

Lake of Bays Brewing Company
Spring Maple Belgian Blonde Ale

The Good:
  • Most beer samples were only two to three tasting tokens, this meant that $20 worth of tasting tokens was more than enough for beer and food for a light weight like me.
  • Great variety of brewers, as I got to experience beers from a lot of breweries that I had never even heard of before.
  • There were non beer beverages available such as vodka, tequila, whisky, moonshine, etc to try out, giving attendees a break from all that beer.
  • The large space and the way vendors were laid out meant that there was lots of room to stand and enjoy our drinks, allowing others to pass by us without bumping into us.
  • My favourite beer of the night was Lake of Bays Brewing Company Spring Maple Belgian Blonde Ale. It was mildly sweet with a maple flavour, but still tasted like beer. Not like those fruity beers that are so sweet you're basically drinking pop with a dash of beer. (Or so said one of my companions this evening, Dave Breakenridge - who was also acting as this newbie beer drinkers guide to what to drink.)
  • My favourite food sample of the evening was the espresso stout ice cream from Pinocchio Ice Cream, a local ice cream and sorbet making company.
Pinocchio Ice Cream Espresso Stout
Improvements to be made:
  • Provide a guide of the breweries and restaurants, the beers and/or food they’re sampling, and the number of tokens required. This would allow people to plan a bit better instead of buying a random number of tasting tokens.
  • Have more than one line up for those purchasing tasting tokens with credit cards. I know this was limited as there was only one Square Register, but the line up for the credit card was, well, a line up. There was no line ups for the multiple cash only stations. Obviously there’s a demand for purchasing with credit cards.
  • Make the roaming tasting token sellers more obvious. She walked right by us more than once when we were out of tickets and didn’t even notice. She wasn’t saying anything and she blended in with the crowd. Make them stand out!
  • Have the on site liquor store sell the same items that they’re sampling, or have the breweries sample out the same items the on site liquor store they're selling. At one booth, they said the on site liquor store was selling a beer that they were not sampling that evening. I was disappointed that I wouldn’t get to taste it that evening unless I was willing to blindly buy a case without trying it out.
  • Bring food costs in line with the drink costs. The food costs significantly more than the beer samples and felt like a rip off to pay $4 for a very small grill cheese sandwich or a small bag of popcorn.
  • Have more soft surfaces to absorb some of the sound. There were live musicians on the same wall, but opposite sides of the room, plus a dance troupe in the middle. This made it so incredibly loud in the concrete hall that I felt like I was in a bar, yelling to try to communicate with not only my companions, as well as the craft beer vendors. Or maybe spread out when everyone was performing so it wasn’t just noise all at once.
  • Beer University was just a big area to get people to sign up for a ATB MasterCard. Despite declining several times, they persisted with their pitch, making us flee the Beer University area before we tried anything other than the blind tasting so we could stop being harassed. Try to get it to be less about the advertising or at least ask sponsors like ATB not to approach people in such a manner that they feel harassed.
ATB Beer University
Blind Tasting
It was more or less an enjoyable experience. I can’t say that I learned a lot or anything about beer, as the vendors were not as chatty as those I’ve met at wine or whisky festivals. However, if I were actually a beer drinker, I think the variety they have would be enticing enough to attend just to have the chance to try such a variety in one venue.

There’s still one more day to the Edmonton Craft Beer Festival if you’re interested in attending.

Edmonton Craft Beer Festival
Twitter: @abbeerfestivals, @YEGBeerFest

June 6, 2015
Beer Geek VIP 1:00pm - 2:00pm (Doors open at 12:30pm)
General Admission 2:00pm - 9:00pm

Online Advance Tickets: $19
Weekend Passes: $30
Beer Geek VIP: $25
Beer Geek VIP Weekend Passes: $40
Tickets at the door are $25 and entrance is subject to capacity

Tickets available at all Sobeys Grocery, Sobeys Liquor and Brewster locations. Tickets also can be purchased online

Edmonton Expo Centre
7300 116 Ave

(Note: There was no financial compensation from Edmonton Craft Beer Festival for this blog post, although they provided two free tickets for me to attend, as well as 8 pairs of tickets to give away to blog readers. Any review provided by me will completely reflect my thoughts and opinions – good or bad, and will not be swayed by having free tickets provided.)


  1. Just a note, if you are photographing an event and someone's face is clearly visible, at least make an effort to get that person's permission before using the image. My husband had no idea you'd snapped his photo at the tasting table until I showed him this post. Blogging may not come with the usual rules for media use and permissions, but common courtesy still applies.

    1. Apologies! I was taking a picture of my friend Jamie, the redhead, and we fled right after this as the ATB people wouldn't stop hounding us about signing up for a credit card. I can remove the photo if you wish?

    2. He's fine with it being up, but please do warn folks in the future so they can opt out of the publicity :D

      Sorry you got hounded by the ATB folks, they left me be... maybe wandering around with a 6'8" giant deters salespeople?


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