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bierblog: October 2006 Archives

October 22, 2006

volo cask day 2006

saturday was a great day for beer lovers in the toronto area, as volo hosted their second annual cask days festival. 20 breweries and two home brewers (including us) offered a wide selection of cask conditioned beers for an incredible one-of-a-kind event.

our last two brew days had a single purpose: the "secret october project". although we dropped lots of not-so-subtle hints and thought everyone knew what was going on, not even everyone within the club knew exactly what the SOP was. the "secret october project" was this year's edition of the volo cask days, specifically us not just being guests but also participants in this festival.

ralph initially asked us to brew up a hoppy west coast ipa (with some balls, unlike most of the stuff available in ontario). we've brewed up several american IPAs, so figured this was something we could do well.

so we did two pins (5gal casks), one for each session. we brewed up two trial batches to evaluate the beer under cask conditions and verify that it would carbonate ok and everything. did the same base batch, but with two different hop setups: one with lots of simcoe and cascade (eric's setup) and one with lots of amarillo (my suggestion, similar to the wheatwine that jay and i brewed). the final brew was a hybrid of the two batches, with simcoe for FWH+bittering and amarillo the rest of the way (including 2oz of amarillo in each cask). the hopocalypse was born.

ralph also wanted to do an IPA competition of sorts, with all his taps devoted to IPAs, so we also decided to throw something in for that. we ended up doing something along the lines of a ruination clone. right around 8% and pretty damn deadly. it also had 2oz of centennial dry hops in the keg. i named this one devastation.

thursday evening i delivered the two casks of hopocalypse and the keg of devastation to volo. eric and i volunteered to arrive early on saturday to help out with setup, knowing that it would probably be a little chaotic and there would be a ton of last minute details to sort out.

we arrived saturday morning at 10am, an hour before openning. the patio was full of casks and the staff was busy preparing the cheese sampler boxes that went into everyone's bags, and doing the final bag assembly. eric went to help ralph make sure our keg was hooked up and ready to go and i set to work putting up the labels for all the casks. a little rearranging inside and soon the doors were open for the first session (11:00am - 4:00pm).

the first thing we needed to figure out was which beer to sample first. since it was still morning and i woke up far too early, an imperial coffee stout seemed like a great idea. eric agreed and we each got a sample of dieu du ciel p�ch� mortel imperial coffee stout. it surely did not disappoint and was definitely one of my favourites for the day.

from there we moved inside and hung out around where our beers were being served. it was fun to watch everyone's reaction and to hear all the varied and interesting pronunciations people came up with for "hopocalypse".

my favourite moment: talking with george eagleson about how breweries change and the old days of places like upper canada, back when they still made good beer. i mentioned my favourite beer ever, the limited edition drayman's tawny porter that they produced around 1994. his response was 'oh yeah, i brewed that'. i just might have to pick his brain and see if i can extract that recipe for future reference...

our biggest fan: perry and his friend from scotch irish. the hopocalypse was one of the first beers they tried and they raved about it all day. perry was telling everyone in the first session that they had to try the hopocalypse and was calling it the best beer there, even better than his own contributions. you just don't get much higher praise than that. at this point i figured if nobody else liked our beer all day i'd still be a happy man, since we had received such praise from him.

so many people raving about the beers (or crying that they had missed it). i kept having variations on this conversation all day:

them: hey, where can i buy your beer?
me: you can't
them: where are you based?
me: my garage in markham?
them: well when are you guys going commercial?
me: no idea, might happen sometime. who knows.
them: no really, when are you going commercial? seriously, you have to!

the first pin of hopocalypse ran out at 3:10pm. the keg of devastation died less than 10 min later. the second pin didn't even last 4 hours into the second session and was gone at 9:50pm. only other keg/cask to run out before i left was the admiral perry.

although opinions varied the praise and appreciation for our creations seemed to be universal. eric and i truly had a blast talking with everyone all day. the names all blurred together after a while, we wanted to say thanks to the pros, the home brewers, the friends, family, and the fans. wow, even the idea of having 'fans' is a little crazy.

some links to other discussion of the fest:
thread on bartowel
thread on beer advocate
flickr photo group
Toronto Star article
GregClow's blog post

now for some photos!

not directly related to the cask fest, but just something else fun and charity-related. at work we do a big fund raising event for the month of october, with all sorts of activities to raise money for lots of good causes. i came up with the idea to auction off a batch of beer, personalized to the winner's specifications. this is the display i put together for the day of the silent auction (note the two stubbies featuring the devastation label). the auction raised over $1100 with my contribution accounting for almost 10% of the total at $105. maybe the lucky winner will want some hopocalypse?

two of the homebrewed entries for the day. robert hughey's "GHB" (generously hopped bitter) and the first pin of our hopocalypse ipa.

the taps, some of which are different than they appear. on the right is our other beer, the devastation ipa.

in addition to the casks that ralph had previously announced, he also got some special stuff on tap. included for this event was Vaisseau des Songes (Dream Ship) from dieu du ciel and our devastation.

great lakes brewery devil's pale ale
black oak brewery dirty bomb nut brown ale
granite brewery peculiar dark ale aged in bourbon barrel
trafalgar brewery strawberry anti-social brown ale

wellington brewery imperial russian stout
george eagleson pear ginger oatmeal stout
neustadt big dog beaujolais porter
dieu du ciel p�ch� mortel imperial coffee stout

church key brewing west coast ipa
county durham brewery hop addict ipa
dieu du ciel corne de diable american ipa
scotch irish brewing admiral perry imperial ipa

camerons brewery hopburn ale
black oak brewery h & h overkill
mill st brewery tankhouse
st. andre brewery doug & larry's harvest ale

cool brewery millennium buzz
heritage brewery smokin' maple
king brewery king dark lager
beau's all natural brewing lug tread lagered ale

the staff working on setup before the doors opened for the day.

ralph trying to direct the chaos of the final half hour before opening. on the right is one of the guys from scotch irish. i talked with him for a long time in the first session and feel terrible that his name has become a blur. all that beer and meeting 9823724 people has a tendency to do that...

there was a line forming a half hour before openning.

eric gives the thumbs up on the event, and that's before we'd even had any beer!

and me, excited and ready for the day to start.

as soon as the doors opened the real fun began. here's eric and i raising our glasses to this excellent day.

my lovely wife jenn came out to show her support, and even drank the hopocalypse. she doesn't really drink beer, so that's quite a compliment. she keeps us fed and hydrated on brew days so we couldn't do it without her.

our biggest fan for the day was definitely perry from scotch irish. here we see him holding up the label from our beer and drinking it double fisted. he was telling everyone about our beer and kept coming back for more himself. having one of the best brewers in the province tell you that you've got the best beer at the fest, better even than his own contributions, is high praise that we were very honoured to get and couldn't thank him enough. both eric and i spent lots of time talking with him.

by 3:10pm the first pin of hopocalypse had run dry. within 10 minutes the keg of devastation ran out too.

here's eric having some coffee just before the start of the second session. we brought out the second pin and stuck the label i made for it on the back end. love the 'hop and crossbones' that i came up with.

and my turn to pose with our second pin.

the patio with all the casks also had a list of the stuff on tap, so that people wouldn't miss out.

one of the posters with the new logo for this year's cask days.

had to snap a shot of the picture for the p�ch� mortel since it was on hand for the fest. chatted with several of the guys from DDC and look forward to trying more of their beers in the future. all three on hand today were great, but this one was definitely my favourite.

shot of the crowd during the evening session. was pretty packed, but everyone seemed to be very courteous and didn't mind as you forced your way through to find more beer.

eric sampling some hopocalypse and the staff trying to keep up with requests. there was some great stuff at this station, so they were pretty busy.

the second pin of hopocalypse ran out faster than the first, drying up at 9:50pm.

more crowd shots, including some of the guys from DDC in the last one.

wow. what an amazing day. thank you to all the brewers who brought such great beer, everyone that we talked to for your kind words of support and encouragement, and most importantly to ralph and everyone at volo for making this incredible day happen and allowing us to be a part of it.


update: stopped by volo on monday and there was still several casks that had not run out. tried a couple things that i hadn't got to on saturday (the devil's pale ale and the strawberry anti-social) and talked with some of the folks from saturday. as it turns out, the keg of devastation was not empty as we thought, but was still about half full. my best guess is that the hop bag must have ruptured and clogged up the works, so no beer was flowing out. too bad that nobody in the second session got a chance to try this one. now i need to see if i can get it working so i can enjoy some of it!

updated again: Volo is taking votes for the best beer in the fest, just send an email to vote@barvolo.com with your pick. if you're reading this, maybe you'd like to vote for us, so i'll make it easy and give you some links: vote for hopocalypse or vote for devastation (feel free to add in something in the body of the message thanking ralph and the volo crew for this great event and encouraging them to do this again next year!).

updated one more time: the results are in: hopocalypse has won the "best one off" category for the volo cask days! thanks to everyone who voted for us and to all the support we've received.

Posted by grub at 3:41 PM

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