Monday, August 20, 2012

Beer O'Clock: The Accidental Photographer

I first met JP Fournier, president of the National Capital Craft Beer Week, at the opening party at D'Arcy McGee's. You may remember that event from last week's post. At that event, we exchanged business cards and pleasantries, and I got up close for photos with him, other festival organizers, and the mayor.

The next time I ran into JP was just inside the grounds of this weekend's beer festival, at Marion Dewar Plaza at city hall. It was a serendipitous meeting: I was just entering the festival grounds, he was just heading out. We shook hands and he saw my camera equipment. And then he asked: "Are you going to be at the event for both days?"

"Yes," I replied. I was really looking forward to meeting the brewers and checking out their brews. But JP was not simply making conversation. I noticed that he was still glancing at my camera bag. JP had a problem, and it appeared that I was going to be his solution.

Apparently, the photographer he had booked to cover the event had a conflict, and as a result he cancelled on JP. "Would you be my photographer for the event?" he asked me.

This was great: I was planning to take some shots of the event for today's post anyway. By helping out JP, I could maybe draw more people towards my blog. And when JP handed me a VIP pass (I had already paid for a two-day event pass), it made my presence feel even more official. (The fact that the VIP pass also meant I didn't have to buy tickets for food and drink was just icing on the cake.)

It was an accidental meeting, but it couldn't have been better timed.

The festival was extremely well-organized. All of the area's craft brewers were well-represented, and even some other Ontario craft breweries were on hand, such as Flying Monkeys, Muskoka, Steam Whistle, Nickel Brook, King, Wellington, and, one of my favourites, McAuslan. The keynote speaker, beer guru and author Steve Beaumont informed the crowds on the flavours of the different styles of beer. There were forums with the brewmasters. There was live entertainment. Rock radio station, CHEZ 106, broadcast live all Friday afternoon.

The festival ran without a hitch. While crowd numbers were not very high on Friday afternoon (people were working, after all), the crowds came out in droves on Friday evening and all day Saturday.

Because I was originally there to try the beer and meet the people responsible for the beer, I did sample quite a few samples. While I can't get into detail about everything I tried, I want to highlight some that I thought stood out.
  • Muskoka Spring Oddity: this Belgian-styled ale had great herbal notes (basil and coriander) and spice. It was strong, at 8 percent ABV but was well-balanced and didn't taste heady.
  • Ashton Brewing Company Brown: this unfiltered brew tasted of creamy caramel and was wonderfully malty, with a hoppy finish (a happy ending).
  • Flying Monkeys Netherworld Black IPA: these guys have some of the most intense hops in an Ontario craft beer. This cask-conditioned IPA looked like mud in a glass: no light was getting through my sample glass. There was excellent hops and fruit combined in this special offering. Made with Galaxy dry hops, which give it a kick.
  • Nickel Brook Naughtiest Neighbour Cask-Conditioned XAPA: I first tried the Naughty Neighbour at the Arrow & Loon during Blog Out Loud. Back then, I said it was "fucking awesome." The Naughtiest Neighbour is even more fucking awesome. Clear, bright orange in colour, the hops really come through on the nose and carry right through to the finish. Flavours of orange zest and grapefruit are prominent on the palate.
  • Mill Street White Cap Ale: made at the Ottawa brewery, this is a mellow drinking cask-conditioned ale with lovely hops.
  • Beau's Pan Ontario: this was an unusual blend of mystery beers from Wellington, Flying Monkeys, Grand River, and Great Lakes breweries. Beau's blends the four beers in a bourbon cask to make a black concoction that is heavy in coffee, licorice, and bourbon flavours. I loved it.
  • St-Ambroise IPA: this was my favourite IPA of the festival, and I'd really like to get my hands on some again really soon. It is a traditional English IPA made with Goldings hops, and I felt that I was drinking orange pekoe tea. It was wonderfully refreshing.
  • Muskoka Brewery Mad Summer: this wasn't an official offering from the brewery but a blend of two beers that they had on tap, both that I have reviewed in the past: Mad Tom IPA and Summer Weiss. I love Mad Tom and I enjoyed the Summer Weiss, and together they make a special combination. A lemony citrus ale with plenty of hops and a clove finish.
There were so many other beers that I enjoyed, including the brown ale from one of the newest local breweries, Cassel.

My friends at Mill Street
I meant to stay to the end of the festival on Saturday, but a second accident befell me early in the afternoon. I was shooting photos of people lined up at the front gate when I tripped on a barrier stand while looking through my viewfinder. In an effort to protect my camera above all else and in failing miserably to regain my balance without my arms, I crashed to the ground in spectacular fashion. With security guarding the gates, I had to explain that I wasn't drunk, that I was the official photographer protecting his equipment.

Unfortunately, I had twisted my ankle in the fall but continued wandering the grounds, getting great shots. I'd climb up on picnic tables and shoot from above and would hop down when I was done. And by dinnertime, my ankle had had enough, and I began to limp. I took a few more shots and then had to tell JP that I was going home. I hobbled to the bus stop, and by the time I reached my end of town, I could barely walk. I called my wife to pick me up.

I refused to let my ankle ruin my time at the festival. It was an accidental meeting that got me the honour of being the official photographer and a dumb accident that shortened my stay.

But it was a great festival. I'm definitely looking forward to next year.

And to JP: next year, if you want me to shoot pictures for you again, I'll be there. For hire!

Here are some shots of the event. More are on my Picasa Web album, and more will be available on the Craft Beer Week site.

Mill Street Co-Founder, Steve Abrams, gone mad
Wellington Brewery
Grammatically speaking, it's "them"
D'Arcy McGee GM, Jeff O'Reilly and comedienne, Christina Walkinshaw
Steve Beaumont
Festival president, JP Fournier
Lots of great food
Ashton Brewing Company
Those goofy gals at Kichesippi



  1. This is neat! I love serendipitous meetings like that. And the festival sounds very cool...I've been to something similar with wine, but not beer (ticket prices are rather high).
    Hope the ankle is better!

    1. Thanks, Miriam. The fest was very much like some wine festivals I've been to. This event was expertly executed: hard to believe it was the first year.

      My ankle is on the mend, but unfortunately it is preventing me from going on my lunchtime power walks. I'm hoping that it heals before my weekend photo walk.