The bus to Evergreen Brickworks was packed Friday night. Hundreds of women were pilling in, dressed in layers to keep themselves warm on this strangely frigid April evening. There were lots of conversations going on, but most of the commuters were wondering what the event they were heading to was going to be like.
Women’s Post attended the first Ladies Craft Beer Festival in Canada on April 1 and can attest that it was absolutely not an April Fool’s joke. The outdoor venue was completely decked out in twinkle lights, with bonfires set up to thaw participants when they got a bit chilly. Vendors lined the perimeter, each one offering two to four choices of frothy beverages. There was something for everyone — sweet ciders, IPAs, and dark stouts. My personal favourite was the Growler of Fire, a stout with hints of chocolate and chilli, from Great Lakes Brewery.
Participants were given four free drink tickets upon entering the venue, but it wasn’t that expensive to get more. The drink tickets were relatively cheap, each costing about $1.50, or $10 for seven. There were 16 brewers handing out various samples and each one was incredibly happy to be there. I tried beers from about seven of them before I succumbed to the cold myself. Some of the top contenders were Love Fuzz, a red pale ale from Black Oak Brewing, Sweetgrass Brewing’s Shagbark Export Stout, and the Extra Special IPA from High Park Brewery. I did try the cranberry cider from KW Craft Cider, but found it incredibly sweet. My colleagues attending with me, however, raved about it’s intriguing tartness.
The atmosphere at the festival was comfortable, relaxing, and fun. It wasn’t hectic — a claim many beer festivals can’t make—and I think a lot of the attendees (myself included) really enjoyed being able to go to an event where you didn’t have to stand in line for hours for a sample.
“I was talking to some of the guys working and they couldn’t believe it. They were saying they’ve never experienced such a calm and friendly vibe at a festival,” said Jennifer Reinhardt, Muskoka Brewery Sales Rep-GTA West andCo-Founder of the Society of Beer Drinking Ladies. “Usually with beer festivals it starts calm and it gets chaotic at the end. Ours didn’t.”
The event was organized by the Society of Beer Drinking Ladies (SOBDL), a group of five Toronto women who are passionate about
beer and want to share that passion with others. The SOBDL organizes monthly “bevys” at secret locations to try out different craft brews. Usually, their gatherings are a bit intimate (about 150 people), but this time the popularity of the event soared. Tickets for the Ladies Craft Beer Festival sold out in 36 hours, with about 800 women attending. There were a few men helping out the brewers, whose female staff may not have been able to make the event, but otherwise, the entire venue was full of women of various ages.
But, why was a ladies-only craft beer festival necessary? As Magenta Suzanne, co-organizer and member of SOBDL, said at the event, it was only 46 years ago that the last men’s-only bar closed.
“It took five minutes for Internet trolls to tell us we were sexist,” said Suzanne. “They say that there is no such thing as a man’s beer festival. I say, ‘have you been to a beer festival? There is a reason why there is no line at the women’s washroom’.”
“This doesn’t feel like activism because it tastes good, but it is.
For Reinhardt, it was all about the sense of community. “I think in this case it’s a safe space for women. A lot of women say that they could relax, the vibe was great, and they felt really comfortable.”
Interested in going to the next Ladies Craft Beer festival? Clear your calendar on June 11 and head to Yonge-Dundas Square. There will be over 100 craft beer vendors, as well as live music.