Tuesday, 1 August 2017

BurlOnTap sets up shop... indoors!

Given my two experiences at the beautiful Waterfront
Hotel at the foot of Brant Street, it seems when a Beer
Fest happens INSIDE this building, no one is exposed to
the elements! What kind of witchcraft is this, anyway??
The first ever Burlington Beer Festival was held in Spencer Smith Park over three days in July 2014. It rained. A lot.

The first ever Burlington Winter Beer Festival was held in the Waterfront Hotel's ballroom in February 2015. Being as it was indoors, it neither rained nor snowed on the event.

The second Burlington Beer Festival was held in July 2015, again at Spencer Smith Park over three days. Once again, it rained. A lot. It was a damn mucky go of it. It didn't soak my personal enthusiasm for the event but it sure as hell dampened ticket sales.

The second Burlington Winter Beer Festival was held again in the Waterfront Hotel's downstairs ballroom at the end of January 2016. Oddly, once again, no snow or rain came inside the building. It's the damnedest thing. It's like walls and a roof somehow protect people from the elements. I figure I'll have to ask American astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson how exactly that works. I mean, who knew? Gotta be some kind of weird-ass magic, eh? Bricks and mortar are protecting people from the weather? That's just crazy talk.
This young couple navigates their way through the
mud at the 2015 Burlington Beer Festival at Spencer
Smith Park in Burlington. After two straight years of
rain for the Summer Beer Fest, organizers fell apart
over whether the 2016 one should be held indoors.

In the end, organizers were so at odds whether or not to hold the 2016 Summer Burlington Beer Festival indoors or outdoors, that the whole thing just fell apart. The group went their separate ways. I'm not sure about other participants but I had to drink on my own patio last Summer. Like some kind of goddamn savage. (I did enjoy the trip home, though. All five steps of it. Zero cost. No broken bones. It worked.)

There were other costs associated with the Burlington Beer Fest that made it a costly venture, former co-organizer "Downtown" Wayne Brown told me. Such as hiring five off-duty police officers over the course of three days. Or the dozens of porta-potties. Hell, just the fencing around the park (to keep out the riff-raff, although I got in anyway.) "Do you know it cost us $10,000 just to bring electricity into the park?" Holy crap, that's some serious Benjamin Franklin's!! (You see what I did there. Because, you know, electricity... and money. Okay, if you stopped reading right now, I wouldn't blame you.)

So there was no 2016 Burlington Beer Fest but Snapd Burlington, a media outfit, swooped in to hold the 2017 Burlington Winter Beer Festival (I was out of town and missed it) and according to the website, will be doing a 2018 Burlington Winter Beer Festival.
I know these people!!! That's the lovely Kylie, my own
absolute favouritest ever Beer Technician on the right.
Granted, she only makes cameo appearances at Rib
Eye Jack's Ale House as full-time nursing is keeping
her pretty busy these days. Oh and the older dude on
the left is THE Downtown Wayne Brown, the man, the
legend, the guy who does a lot of beer festival stuff for

our fair city. This time, it's the BurlOnTap Festival.

So good on them but it looked like this would be the second straight Summer without a Beer Fest in Burlington.

Whoa, not so fast, says Downtown Wayne Brown. You see, he hasn't spend the last year, crying in his beloved brown ale over the loss of the Summer Festival. No sirree, Bob, he has been organizing a brand spankin' new one. Now obviously, the name Burlington Beer Festival is taken so he can't use that. So Wayne has created his own Beer Fest called BurlOnTap and as he was one of the people tired of all the damn rain, it will be indoors at the Waterfront Hotel on August 11 and 12. For the Friday session, it's 4 pm to 11 pm and the Saturday one is noon to 11 pm. Tickets are $30 for singles, $55 for pairs or a four-pack for $100 and are readily available through burlontap.com.

So indoors finally wins, eh, Wayne? "Yes, that takes the weather out of play." But, dude, what if it's a beautiful, sunny day? Downtown Brown, as always, had the answer.

"Doors open wide to a huge patio. If the weather's nice, we can probably fit 150 to 200 people out there. The patio is right by the water overlooking the lake so it's going to be great. The patio is sponsored, of course, by Nickel Brook (Brewing), the best brewery around." I would agree with my complete bias towards them fully acknowledged.
This couple, Patti and Mike McMillan, is in the business of getting you
AND your car home safely if you've had too many wobbly-pops. The
pair owns Driver-Seat in Burlington and are now involved with Wayne's
BurlOnTap Beer Festival. Sounds like this could be mutually-beneficial.
The problem with depending on the weather, Wayne said was "a couple of hours of rain and people stop coming." Meaning no walk-in traffic, which is killer for any outdoor festival, beer or otherwise. But frankly, that patio takes the issue out of play - you can still enjoy your tasty craft beer in the sunshine!

The two logos created by Patti McMillan for the
BurlOnTap Festival. The top one is the longer
horizontal one to be used on banners and the like
while the bottom one is used for their social media.
And it turned out Wayne has a partner helping him out... or rather, partners! "So Mike McMillan, who owns Driver Seat Burlington, which is a business that will drive you home if you've had too much but also drives your car home too. Anyways, he's the partner at my Beer Festival and his wife, Patti (co-owner of Driver Seat) is the graphic artist (for the event). She's been a big help to us also."

Okay, since this is a Beer Festival, the real question is this: What breweries will be there? Why, I'm glad you asked. Of course, we have our local ones, Nickel Brook and The Hamilton Brewery (now three years old) plus a few more from further away. Pint Pursuits Brewing (Toronto-St. Thomas), Katalyst Brewing (Toronto), Rhythm & Brews Brewing (Cambridge), Four Fathers Brewing (Rockwood), MacKinnon Brothers Brewing (Bath), Orange Snail Brewers (Milton), Beau's All-Natural Brewing (Vankleek Hills - and also "Yay!"), Northern Maverick Brewing (Toronto) Lock Street Brewing (St Catharines) and Goose Island Toronto Brewhouse.

Not a huge stable, I grant you, but there's only so many breweries you really want to put in one room. Besides, I've never had a chance to enjoy the products from about half of these so that's always cool. But if you want a break from beer, Pelee Island Winery will be there, as will Cole Point Cider (made by the Bergeron Estate Winery out of Adolphustown) and Junction 56 Distillery (Stratford). Brown said that Junction 56 "are going to be serving vodka and whiskey in small amounts." So you know, if you want a chaser with that beer.

While I'm excited to try the beers from less-known (to me) breweries, Downtown Brown already has a favourite picked out.
Head brewer Daniel, left, and general manager Ivan
MacKinnon of MacKinnon Brothers Brewing will be at the
BurlOnTap Beer Festival despite the fact that August is a
pretty busy month in the farming community. Hey, all work
and no play makes a farm boy thirsty so welcome aboard!!
"I think one (brewery) that's going to impress a lot of people is the MacKinnon Brothers Brewery from Bath, Ontario, near Kingston. They've been farming the same land since 1784. They've got some really good beer right now. Everything you drink in your glass from MacKinnon is grown on their farm. So that'll be a big hit."

How did he managed to track down this tiny brewery from Bath? "I went to the Hamilton Food and Drink Show and they had a booth there. Sweeney was the guy from the family manning the booth. I had an (Eight Man) English Pale Ale and it was absolutely delicious. And they had a bunch of cans (of it) on display. So I said, 'Sweeney, can I buy a can to take home and show my friends?' And he said, 'Just take it.' And I did and the people who tried it really liked it."

"So I told him that they should come to the Beer Fest and he said they couldn't because they're farming that time in August. I said, 'Sweeney, you gotta come. Your beer would be so popular.' I finally convinced him to come and they're gonna stay in the Waterfront Hotel and they're really looking forward to it."
Here's one soggy beer writer at the 2014 Burlington
Beer Festival. I'm not sure who this dunce is but
clearly, he doesn't know any better than to get out
of the rain. Trust me, that was one rainy afternoon.

In the meantime, Downtown Brown has been shuttled from event to event throughout Burlington for the past two months, offering up tickets as prizes in contests and the like. "I think I've generated a lot of interest in this event so Mike, Patti and I really looking forward to it."

And when he says "all-ages" (well, 19-plus and older), he's not kidding. While Millennials flock to events like this, it seems the other end of the scale will be represented, as well. "There's a couple of elder residences - I'm not sure if I should be calling them nursing homes anymore - but they're going to be bringing groups of people in so that'll be fun - a real mix of young and old and everything in between." Hey, the more the merrier, right?

Hey, what about food? That's covered, he assured me. "The Beaver and Bulldog Pub is upstairs and they're going to be supplying pizza and they don't have far to deliver it," he laughed.

As for the costs associated with the old Summer Fests? Also off the table. "You want electricity?" he grinned. "There's a socket on the wall. Go plug yourself in." Sound like a plan. So once again, if you're up for it, go to: burlontap.com. And hey, if you need Mike and Patti's service before, during or even well after the BurlOnTap Beer Fest, go to: driverseatinc.com/locations/burlington. It's the smart and safe way to get home! But guys and doll, that's it, that's all and I am outta here! Until next time, I remain...