Around the World in Hamilton, ON - Liquid Art Fest 2019 Roundup
A little over a month ago, the BAOS crew congregated in Hamilton, ON and we hit up the second annual Liquid Art Festival hosted by none other than Collective Arts Brewing Co. The rest of the squad were there for the inaugural festival last year, but this was my first time! We attended the Saturday evening session, and though there were dark clouds overhead, the rain mercifully held off for most of the night. Upon entering we were greeted by a grouping of food trucks and a lineup of Ontario craft brews, including the likes of Half Hours on Earth, Barncat Artisan Ales, Tooth & Nail Brewing Co, and Small Pony Barrel Works being poured by the man Sean McVeigh himself, and even Ontario’s beer lover’s winery, Rosewood Estates.
Tokenless (or all-inclusive) beer festivals have been a slowly growing trend over the last year (at least in Ontario and Québec). They usually carry a higher upfront ticket price but eliminate the need to purchase and exchange tokens for samples. Attendees are instead free to sample as they like. The first instance of this festival format that I was aware of was Bellwoods’ second annual Witchstock last year, followed by Dunham Brasserie’s Foudres-Unis, and now this year’s Liquid Art Fest, which with ticket prices under $100 was by far the most affordable of the three. This was the first tokenless festival I’ve attended and I’ve got to say I was pretty impressed with the format. It was nice not to have to carry tokens around and worry about an extra transaction onsite. I have to imagine it’s easier for the organizers and servers too. Despite some concerns that are often raised about this kind of festival format, I really didn’t see anyone getting too loaded either. The crowd was very chill and just seemed content to have a good time.
Something that really impressed me was that despite the sizeable crowd, I didn’t find lineups to be much of an issue at all. At no point did I wait more than a minute or two to get to the front of any given beer line. No wait for the washrooms or water station either. One exception was the sizeable line for the one specialty gin station which I didn’t try myself but those who did seemed to enjoy it.
There were not a ton of options for food but the southern BBQ truck that I went to made a dynamite chicken and waffle sandwich. Frequent Collective Arts collaborators Donut Monster were there as well, who I couldn’t resist going to for a late night dessert break before switching to stouts.
As any attendees of last year’s fest will already have experienced, with a brewery guest list as broad as there was, some of the biggest draws are obviously going to be the folks we don’t tend to see here in Ontario, or even in Canada at large, and the list certainly boasted some heavy hitters from across this great country and internationally too. From across Canada we had the likes of Dieu du Ciel and Dunham Brasserie from Québec, Malty National from Saskatchewan, Superflux and Twin Sails from British Columbia. From south of the border there was Foam Brewers from Burlington, Vermont, Cascade from Portland, Oregon, Forbidden Root from Chicago, Illinois, Alvarado Street from Monterey, California, Finback from Glendale, New York and Lamplighter from Cambridge, Massachusetts to name just a few. From outside North America there was Garage from Barcelona, Spain, Cloudwater from Manchester, UK, CR/AK from Padova, Italy and Magic Rock from Huddersfield, UK. Scandinavia had some notably strong representation as well from heavy hitters like ToØl from Copenhagen, Denmark, Lervig from Stavenger, Norway, and Brewski from Helsinborg, Sweden! To say we were not starved for choice would be a massive understatement!
Now as is bound to happen, a lot (if not most) of the breweries pouring at the festival are known for their haze, so naturally there was a LOT of it. I love my haze so I’m certainly not complaining, and it was great to be able to taste the dry hopped masterpieces from so many great brewers. What I will say though is that I would have a hard time pinpointing any favourites amongst the haze, because after four or five dry-hop bombs they do start to kind of blend into one another, particularly when you’re only drinking a 4 ounce sample of each one. Again, it’s not a complaint as I got to enjoy some of the best examples of my favourite beer style from breweries that I’d very rarely have the opportunity to try. However, of the non-New England IPAs I tried, there were a few standouts:
Tell Me Lies from Cloudburst in Seattle, Washington is a fantastic Helles lager.
Brewski in Helsinborg, Sweden brought the #TeamLactose fire with Proto 36! It’s a Berliner Weisse with Raspberry, Mango and lactose. It’s basically a bright red sour beer smoothie.
Canuckley from Transient Artisan Ales in Bridgman, Michigan was my favourite stout of the night. A beastly 14.5% imperial stout aged in maple syrup bourbon barrels.
So there you have it. Liquid Art Fest wrapped up for another year. I really enjoyed my first time there. It was great as always to see our friend Hilary of Pretty Pennie Jewellery, and to meet some new friends (new for me anyway) Lindsey and Joe of Grain & Grit! Great venue, great beer, and great company. I certainly hope to be back next year!