Seems that Toronto’s Winter Brewfest is determined to secure a place in the GTA; announcing on Monday that they would be returning for two days of beer, food, and fun at the Enercare Centre at Exhibition place for March 24-25, 2017.
You may remember this name from the well-attended but poorly reviewed event last year – where the organizers took heat for inflated beer costs ($4/4oz on average), a jammed venue, and a few other missing pieces. Read about our point of view from last year here.
This year’s event promises a few key changes:
Cashless RFID Wristbands – you’ll be able to charge up your wristband both pre-event and on-site with Brew Bucks (1 BB = $1), and upon requesting a sample, will simply be tapping your wristband for payment. This is anticipated to relieve lines, and if it works anything like it did for RepublicLive’s WayHome this year, it should accomplish that. Other features include a list being emailed to you with the beers you tried, so you won’t have angry twitter followers complaining about all your Untappd checkins. Okay, this is neat.
Capped Pricing – With the absolute clusterfuck that was last year’s pricing, Brewfest has remodeled itself this year to be significantly more affordable – 70% of 4oz samples will be available for 2 BrewBucks, or $2, with any beer 6.1% ABV or higher coming in at 3 Brewbucks ($3). This puts Brewfest at the middle-upper of Ontario craft beer festivals, and will certainly attract a larger crowd. For some context, last year’s average was $1 an ounce – so you’re looking at nearly a 50% smaller investment here. Let’s hope these prices don’t hinder great beers being brought in (There are 150+).
Venue Improvement – Last year’s Brewfest featured 37,000 feet of jammed, drunk audiences to a DJ, whose name I don’t care to remember, pounding the latest and greatest in some kind of house music (please god don’t bring this back) – and people were unhappy being “sardined” (that was the word I heard that made me chuckle). It seemed the organizers underestimated how attended the event would be, so on the second day, added some more space. For this event, they have more than doubled alst year’s commitment, up to 80,000 square feet, and promised more room for food trucks, places to mill about and drink with your friends, and maybe even some places to sit down and take it all in.
Beer Experts – Last year’s servers were volunteers, more than half of which didn’t even show up for their shifts. It’s been noted that this was a horrible occurrence and beyond the control of the organizers, but none the less, contributed to overworked and under educated staff. This year, Brewfest will be bringing in those with Cicerone qualifications (which level TBD, but don’t be surprised if there is a mix – I’d think the Cicerone CBS are more than enough for this role) as sort of like those people in Ikea that can guide you to the right shade of cushion for your Elsebet. Seriously though, there will be well-marked staff to guide you and your friends to their style and brewery recommendations. I like this, as they will use their experience to guide people to expand their tastes and their knowledge.
With the above changes, it sure seems that Brewfest has made a commitment to impressing the Toronto market and throwing an event that tries to push off the negativity that last year’s event has brought them. In my article last year, I said I didn’t want them to come back in the format they were in – and it seems they’re seeking to address many pain points they were informed of.
After reading and speaking to the organizers, I have to say – it seems that this time they’re ready to throw a great event, readers! If you’re interested, tickets are $20 here. Oh yes, that also includes your first drink (3 BrewBucks). Let us know on Twitter what you think!
As always, full release below.