So, you’ve decided to get a ticket to the Toronto Festival of Beer to see what all the fuss is about? As a two-year veteran, I can say, with confidence, that you will most likely enjoy yourself, especially if you love beer and people watching. But there are a few things you should know so you can get the most out of the experience.
How it works
The best thing about the festival is enjoying beer outside in the city. The second best thing is trying tons of cool new beer –but don’t worry: your favourite standbys from the big brands are also there. Ticket prices include a small glass stein and 5 tokens.
Once inside you’ll want to buy more. One token will get you half of a stein so that you can taste a new beer before fully committing to a full glass, which is two tokens.
There are also guided tours and “hoptimized” VIP tickets for the event. If you’re a true beer connoisseur, this is definitely worth it, but for the average enthusiast, you’ll have enough to taste, see and hear without needing special privileges, but getting a VIP package would be an amazing idea for a bachelor/bachelorette party.
Pick the right day
You have the option of attending during the day (Saturday and Sunday 1:30 – 8pm) or night (Friday 4:30 – 11 pm). Both have their perks: Friday is a great party at night, while Saturday and Sunday allows you to enjoy a brewski under the sun. Sunday is the least busy day if you hate lineups and crowds. When you decide on a day, buy your tickets online early, because Friday and Saturday sell out pretty fast. I would also recommend being on time. Lines can get longer as the day goes on and you don’t want to be left with an empty glass as soon as you get there. Having a buzz helps the queues go by faster.
Getting there (and getting home)
If you want to get to Bandshell Park at Exhibition place right when the festival starts, get to Dufferin station earlier than you need to, just in case you don’t make it onto the first few buses (it’s overcrowded at times). In terms of getting home, consider downloading Hailo, a free app that makes getting a licensed cab a cinch. You ask for a cab at your address, and you can watch it arrive in real time. It can also take payments through your phone so you don’t have to fumble with cash or a credit card at the end of your ride. There’s usually a lot of taxis around the festival though, so if you leave a few minutes before closing you shouldn’t have too much trouble grabbing one.
Bring the right stuff
A few things I’d recommend you bring to Beerfest:
-Sunscreen. You can find shade if you need it but better safe than sorry!
–Hand sanitizers/wipes. Trust me on this one…
-A light sweater/jacket. For the same reason your mom always tells you to bring one. You never know if you’ll catch a chill, and the festival runs rain or shine!
-Flat shoes. You’ll be walking around on a lot of grass, so heels are not a good choice.
-Cash. You can pay with credit and debit at most food stalls and the ticket booths, but cash makes the process easier and faster.
-A blanket. There isn’t a ton of seating so it can be nice to make your own if you want to relax
-Download the Festival of Beer app. You’ll want the interactive map of the site and details of the food and beer exhibitors if you’re looking for a specific brew.
Extra tips you should know
-Don’t bother to pre-drink. It’s completely unnecessary for the amount of alcohol you’ll be ingesting, especially if you go for the full duration each day. Also make sure you eat a hardy meal beforehand. You will probably still want a snack while you’re in there, and while most of the food is pretty darn good (and is getting better every year!), it isn’t all cheap. This year a margherita pizza from Pizza Libretto saved my life.
-Give every beer a try. Part of the fun is the tasting. I tend to stay away from the fruit-flavoured beers, but this year I gave Fruit Stand Watermelon Wheat beer a try, and it was unexpectedly delicious and refreshing.
-Pee early in the night or day. The longer you wait, the busier the port-o-potties get (and the more unusable they become). Also, your toilet seat will most likely be covered in urine (Thanks boys!). You can squat and hang onto the door handle for dear life, or bring travel-sized sanitary wipes. Bypass the washing sinks and bring your own hand sanitizer if you’re a real germaphobe. Half of the time they’re out of water, and then you just touched one of the grossest surfaces there for nothing.
-If you’re looking for the place to be post-festival, you could head to William’s Landing, which is pretty much the closest bar people tend to flock to. It’s not a place I normally go, but it has an awesome rooftop patio to continue your outdoor drinking escapades.
-Hashtag your tweets and Instagram pictures properly: @TOBeerFestival #beerme #TFOB2013