NCCBW – Beer Fest
Last Friday and Saturday were pretty special days for beer lovers in Ottawa. Another National Capital Craft Beer Week closed in style with their second annual Craft Beer Festival, held at Ottawa City Hall. Brewers came from all across Ontario to show off their tasty wares, supported by some of Ottawa’s best food truck fare and some excellent entertainment.
As a first time attendee, I wanted to make sure I was able to take it all in. For $25 the two-day festival pass seemed like a no-brainer. In hindsight, if you took the initiative, you could probably have done the rounds in one night, but I was glad I didn’t. The atmosphere was great. Despite the large-scale of the festival, it still felt personal. I was very impressed at just how much time I was able to spend chatting with the folks at the booths; owners, brewers, sales reps. Even though most spots had a backlog of people waiting to have their glasses filled, their passion always seemed to come out anytime someone showed them interest. And the beer-nerdiness was abound, with attendees sharing stories, tasting notes and recommendations. It wasn’t uncommon to see people sitting down at the picnic tables writing in their notebooks, in most cases only for their personal recollection. I made a point of asking a few of them about what they were reviewing and enjoyed hearing their take – and supplying them with my own.
Naturally, not everyone who comes to a festival like this one is a beer nerd; and if, for example, you happen to be, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will be attending with like-minded individuals. To the NCCBF’s credit, or perhaps more so to the credit of the brewers themselves, the offerings were fantastic. There really was something for everyone there. My friends had a wide range of palate preferences, yet at virtually every booth we went to, they managed to find something they liked. In some cases, there were even beers that sneakily got them to take a step out of their comfort zone, usually for the better. And as much as there was beer to suit every taste, it was also priced quite fairly, I thought. You could get generous 4oz samples for as little as one ticket; which is equal to one dollar. Even the specialty beers rarely went for more than $3 for a half glass – again more often than not poured well past the halfway mark. The bottom line is that everyone just wanted you to try their creations and to enjoy them.
I want to spend more time diving into the individual breweries and their standout beers over the next week or so. However, I will take a minute to tip my hat to those smaller guys who tirelessly manned their booths all weekend; rarely taking breaks and sometimes even wearing pink bunny costumes in the sweltering heat. Great guys like the ones at Rurban Brewing, Square Timber Brewing Company and Covered Bridge Brewing, who stuck it out for two long days without even having any beer to pull. That’s the kind of commitment, in particular, that epitomizes the spirit of the weekend.
So to sum it up. I thought that the National Capital Craft Beer Fest was very well put together. The selection was top-notch, the lines moved quickly and the weather was gorgeous. I haven’t even begun to touch on the best part of all – the beer. In particular, the handful of breweries that really stood out for me – and in some cases even blew me away (stay tuned). Nevertheless, I will definitely commit to being there again next year and if you haven’t been yet, you should too.