The first annual Buffalo BrewFest was held on Sunday, August 13, in the outfield of Dunn Tire Park, home of the Triple A Buffalo Bisons. Admission was $15, and the event ran from 2-6pm. The event capacity was limited to 3,000. The breweries were arranged under tents, similar to Toronto, lining the outfield wall of Dunn Tire Park. There were dozens of breweries in attendance, from the United States, Belgium, Germany, Canada and elsewhere.
At Toronto's Festival, all the beers available can be purchased either through the LCBO, Vintages or the Beer Store. Nothing was unique - for a seasoned beer connoisseur, it was simply a collection of already-available beers all at one location. There were no surprises, no last-minute mystery brews to be found that have never been seen before in the province. It is simply not allowed, and does not happen.
However, the most notable difference between the two festivals was the drink tickets. Whereas drink tickets were purchased and exchanged for samples at the Toronto festival, in Buffalo the admission price was the only cost, and samples were unlimited. Before I even tasted my first sample, the Buffalo BrewFest had surpassed Toronto's Festival of Beer. The tasting glass was more appropriate for sampling properly, there were no drink tickets to worry about, and there was an outfield of unique brews awaiting tasting.
One myth that continues to exist in Canada is that there is no good beer produced in the United States. It is very unfortunate that fine American micros are never distributed to Ontario. I was able to sample many wonderful American microbrews at the festival.
The wonderful Anchor Old Foghorn Barleywine was available, along with their Small Beer. Both were fabulous. Victory Brewing from Pennsylvania, which I continue to enjoy more and more, brought in their HopDevil IPA and Prima Pils. Great Lakes Brewing of Cleveland, a brewery I had heard much about but never tried, tapped their fine Dortmunder Gold, Burning River Pale Ale, Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, Holy Moses Witbier and Barrel Select Pils. And there were many other fine brews from the Brooklyn Brewery, Rohrbach Brewing, Middle Ages Brewing and others.
The first annual Buffalo BrewFest was very impressive, and I am already looking forward to the second annual edition. The festival was executed as a good beer festival should be - the tasting glass was appropriate, the atmosphere was relaxing, and the available beers were diverse and plentiful. Toronto's Festival of Beer will continue to be a fun weekend each summer, but if its first year is any indication. the Buffalo BrewFest will be the premier beer destination for local connoisseurs.