The mason jar glass didn't help head retention one bit, so it was difficult to visually evaluate carbonation levels. I went on Saturday night and almost every beer I had was pretty flat. Cask beer isn't supposed to be like that, but it seems like most brewers think their cask beer should be still. Pub managers evaluate casks by checking how the meniscus and head reacts when disturbed/swirled. I didn't have a head on one beer I tried. There is no reason why cask beer has to be this way. The Fullers ESB cask from Barvolo I sampled had a fat juicy head that lasted throughout my pint.
The beers were all fairly oxidized by Saturday night. They could have topped the cask with nitrogen or CO2 between sessions. I had that slight menthol note you get from rapid oxidation (think storing an open beer in your fridge overnight).
i was pretty excited when my beer poured with a bit of head.
unless they're really fucking things up when tapping the beer and yanking those spiles out, they shouldn't oxidize after 1 day. nothing i had on saturday was oxidized that i can recall.
but this all comes down to Ontario still being in its infancy in, well, most things beer. yeah, this has been a decade of cask days. but brewers still don't get the nuances of what to put in a cask, how to put it, HOW FAR IN ADVANCE THEY SHOULD BREW, RACK AND CARBONATE (big letters because this is what kills us every year).
when i was in belgium and there was a festival, they'd go to their barrel room (droolz) 2 weeks before the festival, rack to keg, force carbonate and BANG! you had whales and loons on tap. in ontario? other than 3minMid and El Jaguar, were there any "whales"? just a bunch of one-offs. which is totally cool. but it shows you how we're still playing catch-up to the rest of the world.
Ontario breweries need to go take a peek at what's done at other beer festivals and be inspired by them. instead, we're in this weird growth phase where breweries are trying to keep up to capacity and grow capacity, which means that we're not always getting their "A" game or what should be their "A" game.
what we really need? a june beer festival. on the Island. no casks. just kegs of great shit. you want to pour your Steam Whistle? get out of here. you want Boneshaker? no thanks. we want you to try.