Festival City: Edmonton’s International Beerfest | By Annie Pumphrey

Whether it is chugging back an overpriced beer at an Oilers game or taking appreciative sips of a craft beer over a delicious meal, it is hard to argue against the fact that Edmontonians like their beer. And what better way to celebrate this cold, frothy alcoholic beverage than dedicating an entire festival to it? Next week marks the seventh year of Edmonton’s International Beerfest, at the Shaw Conference Centre. The festival boasts two hundred varieties of beer from across the world, beer-tasting workshops, beer-related activities, a tradeshow, and plenty of entertainment.

“It used to be that everyone would just drink their Budweiser or their Canadian, but in the last few years the whole craft beer market [in Edmonton] is starting to come around… It’s nice to see people appreciating what they drink as opposed to just whatever the prettiest girl on TV driving the fanciest car is drinking” says the festival’s organizer, Sean Farmer.

The festival operates through a ticket system, similar to that of festivals such as Heritage Days or A Taste of Edmonton. Festival-goers purchase tickets at fifty cents each, and then make their way from booth to booth, exchanging these tickets for 4oz samples of beer. For those who are curious about what they are drinking, there will be beer professionals explaining the science behind beer-tasting and brew-masters talking about the secrets behind the brewing process.

“[Beer] has gravitated in the direction of the way people appreciate wine. People sit around, they have beer and food pairing nights… as opposed to just the guy that’s coming home from a hard day of work to take off his overalls and pound back a beer.”

There exists a huge variety of categories when it comes to beer: lager, ale, malt, pilsner, stout, and bock, to name a few – all of which will be available at the festival. The difference in the taste and categorization of a particular beer is a result of the ingredients and the process of fermentation.

“The beer that is always a hit is the seasonal stuff. We’ve had pumpkin ales, we’ve had chocolate beers, you’ve got the fruit ones… really unique stuff. And then you always get the really high-end, super-premium beers that are a hundred dollars a bottle. There’s always some that blow me out of the water.”

For those who can’t make up their mind on what beer to sample, the festival has a specially chosen group of judges – beer geeks, local radio and TV personalities and celebrity chefs—who will be walking around and sampling beer throughout the festival. The panel will then choose the best of the best and hand out awards to different categories, such as best lager and best ale.

Entertainment at the festival includes special shows such as “The Dirty Show” and a variety of musical performances by local groups like The Dryland Band. And for those who like wandering around, there will be plenty of street-performer style entertainment such as magicians and stilt walkers.

“It’s about the beer, but there’s also so much other stuff to do. You can go there purely for the music – you’ve got good value for your dollar – you can go there just for the activities, or you can go there for the education. In terms of money well spent, you can’t have a better night out.”

Edmonton’s International Beerfest takes place April 26th and 27th at the Shaw Conference Centre. General Admission is $19.00, and sample tickets are fifty cents a ticket. For more information and to buy tickets, visit internationalbeerfest.com.

CC photograph courtesy of “Greencollander” on Flickr. 

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