There’s a new winter festival on tap in Newmarket and organizers hope it’s as good a pairing as the clean and crisp flavours of a Bohemian-style pilsner with creamy risotto.
Now in its third year, the annual summertime Newmarket Craft Beer Festival has launched a winter edition that will take over Riverwalk Commons and the Newmarket Community Centre and Lions Hall on Friday, Feb. 28 and Saturday, Feb. 29.
“I think being in Canada, we’re a little bit hardier and we try to embrace winter, so we thought we’d do a winter edition because there’s a void in festivals at that time,” said fest co-founder and Newmarket resident Carl Milroy who, along with Michelle Planche, brings the thirst-quenching event to the downtown during Ontario’s Craft Beer Week celebrated in June.
The winter edition of the sudsy soiree offers all the glory of its warm weather cousin, including an outdoor craft beer garden where it should be easy to keep your brew cold, along with skating, family-friendly games, hot chocolate and food trucks.
Inside the community centre, guests can warm up at the Friday night kickoff party with Yuk Yuks comedians Rob Ross, Ian Sirota and Shannon Laverty, a DJ, and a craft beer bar, as it all goes live to air with Rock 95 (95.7 FM).
The new winter addition of culinary learning classes also kicks off Friday night with hour-long workshops, demonstrations, seminars, tastings, and more that continues all day Saturday.
Class prices range from $10 to $30 and include such things as how to make the perfect hamburger with Newmarket’s Ground Burger Bar head chef Braeden Knight, cookie decorating with the Little Red Bake Shop, wine and cheese tasting with Lifford Wine and Thornloe Cheese, a mixology demonstration to hone your cocktail crafting skills with Aurora’s Yonge Street Winery, and the art of cooking risotto with Food in Motion Catering’s John Cosentino.
“We thought the culinary activations are a neat addition, some of these great companies and chefs that can come in and people can get an educational component, whether it’s making the best risotto or crafting the ultimate cocktail,” said Milroy.
As always, local craft beer takes centre stage and the hops should not disappoint.
“A big component of the festival is the local breweries,” Milroy said. “Craft beer is huge, there’s a big appetite for it and people like supporting local and small businesses.”
Newmarket’s Red Thread Brewing Co., Markham’s Rouge River Brewing Co., Uxbridge-based cider maker Banjo, and Keswick’s The Wheeled Brew are among the more than a dozen craft beer and cider brands featured at the fest.
Community is as important as craft beer to Milroy and Planche, and the winter edition will feature a fundraising drive for the Canadian Spinal Research Organization.
“Community is a big thing, it’s about helping other businesses and that’s really what community is, a 360-degree look at things,” Milroy said, who runs The Beverage Guy, a service that provides customized wine packages with cellaring notes, food pairings and tasting notes. “We involve companies, help charities and put on a great event for everyone.”
Craft beer continues to be a growing industry in the province and the sector employs more than 2,000 people in direct brewery jobs and thousands more in indirect jobs in industries such as tourism, food service, agriculture, and packaging and distribution, according to the Ontario Craft Brewers Association.
The industry contributes more than $1 billion toward Ontario's economy annually, the association says.
In addition, craft beer has become one of the LCBO's fastest-growing categories, with about 184 craft breweries on shelves that generated nearly $120 million in sales in 2018/2019.
For tickets and a full itinerary to the Newmarket Craft Beer Winter Festival, visit here.