I spent this past weekend up in Boston and took part in the BeerAdvocate Extreme Beer Festival. My girlfriend came along and we both found some really good stuff...2 ounces at a time. A very awesome experience I must say. Cliffs notes at the bottom.
The weekend started off well. I stayed at my cousin's place, since he goes to Berklee School of Music. He didn't come to the beer fest because he was a member of the press for the Boston Wine Expo, which fortuitously came to town on the same weekend. I brought a bottle of beer I had been eager to try and thought I'd share it with him: Jolly Pumpkin La Roja
I had heard this was pretty funky, and that it was. It gushed out as soon as I popped it open (Perhaps the transportation got it all riled up). The smell was totally unique, at least in my experience. It was copper/amber in color, with plenty of head, thanks to the gushing. It had a big sour smell, with apples and oak interlaced with some spice we couldn't pin down. It's apparently brewed in the Biere de Garde style, so it's not a Flemish Sour. The taste was quite interesting as well. It had sort of buttery white wine feel to it, with some caramel, spice, and the sour apples making themselves known. The finish was pretty tart with a hint of oakiness. This was certainly a mindblower, at least for me. I can see how some people really wouldn't be into this sort of thing, but I like it. 3.75
After that we grabbed a bottle from my cousin's stash. The previously rated (and loved) Allagash Curieux. I won't go too in depth, as Wookie pretty much nailed it. I didn't quite catch all the fruits that he did, but the toffee flavor and bourbon hints really made it a nice treat. I'd give it a low
and a half
And this was just the day before the fest. On Saturday, my girlfriend and I got there at exactly 1:00 and stood on a long, winding line that went around the corner of the Boston Center of the Arts. Obviously that was fun in sub-freezing temperatures. When we made it inside, we were greeted with bracelets and plastic 2 oz. sampling glasses. In typical nerd fashion, I printed a list the day before of beers that we were interested in trying. A lot of the things at the festival were brews either specially made for it or brews that you won't find in bottles. I honestly can't say I remember them all, but I'll point out some highlights and my thoughts on the whole experience.
Samuel Adams 3 Weiss Men
: This one you can only find at festivals. It's a weizenbock that weighs in at 10% ABV. You would've had me completely fooled based on the style. It poured more like a hefeweizen, smelled more like a hefeweizen...you get the idea. Plenty of banana in the nose and taste. The finish tasted like bubble gum. A very smooth brew, and I had no idea it was that strong. Well done Sam Adams.
Magic Hat Thumbsucker Imperial Stout
: This beer was actually retired by Magic Hat, in terms of making it in bottles. I have no idea as to its availability at the brewery. This was my favorite imperial stout of the festival. Definitely not overdone in any way, and had all the elements I like in my impies: not overly hopped, a sweet coffee and chocolate taste, and a nice bitter finish. Here's me enjoying my first swig:
Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout
: This is a seasonal offering from Founders Brewing up in Michigan. According to the description in the magazine I was holding in that picture, it's made with "tons of chocolate and coffee and aged in bourbon barrels for a year." Well, based on the aroma alone, the bourbon definitely had some influence on the brew. The taste was somewhat disappointing, tasting like burnt coffee and rye with bourbon in the background. My girlfriend the coffee drinker was not a fan, though she doesn't like dark beers in general.
Here are my awards for the festival:
The "Should I applaud them or should I stay away forever" Award
: Anheuser-Busch. That's right, our favorite macrobrewery came to the fest and showed off its attempts at craft beer. The only one I tried was an unnamed prototype that weighed in at a massive 17% ABV. It was basically a sugar bomb trying to hide all that alcohol. I personally respect them for giving it a go, but perhaps it's just not in the cards...
The "Awkward interaction with a brewer" Award
: Kuhnhenn Brewing Company. I earlier talked about tasting what thus far for me is my favorite beer, their Raspberry Eisbock. According to their website, and the Hop Devil Grill, they're coming back to New York City on the 22nd. I tried to start some conversation about it with one of the two Kuhnhenns and he said "Umm...I'm not aware of that." So that was interesting. I'm not one to badmouth in a situation like this, given that it's really awesome for brewers to come and share all their special stuff, but it seemed like they were really disinterested and the guy I talked to was just pouring samples and sliding them back. I did end up having another sample of the eisbock though, so all is well in the world.
The "Wait, this is beer?!" Award
: The Wind Cried Mari, from the Cambridge Brewing Company in Massachusetts. This is brewed in a style known as gruit
. It smelled pretty much like flowers. I'm not much of a flower person, but according to other reviews of it, it smells like heather and lavender. This particular beer was aged in Chardonnay barrels. Obviously, barrel-aging is a huge trend now. Anywho, I couldn't really taste the influence of the barrels here, just flowers really. That's not to say it's bad in the least, rather really confusing. A good experience I say.
Brewer of the Festival
: This one's a tie, going to Oskar Blues Brewing and Port Brewing/The Lost Abbey. For those who are unfamiliar with Oskar Blues, their claim to fame is that they can all of their beers. They're based at of Lyons, Colorado and they have a pretty extensive distribution. We talked to one of the guys pouring and he told us that even though it's less cost-efficient to can beer, it's actually way better than bottling, as it keeps beer fresher. Obviously, UV light can't penetrate the can, but also it minimizes the amount of oxygen left in the can. You can visit their website to see a video on how they came upon their can "revelation." The first beer, and their highlight in my opinion, we tried from them was their Old Chub Scotch Ale. This was my first Scotch Ale, and it was awesome. Huge malt aroma and flavor, with caramel, coffee, and some smokiness. I'll have to buy a six pack and do a more thorough tasting. I missed out on their flagship beer, Dale's Pale Ale, but i think having the Old Chub was enough to convince me to try all their stuff. I went back for another sample of the Old Chub and the guy serving me said "Once you've had your first Chub, you're never the same." My girlfriend laughed when I looked at her...
The other brewer of the fest is based in San Marcos, California. There's a lot of history that goes along with Port Brewing, which I won't delve into here, but The Lost Abbey is essentially a new brewery operation from the people who brought the Pizza Port breweries to California. My favorite beer that I tried from them is their Older Viscosity, a bourbon barrel-aged (really?) version of Pizza Port's Old Viscosity barleywine. I couldn't really sense the bourbon, but it had more of a sherry smell than anything else, along with some dark fruitiness. The taste was along the same lines, with some chocolate thrown in. We ended up talking to their manager/chef Vince, who was extremely nice and talked about how they're trying to expand to the east coast (I think they've already signed on with Massachusetts). We told him we were planning on coming to San Diego in May, and he told us to come visit them on the weekend and taste some beers with him.
Beer of the festival
: Cerise Cassee, from the Cambridge Brewing Company. This is their Flemish Sour Ale, described as being "100% sour-mashed, fermented with tart cherries and our house Belgian strain." Both of us picked this as our favorite beer. It poured a beautiful red and smelled of sour cherries with some barnyard funkiness in the background, believe it or not. The taste was full of cherries and slighlty acidic. The finish was so sour, I actually puckered. What a treat. Here's me going for sample #2 and singing its praises:
Overall, we had a really great time sampling all this great stuff from great brewers. KB4Z, you should definitely check out Cambridge, if you haven't already. I think for my next beer run I'm going to have to pick up some Flemish Sours after this experience.
Tried tons of beers over the course of two days. Highlights included Jolly Pumpkin La Roja, Magic Hat Thumbsucker, Samuel Adams 3 Weiss Men, Oskar Blues Old Chub, Port Brewing Older Viscosity, and our personal favorite: Cambridge Cerise Cassee, a Flemish Sour Ale brewed with cherries. Guys from Oskar Blues and Port Brewing/The Lost Abbey were really friendly...try their stuff!!