Beerfest trip report! Website here
This was Nashville 5th annual Brewer's Festival, and my third time going. This first time I went, I don't think tickets sold out until about halfway through the event. Last year, they sold out shortly after gates. This year, they were sold out a couple days beforehand. Thankfully I bought my tickets about a month in advance. The day started cloudy and raining, but by the 2pm start time there was no rain, and the sun would eventually come out.
The event is held at a big lawn/small park right in the heart of downtown. There's a big stage on one side of the square for bands, and the brewery's booths are arranged around the outside. This year there were a LOT more breweries, so they sort of had to do two concentric squares of booths.
I arrived with some friends from out of town at about 1:20, as in past years the lines to get in built up very large, very fast. RDH and friends were practically the first people in, and I made a beeline for a murderer's row of Terrapin
, North Coast
, and Sweetwater
. These booths were all in a row, so I knew where I'd be hanging out for a while. First disappointment: North Coast only brought one beer, their Red Seal ale. I've had this beer before, and its decent, but they make much more interesting stuff (Old Rasputin, PranQster), so I was pretty bummed they just had the red. Terrapin's rye pale ale was serviceable, with decent hop flavor and some mild bitterness. I liked it more than Yazoo's pale, which I've always thought a little off-balance with all those Amarillo hops they use in it.
I had never had anything from Highland before, although I've seen their beers popping up everywhere lately, so I was excited to check them out. First delight: their selection! They brought their Gaelic Ale (American amber), an Oatmeal Porter, their Kashmir IPA, and a Mocha Stout. I decided to pass on the Gaelic in favor of the more interesting styles, going with the IPA first. Impressions: not bad, but not great. I really think Stone has ruined me by putting me in this "Drown me in hops!" mindset when it comes to IPAs, so I thought this one was a bit too malty. I may have to pick up a sixer sometimes and reevaluate, though. Next I tried their Oatmeal Porter. I was absolutely blown away by this one. Very smooth, great roasted flavor without wandering into stout land, little hints of chocolate, and did I mention the great mouthfeel? I was really happy with this beer and will definitely check the rest of their stuff out. For the time being, though, I moved on and rubbernecked at Sweetwater (only had the 420 Pale and the Blue) both of which I've got at home atm) and Bridgeport, which was another big disappointment since they only brought their IPA, which I've also got at home. What's with these guys coming all the way to Nashville and only bringing one style?
From there, I made sure I went over to the Nashville homebrewer's club before I got too wasted to make sense. I met some nice people, got invited to a brew session in August, and sampled a summer ale which was good (maybe on par with Sam Adams', had a similar flavor). I introduced myself to one older gent with a full gray beard. On a quiet voice with long pauses at the end of each sentence, he said, "Oh, actually, my wife brews. She brewed this honey porter. Sometimes we do medieval reenactments. Y'know, hit each other with sticks." Bizarre, and I took my cue to leave.
I visited just about every brewery there. The highlights:
Alltech's Lexington Kentucky Brewery
won my award for worst name and most unusual (unpalatable?) beer, their Bourbon Ale. I've had Oak-aged beers, and beers conditioned with bourbon chips, but this is the only one I've had that tasted EXACTLY like bourbon. It was disconcerting, and I could barely finish my 5oz sample. Chugging carbonated, low-power whiskey? No thanks.
I was incredibly excited to see Schlafly
there, since I grew up in St. Louis. Grabbing a pale ale, I talked to a rep from the brewery who said they were working on a distribution deal that should be ready in the next few months. Sweet!
I had never heard of High Falls
before, but one of the guys at the booth was an acquiantance from college. It turns out that High Falls is an AB sibsidiary, and he works for AB in marketing. They're apparently using it as a sort of pilot brewery and a way to capture market in the craft brews area. I don't recall much about their beer because I was involved in the conversation and intoxicated.
My favorite beer of the day was Flying Dog's
pale. Now, I've had this beer before. I've had most of their others before. I've always thought of them as a decent brewery, but nothing spectacular (with the exception of the Gonzo Imperial Porter). But I was amazed by the pale, and I don't know why it was different this time around. It had incredible hop aroma - really great - without being too bitter. Perfect balance, but with that aroma rising off of it, I was in love. I went into the day expecting an exotic stout (Left Hand's Milk Stout was a bit too much for me) or an in-your-face IPA to be my favorite, but Flying Dog's Doggy Style pale took the cake. The girlfriend also really liked their golden ale, which is a bit bland for my tastes.
Also, best shirt of the day was this
Here's me enjoying a tasty italian sausage about four hours into my day.
And here's one with a not-girlfriend so as to get a general sense of the crowd/atmosphere.