Category Archives: Beer Festival

The Rise and Fall of the Beer Festival

There was a time when the DWTH crew would mark out for every beer festival on east side of the Mississippi.  However it is very easy to get festival fatigue, especially when you don’t travel.

Often time the beer vendors do not rotate enough so you are dealing with repeat beers.  If it was a brewery that featured a new or seasonal beer each time it would make it worthwhile, but understandably breweries are bringing their flagship to introduce first timers to their brews.

What it comes down to is attending a few festivals across the country to mix things up.  The best festival NYC offered was the Craft Experience as reviewed earlier, but that was 3 (!) years ago and it hasn’t ran since.

Boston has the Extreme Beer Fest from Beer Advocate which is all of the most offbeat beers (read: tartest of the sours, biggest of the barleywines, and the most “wait, there’s what in this beer?” moments)

The Great American Beer Festival in Denver is still on our bucket list too.

In the meantime, hitting all of the best beer bars in the US and beyond is a job we’ve gladly accepted.

 

Too Experienced: The Craft Experience

Finally… a beer festival that can live up to it’s price tag.

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JC and I were blessed to attend the press session which resulted in a more relaxed atmosphere of business owners, distributors, and writers tasting beers.  Along with the brewmasters in attendance, constant hot food circulating, and a massive pile of chocolate and cheese – this was definitely the best of the fests.

The Craft Experience was marketed as an elite event open for the first time to the public.  The venue screamed this being among art galleries in Chelsea.  All fancy pants aside, we are here for the beer.

And it delivered.  In addition to having brewery tables, there were distributor tables that had a few beers from the same country.   For example, a Belgian table had plenty of different Saisons, a German with Hefeweizens and Pilsners, etc.

On top of that there were spirits – which for the sake of being able to still walk home that night, we sampled only one, the Ballast Point Old Grove Gin which fits nicely into the disappointed category for that brewery.  They make whiskey, but it’s unavailable in NY (walk back West where you came from Ballast Point).

Did we mention the food?  Us whores devoured the hors d’oeuvres. From grilled cheese, mini burgers, chicken & fig skewers, shrimp cocktail…there was plenty, but never enough when you’re drinking for hours.

Most importantly, because the brewmasters, presidents and CEO’s of the breweries were there, they wanted to talk to you about the beer.  Unlike most beer fests aka cattle farms, you weren’t waiting on lines for ages only to be pushed away by the next eager beaver pounding their two ounce sample.

Ideally all beer events would be 1 ticket for a multiple day festival (like the magical Fancy Food Show) so there is no rush and a conversation with someone serving the beer isn’t unheard of, or looked down upon.  But with the popularity of these events, most event planners are looking to milk the cows for all they got.

A festival like this gives hope to those looking for something beyond a race against the clock drinking marathon.

Highlights:

Type Company Name JC # CE # Avg # Notes
Stout (Milk) Samuel Smith Chocolate Stout 8 8 8 lots of chocolate, touch of java. Served hot could pass as hot chocolate
Pilsner (German Style) Neumarkter Lammsbräu Organic Pilser 7.5 6.5 7 best pilsner ever, crisp, drop water taste, clean
Lambic (Fruit) Brouwerij Lindemans Lindemans Framboise 8.5 9 9 perfect balance of sweet/sour, pure dessert in a bottle, drinking raspberry jelly. Pleasurable pucker!

Duds:

Pumpkin Ale The Bruery Autumn Maple 1.5 2.5 2 dry medicine, nausea inducer (stick to their sour)
Gimmick/Spiced Moa Breakfast Ale 3.5 1.5 2.5 bitter version of Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat (not an improvement) raised .5 since East Ville Des Folies
Gimmick/Spiced Pyramid Apricot Ale 3.5 2.5 3 very fake, artificial perfume, nothing positive

 

We’re looking forward to being invited back next year.

 

CraftExperience_JC_CE

 

PS Check out those real glasses, not plastic shot glasses.  That sums up the entire event.

3B’s – Babes, Bros, & Bi’s aka…

3bs poster

With a lack of advertising not sure how anyone found out about this thing (heard from a friend on our side), and it showed since it was practically empty.  This is not a complaint.   In fact, this was the best beer fest attended in many considering:

1) no lines for beer

2) all taps (not anti-bottles, but nothing like a fresh pour)

3) plenty of beer reps (over volunteers) who were happy to interact and discuss the beer

4) heavy pours in a glass lacking any dotted lines

5) 3 hour session at $38 including food and a game of bowling

6) beautiful scenery/smells of a nice bowling alley vs the usual spilled beer on concrete at an expo center

The event represented what a beer festival should be since most festivals translate to shit shows these days.  In fact, this post is a petition for companies to start defining these events more specifically than festivals.  While Shit Show may not fly with the advertising or legal department, why not go with party or trade show?  Party since it’s often people just getting totally hammered and trade show since they are usually held in event halls common to said event.

It’s probably a futile effort but let it be known with the rise in popularity of beer festivals comes the party atmosphere of chugging over testing/trying the hundreds of beers listed on their website.  Thankfully events like these come along where you can sit back and relax, as if you are at a great beer bar like The Owl Farm where you can try 20-30 new beers every few weeks.

Should they call it tea parties instead?  I wouldn’t mind.  If it keeps out the crowds, all the better.

Highlights:
Speaking with the fresh flower that repped Sixpoint “Cool-Aid” Brewery who didn’t take kindly to any constructive criticism provided on the beer.

Lager (Euro Dark), Anderson Valley, El Steinber Dark Lager
JC – 5, CE- 6.5, Avg- 6    Notes: sour then dry, very unique, sweet smell/taste, butter scotch, easy to go down (rest of notes illegible- “ready die- less carb, tail end >again”

Gimmick/Spiced, Left Hand, Good Juju
JC- 5.5, CE- 5, Avg- 5.5  Notes: ginger beer/lager mix, ginger is weird, like a cider/shandy

Pilsner (Czech Style), Sierra Nevada, Summerfest Lager
JC- 5.5, CE- 4.5, Avg- 5  Notes: fruity BO, flowery, sweet pils ending, hint hops. draft just as crisp as bottle but tastes better, JC – reminded me of light version of their IPA

Duds:
Ale (American Blonde), Victory, Summer of Love
JC- 2.5, CE- 0.5, Avg- 1.5  Notes: hop hell, onion ring nose

Stout (American 2x), Green Flash, Double Stout Black Ale
JC- 1.5, CE- 1, Avg- 1.5   Notes: tastes dirty, shit on rye with a bitter finish (must be the rye seeds)

Lager (Imperial Pale), Ballast Point, Fathom IPL
JC- 1, CE- 0.5, Avg- 1  Notes: hop smell, body odor shit, you’ve heard it all before, (IPL = Imperial Pale Lager)

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Spring Craft Dud (Beer) Festival 2013- Nassau Coliseum

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The calendar says Spring is here so here come the next wave of beer festivals.  Once again Starfish Junction hosted at Nassau Coliseum, a change from the last one at Belmont Race track where your body temperature matched the beers’.

Before heading to the festival, you could have downloaded or printed a printable brewery map which was a good start, but they should take note from Hand Crafted Taste Co, who has started to list the brews available from each brewery for their NYC Craft Beer Festival – Spring Seasonals happening March 30th (see you there).

Tickets indicated doors opened at 5pm, but the line didn’t start moving for another 30 minutes and it was staggered entry afterward.  Strike two.  Next festival let’s get more than one entrance or start checking ID’s while people are waiting on line.  Inciting anger in a crowd ready to drink is never the right move.

Once inside, the crowds looked overwhelming but lines moved very nicely.  They always have a charity set up (no better person to give their money away than a drunk one) where 3 basketball foul shots cost $5 and for every basket you get a raffle ticket.  But what, are you here for the beer?

Well for the most part, they sucked.  We can blame it on the fact that it was a spring focus of beers, therefore more hoppy, or that Long Island Breweries aren’t held in high regard by this blog (still looking for a favorite from there).  But of the 45 beers tried, only 2 (!) averaged a high score of 6.  This brings up plenty of issues…

There were 64 breweries listed on the site which served an average of 2 beers at their table, for a total of 128 beers.  And we got to 45,  which is less than a third of available beers (and how about the mystery bottleshop with 5 extra beers?).  With a 3.5 hour session (Session II: 5:30 pm – 9:00pm) you should be able to get to more, but as mentioned earlier, not getting in til 6:15 didn’t help.  As a nice book end, many breweries ran out of beer by 8:30pm so it’s now about a 2 hour session.  [An email was written to the company about this issue, and no response was received.]

While you may be thinking, “but you were writing all your stupid scribble notes down, so you missed out on precious drink time.”  Don’t fret- were writing down while waiting on the next line just like our great grandfathers’ did in the factory assembly line.  It’s called efficiency, sweetheart!    Still, it wasn’t enough for the Dud Fest.

The nail in the coffin was the mask of “craft” beers while many major companies were hiding behind new labels, such as Coors with their Third Shift and Batch 19.

Highlights:
Pilsner (Czech Style,) Brouwerij Palm NV, Estaminet Premium Pils
JC- 6, CE- 5.5, Avg.-6    Notes:  Clean Pils

Ale (Scottish), Olde Burnside Brewing Co, Ten Penny Ale
JC-5, CE-5.5, Avg- 5.5   Notes: tastes like dunkin donuts

Flanders Oud Bruin, Brouwerij, Van Steenberge N.V., Monk’s Cafe Flemish Sour Ale
JC- 5.5, CE-6, Avg.- 6    Notes: nice & smooth, not too sour

Duds:  (where to start?)
IPA (American), Empire Brewing Co, India Pale Ale
JC-1.5, CE-1, Avg- 1.5   Notes:  nausea inducing (similar spelling to Nassau may be reason why)

IPA (American), Fire Island Beer Co, Red Wagon IPA
JC- 1.5, CE-.5, Avg.-1    Notes:  gross except for the front (doesn’t save it). not falling off the wagon for this one

Pale Ale (American), Steadfast Beer Co, Sorghum Pale Ale (Gluten Free)
JC-.5, CE-.5, Avg-.5       Notes: Thin, bitter shit. DUD

Witbier, The Brewers Collective, Vorlauf’s Witbier
JC-1.5, CE-0, Avg- 1      Notes:  Mr. Clean garbage, asshole bartender throws tasting “glass”

Huh?
Pumpkin Ale, Rex Beverage Holdings, Horny Goat Hornycopia Pumpkin Ale
JC-5.5, CE-3.5, Avg-4.5   Notes: pumpkin & chalk (why serve this at a Spring beer festival? probably dumping stock)

 

East Ville Des Folies

trapeze_artist

Most beer festivals blend together in the memory – either as a spring or winter craft fest with the beers skewed by the season.  So for one to come around serving “obscure beers” in the style of 1920s New York City, and on top of that- whiskey tastings, the East Ville Des Folies seemed pretty promising.

There were four floors, the bottom two dedicated to alcohol, the top to beer and the crowds were here for the beer.  As for how rare they were, besides some usual suspects (looking at you Narragansett), most beers were from some distant island – Scotland (Williams Brothers Brewing Co), New Zealand (Moa), Hawaii (Kona), and who can forget Blue Point from the mysterious land of Long Island.

There was live entertainment – trapeze artists hanging from the ceiling and ragtime bands which served as a nice distraction to most people who pulled out their phone cameras and eased up the lines for the beer.

But as with most festivals, volunteers run the show so unless they are a great bullshit artist, you aren’t getting much information about the beer beyond what you read on the label.  But is this a bad thing?  Oh no, my friend.  Most volunteers run for the fire escape once the session ends, leaving any left over beer for the taking.  And take we shall.

When you pay $40 for a crowded three hour session, you are most likely not going to get to try everything.  So taking home anything you didn’t get to try only seems fair.  Even if it’s 9.25 gallons worth of beer.  Hey this is a party celebrating breaking the Prohibition, our hearts were in the right place.

As for the ratings, there were plenty of winners hitting the 5.5-6 point mark, but no absolute favorites.  However there were certainly some duds in the bunch.  Can we all agree shandy should not be considered beer?  Beer cocktails should be a mix of two beers.  Michelada can be an exception, but with those at least you’re using fresh ingredients (vs artificial flavoring) in addition to a light beer.

Highlights:
Williams Brothers Brewing Co- Fraoch Heather Ale, 5.5 (JC), 6 (CE) – sweet, very easy to drink
Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier, 6.5 across the board
Free Cheeseburger Mac and Cheese from S’mac at the end of the night – thanks guys!
Duds:
Boston Beer Co- Curious Traveler Shandy, 0 (JC), 1 (CE)  NOT BEER!
Moa Brewing Co- Moa Breakfast  1 (CE) Tastes like Dr. Brown’s cherry soda but not as good because lacks sugar. I wish it was sour to give it depth