Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Better Beer: Beer Advocate's Extreme Beer Festival [Part I]

As you likely already know by now, our fearless leader Jay and I went spent this past weekend in a domed room full of brews that were showcasing the limitless ways that beer can and will hopefully go. BeerAdvocate.com, by far my favorite website and brew-mag, hosted I believe their 4th Extreme Beer Festival this past weekend. We decided to attend the Friday night special barrel aged section as well as the first main session the following day, a mere 15.5 hours after our last pour from the night prior.

I took some messy notes, and through a two part hazy recollection of events, tastes, and smells - I'll fill you in on some of my favorites, as I hope to get you to reach for something other than a Coors Light (Fack Youk cares about your taste buds).

Night of the Barrels (link)
Friday night's session was basically a beer festival for the people in the industry. All beers were poured by volunteers, with a good portion of attendance comprised of the brewers from the various operations that had brought their tasty treats to the festival. The theme for the night was for beers to be aged in wooden barrels. Many of these barrels used to house bourbon or wines, creating aromas and tastes one normally wouldn't associate with hop and malt elixirs. Some of the beers were brewed specially for the event, while others were aged spins on regular offerings. I will not hesitate to fetch any of the following off the shelf should I ever cross paths with them:

I was most excited this weekend about trying Three Floyd's brews. They are located in Indiana, and unfortunately do not distribute to the Boston area. I had about four samples of this, as I couldn't help but come back to it. Hvedegoop is a wheat wine, which is a full flavored strong ale, with tastes pushed by the use of wheat malt. This brew brought a lot of butter and toffee flavors - and was just tasted very balanced. If you clicked on the link above and read any of the reviews, you'll see that many have found it too boozy. The cure for cutting down on a brew's alcoholic flavor is to age it in your basement or in a wooden barrel - as was the case for my experience.

I am super excited that The Bruery of Orange County, California is starting to distribute out to the Northeast. They were by far my favorite brewery of the fest, and you'll hear more about them in part II of this review. The Melange #3 was a blend of three of their beers - Papier (old ale), Partridge in a Pear Tree (quad), and White Oak (wheat wine) - all aged in bourbon barrels. The brew clocked in at an intimidating 15% ABV, but was incredibly drinkable. The body was dark as night, and the flavors were an orgasmic blend of the old ale's caramel, the quad's dark dark fruit, and the wheat wines bready backbone. Summer Roberts is no longer the only reason I want to move to the O.C.

I was trying to figure out why this beer was at the festival, as J.W. Lees is a British Brewery, and I don't think any of their reps were there. That said, I wasn't complaining, as I've always eyed these $10+ 12 oz. bottles at the stores. I can justify spending $10-$15 on a 22oz or 750ml bottle of beer, as that size is the equivalent of wine bottle. But I'm not spending more than that on something I've never had. Well friends, I will likely be picking up some of these incredibly flavorful barley wines. Lots of honey, dark fruits, and sweet bread shine through. Wish I had a chance to try it again, or the 2005 vintage.

I am not a huge fan of stouts and it generally takes a lot for me to be wowed by them, as there are just so many solid ones out there. I was really looking forward to sampling Bell's, again as they don't ship their beers to Boston. I was not let down by this offering. This was incredibly milky but not overly sweet, with notes of maple and vanilla.


With the price of admission, we also received food prepared by the Sunset Grill and Tap in Allston. Jay and I both had their Arrogant Bastard sauced Steak Chili. It was phenomenal, packing a ton of flavor and bringing some serious heat.

Perhaps our one complaint about the Night of the Barrels was the excessive bourbon aged offerings. Don't get me wrong, love the smells and tastes of bourbon - it just felt like every beer was bringing a lot of the same things to the table. Other than that, it was a great time.

Tune in tomorrow for Part II, as I review session I from Saturday.

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