By now, you’ve seen a couple of posts from Steve and I (two a piece, actually) about the American Craft Beer Fest in Boston. We’ve covered plenty about the setup of the event, the brewers on hand, and how we felt about how it ran. However, I’ve neglected to get too deep into what you all probably care about the most – the beer.
I’m not going to cover everything I tried at the fest – it was, ahem, a lot – but I’ll mention everything that I have something to say about. With a couple of one-off exceptions, everything should be linked to the RateBeer page for the beer, so you can see how much I match up with the geek zeitgeist. A loud, populated and fluorescent-lit venue isn’t the ideal environment for tasting beer, but I’ll get across what I can. If you were at the fest and tried something I didn’t mention, or have something to say about the beers I got to, please chime in down in the comments!
Atwater Vanilla Java Porter – Going by the reviews here on RateBeer, it looks like Atwater has had some serious problems with infected bottles of this beer – “gusher” is a common description. Luckily, the beer didn’t have any problems on tap. Things were a little heavy on the vanilla end (more sweet than the coffee could balance out), but it was still a balanced, tasty beer that tasted more than a little like a latte.
Sam Adams Kosmic Mother Funk – A really lactic-y sour beer – a nice change of pace after all the more earthy Belgian-style funk brews at the fest. Kind of a Berliner/Wit hybrid, with some spice and citrus along with all the sour.
Ommegang Zuur – A tasty, fairly standard Flemish Brown with some extra fruit flavors thrown in. Cherry, apple, oak, and toffee with some malty sweetness at the end.
Brooklyn Buzz Bomb Ale – Quite the braggot. Bright gold with a fluffy white head, the beer has wildflower honey up front that mixes well with orange flavors and some citrus from the dry-hopping process. Right up there with Brother Adam as one of the best braggots I’ve had.
Cape Ann Tea Party – Can’t say I enjoyed this one quite as much as Steve. With a lot of brewers experimenting with teas in pale and wheat beers, I commend Cape Ann for trying something new and brewing a tea-infused barleywine. However, the choice of a smokey black tea with the sweet, strong beer just ended up mixing too many flavors and leaving me, literally, with a bad taste in my mouth.
Cisco Dark Woods – Cisco went nuts with the oak-aged beers this year, bringing a cherry wheat, a Belgian wit and a stout aged in barrels. An antidote to all the liquor-aged beers on the market, the Dark Woods was a stout aged in Syrah (a type of wine) barrels. The aging really put an interesting spin on a pretty standard stout, adding pepper and blackberry flavors to make a powerful brew.
Goose Island Black Cat Bourbon County Stout – Beer of the show. One of the most intense beers I’ve ever had, right up there with Mikkeller Black and Dogfish’s World Wide Stout. LOTS of bourbon, backed up by a roasty, chocolate stout. The finish is pleasantly bitter, not from hops but from the coffee. YUM.
John Harvard’s Strawberry Wheat – Another of the few misses of the show. Though it’s a strawberry beer, there wasn’t any berry flavor I could pull out. At the end of the day, the lack of any color or flavor or anything from the strawberries meant this was just another average wheat beer.
New Century Moonshot / Edison Light – Ah yes, the beers made famous by Beer Wars. While I appreciate what Rhonda Kallman struggled through to get her beer on the market, at the end of the day what matters to me is the beer. And brother, Moonshot and Edison Light aren’t great. Essentially two watered down macro-style lagers, the only difference worth mentioning was the caffeine in the Moonshot.
Rogue John John Juniper – Hello, spruce! It’s a shame that, despite living in the spruce-filled woods of Maine, I have to hit a west coast brewery to get some spruciness in my damn beer. The John John, a version of Rogue’s Juniper Pale aged in spruce gin barrels, is an intensely piney beer, and manages to pull most of the flavor from the gin without any booziness. Everything works, and this is one of the few barrel-aged beers light and crisp enough to be sessionable.
White Birch Berliner-Weisse – More of an imperial Berliner-Weisse than a standard one, White Birch’s sour beer clocks in north of 6% ABV. I wouldn’t have minded a splash of syrup in the glass, but the beer alone was crisp and pleasantly sour enough to work on it’s own.
Oskar Blues Gubna – Holy citrus bomb! The newest beer in the Oskar Blues family is an intense imperial IPA, hopped only with Summit hops. The use of a single variety of hop really lets the grapefruit and lemon flavors come through, and the rye, Munich malt and barley provide a perfect stage without the hops being overly harsh.
Martha’s Velvet Elvis Vanilla Bean Stout – A vanilla-chocolate milkshake of a beer. Perfect finish to the show. Full of flavor and silky smooth.
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