Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Review of The Festival US- Session 2

Between Sessions
So I get back to my hotel room after picking up the Westy gift pack. As I reload on vitamin B, water, Gatorade, and saltines (water retention) I begin to feel like it's going to be a rough go at Session 2. The body is not bouncing back so well even though I brought my sampling during Session 1 to a crawl around 3 PM, a full 2 hours before that session ended. I avoid the bed so as to not get cozy and seal my fate for the evening.

I grabbed the shuttle and head to Mechanics Hall around 6 PM. This time my focus will be on the second level, The Great Hall and Boyden Salon. I am using the time to scope out particularly quirky, impressive, or talkative brewers who I would approach during Session 3 for my interview series. One thing I realized is that the din inside the hall rooms was too great to try to do abbreviated interviews on the spot as I had planned. Also because the brewers were actually working the sample tables, any interviews would have to take place outside of the festival times as they were quite busy chatting with fans. And when they did get a break, who could blame them for wanting to spend that time sampling other brewers, making new friends (and possible collaborations), or catching up with old friends. They deserve it.

Session 2 Prep 
Upon arrival I immediately headed to the Food Truck Court out back to grab some grub to help hold the evening's BAC at bay. I decided to try Julian's Omnibus roast beef sandwich with a red skin potato salad before heading upstairs. Another great hit with the food truck grub but my mind is trying to get me to sit this round out. I finish up the meal and head upstairs.

Julian's Omnibus is a really cool food bus. It is a former double-decker bus that has been converted into a food bus, complete with seating on the upper deck. It's basically a full mobile restaurant.

I absolutely love the idea and just seeing it on the street makes you want to grab some grub from it.



Session 2 Tasting Highlights 
The first thing I notice is that the evening session seems to be quite a bit more lightly attended. Not the best scenario for the organizers, Shelton Brothers and 12% Imports, but great for the attendees. No lines and extended time talking to brewers. As I felt back at the hotel, Session 2 started off rough. The first few samples were not settling easily. And I felt rather groggy. I think I will tweak the morning prep for Session 3. Anyway, I pushed on.

I immediately headed into the Boyden Salon because that is where Against the Grain (ATG) was set up. They were pouring a Rauchbier called Raucho Man Randy Beverage. I homebrew Rauchbiers so when I can find one being done professionally I jump at the chance to taste their interpretation. I would put this one somewhere between my homebrew and Schlenkerla's with regard to the smoke level. Where mine is mildly smoky and Schlenkerla is an "in-yer-face" smoke bomb, Raucho is at a moderate level. A tad bit of sweetness helps the overall flavor experience. I would drink it again but for the style to win hearts I think mild smoke is what to aim for. My non craft beer drinking local friends love my Rauch. Quick shout out to Kelso (not at the fest) whose Rye Aged Rauch is my favorite Rauch at the moment. I have a growler in the basement that I can't drink because of this personal recent setback. Fortunately it was filled with a counter-pressure system at Bierkraft so I have time.

I take a few moments to talk to Joshua M. Bernstein, who is repping his book, Brewed Awakening near the ATG table. I met Joshua at one of his homebrew tours when I helped a friend co-host his stop on the Brooklyn tour back in April. Anyway, I am flipping through a copy while Joshua is talking to other attendees and I am captivated by the book's visually appealing format. Lots of great beer-related photos "clipped" to pages and helpful notes "taped" upon thick, "antiqued"pages. Very informative on beer terminology and includes a lot of suggestions for beers to try. I am not a book reader so the format of this book is very appealing. The other great thing for non book readers is that the format allows you to jump around and still learn new information. Thanks for the signed copy Joshua!

Back to Sampling
So I work the Great Hall and Boyden's Salon, sampling here and there, but my head is just not in it. Don't get me wrong, it's on me because there was not a bad beer in the joint. I sample but nothing is standing out due to my Session 1 induced stupor. So I will just run down the list of what I sampled and apply the general statement that, "Yes! You should seek each and everyone of the brands and styles."
- Midtfyns Bryghus X Porter (Collaboration with De Molen)
- 8 Wired The Big Smoke ( I guess the Porter base lends more of an earthy-woodsy smoke than the "meat juice" smoke of a straight Rauch. It's a good thing.)
- Haandbryggeriet Barrel Aged Aquavit Porter (very lively and tingly mouthfeel)
- Nogne Rye Imperial Porter (I love just about rye anything)
- Local Option Bourbon Barrel Aged Kentucky Common (quite a few people mentioning this brewer and this beer in casual conversations with attendees)
- Cambridge Brewing Company Heather Ale (I have no notes on this but as I write about it I am recalling how herbally refreshing this beer was. I can remember standing off in the corner and being amazed at how it feels like it just opened up the senses. And I think this is the beer that "refloated" by boat for the rest of Session 2. This was sample #8 or so and I began to feel a second wind coming on.)
- Cambridge Brewing Company Red God Imperial Red Ale (serious hoppyness @ 9.0%)

No Sleep 'Til Down Under
I went back down to Washburn Hall to revisit with the Bon Beer Voyage crew. They are still plugging away with networking and promoting that insane trip giveaway. Off in the corner is the Yeastie Boys table. The Yeastie Boys seem to be making a name for themselves over in their neighborhood so I saunter over for some sampling. Pot Kettle Black is an award winner for them back home so I give it a go. It's a Porter but a hoppy one so it is an interesting spin. But I have always viewed Porters as weak Stouts so it's always been hard for me to find a standout Porter. It's good but not blown away. The most memorable recent Porter I have had is Brooklyn Brewery's Mary's Maple Porter. I am a Malt Mind more than a Hop Head so I like it malty, viscous, and sweet. Ugh! Kills me to be thinking about it right now when it will be 2 weeks or so before I can have any beer, let alone that Porter.

I also tried the Yeastie Boys award winning Guanamatta, a tea infused IPA. Unfortunately I had it after I had sampled Rex Attitude, their peat-smoked Golden Strong Ale. A 100% smoked! It's a much different smoke than what you get from a Rauchbier. A strong Rauchbier is "raw hot dog juice." A strong peat is medicinal. If you are my age you may remember an ointment for cuts from the 1970's called merthioloate. That is Islay peat. This beer has a strong Islay single malt profile. I drink single malt and I am more of a Highland and Campbelltown malt lover but if you like the extra peaty Islay malt you will probably love Rex Attitude. As far as sampling anymore that night, I was done because this beer "Rexed" my palate. The peaty smoke lingered on the palate for the rest of the evening. Not a bad thing but you just want to drink this one in isolation or at least make it the last one of the night. The boys explain the beer further here- Rex Attitude.

I'm Calling it a Night
I heard that many of the brewers would be heading out to local watering holes after the session but I just could not fathom having a full glass of beer at that point. My boat had begun to take on water again. I was sinking. Plus I had Session 3 to attend.

I head back to the room to implement the planned ritual for staving off a hangover. No animals were harmed in said ritual. Liver? Perhaps…but no animals.

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