Monday, July 9, 2012

Review of the Festival US- Session 3

Pre Session 3
Wow! I feel pretty good! Tired and groggy but only a slight headache. Pop a couple Tylenol and go get some breakfast. I know I am feeling pretty good because I participated in a couple of conversations in the hotel lobby and I was actually able to stay tuned. I was not all up in my own head about how crappy I felt…or thinking I just want to go lie down.

Today's plan is to get some brewers lined up for the Craft Beer Coach Interview Series. Being completely focused on the brewer as a person and what makes them tick, these are not your everyday craft beer interviews.

I would also just hit all the rooms randomly to get to brewers I had not sampled yet during Session 1 or Session 2.

I spend about an hour reading various sections of Brewed Awakening before catching the shuttle to check in at Mechanics Hall at 1 PM. I really like this book!

Session 3 Highlights
I start off in the Great Hall with the tables along the stage. Along here I found Stillwater, Jolly Pumpkin, Jester King, Brouwerij De Molen, De Ranke, Dock Street, Pretty Things, and Huvila and Malmgard.
Time Out! As I type off the names of just one row of brewers it hits me. Take any one row of tables from The Festival US and you have a small but insanely memorable beer tasting event!
I have some Stillwater Table Beer and I am sampling some Jolly Pumkpin IO Saison when I turn to find Jeppe from Evil Twin standing behind me. He is with a group of craft beer gods such as the Alstrom Brothers, his brother Mikkel, Brian Strumke of Stillwater and a couple of others I don't yet know…and yet he takes time out for this beer blogger and craft beer entrepreneur to exchange pleasantries and some light dialogue. Gotta love the Danes!

I met Jeppe back at his tasting event at Beer Street NYC. I approached him back then about doing a Craft Beer Coach interview and he gladly accepted the invitation. But he's a very busy man. As much as I am, I know the craft beer world is wondering what is behind Jeppe the brewer. I asked him for some suggestions of other brewers that he thinks might give an entertaining interview. He gives me some great suggestions. He suggests I try Jolly Pumpkin's Cinco Anos and we part ways.

The Sour Hour
Man, sour brews are all the rage these days and if you're a Sour Craft Kid, The Festival US was the place to be. I am not a Sour Craft Kid but this is what I challenged my jowels with on this day. Whew!
- Stillwater Table Beer (super sour to me)
- Jolly Pumpkin Cinco Anos (mutha' pucker!)
- Tilquin Draft and bottle (draft is less tart)
- Trois Dames Oak Aged Ale (jowel muscles still aching after this one!)
- Crookes Stave Persica, Surette, and Petit Sour (Persica was the most palatable...ahem! least sour...to me)
- Local Option Kentucky Common (sour somewhat balanced by brown ale)
- Local Option Schmetterling Gose (Now I enjoy the yeasty profile of this Gose. In the world of sours, this one Gose home with me! You see what I did there?)

Time for Some Mutha' Shuckin' Lunch!
I stepped outside to the Food Truck Court and saw the Schuckin' Truck off on the left.

Cue romantic "classical music while a couple runs toward each other on a beach" scene. Except that I have a torn meniscus to be operated on when I get home so it's more like the guy is "Frankenstein shuffling" toward the girl.

It felt like raw oysters were the only gustatory option for myself at that point. I could taste the sea water. Crap! As I am typing this a craving for raw oysters builds within. Anyway, the Shuckin' Truck is pulling in some bucks. There's gonna be a bit of a wait. I order the Lobster slider to tide me over. O…M…G! Tender, sweet, and juicy bits of Lobsta'.

The shucker is working hard to keep up with the demand but he is getting trays out at a steady pace.

The timing was perfect. I just wrapped up the Lobster slider when I was handed my tray of oysters. I ain't shucking' around when I tell you that it was the perfect and only option at that point of 3 back-to-back sessions. A squeeze of lemon. The cool, salty sweet water sliding down with the fresh and tender oyster. It definitely felt like the world was my oyster that weekend.

The Wrap Up
I went back inside and worked the rooms some more to line up interviews. Everyone I asked said yes and was curious about the interview format so their will be some interesting interviews coming up.

I have about 10 or so on the list. A Dane focused interview day was supposed to happen last Sunday but then I had the complications to my knee surgery which had me in the hospital all weekend. It was going to be a concentrated effort to try to find out if there are any common themes behind Danish brewers. I was so looking forward to that day. Don't worry, this collection of interviews is still coming.

To Shelton Brothers and 12% Imports- Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! You may take your bow. The overwhelming consensus is that you must…You Must… do The Festival US again! Many thanks for bringing together such an incredible collection of innovative and bar-raising brewers, along with their insanely delicious portfolio of craft beers. All of the very positive press and feedback should help to sell out all sessions the next time.

In conversations with some brewers I learned that a few were sticking around in the days after the fest to do collaboration brews so there should be some exciting collaboration projects coming out in the near future.

The Pregame Plan. Did it Work?
As I had mentioned in my post "Worcester Sauced. The Pregame", I did some research to try to come up with a prevention plan for my first multi-session beer fest. There were two basic goals-                   1. Keep the overall BAC at a respectable level during the sessions
2. Avoid "day-after" screaming headaches and general nausea.

While I made it very clear that I had suffered through much of Session 2 the night before, I woke up Sunday morning with just a slight headache and actually looking forward to eating a heavy breakfast. I know I was in better shape than usual because I was actually able to hold a conversation with a couple people in the lobby around the breakfast. I pigged out and did not get that rebound nausea…you know when you think it will help to eat but about 30 minutes you ask yourself, "Why did I eat?" So my prevention plan is completely unscientific but staying focused on the prep and the reload plan seemed to have helped me make it through 3 back-to-back sessions.

One tweak I am very curious about is the milk. I had read somewhere that milk may help slow or prevent alcohol absorption. On Saturday morning I drank the milk box a full hour and a half to 2 hours before I had my first sample. Saturday evening was rough so I wonder if I drank the milk too early. Sunday morning I was not going to wait in line for entry so I was able to drink it within the half hour of starting to sample brews. I sampled consistently for about 2 hours and then just a few more after 3 PM and by 4 PM I felt nearly completely sober.

By 6 PM I was completely sober and jumped in the car to go get a burger and a good old Harpoon IPA at a local Chili's. I knew brewers and fest attendees were out and about on the town but I just wanted a burger and a "non-exotic" beer to wrap up the weekend. It really hit the spot. The bottom line is that having the milk within 30 minutes of starting sampling seemed to help quite a bit.

Last but Not Least
Let us pay homage to what is one of the most under appreciated features of a craft beer tasting event. They sit poised almost as a shrine under which attendees should bow and ask forgiveness. They keep us going through round after round. They keep our sample glasses clean. They are-

I am off to setup those interviews. Follow me on Twitter @craftbeercoach to get the tweets for the interview postings.

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