Sunday, June 3, 2012

Friday at ACBF 2012

Sadly, the American Craft Beer Fest has come to a close. It was an amazing two-day experience volunteering Friday for session A and then attending session B on Saturday with SouthernEMRandumink and Baumbusch. Here is a rundown of my highlights from Friday.


I arrived at the festival quite early, 3:00pm, to help set up brewer booths and stations. I know this is weird, but I was both in shock and intimated by these amazing craftsmen and craftswoman. Once I overcame this middle-school giddiness, I spent much of time running around collecting an endless supply of ice and tubs for brewers and district representatives. With tired forearms and a thirsty palate, I decided to scope out the floor hoping to talk with brewers about their products.
My first stop was at Gardner Ale House located in Gardner, MA. Attracted by the name, Downtown Smokey Brown, I starting asking questions focusing on the "smokey" part of the beer's name. The head brewer, Dave Richardson, explained how he experimented with many types type of wood and smoked malt settling with Cherry Wood because he felt it imparted a subtle smoke quality that complimented the malt backbone of this delicious brown ale. Cheers to experimentation!!!
Next, I ventured to the section of the floor that I would visit time and time again, the DC Brau Brewing booth. Their four beers, The Citizen, Penn Quarter Porter, On the Wings of Armageddon, The Corruption and The Public were perhaps the best overall portfolio at the festival. Later, during the festival on a break from pouring, I talked for ten minutes with the crew about their beer and beer culture in DC. What a great experience!
These amazing experience continued as I meandered through the convention center. With one volunteer standing at the Cambridge Brewing Company booth, I ventured over to view what they would be pouring during the festival. I was stroked to see that Mass Appeal, Ozymandias and Arquebus 2010 were available for sampling. As I read the signs, assistant brewer, Sean Nolan and the volunteer began discussing the brewing intricacies of Mass Appeal. Sean Nolan's enthusiasm about this beer was contagious, so I politely waited to enter into the conversation. We conversed about the citrus that went into the beer and the fact that he and colleagues learned that zesting/peeling a kumquat (I think...) is much more difficult than they initially envisioned. The conversation finished with Sean giving us a rundown of the five yeast strains that were used to ferment the official Boston Craft Beer Week beer (one yeast strain from Idle hands, Night Shift, CBC, Mystic and Enlightenment), which I wish I could remember more of because his knowledge was staggering.
My one of final stop before tickets holders entered the floor was at Night Shift Brewing. Here, I had the opportunity to finally taste Viva Habanera, an ale brewed with agave nectar and habanero peppers. The combined spiciness from the rye malts with the addition of habanero peppers to secondary fermentation provided an excellent level of spiciness without the vegetable quality of the pepper. I am a huge fan of Night Shift and I wish them all the best in the coming months.
After sampling this amazing pepper beer, I quickly returned to my booth, Left Hand Brewing for the arriving festival goers. The five beers that we, Brain Sweeney and I, poured were Juju Ginger, Smoke Jumper, 400 Pound Monkey, Fade to Black Vol #3 and the absolutely amazing flagship, Milk Stout. Our booth was slammed for the entirety of the session. It was great to talk with patrons about their beer tastes and to see their reactions to this well crafted beer. I especially enjoyed when patrons asked for my opinion and I got to delve deeper and explain various nuances of the beer to help them make a selection for sampling.
It was a welcomed sight when my "pour replacer" arrived because this meant I had thirty minutes to sample more delicious beer. I walked directly to Rising Tide Brewing Co where I started a conversation  with head brewer, Nathan Sanborn. Much of conversation revolved around, Ursa Minor, an amazing weizen stout. I asked about the recipe, percentage of wheat malt and why he decided to use wheat rather than oatmeal. He was extremely personable offering very thorough answers which I really appreciate. Cheers to Nathan and his crew! Can't wait until their beer reaches Boston.
My final stop of the night was NoDa Brewing Co, which conveniently, was located adjacently with Rising Tide. Here, I sampled Coco Loco Porter, Ghost Hop White IPA and Monk's Trunk. All of Chad Henderson's products were exquisitely balanced allowing all components of the beer to shine through. As I was sampling my last selection, Monk's Trunk, I noticed Chad blended it with Ghost Hop for himself. I asked if I could also try a sample and he obliged and am I sure glad that he did. This blend of hops, Belgian esters, and the creamy mouthfeel of a Witbier was one of my favorite things that I tasted over my two-day experience.


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