Sunday, October 4, 2009

Takeaways from the World Beer Festival

Yesterday, I spent four glorious hours sampling a fine selection of beers at the World Beer Festival in Durham, NC. Three beer tents, 108 booths, hundreds of beers. It was like taking my tastebuds to Disney World.

The 2-ounce samples were too small to provide adequate reviews, but were just enough to give me a decent idea as to whether or not I'd like to try each beer in a larger quantity. The hardest part was picking which to sample. I wanted to limit myself to 24 different beers. Anything beyond that, I'd probably start to lose the ability to differentiate tastes. At that point, you're not sampling; you're just drinking.

Anyway, I tried 26. Here's a quick recap (I left off the few I didn't like).

On the To-Review List:
  • Abita Andygator
  • Aviator Breweing Co. Old Bulldog ESB
  • Aviator Breweing Co. Hot Rod Red
  • Bellhaven Scottish Ale
  • Big Boss Harvest Time Pumpkin Ale
  • Breckenridge Brewery Avalanche Amber Ale
  • Deschutes Brewery Black Butte Porter - sadly, this one isn't yet available on the East Coast
  • Dogfish Head Punkin Ale
  • Foothills Brewing Oktoberfest
  • Left Hand Brewing Sawtooth ESB
  • Natty Greene's Old Town Brown  - I also learned that they plan to open a taphouse in Raleigh later this fall.
  • North Coast Brewing - Brother Thelonius Belgian Style Abbey Ale
Best Impressions:
  • Abita Abbey Ale
  • Duck-Rabbit Baltic Porter -  a gold medal winner at the Great American Beer Festival.
  • Fort Collins Brewery Chocolate Stout
  • Left Hand Brewing Milk Stout
  • LoneRider Brewing DeadEye Jack Porter
  • Mother Earth Brewing Weeping Willow Wit - Light, crisp and clean with a refreshing celery taste.
  • New Holland Brewing Co., Charkoota Rye - a flavorful, smoked rye dopplebock
  • Redstone Meadery Sunshine Nectar - I like dark, heavy beers, but this light, sweet mead was a nice break.
  • Rogue Chipotle Ale - woooo. Spicy, smoky. It was like drinking BBQ.
Biggest Surprise:
Bud Light Golden Wheat - I wouldn't have even considered trying it, but I was talking to one of the local craft brewers and he told me I'd be surprised. I'm not much of a wheat fan, but I found this macro to be on par with several of the craft wheats that I've tried. Nothing spectacular, but much better than anything I've come to expect in a Bud product.

Favorite Stout, Biggest Disappointment:
Old Dominion Brewing Oak Barrel Stout - Great beer. I went back for seconds... then I found out that they're pulling out of NC. Sad me.

Favorite Overall:
Atwater Block Brewery Vanilla Java Porter - Rich, robust malt flavor with a syrupy-sweet vanilla-caramel flavor. The sweet, strong aroma reminded me of pipe tobacco. It seems to get mediocre reviews online, but I'm not sure why. I found it to be a great beer. Not a meal accompaniment, but it would go nicely with a sweet dessert or on it's own as a slow sipper. I have to get my hands on more of this.

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