Beer festivals can be tons of fun for the revelers who spend the day sipping suds and toasting with friends. But the brewery employees who make the journey and effort to participate have to balance that convivial atmosphere with the harsh realities of another day at the office.
No brewery will be more active and visible during Savannah Craft Beer Week than Savannah’s own Southbound Brewing Co. Co-founder Carly Wiggins wears many hats at the still small but rapidly expanding beer producer, including the responsibilities of marketing and promotion.
She and her co-workers will be sponsoring more than ten events during the lead-in week to the Savannah Craft Brew Fest as well as having a large presence at the festival itself.
“We’re trying to make something happen every single day,” said Wiggins while taking a brief break from spreadsheets and projections to talk about her intense schedule for the week.
Along with pint glass giveaways and tap takeovers, they also scheduled more intimate gatherings like a meet the brewer night at Ampersand where attendees can pick the brains of brewers Smith Matthews and Alex Breard.
“People can ask them questions about anything. Sometimes it’s people who love beer or who want to start their own brewery and want to learn about the path we’ve taken,” added Wiggins.
At the Savannah Craft Brew Fest on Saturday, Southbound will be releasing its new Fade to Red beer and backing the photo booth attraction, where festival-goers can get a fun, themed snapshot to remember their day in a brewery-branded glossy.
Founders Brewing Co. representative Jonathan Sikes will also be participating in tastings and rare beer nights during Savannah Craft Beer Week. Those events include small pours at Whole Foods on Thursday afternoon and bringing a hard-to-find keg of Founders’ Dissenter, a clean, new-release imperial lager to Savannah Distillery Ale House on Friday.
But the core focus of his week will be on the Savannah Craft Brew Fest itself, which he also attended last year.
“With more and more festivals happening each year we are getting to a point to where we can’t attend them all, but this is one that I think a lot of breweries try to participate in, due in part to Savannah being such a fun place to be, with burgeoning tourism and an emerging craft scene as well,” said Sikes.
In his job promoting Founders, which is based on Michigan, Sikes added “It gives us exposure to consumers who have never heard of Founders before and gives them a chance to try our beers and see what we’re all about.”
That take on festival day appearances is shared by Will Avery, head brewer for Kennesaw’s Burnt Hickory Brewery. He sees beer festivals as a chance to interact with beer drinkers one-on-one.
When discussing the Savannah Craft Brew Festival, he said “I was there for the whole fest last year. I drank our beers all day and talked to people.”
He plans on doing the same this year. “I don’t view festivals as recreational. Part of my job is to rep a product I work on 10-14 hours a day.”
A wide variety of Burnt Hickory’s beer will be available at its Tap Takeover at Your Pie in Sandfly on Friday night, where all of the available draft beers will be exclusively from Burnt Hickory. Flagship brews Ezekiel’s Wheel and Cannon Dragger will be there, along with this year’s version of 9353, a beer Avery describes as a Peach Berliner Weiss.
The event will also feature the very last keg of music-inspired beer Lake of Fire, a red rye ale influenced by band The Meat Puppets. The similarly rock-n-roll themed Toolin’ for Ale-nuss is a riff on the punk music of The Meatmen. Ale-nuss is so limited that Your Pie will see the only keg outside of those kept at the brewery reserved for tours and tastings.
“It’s somewhere between a big brown and robust porter,” said Avery.
After a full week of smiling, shaking hands, giving out swag and educating fans about beer, these industry players and their cohorts will be ready and deserving of a vacation from all the festivities.
“Monday, yeah. I’ve got to take Monday off,” said Southbound’s Wiggins. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to sit on the beach and talk to nobody.”
The Akron RubberDucks are hoping to hit a home run with its first craft beer festival.
The team will host the Ballpark Festival of Beers at Canal Park from 4 to 7 p.m. Sept. 20.
“This is just another way of us reaching out to the community and making Canal Park the epicenter of Akron, as it should be,” said Jim Pfander, general manager and chief operating officer.
The festival, sponsored by Goose Island Beer Co., will showcase more than 100 local, regional and domestic beers. It will take place on the field, with the beer vendors set up on the warning track.
There also will be music and food from Canal Park concessions.
“A lot of people do beer fests but we’re going to do one with a ballpark atmosphere,” Pfander said. “Being on a baseball field and being able to walk in the outfield and sample a lot of different, great craft brews, it’s going to be a fun event.”
The RubberDucks, the AA affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, are still working on the brewery and beer list. But Goose Island, Spaten, Kona, Redhook, Widmer Brothers, Destihl, Elevator, Summit, Hoppin’ Frog, Fat Head’s, Jackie O’s, Alltech, Breckenridge and Left Hand already are lined up.
Tickets are $30 in advance, and $35 at the gates the day of the event. They include a commemorative tasting glass and 15 drink tickets.
Tickets can be purchased in person at the Canal Park box office, by calling 330-253-5153, or online at www.akronrubberducks.com. And sorry, kids, but this event is only for those 21 or older.
Pfander hopes to turn the beer festival into an annual event. Times certainly have changed from when he first entered professional baseball 15 years ago, when the beer selection at the ballpark basically came down to Budweiser or Miller. Fans now expect craft beer to be available, he said.
Beer festivals also are a common promotion for minor-league baseball teams, which are always looking for ways to use their stadiums outside the baseball season.
Many hold beer events, including the Charleston RiverDogs, Dayton Dragons, Lansing Lugnuts and Fort Myers Miracle.
Like many sectors of Mexico’s economy, the beer industry has long been dominated by a powerful duopoly. But a flourishing craft beer movement led by independent microbreweries is showing signs of finally forcing open this lucrative market.
Since assuming office in December 2012, President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration has passed major reforms to combat monopolies and foster greater competition in key industries such as energy and telecommunications. Mexico’s beer industry, which is worth approximately $20 billion USD a year, according to government figures, is also experiencing significant change.
The world’s sixth largest producer and consumer of beer, Mexico brews over 8.6 billion litres annually, while the average Mexican drinks 60 litres per year. But the two dominant breweries, Grupo Modelo and Cuauhtemoc-Moctezuma, control 98 percent of the market, according to a US Department of Agriculture report from 2013.
Microbreweries account for less than one percent, although their combined market share is growing rapidly by 50 to 60 percent a year.
Breaking the mould
“When we started out 10 years ago the market was completely closed. The only beers that existed were those of Modelo and Cuauhtemoc-Moctezuma,” said Jesus Briseño, the tall, middle-aged founder of Guadalajara’s Minerva brewery.
Minerva, which proclaims itself the leader of Mexico’s “beer revolution”, sought to shake up the industry by encouraging Mexicans to embrace new styles of beer, while using legal action to open up the market. The latter path led to a federal decree in 2013 limiting the duopoly’s use of exclusivity contracts which prevent most bars, stores and restaurants from selling rival beer brands.
Although many bars still only serve a narrow range of commercial lagers and darker beers, trendier areas of Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterrey and Queretaro now house dozens of specialist pubs that stock pale ales, pilsners, porters, stouts and wheat beers.
“I love the natural taste, the aroma and the sediment,” Mexican engineer Alejandro Lino says, while sipping cacao-infused pale ale at a Minerva-run brewing workshop in Guadalajara.
“I’m so in love with craft beer that I haven’t drunk Corona in years,” he added, in reference to Modelo’s flagship beer, which market research firm Millward Brown named Latin America’s most valuable brand in 2013.
An amateur homebrewer, Lino had come to check out the workshop where enthusiasts can learn to make their own beer.
“The workshop is a means of democratising knowledge and a place for us to experiment with new beers on a small scale,” Briseño said. It is part of a wider effort by Minerva to “create a stronger beer culture,” he explained.
Promoting craft beer
Founded in Guadalajara in 2004, Minerva has grown from a staff of three to 48. Production at its new factory – a vast hangar brimming with shiny steel tanks, bags of malt and cases of freshly bottled beer – totalled 1.1 million litres last year. Their goal for 2014 is 1.5 million.
In 2008, Minerva and local microbrewery Cerveceria Revolucion cofounded the Guadalajara Beer Festival to showcase Mexican craft beer and introduce previously unavailable European imports.
Having begun as a modest collection of beer stands in a small city square, the annual festival has since morphed into a major three-day event with live music, workshops, food stalls and fairground rides. Now staged in a huge forum on the outskirts of Guadalajara, it draws up to 30,000 attendees a year and claims to be Latin America’s largest beer festival.
“We think the more craft beer that exists and the more exposure it has, the more the entire industry will benefit, Minerva included,” Briseño said.
Petra Kittel, a German expatriate who founded Guadalajara’s La Blanca microbrewery in late 2012, sold her first batch of beer at the festival that same year. “It really helps [to publicise your brand]. It’s a gigantic event,” Kittel stated.
A dozen other beer festivals have since sprung up across Mexico. Meanwhile, Minerva has sought to strengthen the burgeoning craft beer culture by opening its brewing workshop and launching El Deposito, a popular franchise bar.
There are now seven Deposito branches in middle-class neighbourhoods across Guadalajara and Mexico City, all of which stock Minerva’s complete range, including a unique ale matured in oak barrels previously used to age tequila, plus other Mexican craft beers and British, Belgian and German imports.
“Minerva were the pioneers. They did a great job showing people that there’s more to beer than Corona,” added Kittel, who comes from a family of Munich-based brewers and produces her own range of German-style wheat beers.
“Globalisation has also influenced the craft beer craze“, Kittel said, noting that it was fuelled by the increased availability of imports and “Mexicans who travelled to Europe and tried different beers there.”
Opening the market
As the brewing revolution has taken hold, a few businesses have completely rejected commercial beer, such as Guadalajara’s “Pig’s Pearls” burger restaurant, which only stocks craft beer.
“We wanted to support Mexican micro-businesses, not monopolies,” stated owner Oscar Martin. “A lot of people come in asking for Corona or Heineken so I tell them, ‘We don’t have that kind of beer but we’ve got something better for you.’”
The most popular beers include those by Perro Negro from Guadalajara, Insurgente from Tijuana, Libertadores from Michoacan and the Baja Brewing Company from Los Cabos, Martin added.
However, until last year, most points of sale remained closed to Mexico’s microbreweries.
In a bid to circumvent the use of exclusivity contracts, Minerva teamed up with Mexico City’s Primus brewery and British multinational SABMiller to file a complaint with the Federal Competition Commission.
“It took three and a half years but last year they ruled that Modelo and Cuauhtemoc-Moctezuma could no longer exclude craft beers from bars and restaurants,” Briseño said.
Modelo declined to comment when contacted, but Cuauhtemoc-Moctezuma affirmed in a statement that it “cooperated throughout the investigation process and has fully complied with all the requirements established by the commission“.
Although the federal resolution partially opened the market by decreeing that only 25 percent of contracts could contain exclusivity clauses, it fell short of outlawing such agreements.
Among the other obstacles facing microbrewers, their products still cannot be sold in convenience stores. One of the country’s major convenience stores, OXXO, has 11,000 locations but belongs to the same conglomerate as Cuauhtemoc-Moctezuma.
Microbrewers must also import their malt from Europe or the United States because the duopoly dominates domestic malt production.
Enhanced production costs mean Mexican craft beer is effectively taxed at three times the rate of commercial beer, although several breweries are pushing for a fixed-rate quota for all beers so they can sell at more competitive prices.
Mexican craft beers currently retail at double or triple the price of commercial beer, thus pricing many people out of the market.
“I prefer craft beer, but if I’m going to a party I’m more likely to buy commercial beer,” said Ricardo Ramos, a recent graduate from the University of Guadalajara, citing the greater availability and lower cost of commercial beer.
Despite having made significant inroads, Mexico’s beer revolution still has a long way to go to overcome such hurdles.
Station 26 is going to the dogs.Two beer festivals and a boozy dog wash with the Rollergirls are just the start of the fun this weekend. Marczyk Fine Foods is hosting its second Burger Night fundraiser, The Viewhouse is throwing a fantasy football party, Latke Love is popping up again…and there’s plenty more. Keep reading for a taste of what’s on the culinary calendar this weekend.
Head to either Marczyk Fine Foods location from 5 to 7:30 p.m. tonight, when you can “eat a burger and fund a farmer.” The stores have been collecting donations all week for the Niman Ranch Next Generation Scholarship Fund, and all proceeds from tonight’s Burger Night — $8.99 for a Niman Ranch burger — will go directly to the fund.
Joe Debbie Sakic Bringing Hope to the Table at the Hyatt Regency Tech Center is a benefit dinner, held in conjunction with the Joe Sakic Celebrity Classic, that benefits Food Bank of the Rockies and its children’s programs. The dinner begins at 6:30 p.m.; tickets are $250. Learn more and here.
Trinity Grille is hosting a Texas-style BBQ today from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Lunch is $5; call 303-293-2288 for more information.
Saturday, August 23
The ViewHouse is holding a Fantasy Football Draft Party today. The pigskin party will feature sixty kinds of beers, forty flatscreen TVs, free wings, beers and giveaways. There is a $100 minimum per twelve-person reservation; call 720-878-2015 and go to viewhouse.com for more information.
Latke Love’s pop-up restaurant will be popping up at the Denver Urban Homestead today from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. today; the owners are raising funds to open a permanent place.
The Boulder Craft Beer Festival will pour into Boulder today starting at noon. This beer fest will highlight twenty of Boulder County’s thirty craft breweries. There will be plenty of beer, food, live music and games. Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the door; click here for info.
Global Fest 2014 will celebrate the diverse cultures across the globe and features performances from around the world, a colorful parade of national flags, cultural exchanges through food and drink and much more. The festival will run from noon to 10 p.m. today at the Aurora Municipal Center. Learn more at auroraglobalfest.org.
Rendezvous At The Rock, Rockyard Brewing Company’s own beer festival, will feature over thirty of Colorado breweries showcasing more than ninety beers. There will also be food trucks and live music. Beer will be flowing from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Rockyard; tickets are $10 for non-drinkers; $35 in advance; $40 day of and $50 for VIP. For tickets and additional information click here.
Sunday, August 24
Benefiting the Rocky Mountain Rollergirls and Max Fund, Denver’s no-kill animal shelter, Tails and Ales is a dog wash that is just as fun for the dog owners. Station 26 Brewing is crafting a special Tails and Ales brew just for the event and, in addition to dog washes by the fierce Rollergirls, there will be a vendor fair, music, outdoor games, mobile adoption van, food trucks and ice cream! Head on down to Station 26 Brewing between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. to get your pooch polished. Click here to learn more.
For information on dozens of culinary events around town, visit our online Food Drink listings — and if you have information for a culinary event you’d like included in our online calendar, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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10th Annual Lucky Lab Backyard Hop Harvest
4 p.m. Tuesday Aug. 26, Lucky Labrador Brewpub, 915 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.;
The 2014 fresh hop season begins Tuesday when volunteers gather on the Lab’s back porch for the 10th annual fresh hop harvest. They’ll pick a few hundred pounds of fresh hop cones from vines grown at the pubs and backyards around town, hops that will go into two batches of a fresh-hop ale called the Mutt in honor of the fact that nobody knows what-all varieties comprise the harvest.
Cue a couple of months of uniquely Northwest buzz about the freshest possible hops, fresh-hop beer festivals and any number of great local beers made with just-picked hops instead of the dried or pelletized hops used once the short hop harvest season is over. Brewers in most of the rest of the world use processed hops all the time, but Northwest brewers can and do fill their car trunks or pickup beds with just-picked hops to make once-a-year fresh hop beers for the harvest season.
“We are unique in the U.S.,” says Brian Butenschoen of the brewers guild, “that within about 100 miles of the hop fields we have 80 breweries that can make fresh-hop beers. I don’t think there is a greater concentration of breweries within a 100-mile radius in the country.”
“It is an exciting time, because the harvest reconnects us with the farmers and the agricultural roots of our beer,” says Ecliptic’s John Harris, who led annual hop-field tours when he brewed for Full Sail. “We love hops especially because they’re our spice. Malt is the base, our stock, but hops are what makes a beer come alive.”
Still, it seems a curious object of veneration, this sticky, aromatic cousin of cannabis that grows inches a day during high summer. Its leafy, thumb-size cones are used for almost nothing but to preserve beer and give it bitterness, tasks for which they are uncannily perfect — far better than the witches’ brews of herbs and spices brewers used in the centuries before hops became the standard. Without hops, beer would be a sweet, grainy gruel where bad bugs thrived. Without hops — and the thousands of variations of flavor and aroma that derive from different varieties, and when and how they are used in the brewing process — brewers would have far fewer outlets for their creativity. And that creativity reaches its most feverish pitch during the hop harvest.
Though hops add bitterness to beer, fresh-hop beers are more about fleeting nuances of flavor than overbearing bitterness. “I don’t want anything overpowering, especially bitterness,” says Van Havig of Gigantic brewing. “I try to make a delicate beer — I keep the malt profile simple and I don’t make big beers, either, because I don’t want a lot alcohol to get in the way of the flavor. I think of them as ephemeral beers, because the hops have their brightest character, the most volatile oils when they’re fresh. It’s hard to describe, but it’s the same as eating a tomato ripe from the vine and one from the supermarket.”
Those aroma and flavor compounds quickly sublimate, says Havig — the biological clock is ticking. “When should you drink these beers? The instant that they’re put on tap,” Havig says, “because the volatile compounds are already dissipating. Come back in a week and you’ll find a very different beer.”
Salem Ale Works tasting
5-8 p./m. Friday Aug. 22, Uptown Market, 6620 S.WE. Schiolls Fy. Rd., Beaverton;
Salem Ale Works was founded by two college friends and former wildland firefighters; Justin Ego and Jake Bonham. Their shared experiences and love of great craft beer gave rise to the formation of a nano-brewery in 2013 and you can taste some of those beer tonight.
First Tequila Fest PDX
5 – 10 p.m. Friday Aug. 22; 4-10 p.m. Saturday Aug. 23, Portland Trade Center, 121 SW Salmon St.; $15 $25, tix at www.tequilafestpdx.com
Tequila fans rejoice, you now have a festival of your own: more than 35 top tequila producers from around the world will be represented Tequila Fest PDX, including include Cuervo, 1800 and Gran Centenario. Portland’s own, Sandoval’s (which has the biggest airport tequila bar in the nation at PDX) will also be represented. Entertainment includes Latino music from Cabo Wabo, Espolon and the Aquiles Latin Quartet and the new festival benefits The Oregon Humane Society and Milagro Theatre.
Apple Bandit Cider Night
5-8 p.m. Saturday Aug. 23, Reverend Nat’s Public Taproom, 1813 NE Second Ave.;
Apple Bandit ciders won Best-in-Show at the recent second annual Portland International Cider Cup and they’ll make their draft debut in Portland Saturday evening. The taproom will feature the award-winning Apple Bandit Original on draft, as well as the silver medal-winning Apple Bandit Ginger Bite. Bottles will also be available for to-go purchase. The staff and cidermakers from Apple Bandit will travel all the way from Applegate, Oregon to attend the event and be warded their PICC trophy. Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider will also be pouring 10 additional taps of their own unique hard ciders.
Hokusei/Breakside Beer Dinner
7 p.m. Tuesday Aug. 26, Hokusei, 4246 SE Belmont St.; August 26th, $35/person , reservations required: 971-279-2161.
Hokusei and Breakside Brewery join forces for an izakaya-style menu from Hokusei, paired with some of Breakside Brewery’s fine summer brews. The beer dinner begins with drinking snacks and a pint of one of Breakside’s delicious brews, followed by four courses, each with its own beer pairing; plus Breakside brewers will be on hand to talk about the beers and pairings.
- Course 1
Oregon albacore carpaccio
The Man Who Made Dessert, a wild-yeast fermented belgian-style Apricot ale.
- Course 2
Oregon saba misoni,
Bourbon Barrel-Aged Aztec
- Course 3
Yuzu White, a witbier brewed in collaboration with Hokusei.
- Course 4
Smoked Oregon coho
Habanero Passionfruit Sour
- Course 5
kinoko and shishito gohan
Lindsey Engel, the import craft specialty manager at The Lewis Bear Co., answered a few of our questions, advising us on the ways to best enjoy a beer-tasting.
Here are some steps to properly sample craft beers:
1. Look at the beer in your glass. You should have a beer clean glass allowing for adequate foam/head.
2. Swirl the beer in your glasses this will allow for aromas to be present and loosen carbonation.
3. Smell the beer. Up to 95 percent of all sensory experience is through your sense of smell. You should breathe quickly through your nose then again breathe through your mouth only as well.
4. Taste the beer. Take a sip of the beer and hold it in your mouth as you breathe in. While you still have the beer and start to breathe out and exhale try to also detect flavors such as salty, sweet, bitter, etc. Also try this again after the beer warms up just a bit. Americans tend to drink beers at a lot colder temperatures, as you let the beer warm up a bit you may start to detect flavors and aromas you didn’t notice before.
What type of beer should you start with for a great beer-tasting experience? Why?
As a good rule of thumb it is generally better to try beers with lower IBU’s or International Bittering Units. IBU’s measure the perceived bitterness in a beer, the lower the IBU the lower the bitterness, so it is better to start with the craft beers with the lowest IBUs. A beer’s color is not an indication of IBUs. Just because a beer is light in color it can still have higher IBUs than a beer that is darker in color.
Should you eat beforehand, during or after a beer-tasting?
It is always recommended to eat before tasting beers. A lot of craft beers have high alcohol content and sometimes people that aren’t used to drinking them on a regular basis can be caught off guard.
Should you be cleansing your palate in between beers? Beer types? How?
Drinking water and eating crackers and/or pretzels is also a good recommendation to cleanse the palate while tasting multiple beers. This doesn’t have to be done but can help breakdown the bitterness of certain beers.
Are there any beers you HAVE to try? Anything unique or not easily found in the area?
Beer festivals are a great way to sample different beers sometimes not offered on a regular basis, especially seasonal beers, so those are always great to try because they aren’t available year round. Make sure to write down some of your favorites or take pictures of them, that way you can remember which ones you really liked and would like to purchase at the store. It is very hard to remember all of the beers unless you do write them down especially when most festivals have hundreds of beer to sample.
IPAs in particular seem to be a hit for some, but an acquired taste for others. Any you recommend for a first timer?
IPAs are definitely one of the most popular craft beer styles around. But if you are new to the craft beer scene I would recommend easing your way into it. I would suggest starting with a Wheat, Blonde or Amber usually these style don’t tend to be as bitter and are a good place to start.
While traveling through the northland of my former home state, a couple weeks ago, I swung through the lake place my family inherited from my grandparents. I don’t get to see my parents as I often as I did when I lived in Minnesota, so it was a quick visit just to have a couple hours of conversation. We discussed various topics, one of which happened to be this blog and some ideas I had for upcoming posts. I told my dad I was planning on writing about him, and I wanted him to retell the story about the best beer he’s ever had. He knew exactly the story I was referring to and leaned back further in his recliner to recall the evening as if it were yesterday.
When he was in high school (I believe the statute of limitations has long since passed) in Bismarck, N.D., he worked at the local zoo for a couple summers. He had many responsibilities, but one he remembers with a particular lack of fondness was driving children around on a cruddy little train. On days like the one he remembers, driving the train was a special kind of hell — a hot, humid, never-ending circle of euphoria for everyone but the driver. Those especially hot days left my dad completely exhausted and in need of hydration that would not only quench thirst but also ease the mind a little.
It wasn’t unusual for him and his friends to gather out on the sandbars of the Missouri River to have some beers. On this particular evening, my dad recalls telling one of his buddies to grab him a six-pack of some non-descript beer, like Schlitz at $1.50, or the more economical choice of Old Milwaukee at $1.25. After a day of driving that silly train around the zoo or watching one-too-many kids drop their ice cream cones on the ground and cry, that bottle of beer sitting on ice was more coveted than the Holy Grail. When he finally made it out to the gathering of vehicles on the sandbar, he located the cooler with his six pack that had been on ice for hours, pulled the top of that golden elixir and enjoyed the best beer he’s ever had: a forgettable 21 cent lager from a pop-top can.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve thought about what would be the best beer I’ve ever had. I’ve had some really good ones, too. I thought of the first time I tried my favorite beer, Odell Myrcenary, and how that beer changed the way I think about IPAs. I thought about all the small-batch, limited release beers I’ve had in bottles or at beer festivals, beers that I can’t even name because I was in a state of euphoria not unlike the one the children on that train at the zoo likely experienced. And yet, despite all the good beer I’ve had, the best beer I’ve ever drank might be the first one I sucked down at a local bar after I finished my last class of graduate school. And I couldn’t even tell you what it was.
My hope is that I’m lucky enough to enjoy many more beers over the lifetime that I’m given. I’m sure I’ll taste a few more that will change the way I think about beer. Heck, there may even be some that change my life. And if I get another that takes the throne as the best beer I’ve ever had, I’d only be so lucky to not remember what it was.
By Michael Sears
President, Forest City Brewers
Greetings, fellow beer geeks!
So, how did we get to mid-August so fast? I blinked, and here we are. Suddenly, the county fairs are happening, the back-to-school sales are in full force, and I noticed the other day while on a beer run to the store that the breweries are releasing their Okoberfest beers. Sheesh … when you are enjoying yourself, time really does pass quickly.
As for enjoying yourself, being a craft-beer geek/enthusiast, this time of year is a cornucopia (pun intended) of beer bliss. First, let me start with a couple of beer events I attended over the past couple of weekends.
Aug. 9, our club took a bus trip beyond the Cheddar Curtain to Madison, Wisconsin, for one of the premier beer festivals in the entire U.S. — Great Taste of the Midwest in Olin Park, on beautiful Lake Monona. This was the 28th annual version, hosted by the Madison homebrew club, Madison Homebrewers and Tasters Guild. Originally starting out as a small local event, it has steadily grown to 5,000 attendees and 170 breweries bringing in more than 600 beers, of which 60 were cask-conditioned real ales.
A few years back, a writer for a beer periodical compared getting tickets to Great Taste to tickets for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in difficulty to obtain. Space limits me, but the beers that really caught my attention and that I can remember were: Dark Horse’s Plead the 5th Burbon Barrel-aged Imperial Stout, Emmett’s Red Ale, Flossmoor Station’s Pullman Brown, Founder’s Dirty Bastard, New Glarus Staghorn Oktoberfest, Pig Mind’s Joe Daddy coffee Stout, Sun King’s Fistfull of Hops, Surley’s Darkness, 3 Floyd’s Zombie Dust, and Tyranena’s Sheep Shagger Scotch Ale. Needless to say, it was a great day.
This past Saturday evening, I attended Burpee Museum of Natural History’s inaugural summer fund-raising event, The Local. Unlike the behemoth that Great Taste is, this is a more intimate gathering of approximately 350 people at the museum in Rockford. The focus is pairing food and desserts from local restaurants with local breweries and wineries, hence the name. The breweries were Carlyle’s, paired with The Sweetery; Pig Minds, paired with Five Forks; and Rockford Brewing Co., paired with Vintage @ 501. The wineries were Famous Fossil, paired with Mary’s Market; and Hailey’s, paired with Garrett’s.
The evening was perfect weather-wise, along with the food and drink. Patrons sampled the beer/wine food pairings in the museum gardens on the river and voted for their favorite. Also, silent auctions were held to help raise funds for the museum. The highlight of the evening for myself was Carlyle’s Black Walnut Stout … mmmmm.
Along with the many Oktoberfests coming up, I want to remind you of the upcoming local beer festival, Screw City Beer Festival, set for Saturday, Sept. 6, in downtown Rockford. Breweries and beers are being finalized, but one tent you must stop by is the Forest City Brewers. This marks the return of the club pouring our very own handcrafted beers to the public. Some of you may remember we were at the inaugural event, but because of archaic Illinois liquor laws, we had to bow out the last two years. But we are back, and will have nine different beers on tap for your enjoyment. Stop by and say hi, as I will be at the tent most of the day, unless I’m hunting down a special beer.
Michael Sears is the president of the Forest City Brewers. The Forest City Brewers is a home-brewing club dedicated to the art of finely-crafted beer. The club meets on the first Wednesday of each month at Thunder Bay Grille on East State Street. For more about Forest City Brewers, go to http://forestcitybrewers.org. If you have comments or recommendations, please contact Mike at email@example.com.
From the Aug. 20-26, 2014, issue
Corn is a staple at most festivals in the region. There are several festivals dedicated alone to corn.
But corn isn’t the only thing marked for merrymaking at the growing number of festivals throughout the region. We have beer festivals and festivals celebrating pork, popcorn, the pierogi and there was even a Bacon Fest.
Dolton highlights shrimp with long-running Shrimp Boil each year on Isaak Walton Lake. The Aukiki River Festival in south Porter County celebrates the Grand Kankakee River.
There are also festivals for blueberries, pumpkins, pets and even Elvis and The Beatles.
Church and ethnic festivals are among the most popular in the region. So is the Hobart Jaycees Fest, which for years was a staple at the parking lot of Strak Van Til on U.S. 6 before moving this year to Rugby Field closer to downtown.
Festival of the Lakes in Hammond draws some of the biggest acts in the region annually.
TV’s “Seinfeld” had Festivus For The Rest of Us, but the region has Bizarre Bazaar (Hammond), Western Days (Griffith) and Gathering of the Orange (LaPorte).
And ducks play a large part in Hobart’s Lakefront Festival – as in yellow plastic ones – during the festival’s annual Dam Duck Race.
With a number of upcoming beer festivals, it’s time to study up on the best pairings of craft beer and food.
We asked Randy Hayden, general manager of Wine World Destin, to describe common craft beers and pair them up with some food for us.
Between his suggestions as well as information from an advocate of American craft beer, Brewers Association, you should now be able to grab a snack at one of the local beer festivals that compliments the beer you’re tasting.
Want to learn more? The Brewers Association has a full graph describing and pairing 28 different craft beers available for purchase on its website: www.brewersassociation.org.
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