Brrrfest 2013

Brrrfest 2013
Brrrfest 2013

Last Saturday, a few friends and I went to Brrrfest 2013.  Once again, like many of the recent beer events, this one featured a “Brewmaster” session, with advanced entry.  If you read my post about what to look for at beer events, here’s what I saw at Brrrfest:

It was a very fast entry to the event.  As soon as we walked into the building, ID’s were checked, then we dropped off our tickets and picked up the event tasting glass and program, then went to stand in line.  As soon as the doors opened, all 400 Brewmasters got into the event within 5 minutes, which was great.  There was a ton of room for the first hour, and my friends and I could go explore the different brewers and reconvene to discuss the highlights.  The glass was a commemorative one, but I do wish it was a globe or tulip style, instead of the kolsch-style glass.

The Sparely Populated Brewmaster Session
The Sparely Populated Brewmaster Session

Although the written program didn’t highlight any special beers, the vendors at the event had a large selection of beers.  I was a bit disappointed several of the bigger names in brewing weren’t at the event (Samuel Adams, Founder’s, and Stone Brewing to name a few), but the Iowa breweries, including several new breweries, represented very well.  In my opinion, two of the best breweries at the event were Peace Tree (in Knoxville, Iowa) and Van Houzen, a new brewery in Newton, Iowa.  Peace Tree had three different ice beers, made from three different flagship beers (Rye Porter, Belgian Blonde, and Hop Wrangler).  They were very good, and unique to the event.  Van Houzen had several of their beers on tap, and when I went to try the one in the program, Symphony Imperial Double Chocolate Stout, I noticed the rest of the lineup: a Double IPA, Belgian Tripel, and Robust Belgian White Beer, all 8% ABV and higher.  Talk about some heavyweights!  I had a chance to try them all, and they were great.

The Crowd at Brrfest
The Crowd at Brrfest

After the event, I asked my friend Macy her thoughts.  She said, “The greatest benefit of attending an event like Brrrfest is that you have the opportunity to meet new breweries that you weren’t aware of before the event, yet still get to rub elbows with the brewers from some of your favorite breweries. The mix of exploration and celebration of expertly brewed beer makes for an event that is too good to miss! I’ll definitely be attending again next year.”

Based on this year, I will too, Macy!  Did you attend Brrrfest?  What was your favorite beer?

Samuel Adams Utopias 10th Anniversary

Utopias 10th Anniversary
Utopias 10th Anniversary

This past weekend, I had a unique opportunity.  A friend of mine had the chance to buy a bottle of the 10th Anniversary Samuel Adams Utopias.  Before the beer is complete, it undergoes quite a bit of a process; in addition to the standard beer ingredients there are also several sugars added (i.e. maple syrup).  There is then a long fermentation time, utilizing several yeast strains, finishing with champagne yeast since it can handle the higher alcohol content.  After it is done fermenting, it clocks in at a whopping 29% ABV.  It is then aged in casks that previously held bourbon, rum, tawny port and ruby port.

All of this equals a very complex beer.  There were three of us who tried it, and each of us has different experiences.  One tasted a smoky maple flavor, another tasted a sweet vanilla and maple flavor.  For some reason, I tasted a bit of banana flavor, with a lot of strong vanilla hints.  It was very alcoholic, reminded me of a whiskey, and burned all the way into the stomach.  It was definitely not for the faint of heart, but for a beer lover like myself, it was great.

Have you tried Utopias?  What did you think?

Samuel Adams Spring Brewers’ Choice Mix Pack 2012

Samuel Adams Spring Brewers' Choice Mix Pack
Samuel Adams Spring Brewers' Choice Mix Pack

For spring, Samuel Adams this year decided to go back to the Brewers’ Choice mix pack instead of again releasing the “American Originals” spring pack. The beers in this year’s spring mix pack show a few big changes, most notably Noble Pils is now a full-time beer, and no longer the spring seasonal.

In the pack, there are 2 bottles each of:

  • Boston Lager (Chosen by Jim Koch)
  • Irish Red (Chosen by Bob Cannon)
  • Black Lager (Chosen by Grant Wood)
  • Alpine Spring (Chosen by David Grinnell)
  • Mighty Oak Ale (Chosen by Andrew Lamont)
  • Whitewater IPA (Chosen by Dean Gianocostas)

It is a large change in a seasonal pack, where the only overlap is the Boston Lager and Irish Red.  New to the pack is the new spring seasonal, Alpine Spring, which is a light, crisp lemon-like brew.  Also in the pack, which is available in six-packs is the Whitewater IPA, which is a cross between a witbier and an IPA, similar to Boulevard’s Collaboration #2, the White IPA.  Finally, the pack is rounded out by the Mighty Oak Ale, which is a carmel-flavored amber ale with vanilla and oak notes.

Have you tried the Brewers’ Choice Spring Variety Pack? What did you think? Which ones did you like? Which ones didn’t you like?

Samuel Adams Winter Classics Variety Pack 2011

Samuel Adams Winter Classics Variety Pack
Samuel Adams Winter Classics Variety Pack

Samuel Adams has once again announced the arrival of winter with the release of this year’s Winter Classics Variety Pack.

In the pack, there are 2 bottles each of:

  • Boston Lager
  • Holiday Porter
  • Black and Brew Coffee Stout
  • Chocolate Bock
  • Winter Lager
  • Old Fezziwig Ale

Again this year, Samuel Adams has kept the spices low to ensure drinkable, non-cloying beers. Chocolate Bock is back, and I hope it’s only a matter of time before they make it available in 6/12-packs.  This year’s addition to the mix pack is the Black and Brew Coffee Stout, which replaces White Ale in the pack.  I had my first experience with Samuel Adams’ coffee stout several years ago (2008) when it went up against the Blackberry Witbier in the Beer Lover’s Choice where, sadly, it lost, even though it received my vote.

Have you tried the Winter Classics Variety Pack for 2011? Which ones in the pack do you like? Which ones don’t you like?

Samuel Adams Harvest Collection Variety Pack

Samuel Adams Harvest Collection
Samuel Adams Harvest Collection

As the days grow shorter and the leaves start to fall, Samuel Adams has released their latest variety pack, the Harvest Collection Variety Pack, just in time for the season.  As they usually do, they have replaced one beer style, the dunkelweizen, with another German style, the rauchbier, which is a beer that uses smoked malt to lend a smoky flavor to the beer (it goes great with grilling).  I’m very interested in Samuel Adams’ take on the style.

In the pack, there are 2 bottles each of:

  • Boston Lager
  • Octoberfest
  • Black Lager
  • Harvest Pumpkin Ale
  • Bonfire Rauchbier
  • Irish Red

All in all, a fairly good mix pack, except for maybe the pumpkin ale (which I’ve expressed my displeasure before).  Get it while it lasts!

Have you tried the Harvest Collection Variety Pack? What’s your opinion?

American Craft Beer Week is May 16-22

New Glarus's Riverside Brewery
New Glarus's Riverside Brewery

American Craft Beer Week is May 16-22, 2011.  So this week, when you have a beer, enjoy one from one of America’s craft brewers!

It’s been a heck of a year for craft brewing, and thanks for letting me spend some of that time with you.  Be sure to try some of the beer from breweries we’ve visited in the last year:

… and to some we were close to, but couldn’t get enough time to stop by …

Have a great week!  Cheers!