BeerFest 2012

- May 5th, 2012

If I had one bad thing to say about BeerFest is that there’s more than one person can handle, unless he wants to be carted out in a wheelbarrow. Not that that’s a bad thing.

Even avoiding beers I’d tried before, save for the delicious Blacksmith IBA from Village Brewery, because it’s so good, I feel I barely made a dent.

Which is the same with any of these shows, I guess. Though this is the first one where I WANTED to try them all. When I go to a wine show, the whites and sparkling wines are usually a second choice for me, but there’s not really a type of beer I don’t want a taste of.

The people who put on events like BeerFest, Winefest or the Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival generally know how to put a really good show. A variety of products, a variety of food and not too crowded, at least until the end of the evening, when people start showing up pre-bar.

The crowd is definitely a mix of people who are out to explore beer and people out to get loaded. Which is fine, I suppose, considering no one seemed unruly, nor did police/security on- hand seem to have to deal with anyone out of hand.

Highlights
Okanagan Spring Summer Weizen: peach is unmistakable on this unfiltered wheat offering out of Vernon that I wrote about in my recent post about spring releases.

Village Brewery Witbier: This new release from the makers of the above-mentioned Blacksmith tastes as if its from a neighbouring orchard as the Okanagan Spring. Not as fruit-forward as the Weizen, more like slight hints of apricot, which I imagine would be beneficial if you were eyeing enjoying multiple beer on a hot day, or pouring a whole growler to yourself.

Scuttlebutt Hefeweizen, brewed for Hudson’s Tap House by Big Rock: This was one of two hefeweizens I tried, the other being the Granville Island Robston St. Both were very good, but I’m giving the edge to the version on tap at Hudson’s, for being a little less sweet, with enough spice notes to balance out the banana. Yes, banana.

Big Rock Rye & Ginger Ale: It was nice to get reacquainted with this Big Rock offering, after trying it 6 months ago at the Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival. I’m torn on whether this makes a great patio beer, but the hint of ginger in the rye-based ale is really tasty, and would go well with Asian-inspired barbecue items.

Pleasant surprises
Ribstone Creek: This is Alberta’s newest brewery, based way out in Edgerton, near the Saskatchewan border. Right now they’re just producing a lager, which isn’t yet available in cans, just kegs. But it is a decent entry to the market, and anytime Albertans want to enter the beer industry, it benefits everyone. Hopefully we’ll have more on them in this space soon.

Sea Cider Rumrunner: Yes, it’s not all beer at BeerFest, and this cider was a nice palate cleanser from all the suds. Fermented with Champagne yeast and aged in rum barrels made this dark and sweet, but not cloying.

Coors Light Iced T: While I stand by what I wrote when Molson-Coors announced this flavoured light beer – that I was curious to try it – I really wanted to dislike it. I do like flavoured beer, but previous light offerings didn’t really grab me. And I don’t tend to drink light beer anyway. So I was pleasantly surprised that the Coors entry on the market was a) not too sweet and b) still tasted like beer. Many of my beer-loving friends have suggested I try the Mill St. Lemon Tea beer, but it’s really not a great comparison. On it’s merits, the Mill St. is a good beer. But if I was picking between the two, I would probably lean toward Coors. I just found the tea finish on the Mill St., while more authentically “tea” than the coors, more bitter. And before any beer snobs turn up their noses, this is coming from a Mill St. fan.

Minhas Craft Brewery Mystical Jack Traditional Ale and Imperial Jack Double IPA: I have used this space to detail how I’m not a huge fan of the Uptown Girl Light Beer. And when I tried the brewery’s Chocolate Bunny Stout last fall, I found it a touch too sweet for my tastes. Admittedly, both the Traditional and the Double IPA are on the sweeter end of things, but in both cases I think it works. The Double IPA is had notes of caramel and molasses, but with a hoppy finish, and the Traditional had dark coffee characteristics. Moving forward, as the company launches its Calgary brewery and pizza restaurant in the northeast, I’m curious to see what else they may roll out, but I’d be happier seeing more like this and less girly drinks. But, as I’ve previously stated, those products are definitely not aimed at me.

Misses
Rogue Ales Dead Guy Ale: I know that they are popular among craft brew fans, but I still have yet to try some of the more fun selections, like the Voodoo Maple Bacon Ale. When I approached the Rogue counter and saw the phrase “Dead Guy”, it jumped out at me. The beer’s aroma jumped out at me for all the wrong reasons. A little too reminiscent of what it was named after. The beer itself tasted better than the smell, but the aroma of it while trying to drink it didn’t make for a good combination.

The Big Rock Brewmaster’s Series Trial Brew: I’m a big booster of the Big Rock Brewmaster’s Series. Breweries that focus on trying new recipes and giving customers new tastes to try get big props from the likes of me. That said, not everything is a hit. The “Trial Brew” on offer at BeerFest may have been a first crack at a new idea or a work in progress, but while light and fizzy, it didn’t have the flavourful oomph of the Rye & Ginger, Dunkleweizen, or Scottish Heavy, all new favourites of mine.

Amber’s Australian Mountain Pepper Berry Lager: I should have gone with the Zombie Apocalypse or the Chai Stout. But, being a fan of Edmonton-based Amber’s Maple lager, I thought I would give their Pepper Berry lager a try. After all, it won best domestic lager at Calgary BeerFest two years ago. With the nice scent of berries on the nose and the peppery finish, this was a tasty beer. My only beef with it, and why it gets a miss, is I like my lagers a little more crisp, and definitely more effervescent. Not saying I won’t give it a try again, but I may explore the Amber’s lineup a little more before returning to this one.

Categories: Drinking

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