I admit it, this Canadian girl has a huge soft spot for New England. This spot in my heart is only rivaled by my love of craft beer. So when the opportunity to go to Boston for American Craft Beer Festival with the Ottawa chapter of Barley’s Angels came up there was no way that this girl was passing it up.
I had a ticket for Session B on Saturday afternoon.The lineup long, the day hot but overall getting in was extremely easy and efficiently done. The organizers and volunteers were extremely pleasant. Waiting in line was hard for this pale girl on such a sunny day but not only did one of my fellow Angels have sunscreen for me to use, I was able to meet some new friends in line as we lamented the plight of the fair skinned. We whittled away our time waiting for the doors to open with talk of craft beer in Ottawa, in New England and various festivals. Not a bad way to start a day at all.
Once in we were given our glass, our booklet and sent on our way. Let me just say go with a plan because with so many breweries and the count for beers available to taste coming out at something like 600+ it is easy to get overwhelmed.
Luckily for me I was with two other Angels. One had been to Session A the night before and one had a list of things she needed to try. I went along for the ride as well as made a few stops of my own.
I will spare you the details of all 95+ beers I tried but I will tell you about some standouts for me. Before I do, if you are wondering how I managed to walk after so many keep in mind that we did the divide and conquer strategy. Each of us took a different beer at the booth, sample a bit of each. If there was anything we really didn’t like, which sadly there was, it was dumped. Samples weren’t overly large so it is a good way to go about things when you are facing an undaunting number of beer.
If you like Wild Turkey Bourbon I highly suggest you try Anderson Valley Brewing Company’s Wild Turkey Bourbon Barrel Stout. While many bourbon barrel aged beers carry smooth caramel notes this one is very in your face bourbon. I rather liked it though others found it too harsh.
Ballast Point Brewing’s Victory at Sea Coffee Vanilla Imperial Porter is a high abv at 10% but so very smooth with a vanilla nose and a lingering coffee taste. We were told that the coffee is a locally roasted one. This beer would be nice after dinner or with dessert.
Beer Works RIPA, standing for rosemary imperial pale ale, was an interesting take on the style. I will admit that the rosemary was too strong for me to drink but it would be amazing in stuffing or for cooking with.
Cody Brewing’s No Name IPA was one of the most complex IPA’s I have had. There was a lot of hop but each adding something different and none of them being more overpowering than the rest. I could taste the cascade and amarillo but the rest escaped me. Once I asked the list also included glacier, shinook and sorachi ace.
Mayflower Brewing Co.’s Summer Rye was one of the best balanced summer rye beers I have had. I typically like my rye beer in the fall or spring but this rye was light and refreshing. The hops which were crystal and columbus, combined with the belgian yeast to give you a refreshing yet flavourful beer. My vote for great patio beer.
Newburyport Brewing Co.’s Green Head IPA was a very in your face hop aroma and ended with an amazing malt finish. Their Plum Island Belgian White also impressed me with its spicy aroma and wheat finish. I could have easily had a few more of both of these beers. Also to note about this brewery, these guys play in a funk band and there is a pick waiting for you under the carrier of each of their six packs. Speaking of, they are one of two breweries we saw with a very different way of packaging their cans.
The People’s Pint’s Farmer Brown is their flagship beer. I admit I am hesitant when it comes to browns. I have had a lot that do not live up to the idea of malty or full body. I tend favour Smuttynose’s Old Brown Dog (though it is an American Brown vs an English) and thus compare all browns to it. I was very pleasantly surprised at this beer. The Farmer Brown was malty, a little sweet and a lovely almost toffee or caramel finish.
Post Road Tavern/Rocky Coast Brewing’s Lone Warrior is an amazing IPA that offers one thing, the clean bitter warrior hop. Their Breakfast at Tig’s Before During and After Thanksgiving Morning Abbey Ale is as layered as the name is long. It has everything you want from an abbey ale but the numerous layers mean that everyone’s palate discovers something different and each sip brought new flavours. It is perfect for before a heavy meal. During a meal its flavours would mingle well with that of the food. After it isn’t too heavy to leave you feeling extra full and at 7.8% is enough to make all your relatives amusing.
I had to make a stop at Smuttynose. I was just in Portsmouth in February but couldn’t pass up a chance to see what they had to offer. I tried the Farmhouse Ale. I found it well layered, complex without being overpowering and I could certainly see sitting down with a pint after doing copious amounts of yard work.
Another stop I had to make was at Throwback Brewery. Yes I had just been there in February but the Angels I was with had not. What is better than women beer lovers? How about women brewers? We chatted with Nicole Carrier, congratulated them on getting the go ahead for the new brewery and of course tried their beers. The Rhubarb Wit was very tasty though I was worried it would be far more sour than it was. Very summery with notes of citrus on the end.
Lastly I need to talk about Bunker Brewing Co. We went specifically to try the Dirty Pearl Oyster Stout. We were told the keg would be tapped at 2:30. While at the booth we took some time to try their other beers and chat with Jay Villani. The 122 Coffee IPA was not at all what I expected from anything that with coffee in the title. A bright colour of an IPA with a lovely non bitter coffee flavour. No heavy roast, no dark colour, yet coffee. Intrigued I found out that they add cold coffee in the bright tank. We also tried their New Machine Pils and Trashmaster 2013. Both very good beers. One of my favourites from them was the Munjoy Mild. An English Pale Mild Ale, it was exactly what I had hoped it would be. Malty, hint of hops and lovely mouth feel.
The three of us headed off to try other beers and promptly returned at 2:30. The keg was tapped but as it was poured it was clear something was not right. A lighter coloured beer flowed leaving the Bunker men confused. The keg had been marked correctly and yet it was not the oyster stout. Apologies were given out and we left to finish off the fest.
With fifteen minutes left of the festival we were making our last decision about our final samples when Jay found us. He had searched the festival three times for us as they found the oyster stout. It appeared they had the right keg but the taps were a bit mixed up. We were amazed that he came looking for us and thanked him profusely for doing so. We finally got to try the Dirty Pearl. The smoked oysters added a hint of smoke and saltiness to the stout. Subtle flavours that enhance the stout’s roasted taste.
I won’t tell you about the beers I did not like as everyone’s palate is unique and we all enjoy different things. What I taste in a beer or liked you might not. What I will say is that the festival had something for everyone. It was a craft beer lovers paradise that I intend to visit again.
I want to stress again how amazing the volunteers were for getting the wristbands on and getting people inside in an efficient manner. Thanks to all the breweries that we visited as everyone was super friendly and talkative. A thank you also to the Beer Advocate and Harpoon Brewery for putting on the event.