May 24, 2014

Seacoast Winter Brew Festival

It was American Craft Beer Week last week and it got me thinking about my favourite American festival. To be honest it is probably my top beer festival. Maybe it is because I have a thing for the east coast of the United States, maybe it is the chowder or maybe, just maybe it is because the festival is so well put together and kicks off Portsmouth Craft Beer Week.

I am referring to the Seacoast Winter Brew Festival.

It is organized by 2 Beer and hosted by Portsmouth Gas Light Co.

This year thirty three breweries and one cidery took over the upper floor and outdoor patio to welcome beer lovers both new and old to the best that the east coast has to offer.

So what makes the festival so good? Well there are two sessions plus an hour for VIP ticket holders only. This keeps the crowd manageable and means room to move and talk to people. Speaking of talking to people the breweries send people who know the beers. There is nothing better at a festival than talking to reps, brewers and those in the know about the beer they are serving.
Portsmouth Gas Light Co. has a great layout for the event which makes moving around and finding things like the bathroom easy.

Food is included and we aren't talking pretzels or chips. This year there was pasta, veggies and other things I am sure I am forgetting but what is important is that the food was good, made in house and helps to soak up the beer samples.

The people at the door, those checking tickets and handing out bracelets were very friendly, courteous and even started the line up a little bit early so that we were ready when doors opened. The crowd itself was also friendly and courteous. Maybe it was the venue, maybe that it is held in February but it lacked the 'pound 'em back' push that some summer beer festivals have.  All in all it is one crowd I do not mind being a part of.

The weather held up beautifully making the patio and the beer selection out there enjoyable. The selection of cigars was nice too.

Getting the V.I.P. ticket is highly recommended. The extra hour as well as the selection of whiskey, scotch and bourbon make the slight increase in cost worth it. It also includes your admission to the first session so budget wise it is the most bang for your buck. This year there was also a large selection of V.I.P. only beers.

As for the selection of beer overall, well you can't go wrong with thirty three craft breweries offering you beer samples. I enjoyed trying everything from Sam Adams, Harpoon to Portsmouth's own Earth Eagle and Smuttynose. Add to that, brand new brewery Stoneface was there with their first beer.

Highlights for festival:

Founders KBS 2013 - Big coffee, chocolate and bourbon notes.

Harpoon Pumpkin Stout - Wonderful pumpkin notes. One of the best pumpkin beers I have had in recent memory. Molasses, lovely spices.

Smuttynose Baltic Porter 2013 - Lighter bodied than last years but still great as an after dinner beer. More coffee than chocolate this time around.

Lagunitas Lil Sumpin' Sumpin' - Very smooth and easy drinking. Nice malt profile.

Founders Backwards Bastard - Tobacco notes, bourbon and a wonderful smoothness.

Earth EagleWormhole Verte - A collab with 2 Beer Guys. Loads of wormwood and licorce/anise flavours. A building bitterness.

Allagash Hugh Malone - Nice Belgian IPA with great depth to the malts and nice dry finish.

For me, the event is everything I look for in a beer festival. Location, ease of movement, friendly people, well organized and great beer selection.

Thinking of checking out New Hampshire? Why not plan for a February trip and enjoy this festival as well as the Portsmouth Craft Beer week that follows.