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14th Annual Strange Brewfest

Strange Brewfest Brews

A small sample of brews at the 14th Annual Strange Brewfest

Strange Brewfest has been on my “Seattle bucket list” since I relocated to Seattle from Ohio. I finally made it out to the 14th year of the event in Port Townsend and it did not disappoint. Rain, wind or shine – everyone there was in good spirits and fully embraced the oddities of both beerfest goers and the unique craft beers.

Many beers have complimentary garnishes that bring out the flavors in whatever base brew is used, whether it be pickled brine, gooey gel noodles, Sour Patch Kids, Cool Ranch Doritos, or just about anything else you can dream up that you might want to experiment with when brewing a uniquely-flavored beer.

A few of my favorites actually came from Bushel & Barrel Ciderhouse – they had a Coconut Curry Saffron Cider that had a complex and rich taste – almost like traveling to another country. They also had a PB&J Farmhouse Apple Cider (garnished with a small peanut butter cookie) and Hot Horchata Cider (with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top) which was a very welcome treat because it was rather cold and windy near the water that day.

Some other standouts included:

  • Bainbridge Brewing – I’m Pickle Rick (a Kölsch with pickle brine and garnished with a dill pickle)
  • 7 Seas Brewing – 7 Bloody Seas (essentially tasted like a very well-flavored Bloody Mary)
  • Dungeness Brewing – Raspberry Basil IPA (had a very refreshing flavor)

As beer festivals go, this one is a winner and in my top 5 favorite beer festivals within driving distance of Seattle. The quaint, neighborhood feel of Port Townsend mixed with the vibe of the brewfest goers and creativity that the brewers bring to the event with such unique brews definitely makes for an enjoyable experience. I’d also like to add that the American Legion (which hosts the event) makes you feel welcome (and they know how to grill a solid hamburger to soak up all that booze as well).

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KBS Party at Old Bag of Nails

Old Bag of Nails - KBS SignAs many of you may know, Founders KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout) recently hit the shelves across the United States. If you haven’t acquired any by now, it may be too late – at least until next year! I personally had the good fortune to discover that Old Bag of Nails in Upper Arlington, Ohio was hosting a Beer-Fest, or in other words, a KBS pouring party, because they acquired a keg. This was great news to hear as a KBS newbie since I wasn’t able to find any bottles of KBS myself.

I arrived with two friends on a rather chilly Saturday morning to wait outside of the restaurant until they opened at 11am. As this was my first “limited release” beer event, my veteran beer-drinking companion suggested we arrive early and wait so we could snag bar seats and experience the party first-hand, so we joined a small group that was already waiting outside.

Places - Old Bag of Nails - KBS MenuOnce the doors opened and we were settled on our stools, we were presented with a menu listing an awesome selection of beers, most of them high quality brews I hadn’t yet sampled. The star on the menu, of course, was Founders KBS. Each person that paid the price got a token to reserve their pour of KBS once the keg was tapped at noon. In the meantime, we had a plethora of tasty choices to sample while waiting. I’ve listed some of the more notable ones below with the descriptions provided on the menu. If you don’t have a Beer Bucket List, or a list of all the beers you should try before the zombie apocalypse wipes out mankind, then all the beers below should be considered as contenders for your list.

 

The selections included:

  • Founders KBS (11.2% ABV and obviously the guest of honor)
    A hint of coffee, a hint of vanilla aged in oak bourbon barrels for over a year.
    Read my full review of KBS
  • Bell’s Hopslam (10% ABV)
    Brewed with honey; hoppy as hell
  • CBS Bodhi (8% ABV)
    Tons of citrus hops and good floral notes
  • Great Lake’s Alchemy Hour Double IPA (9.4% ABV)
    Hop-forward with balanced blends of mosaic and nugget hops
  • Troegs Nugget Nectar Ale (7.5% ABV)
    Intensified malt and hop flavors to create an explosive hop experience
  • Founders All Day IPA (4.7% ABV)
    A complex array of malts, grains and hops balanced for optimal aromas and a clean finish
  • Dark Horse Double Crooked Tree IPA (12% ABV)
    Big hops balanced with tons of malts; double all the ingredients of the original Crooked Tree IPA (except the water)
  • Dark Horse Plead the 5th Imperial Stout (11% ABV)
    Roasted malts and balanced with heavy hops
  • Great Lakes Christmas Ale (7.5% ABV)
    Brewed with honey and spiced with fresh ginger and cinnamon
  • Bell’s Hell Hath No Fury Ale (7.7% ABV)
    Roasted notes of coffee and dark chocolate together with the fruity and clove-like aroma (Belgian abbey-style yeasts in a recipe of roasty stout)
  • Weyerbacher Insanity Ale(11.10% ABV)
    A bourbon barrel-aged English style barley wine

 

Old Bag of Nails - Flight 1As you can probably guess by the alcohol content of most of these beers, the combination handed out quite the alcoholic wallop! But in my opinion, there’s no better way to experience day-drinking on a weekend.

I started out with a 4-beer flight of: Bell’s Hopslam, Dark Horse Plead the 5th Imperial Stout, Bell’s Hell Hath No Fury Ale, and Troegs Nugget Nectar.

It was all delicious, and my favorite of the four was the Plead the 5th, with a full-bodied rich and roasted malty taste. Interestingly enough, when comparing Plead the 5th to KBS a little while later, it really changed the taste profile when trying them side-by-side. Basically, while Plead the 5th is excellent, KBS is just a bit more excellent.

KBS Pour

KBS

By the time my first flight was finished, it was time for the pours of KBS. All the lucky ones around the bar cashed in their tokens for their share. As I’d been eagerly anticipating this moment, it was very exciting when the KBS really did live up to all the hype. It was full of boozy, vanilla, oaky, and chocolatey goodness. Read my full review of KBS.

Places - Old Bag of Nails - Flight 2We were in luck that day, as there was enough KBS to go around for a second round and I didn’t hesitate to partake. Then, as my final course, I had one more 4-beer flight (there were just too many good beers to try) which consisted of: Great Lakes Alchemy Hour Double IPA, Columbus Brewing Company Bodhi (one of my favorite locally-brewed IPAs), Weyerbacher Insanity, and Dark Horse Double Crooked Tree IPA.

How would I sum up my experience at the second annual Old Bag of Nails Beer-Fest? Well, the bartenders were great hosts, we were supplied with complimentary buffet filled with pulled pork and other goodies, the beer was poured plentifully and we met several new friends. So overall I would definitely declare the Old Bag of Nails 2013 Beer-Fest a great success!

 

Old Bag of Nails - Enjoying Some Beers

Enjoying our beers at Old Bag of Nails

 

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Columbus AleFest (2013)

AleFest - Crowd

The lively crowd at AleFest.

Yesterday I attended the 8th year of AleFest at Aladdin Shrine Center in Columbus. Similar to the previously reviewed Beerfest, AleFest is also a craft beer festival. This year they boasted more than 100 breweries and over 250 craft beers including rare draught lagers and ales, as well as cask ales. There were approximately 15 new breweries and 25 to 30 beers that weren’t available last year, including 4 to 6 gluten-free beers. The gluten-free beers were all in the same area so I did a run-by to see what was available, however I didn’t notice any that I haven’t previously sampled.

Within our first handful of samples, my friend and I targeted the three cask ales we could find at the event, Citra Dog from Thirsty Dog, Columbus IPA from Columbus Brewing Company, and Brown Stoat Stout from Weasel Boy. The Citra Dog was by far our favorite of the three, it was very smooth, hoppy, and pleasantly oaky. A few other notable beers that we ran across were the Monk’s Café Flemish Sour Ale, Ten FIDY, and Hoppin’ Frog / Amager (Bryghus).

My AleFest “Sampled Beers” List

AleFest Sampler

AleFest Sampler

A little about my rating system below.  I log all the “new” beers (anything I haven’t had previously or have not recorded previously) on my Beer Advocate profile, then rate them according to their rating scale of 1-5, while evaluating appearance, smell, taste, mouthfeel, and overall impressions. For each beer below I’ve also listed its style, ABV, and my rating and any notes.

  • My Antonia – Dogfish Head Brewery
    American Double / Imperial Pilsner (7.50% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 3
  • Founders Imperial Stout – Founders Brewing Company
    Russian Imperial Stout (10.50% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 3.75
  • Citra Dog – Thirsty Dog Brewing Company
    American IPA (7.70% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 3.85  
  • Columbus IPA – Double Dry Hopped – Columbus Brewing Company
    American IPA (6.50% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 3.25
  • Brown Stoat Stout – Weasel Boy Brewing Company
    American Stout (6.20% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 3.25
  • Great Lakes Loch Erie Scotch Ale – Great Lakes Brewing Company
    Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy (8.30% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 2.5
  • Monk’s Café Flemish Sour Ale – Brouwerij Van Steenberge N.V.
    Flanders Oud Bruin (5.50% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 4.5 – This was a surprise favorite of the evening for me, especially because I don’t typically go for Sour Ales.
    Monk's Cafe - Flemish Sour Ale
      
  • AleSmith Nut Brown Ale – AleSmith Brewing Company
    English Brown Ale (5.00% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 3
  • Hop Stoopid – Lagunitas Brewing Company
    American Double / Imperial IPA (8.00% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 3.25
  • There Will Be Black (Brewmaster’s Reserve Winter 2012) – Brooklyn Brewery
    American Black Ale (7.50% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 3
  • Rodenbach Grand Cru – Brouwerij Rodenbach N.V.
    Flanders Red Ale (6.00% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 3.25
  • Resin – Sixpoint
    American Double / Imperial IPA (9.10% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 3.25
  • Ten FIDY – Oskar Blues Brewing Company
    Russian Imperial Stout (10.50% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 4.5 – The Ten FIDY definitely lives up to the hype – I haven’t had it since they started distributing to Ohio but I definitely thought it was tasty and will be drinking it again!
  • 3 Monts Amber Ale On Lees – Brasserie De Saint-Sylvestre
    Bière de Garde (9.00% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 3
  • Hoppin’ Frog / Amager (Bryghus) Frog Hops From Amager – Hoppin’ Frog Brewery
    American Double / Imperial Stout (7.80% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 4
  • Dark Horse Tres Blueberry Stout – Dark Horse Brewing Company
    American Stout (7.50% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 3.25
  • Baba Black Lager – Uinta Brewing Company
    Schwarzbier (4.00% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 3
  • Last Chance IPA – Weyerbacher Brewing Co.
    American IPA (5.90% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 3
  • Stodgy Brown – Zauber Brewing Company
    Altbier (5.20% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 2.75
  • Four C’s American Pale Ale – The Brew Kettle Taproom & Smokehouse / Production Works
    American Pale Ale (6.00% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 3
  • St. Peter’s Cream Stout – St. Peter’s Brewery Co Ltd
    Milk / Sweet Stout (6.50% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 3.25
  • Matilda – Goose Island Beer Co.
    Belgian Strong Pale Ale (7.00% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 4
  • Irish Red Ale – Buckeye Lake Brewery
    Irish Red Ale (ABV Unknown)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 2.75
  • Milk Stout – Widmer Brothers Brewing Company
    Milk / Sweet Stout (7.60% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 3.25
Writing Beer Notes

Diligently writing my beer notes.

Summed Up

I’d definitely call this year’s AleFest a success. Despite the undesirable cold, snowy weather outside, the vibe inside was lively and festive, with many folks participating in the “tropical attire” theme, sporting coconut tops, leis and Hawaiian shirts. There was a variety of beer choices, definitely something for everyone, and the live entertainment by Nick Mitchell was very good as well – he was great at performing cover songs (I especially enjoyed his renditions from Johnny Cash and Neil Diamond).

Overall, I would say that AleFest wins the award for ambiance and vibe from the crowd, but Beerfest wins for their brewery and beer selection.

So what’s the bottom line? The best solution is to go to BOTH of course!

Until next year!

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Beers, Brats and Chicken Hats at the Columbus Oktoberfest

Welcome to Oktoberfest!

Last night I attended the opening of the Columbus Oktoberfest, held at the Ohio Expo Center.

When I arrived, the Meiler Vier (the fourth annual four-mile run that kickstarts the festivities) was in full swing. Folks were dressed in a variety of costumes or running gear. Once the race ended, I spoke to a trio wearing full-body beer bottle costumes. They said while it was a challenge to run a 4-mile race as a beer bottle, the rewards they snagged made it well worth the effort. Each participant walked away with an event t-shirt, medal, and a free beer plus a World Famous Sausage and Cream Puff.

Speaking of cream puffs, if you haven’t had a cream puff from Schmidt’s Restaurant and Sausage Haus you need to pay a visit to their restaurant in German Village and get yourself one! They’re as big as your kid’s head and full of awesome creamy goodness.

The Beer

Brooklyn Oktoberfest

Brooklyn Oktoberfest

The first line of business when arriving at Oktoberfest should of course be BEER. After working our way through the runners, my beer drinking companion and I headed into the Heidelberg Bier Hall to purchase 30 tickets each (plenty for a couple mugs of beer and a snack) then made a beeline for the Oktoberfest beer station. There was also a station for  a regular domestic brand – but any true beer drinker would avoid anything you can easily snag in a 12-pack at a gas station – just sayin’!

Available Oktoberfest brews included choices from:

  • Paulaner
  • Bitburger
  • Hofbräu
  • Brooklyn Brewery

I went with the Brooklyn Oktoberfest beer to start, and I have to say it was quite tasty. It poured with a solid head, dark copper color and was very drinkable (I should know – the mugs sold at Oktoberfest are 32oz!).

Happy about Hofbräu

The second beer I sampled was the Hofbrau Oktoberfestbier. It poured a pale gold with minimal head, and was lighter than the Brooklyn in body, crisp and smooth. I personally preferred the heavier malty taste of the Brooklyn, but you’ll just have to try them and decide for yourself! There were descriptions posted beneath each of the taps at the station, so you can read about each before you choose.

The Brats

There was an array of delicious-smelling meats and decadent desserts available in both the Heidelberg Bier Hall and the Budweiser Prost Hall. Beer brats, Schlamager brats and even deep fried brats abounded. There were also choices of chicken, BBQ pork or ribs, steak on a stick or even fried German bologna.

I personally headed for the desserts and ended up scoring a wonderful pumpkin roll from All About The Zel’s, who were kind enough to give me the roll for 4 tickets instead of 5 (as I’d spent the rest on beer).

The Chicken Hats

Chicken hats for everyone!

Oktoberfest is an interesting mix of folks running around in costumes, peculiar hats, and engaged in general shenanigans. I for one, noticed vendors walking around selling an assortment of chicken hats. While I’m always up for a good hat purchase, I found them a bit over the top. However, a friendly gentleman noticed my interest and offered to go 50/50 on the cost if I would wear a chicken on my head the rest of the evening. What can I say, I’m a sucker for a challenge.

Alpine Horns

Overall, I’d say the Columbus Oktoberfest warrants a visit to sample the beers and do some interesting people (and costume) watching. It’s family- friendly, but a bit pricey. Parking costs $8 a car, although it’s free to enter the event. Beer you get for your buck is average, with a filled 32oz mug costing 15 tickets ($15), and refills costing 10 tickets. I’d recommend going with a group to carpool, and while there are two stages, games (such as cornhole) and other events, we found it to be a bit anticlimactic overall. Expect to create some of your own entertainment – such as waging bets about wearing chicken hats.

Oktoberfest runs through the weekend opening Saturday at noon and running until midnight, and is also open Sunday from noon until 8pm. To read all the details and for directions, you can visit the official Columbus Oktoberfest website.

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North Market Microbrew Festival (Columbus, OH)

North Market Microbrew Festival – Columbus, OH

 

If you are local to the area (Columbus, OH) it’s time for the North Market Microbrew Festival!  In its 7th year, it is being relocated outside to accommodate a total of 15 breweries (6 more than previous years – now including some from other areas of Ohio outside of Columbus).

Admission to the event is free. Beer tasting admission is $20 and includes a commemorative pint glass, ten tasting tickets and a $5 North Market food certificate. Additional tasting tickets are available for $.50 each.

You can check it out Friday September 14th from 5pm to 9pm, Saturday September 15th from Noon to 8pm, and Sunday September 16th from Noon to 5pm.

The full list of participating breweries includes:

  • Barley’s Brewing Company (Columbus)
  • Barley’s Smokehouse & Brewpub (Columbus)
  • Buckeye Lake Brewery (Buckeye Lake)
  • Columbus Brewing Company (Columbus)
  • Elevator Brewing Company (Columbus)
  • Four String Brewing Company (Columbus)
  • Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant (Columbus)
  • Great Black Swamp Brewing Company (Toledo)
  • Great Lakes Brewing Company (Cleveland)
  • Hoof Hearted Brewing (Marengo)
  • Mt. Carmel Brewing Company (Cincinnati)
  • Neil House Brewery (Columbus)
  • Thirsty Dog Brewing Company (Akron)
  • Weasel Boy Brewing Company (Zanesville)
  • Zauber Brewing Company (Columbus)

See you there!