Friday, July 17, 2009

Notes from a beer festival

27/28 June 2009: Scribbled notes from the Northern Virginia Summer Brewfest, (finally) transcribed here.

27 Junely. 11am. Attended memorial service for Albert Sisson, patriarch of Maryland's brewpubs. Baltimore's Holy Redeemer Episcopal Church was filled with people honoring his memory. Drove back to Leesburg, Virginia. Why all the traffic ... on a Saturday afternoon?

The NovaBrewFest Crowd

3:30pm Arrived at Morven Park. Packed! A lot of cask fans, waiting. I tapped the firkin of Clipper City's Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale with an ale extractor and connected it to a beer engine.

Heather of Flying Dog

Moved on to the Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter. The cask had already been tapped but the beer was not pouring well: the tap was malfunctioning. I inserted a hard spile into the tut to create a partial vacuum and removed the plastic tap, quickly replacing it with a metal Harry Mason tap. It seemed to do the trick.
MacGyver'd cask

Moved on to the firkin of Brooklyn Blast! Double IPA, which was waiting in in a ice bucket. I tapped it with an ale extractor as well. Big explosion of beer! Mmmm.lots of earthy and citrusy hops. But I had brought along the incorrect hose barb. Joe from Select Wines used duct tape to MacGyver the connection. It worked

I finished, tapping a pin (a cask half the volume of a firkin) of Allagash Curieux, the brewery's Belgian-tripel-style ale, which had been aged in Jim Beam oak barrels and then re-fermented in the cask. Not as messy.

30 minutes, 4 casks.

No tut

The next day, Sunday, I was on-site well before the festival gates opened, and I brought the proper barb.

The excitement that day was created by a cask of Gonzo Porter fitted with a solid bung with no tut through which to release excess pressure. (Probably a bung for an old-style Hoff-Stevens keg.) And the cask definitely had pressure. I worked a screwdriver into the bung and, boy did that baby blow! (Tasted great, though.) I was fortunate that I had an extra pair of shorts into which to change.

Random observations.

Lake & Tupper

Bob and Ellie Tupper were on hand with kegs of their 'new' Hop Pocket Ale, which has just begun to be brewed again after a two year absence. It's brewed now by St. George Brewery, in Hampton Roads, Virginia. (In the photograph, that's Bob on the right, with Dean Lake, who is soon to assume the brewing responsibilities at Vintage 50, when Bill Madden departs for his soon-to-open brewpub, Mad Fox.)

Marc Sorini, a lawyer who specializes in alcohol regulations, is on board to shepherd the duo through the maze of licensing and laws.

Rhino Chasers

Favio Garcia and Matt Hagerman, both ex of Dominion Brewing, have purchased the brewhouse of that closed Ashburn, Virginia brewery. They are scouting locations in Ashburn, in which to open their own brewery: Rhino Chasers Beer.

Legend Brewing Tent

Representatives of Legend Brewing in Richmond, Virginia, had a booth. I drank a few Brown Ales, talking with brewer Mike Killelea (second from right) about the progress of the installation of the Krones bottling line. Slow but steady, he assured me, and on-line soon.

John of Clipper City

John Moorhead of Clipper City (Business Development Manager) brought along a few sample bottles of The Big DIPA, a 10.6% alcohol by volume double India Pale Ale (hence the name), and the first in a projected line of 22-ounce 'bomber' bottles. He expects sales in Virginia at some point in July.

Angela of World Beer Festival

Angela Campbell was at the festival scouting breweries for the newest World Beer Festival. Known affectionately as the festival's "beer wrangler", she is on the staff of All About Beer Magazine, which is the sponsoring organization of the festival. For 14 years the festival has been held in North Carolina. Then, earlier this year, All About Beer expanded the event to South Carolina, and now, Richmond, Virginia, in late August. That's Angela on the left. To the right is Becky of Long Distributing in North Carolina, showing off her Delerium tattoo.

UPDATE: 14 July. All About Beer has announced a postponement of the Richmond event until spring 2010. The press release explained: "“Some of the preparations are taking longer than expected, and we need more time to ensure that the World Beer Festival Richmond meets its potential." Musings Over A Pint has more.

I'll give All About Beer the benefit of the doubt. However, I would be remiss if I failed to report the following: North Carolina allows the 100% donation of beer to such events. And most of the participating breweries do just that in return for the promotional exposure their beer receives (and one-night motel accommodations).

Virginia forbids this: all beer must be paid for.

Wine at a beer festival? Why not?

I've asked several Virginia wineries why they don't attend beer festivals. Some have replied that they pick and choose, and indeed I have noticed a few different wineries at different festivals.

But some have replied that they were not interested in 'drunk fests'... as if wine with an average alcohol-by-volume 2 to 3 times greater than that of 'average' beer wouldn't induce euphoria at a wine festival. A festival of better beer is about the experience not just the buzz, as is a better wine festival. Those wineries deliberately skipping better beer festivals lose the opportunity to gain new customers (demographically and numbers-wise).

Tarara Winery is in the first camp. Their booth at the fest had lines both days.

Good friends and good foodists Hard Times Café (I'm a fan of their veggie chili!, Robert Farr The Chili Man, and Cabot Cheese were present, as they were last year (and in the past during the days of the late, lamented Dominion Fest). But the festival seemingly ignores much of the local food scene: not only restaurants, but farms, fishermen, and dairies. A lost opportunity.

The Select Wines Gang

And, without a doubt, I congratulated Bill Madden on a well-run festival. How do those kegs get to each booth so that the beer keeps flowing? Bill has been running beer festivals in northern Virginia for more than a decade, beginning with the Shirlington Oktoberfest when he was Executive Brewer at Capitol City Brewery. (That's Bill in the cart.)

The end of a festival (part 1)

Saturday, the weather was sunny and warm. Sunday, there was light drizzle at the outset. But that stopped, and the day became a good day for drinking good beer. The autumn festival moves to Manassas, Virginia, on 24/25 October.

More notes:
  • All of the photos at Flickr.
  • A more conscientious reviewer than I reviewed festival beers as he drank them: Malt Log.
  • Virginia David mused about the festival.
  • Homebrewer Holzman volunteered as a beer pourer.
  • The Washington City Paper's Young & Hungry had a strategy for tasting the wealth of beers.
  • Caveat- My job is with a northern Virignia wine/beer wholesaler, whose beers include Flying Dog, Brooklyn, and Clipper City.

1 comment:

  1. In regards to the donation aspect All About Beer makes a profit on those World Beer Festivals and I know some local brewers who are upset that they don't get paid for providing their beer to the festival, they would like to cover some of the expense. I understand the advertising/marketing angle and don't disagree, just reporting what I have heard in some circles, Cheers!


Comment here ...