Sunday, January 22, 2012

Epic Weekend! Beer Summit's Winter Jubilee

Winter Jubilee at Boston's Park
Plaza Castle
Soused Blueberries got a little soused this weekend on some incredible beer. Beer Summit's Winter Jubilee event this year was held at Boston's Park Plaza Castle, an incredible venue for such a great event. Reminiscent of a beer hall, and chock full of beer aficionados, surprisingly devoid of over indulging a-holes, one had more than enough time and space to wander past all of the booths to sample whatever your heart might fancy. This is only the second time I've had the pleasure of attending a beer festival in Boston, the first being the American Craft Beer Fest put on by Harpoon Brewery and Beer Advocate in June. The two felt a bit different, with this beer festival offering a few international brews that I've never had on tap before. The second big difference seemed to be that the pours here were much bigger, and the venue itself a little more intimate. Either way, I highly recommend attending one of these fantastic beer fests if you want to he opportunity to enjoy a vast array of fine craft brews. 
So while we can't delve into all of the offerings (frankly because I don't remember them all... and tipsiness prevented extensive note taking), we will go ahead and share a few of the brews that spanned both old favorites available to experience on tap and new revelations. 
Staropramen (middle tap)
1. Staropramen - Czech Lager. Many of the Czech lagers that I've had in the states are frankly kind of skunked. Not this one. It was hoppy, and a tad spicy. The bubbles are fresh, and the taste only kissed by alcohol, leaving you with a refreshing, aftertaste-devoid brew. The care that they must spend to preserve the taste of the beer through temperature control is very evident, and while this may be one of the few places that anyone can try it in the states on tap, I look forward to the beer becoming more widely available in Massachusetts, even if only in bottles.
Jack's Abby's Smoke and
Dagger (left)
2. Jack's Abby' Smoke and Dagger: Jack's Abby out of Framingham, MA provided a delicious smoked black lager. This beer was kind of like a malty schwarzbier, or a German black lager. Overall, it was very smooth, refreshing, and had just a hint of smoke. A nice surprise from a local brewer.
Crispin Cider's Superexpress
3. Crispin Cider's Superexpress: This may very well be the best cider that I've ever had. Instead of your usual very fizzy hard cider, these guys brought a couple offerings that used unusual yeasts to create their alcoholic brew. The one that I sampled was made with a sake yeast, producing a super clean cider, still very tart, and less bubbly than the soda like beverage that you would expect. It drank like lemonade and left one refreshed and ready for more beer. 
Brooklyn Brewery's Sorachi Ace
4. Brooklyn Brewery's Sorachi Ace: Brooklyn Brewery really brought it with this beer. This saison features a rare hop bred from Japan. The smooth, unfiltered beer has a little bit of a yeast funk that's actually pretty well hid under aromas of lemon and lemongrass. They classify this offering as a farmhouse ale that uses a Belgian ale yeast, and it was quite a treat. Frankly, I think this might be a perfect glass to go with my next evening cheesing hour. 
Seadog's Honey Porter
5. Seadog's Brewer's Choice Honey Porter: Slightly sweet and very smooth for a porter. There wasn't much of a hop flavor, but from first sip, this is just a very likable beer. For a little insight into my bigger half's earlier years, he was tickled that Seadog was doing a honey porter, because one of his first experiences with craft brews was with the honey porter produced ages ago by a smaller Sam Adams. Yes, he was underage. 
Ommegang's Aphrodite
6. Ommegang Aphrodite: While I went for a few sips of the very potent and delicious farmhouse ale by Brasserie d'Achouffe called Chouffe Biere du Soleil (fabulous...lemony, floral, great head), I think the bigger half had a more interesting pour in the Ommegang Aphrodite. This beer, brewed with a wild yeast called "Brett yeast," had a sour and fruity character with just a touch of raspberry flavor at the end. Again, nicely refreshing and funky tart, the beer had the depth typical of a fine Belgian ale. 
Sam Adam's Vixen
7. Sam Adam's Vixen: How can you not try something called Vixen? It's just a good name. But to add to the temptation, this batch of chocolate chili bock (yes, you read right... chocolate chili bock) was only brewed once. Sam Adams, known for their technical ability to brew high gravity lagers, had an interesting combination in this particular beer. It hits you in the face hard and strong with deep chocolate tones, giving way to a spiciness at the back of the neck from the chili. I know that chocolate overtones in stouts and porters are becoming more and more popular, maybe a slight fad in current day craft brewing. But to have one that is so flavor profile forward is very bold. I was so glad that they brought it to the beer fest. 
Peak Organic's Pommegranite
Wheat Ale
8. Peak Organic's Pomegranite Wheat Ale: I'm a girl so shut your mouth. Plus, if you were comfortable in your manhood, you'd probably dig this beer too. I know that with the snow falling on Saturday, we were all half psyched that it finally feels like winter, and also one foot out the door onto summer days down the Cape. Now, this would make an excellent grillin' outside, playing horseshoes, knocking a few cold, refreshing, sweet and clean beverages back all afternoon type of brew. This beer was fresh with only a touch sweet unlike other wheat beers like Blue Moon. Only after a gulp or two down will a hint of pomegranate start to make itself evident, adding to the refreshing, summer-like vibe of this wonderful beer.
Watch City Brewing's Beejezus
9. Watch City Brewing's Beejezus: This was a tricky brew. I could have sworn to you that there was a heavy handed punch of rosemary in the beer. From the initial smell, to the last drop trailing down your throat. But I was wrong. This is a potent and herby, spicy ale, giving way to layer over layer over layer of complexity. The sign, we later discovered, disclosed that the key ingredients to the Belgian brew were bee balm, lemon balm, and jasmine tea. I think I would only be able to drink a single glass of this beer... but to have another go at it could reveal an encyclopedia of tastes and flavors to document. It is definitely worth trying. Plus, isn't it fun to think about beer?
Pretty Thing's Jack D'Or
10. And for the last beer of the evening, before stumbling over to Chinatown, we had to make it over to our favorite local brewer: Pretty Things. Tenant brewers, Dann and Martha Paquette are basically my personal heroes and were both proudly standing at the Pretty Things booth at both beer fests that we have attended. A suitable beer to end the evening for me is their Jack D'Or, which frankly I could drink at any time with any meal at any time of day. Gold and hazy in color, the beer tastes clean and yet also has a saison style spice to it. It's a little sour, a little hoppy, a little fruity and floral, and very balanced, consistently producing a clean mouth feel and a nice fluffy head. It is a beer that has character, which is a poor way to describe it, unless you're currently drinking it, and then it totally makes sense. 
Let's hear it for beer! Let's hear it for all brewers, local, international, small and large. I love that beer after college has evolved into something so fascinating, and diverse, with both subtle flavors to discover, and in your face kerpow flavors that will annihilate the boredom that occupied your palate for all too long. (Suck it, Coors.) Now, if you'll excuse me, the bigger half has been inspired, and a big pot of five pounds of golden light dry malt, three pounds of sparkling amber malt, a whole heap of Sonnet Golding hops are simmering on the stove. We'll keep you posted.

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