06 April 2009

Philly Craft Beer Fest - The Review Part One

Oh wow guys, so sorry this is about a month late, but this was so good I needed to take a month to think about how good it was and put it into words. Quite honestly, this was the best forty five dollars you or I or anyone could ever spend. If you have a beer loving loved one in your life, purchase them tickets for next year's fest. It will surely please them mightily.

The Responsible Drunk official Beer Fest Festivities began bright and early at 11 AM at my place for a special breakfast of eggs, bacon and a solid wheat beer, which in this instance was the lovely German variety Franziskaner. After boarding the train to go to the fest we quickly realized that most of the city had the same idea. If you weren't going to beer fest, you were probably going on the Erin Express and thus riding the R6 at 11.30 AM with a nalgene full of Coors Light. Way to go Philly! World Fucking Champions indeed!

On to the fest. Basically, organizers FTW here folks. In essence the organizers found the perfect balance in the beer to people ratio that bordered somewhere between that of a Wednesday night frat party and a swinging local bar on a Saturday, only increased the scale by a factor of 10 and set it in the lovely Philadelphia Naval Yard facility. To give you a feel for the room, it was about a football field long, sides lined with beer and just the right amount of people. To be honest, Harry and I waited in exactly one line all day. That translates to about 4 hours straight of beer sampling from that nifty 6 oz souvenir glass (do the math).

And boy was that glass raised a lot that day. One beautiful if too-obviously macho thing about beer fest is the organic crowd cheer that I like to call the beer-wave. If you are at beer fest and the dude next to you raises his glass and starts bellowing, you and all around will be impelled to mimic his bellowing until the entire building is bellowing along with you. Then you all drink and for a moment, all is right in the world.

When you are trying over 25 new beers in one day, it can be a little hard to get a handle on what you liked and didn't like, what is good and what is not. There were a few newsworthy highlights, and I'd like to run them down for you all here:

Yuengling Bock - Our beloved hometown brewery has begrudgingly given into the seasonal beer craze and brewed its first new beer in 180 years. I say begrudgingly because if you go into this beer expecting much more than a glass of Yuengling, well, you will be dissapointed. Yuengling Bock is basically a darker, ever so slightly maltier version of its Amber predecessor. In this way, Yuengling has nodded to the movement of craft beer without succumbing to any of the pretension, and in essence pulling one over on the non-local beer-o-philes.

The Bruery's Saison Du Lente - This California Belgian influenced brewery does a wonderful job of mimicing styles from across the pond. I particularly like a good saison because the philosophy of a table beer is something that I think is lost on a lot of craft brewers, especially in the sweep of monster beers that has nearly taken over the industry in the last few years. This one is light, crisp but maintains a satisfying maltiness. It makes a great anytime beer.

Blue Point Brewery - This brewery from out on Long Island had a really solid representation with a Toasted Amber Lager and a RYPA (IPA made with Rye). The RYPA especially stood out because it seemed to be a popular style across the board at the fest and in my opinion this topped them all.

Alright, this is part one of four. Stay Tuned for Harry's analysis and then a recap of our epic post-fest bar crawl!

Double Simcoe IPA

Rating: 9.8
Brewery: Weyerbacher (Easton, PA)
Glass: Pint
ABV: 9.0%
Seller: The Foodery (Philadelphia, PA)
When Enjoyed: 6 March 2009

Usually the Double IPA marks a beer where hops abound and the aftertaste tends to get a bit bitter. The Double IPA tends to be a stronger beer with high ABV content, bitterness and hoppy flavors. Generally the Double IPA takes all of the flavors that mark a regular IPA and increase it towards an extreme.

This beer's namesake however, is also based on a very special hop: Simcoe hops. The Simcoe hop is a relatively newer hop hybrid created in 2000 known best for it being less harsh to the pallete. This allows for breweries to put in much more hops into their brews without the aversive bitter taste overpowering the beer.

These special Simcoe hops is what really makes the beer. The normal complaint against Double IPAs tends to be that they are too bitter to enjoy regularly. However, the Simcoe IPA does away with this bitter taste in the beer. There is a sense of the hops difference straight from the pour. The color creates a dark orange, almost greenish color. However, the great difference is the improvement upon the taste of the Double IPA.

The initial taste maintains the very hoppy flavor expected within a Double IPA and also gives hints of a citrus taste as well. However, the main benefit of the Simcoe hop is from the aftertaste. It doesn't contain any bitterness at all, and goes down amazingly smooth for a Double IPA and a beer of 9% ABV. The initial taste creates a great strong hop flavor and also prevents the bitterness that spoils the taste of some Double IPAs and IPAs in general. It's aftertaste is less bitter than even many IPAs on the market. As such, it makes for an eminently drinkable beer. If you happen to be a fan of Double IPAs or IPAs this is a must try. The Simcoe hops makes the Double Simcoe IPA the equal of any other IPA or Double IPA around.

Blue Star

Rating: 7.2
Brewery: North Coast Brewing Company (Fort Bragg, CA)
Glass: Pint
ABV: 4.5%
Seller: The Foodery (Philadelphia, PA)
When Enjoyed: 26 February 2009

So we here at the Responsible Drunk might have gotten a bit ahead of ourselves here. Tired of the cold weather we decided to try a summer beer a little early. Wheat beer tends to be a summer seasonal beer, best for relaxing and having a drink in the hot weather. This is generally because of it light, crisp and not too complex flavor. Wheat beers tend to focus on having a very crisp and light wheat flavor that can be complimented by a small dose of citrus flavor, although not required.

Blue Star fits this style very well in making a light crisp beer that isn't very complex on taste. The initial taste has a very crisp wheat flavor. While being crisp, Blue Star is also very smooth and doesn't have the hoppier or maltier taste of other beers. The initial taste fits the style perfectly and creates the beginnings to a great wheat beer and summer drink.

However, Blue Star doesn't pan out after that. The crisp initial taste becomes bland by the time the aftertaste arrives. The flavors of the beer die off a little too quick and make the rest of the taste relatively bland for a beer in general. If there was more to the beer than the initial taste it would have made for a great wheat beer and summer drink. Instead it's taste towards the end of drinking and aftertaste left a bit to be desired.