This past weekend, we neatly lined up with a few hundred of our closest friends, received our 2 oz. tasting cup with suitable grace, and proceeded to sprint into the tasting hall without a backward glance.
Yes, it was Beer Fest 2008.
Hosted by the Beer Advocate and Harpoon Brewery, this event gathered 75 brewers from all over the United States offering 300 craft beers between them. No, we were not quite able to sample all 300 beers. But we did make a nice dent in the selections!
Read on for tasting notes and top beer picks from the event!
The event felt dominated by sweet, dark beers--lots of stouts and brown ales. So much so that after the first few tastings, we started eying the Michelob booth just for something to cleanse the palate.
One of the first beers we sampled was YouEnjoyMyStout by the Cambridge Brewing Company. This imperial stout was conditioned in bourbon barrels, following a trend we've noticed among craft brewers of aging select beers in used whiskey and wine barrels
This bourbon-scented beer definitely picked up complex flavors of vanilla and caramel from the cask. A full pint might have been a bit much for casual drinking, but we could definitely imagine using it in a braise or to baste ribs over the grill.
Dogfish Head Brewery was offering tastes of it's 60-minute, 90-minute, and 120-minute IPAs, making it quite a popular booth. The "minutes" refer to how long the concoction is boiled, affecting the hops profile in the final beer.
We found the 120-minute to be the kind of well-crafted beer that demands full attention while drinking. With strong honey flavors and a pleasantly bitter finish, our thoughts again turned to cooking applications. The 90-minute was a good middle ground between the 120-minute and the more commercially available 60-minute.
Sam Calagione, Dogfish Head's president, gave a seminar on pairing beers and cheeses (from by Formaggio Kitchen, no less). Unfortunately, we arrived too late and the seminar was full. Here's a picture of the room and the intimidating security guard who wouldn't let us sneak in the back.
Our clear winner for the evening were the beers (all of them) from Left Hand Brewing Company. The Milk Stout was a balance of malty sweet and fresh espresso with a delightfully creamy mouthfeel. Their Sawtooth Ale was a slightly nutty amber with a whistle-clean finish. We admit to going back for seconds on both.
Beer Advocate's next event will be the Belgian Beer Festival, September 26-27. Mark your calendars!
Until then: Beer Fest, we salute you!
Related: Thirsty Reader: A Guinness Milkshake
(Images by Emma Christensen for the Kitchn)