Thursday, November 21, 2013

Guest Blogger: Fall to Winter Fest Recap

by Mark Omobono

Ladies and germs, welcome to the show! My name is Mark and I write/live/love ReleasetheKrausen on the reg, but my buddy Adam here at BrewEngland called an audible on the most entertaining fest of the year and asked me to go as a guest in his place. BIG MISTAKE. Because The Drink Craft Beer Fall-to-Winter Fest is easily one of the most underappreciated, high-quality beer festivals in the New England area. Year to year, they continue to impress yours truly, and I look forward to this nonsense all summer from the end of American Craft Beer Festival. As for 2013’s business, lets break down why I've got my jimmies all rustled here.

First of all, the beer selection was amazing. 25 New England craft breweries, all pouring up to 5 different offerings, were all in a constant state of good cheer. From the big guys, like Sam Adams, to the smallest outfits, like Urban Farm Fermentory, every brewery brought their A-game. This was partially due to the fact that the fall-to-winter season is home to some of the most creative and sought-after beer styles all year: imperial porters, Russian imperial stouts, holiday ales, and rum/whiskey/cask aging projects are just a few of the options. Flavor combinations including spices, nuts, oak, juniper, vanilla, pine, caramel… every month colder than March is home to beers that are profoundly complex in a deep, dark way. Drink Craft Beer knows this and primes the pump with the best local beer around, including (but not exclusively) beer hitting mad combinations of these flavor palates, PLUS more that you would never even think of. I’ll get to examples later.

Secondly, DCB is one of the only organizations I know that gives a hearty nod to cideries (Real word, who knows) on a regular basis. A whopping 20% of the invited purveyors were peddling a prominent plethora of pressed apple poisons. It’s New England, people; fall-to-winter is like the Superbowl for our booming apple industry. Act like you’re on the home team! The things the local cideries are doing with apples are BLOWING my mind right now. And for a Fest to dedicate 20% of available space to this underappreciated realm of spicy fruity treats? That’s respect, yo.

Then there’s the actual festival itself. The space DCB uses, Space 57 in Boston in the Revere Hotel, is perfect for Fest events. DCB capped the ticket count at a number that was below the capacity of the space, and I actually had room to swing my elbows and do my I-found-a-great-new-beer Victory Dance. The lighting, the flow of the crowd, and positioning of new and promising breweries were all supah-fine. They put up a live Twitter board filtering the hashtag #FTWfest, which engaged the whole crowd and provided a forum for public beer praise, special “secret offerings” announcements, and even an engagement, I think? The food available was from local restaurants and food trucks, including the ever-popular Union Square Donuts Bacon-Maple donuts, and was perfect for soaking up the alcoholic offerings of the night.

And because I KNOW you’re all wondering about it, here were the best things that I found in liquid form at the festival. These weren’t full reviews, because Iin my opinion you can’t get much of a review using a 2oz tasting. Maybe Adam will let me participate in Tuesday Tastings? Huh? Huh? Anyways, I’ll be purchasing these treats at the Craft Beer Cellar in the next few days to start stocking my nuts up for winter. NOTE: I successfully avoided taking pics of my dirty tasting cup. In no particular order, may I add. 
  •         Bantam Cider (MA) Persian Spice (??% ABV): Delightful flavors of apple cinnamon and floral notes due to added cardamom and a list of other spices I had no time to write down. Would be perfect for Thanksgiving-time sharing.
  •        Berkshire Brewing Co. (MA) Coffeehouse Porter (6.2%): These folks basically define the coffee porter game. Velvet-mouthfeel coffee deliciousness that my fiancĂ© “can NOT get enough of,” meaning I better get some STAT or else. Honorable Mention: the “Secret Menu” which was their Cabin Fever (6.3%) winter warmer spiked with Vanilla Bean mead (of which I didn’t get the creator) that was one of my favorite treats of the night.
  •         Citizen Cider (VT) Dirty Mayor (6.9%): Delicious off-dry apple cider made with a big punch of ginger. Crisp and palate-cleansing, really impressed me for a very young outfit.
  •         Downeast Cider House (MA) Barrel Project #2 (7%): A bourbon-barrel aged sweet(er) cider that really rang with the flavors of vanilla and caramel, and was a great example of how to creatively use barrels for cider. I went back for thirds!
  •         Peak Organic Brewing (ME) Oak Aged Chestnut Mocha Stout on Cask: the names really says it all. They really treated the nuts delicately, as from my own homebrewing experience they can get oily and astringent when used incorrectly. A very well-balanced ale, they do some interesting things for a brewery I’ve usually been ho-hum about.
  •         High Horse Brewing (MA) The Business (9.4%): this imperial stout had a gorgeous smooth mouthfeel that allowed a deep palate of dark fruits, black coffee, dark cocoa, and a bit of alcohol sweetness to conquer your lips. Next time I’m in Amherst I’ll be stopping by for a tasting!
  •         Two Roads Brewing Co. (CT) Biere de Noel (7.3%): If you’re a fan of Delirium Tremens, you would love this beer. Certainly a standout from the rest of the crowd with its distinct banana/clove nose and fuzzy mouthfeel, this was another favorite of mine from the fest.
  •         Wormtown Brewery (MA) Sweet Tats (9%): With oatmeal, cacao nibs, vanilla beans, and locally-roasted cold-brew coffee going into this monster, the coffee-frappe semblance of this imperial stout made it go down easier than an Dunks iced coffee in the middle of July.

If you made it all the way here, thanks for reading my babbling all the way to the end. Give some love to DCB via Facebook and Twitter, but do yourself a favor and mark down the next fest coming up from these guys, because they are classy individuals running kick-ass festivals; you can’t afford to not experience it someday so get on that ish. If you went, hit me up in the Twitterverse at @bono_burr to tell me how spot-on I was with my one-liner reviews. You can also tell Adam how much fun you had reading my guest blogging. I may be back for more! Until then, Salute!

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