"If God wanted us to filter our beer, he wouldn't have given us livers" -Bumper Sticker from Bell's
No beer journals this time. Why bother? The staff of the Valpo Brewfest provided a "Beer Notes" section on the back of their program. You could scribble furiously away as you dissect the beer sample that was just poured for you. Of course, you'd have to put the beer down, and who has time to do that?
One thing noticeable right away, and something I also fell victim to, was that inevitably the crowd can be heard comparing one beer festival to another. So here I'll vent a little, in hopes that maybe a staff member will stumble across this critique and keep these ideas in mind for next year.
1. If your brewery is going to be attending an event, make sure someone with vast knowledge of your beer is pouring it. Too often we came across some young guy paid by the distributor to top off the three ounce sample. When I asked about the beer he would be reading a cheat sheet. Really? I can read a beer label too. What's the unique factor that's going to wow me? The local brewers certainly represented and were very passionate about their product, otherwise I felt like I was talking to a marketing undergrad with his first job out of college.
2. If you have VIPs, treat them like VIPs, don't tease. Sure, we were allowed to enter the premises and peruse the beer selection an hour before the general public. And yes we had access to rare beers and some great food samples to complement them. But when there are 200 VIPS and only four specialty beer stations something will be missed in that first hour. My friends and I decided to go around to the other beers and grab a taste before the masses came. We went back to the VIP tent about a half hour after the general admissions crowd came in and all the food and rare beers were gone. Blue Chip did this better when each booth at VIP brews throughout the whole day.
3. Don't run out of beer, especially the good stuff. Arguably a brewer would want to appeal to the farthest reaching audience to gain customers. However, at a brewfest where the attendees are expecting brilliance, bring massive amounts of your Oktoberfest or Pumpkin ale, because I don't need to try another pale ale or IPA. Bring enough bottles or kegs for 1,500. That's 500 ounces based on 3 ounce sample size. If you can't bring 42 bottles with you, why bother? And if you want to offer variety I can understand that, but why not master one trade instead of being the jack of all?
4. On a positive note, getting quality food vendors was the best idea ever. Although a hot dog, burger, or piece of pizza would have been good, Stout BBQ pork ribs, carne asada tacos, and bison chili was great.
The best in show: Rogue Ales Chocolate Stout. I had a bomber of it waiting in my fridge, so after we returned from the brewfest, the four of us shared it.
My personal favorite: Bluegrass Brewing Company's Bourbon Barrel Stout. Deliciously smooth and bourbon sweetness made this a great beer.
Woodchuck Pumpkin Cider - This was offered with a food pairing of pumpkin carrot cupcakes. It was pretty damn tasty.
Rogue Ales - Every stout they had. Adrian enjoyed all three in one visit, starting with Oatmeal, then Chocolate, than the Russian Imperial. Escalating in intensity and thickness, you can imagine how the well balanced Chocolate could be the best at the fest.
The only beer to give the Chocolate stout a run for its money was North Coast Brewing's Brother Thelonious. Although I was not personally overwhelmed by it, Brett and Rob were raving about it.
Immediately following the Valpo Brewfest was Beer Geeks one year anniversary. I'll be talking about those beers tomorrow.