Beyond the blur…

July 20th, 2010 by The Guru

On Saturday, July 17, I attended the noon session of the 18th Annual Vermont Brewers Festival, at Waterfront Park in Burlington, Vermont. The numbers go like this: 39 breweries present, of which 19 were from Vermont alone, 188 (at least) different brews to taste, 10,000 people expected to attend the three sessions over two days. So much more than numbers, however.

I barely got tickets – I was reminded Tuesday night by my son that tickets were likely to sell out in advance, so I got online and checked – panic! – the website said they were already sold out for the noon session! I emailed several people, including the festival organizer herself, hoping someone could point me towards a couple of tasting tickets and a designated driver entry. While my homebrewer friends searched, I found out from the festival folks that the website had a bug, and that the session was not, in fact, quite sold out, although there were no DD tickets left. I grabbed two tickets quickly and decided to worry about the DD at the gate.

photo by Rick Scully

Saturday came, my wife and I picked up our friend Rick at a mutually arranged parking lot and off we went. Arriving in Burlington, we got in line (with a couple thousand kindred spirits) and waited for the opening. When we got to the gate, after about 20 minutes in line, there were, in fact, no DD tickets available at all. My poor wife was forced to go kill 4 hours shopping instead, while Rick and I talked to brewers, tasted beers, and generally enjoyed a beautiful sunny July afternoon. Enjoy we did. For $25, we got a 3 oz. glass and 15 beer tickets. We decided early on to choose different things from each brewery and swap so as to double our potential tastings. Over the next three and a half hours, I managed to taste 23 different beers from 15 breweries. Some were quite memorable, others not so much, but I can honestly say that I did not spit any out or dump any on the ground. I took hasty notes on each beer, thinking that some day I might want to develop recipes to clone them.

Among the highlights of the day were conversations with the brewer at Pioneer Brewing (Fiskdale, MA) who claimed to have used my book as a resource; with Patrick Dakin, brewer at Jasper Murdock’s Ale House (Norwich, VT), our nearest neighbor brewery; and a conversation, in French, with a guy from Brasserie Benelux of Montreal who was pleased that I ordered a beer correctly… Along the way, we ran into almost 40 of our regular customers from the Market, a few friends and neighbors, a few other old acquaintances from my old Seven Barrel and judging days, and got to hang out with my son and his girlfriend and a couple of their friends… All in all, an outstanding festival and a great afternoon.Turns out the evening session on Saturday was shortened due to dangerous thunderstorms, forcing people to leave with unused tasting tickets and some real frustration. We were glad we went to the early session, of course! Hope the organizers are thinking about a way to refund or otherwise make it up to those who missed out…

A list, then, of beers I tasted (as best I can remember) with a quick 1-5 scale rating:

Three Needs – Scotch Ale (3/5)

Pioneer BrewingIndustrial Pale Ale (4/5)

Brooklyn BrewingBlast (Stong IPA) 4/5   &    Local 1 (Belgian Strong Golden) 3/5

Beau’s All Natural“Grolsch” style lager 4/5

Perfect PearPorter 3/5  &  IPA 3/5

Harpoon - 100 Barrel Series “Landbier” (Vienna Lager) 2/5

AlchemistBall & Chain IPA 4/5  &  Your Mother Pilsner 5/5

Jasper Murdock’sFuggle Pale Ale 4/5   &  Dark Humour (Black Witbier) 4/5

Northshire BreweryBattenkill Ale (brown ale) 2/5

BeneluxErgot (Triple Rye Saison) 4/5  &  Strato (Black IPA) 5/5

Dieu Du CielAphrodite (Vanilla/cocoa stout) 5/5  &  Pionnière (black IPA) 5/5

Bobcat CaféPocock Pilsner 4/5

Zero GravityMacerator Dopplebock 3/5  &  Solstice Gruit 3/5

Peak OrganicEspresso Amber Ale 3/5

Le Trou Du DiableLa Buteuse (Abbey Tripel) 4/5  &  La Penurie (IPA) 3/5

Naturally, there were many many more beers we would have liked to try, but a 4 hour session with 3000 people in line

photo by Rick Scully

doesn’t allow unlimited access. I noted the ones I missed and we are beginning to plan a couple road trips to make up for our gaps. If I had to pick a top three (of what I tasted) I would have to say, for now, that my favorite beers (not necessarily in this order) were:

Your Mother Pilsner from the Alchemist

Strato Black IPA from Benelux

Aphrodite Stout from Dieu du Ciel

So, did you go to the Fest? What were your favorites? The dialogue begins here…

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4 People commenting to “Beyond the blur…”

  1. kaszeta Says:

    Strato was my favorite, followed by Pionnière, and then Buteau.

    Good fest, although a bit more organizationally challenged than it has been in the past,

  2. Rick Scully Says:

    I have to agree with you on your first two, kaszeta. I was so impressed I told The Guru I want to try to make a Black IPA soon.

  3. The Guru Says:

    SO I think a challenge has been issued. Black IPA it is, to be brewed sometime around the middle of August…. We’ll set up a taste-off in the fall…

  4. Rick Scully Says:

    Sounds like a plan!

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